Transmission Fluid: to flush or not

Hello everyone,

I have a 2004 Volvo V40 with 90000 miles on it. It runs fine, but I have recently been told by the dealership during scheduled maintenance that my transmission fluid needs to be changed.

I have heard different opinions about the necessity of this. Should I or should I not change it, if my transmission is running fine?

And, by the way, the dealer wants $280 for this, which seem to be excessive.

Thank you for your opinion.


Transmission fluid does go bad after time. Have you checked your owners manual what the scheduled maintenance is for this?? Start there.

If it does need changing, you don’t have to use the dealer. Independent garages will change in for you using the same or better fluid at cheaper the cost.

Pavel, there are three things you must know about transmission service. The first is that your owner’s manual contains a schedule for service – what you must do and how often. Find the manual and read what it advises regarding transmission service. If you have not had any service recently, or ever, you must attend to it soon.

Second, there is a difference between routine service (which involves dropping the pan and replacing the filter if there is one) and a transmission flush. Insist on the normal routine service and not the flush.

Third, there is no reason why you should have routine services performed at the Volvo dealership. Any independent garage can do the same service, often charging much less money.

So read your manual. If it recommends routine transmission service at your current mileage, have it done. But do it at the garage of your choosing.

Ask the dealer how it will be done. Unless the fluid is extraordinarily dark, I would recommend getting a pan drop and fluid change out only. All my vehicles get this done every 30K miles, regardless of what the owner’s manual says. It is about the only variation I make in considering maintenance schedules. While it gets a lower percentage of old fluid out, it is least harmful to the transmission. Last time I had a pan drop done it cost $150.

I understand there are 2 ways of doing this. A flush can stir up metal shavings sitting on the bottom of the tranny and get them into places where they can do damage. The alternate is to drain the old fluid, which may involve dropping the pan and put in new.

Again, the tendency in european cars is to not mention the tranny fluid in the manuals, due to government pressure. So the manual and the dealer may say never to change it. From what you say, not true of Volvo.

But we can no longer say with certainty “read the manual”

More and more we see government and marketing pressures dumbing down the manual, and leaving out critical maintenance. On my VW, changing tranny fluid and antifreeze is never mentioned. I don’t think the timing belt is either. Manufacturers seem to be tuning their maintenance schedules so that you just get through the warranty period, after that all bets are off.

Pull out the transmission dipstick look at the fluid and smell it. Should have a red tint to it. Turning brown means its getting old. If you don’t know what it should smell like buy a quart of the appropriate fluid for your car and smell it. Then compare to your dipstick. Should not smell burnt. I alternate when I change mine, one time just a fluid change, the next time a complete flush and filter. And find an independent garage. Should be able to get a flush for half what they quoted.