Transmission Flush vs Fluid Exchange

I have a 2000 Altima, purchased in 2/2004 with approx 36000 miles, now at approx 73000 miles. I have always been good at adhering to schedules for the minor maintenance: oil changes,tire rotation and balance, alignment, air filter, wiper blades, brakes, batteries, new tires etc). I have however neglected the bigger things like transmission service, power steering etc. Anyway during the courtesy inspection of my oil change today they recommended a transmission flush. The problem is that I vaguely recall reading somewhere that it is better to do a fluid exchange with older cars such as mine. What is the difference between the two (if any) and which is better? I have noticed a bit of hesitation for a while now so I know that I need some type of transmission service (like I said, I have not had any since purchasing the car). Also, what about power steering fluid service? I don’t notice anything wrong with the steering, so can I skip that? And what other major services should I look into for a car that has been owned for 5 years?

If I understand the question correctly as applied to my vehicle, a simple fluid flush only replaces 1/2 of the transmission fluid, where as the complete job they actually have to crack open the trans for a complete fluid change. I went for the flush due to cost and the fact tranny fluid and operation were fine. I would like to hear some opinions on this myself!

That’s a little backwards - cracking the trans open usually means dropping the pan and changing the filter. This changes out only about half of the fluid (the actual proportion varies by vehicle). A flush can (but probably shouldn’t) be done without out opening the transmission and replaces all of the fluid.

Altimagirl - you should just get a typical pan/filter service - drop the pan and change the filter. Since you have neglected the transmission a bit, I would do one now and another in about 10K miles or so. Then have it done about every 30K. But if for some reason you go for a flush type service, the pan & filter must be done first.

Your transmission fluid needs to be replaced, right away. You will get differing opinions as to whether a drain-and-replace is better than a flush.

I give up.

I used to say flushing was bad, but my car’s automatic transmission has been flushed twice, and it works perfectly. I still believe that flushing, versus the old-fashioned fluid and filter replacement, is not the best thing, but maybe it depends on who’s doing the flushing.

Let the hate mail begin.

Go to a real, reputable transmission place for a pan drop change. They drop the tranny pan, change filter, inspect pan for debris that can point to a problem and then refill properly. I do not personally know if this applies to said cars but it is the preferred way.
A flush/exchange changes more fluid but does nothing for filter or tell tale debris. It can backwash stuff where you don’t want it.

Again I may be off target, some newer cars have filters that are not easily serviced and only require fluid changes, check your owner’s manual.

You are way overdue for a cooling system service, as well as a transmission fluid & filter change. The three items that get most of our posters into trouble are; neglecting the cooling system, not performing timely transmission service (fluid & filter change) and not changing oil often enough, resulting in engine problems and premature wear. Glad to hear you did regular oil changes.

The dealer has a transmission flush machine that needs to be paid for and make money for him. A good mechanic would certainly have asked you when was the last time you changed engine coolant, before pushing a transmission fluid flush.

Power steering fluid is also easy to change and is a money maker; however we have posters with 300,000 miles or more on their vehicles who have never changed power steering and brake fluid. These things should be done but there is no great urgency.

As always recommended, sit down with your Owner’s Manual (the world’s most un-read bestseller)and read what it says about these services! Then get your boyfriend/partner to help you put it in order on an 8 1/2 x 11 sheet. I did this for my non-mechanical brother for his 1987 Honda Accord, which he is still driving.

We have a Nissan and the manual is very helpful and detailed!

Thanks for your answer. What about:
Coolant Flush/Exchange
Fuel System (throttle body etc)
Power Steering fluid.
I have not had any of these serviced since the purchase in 2004. Sigh…Oh i’m so embarrased. I’ve just been lazy when it came to the major (read “expensive”) services.
This car is paid off and i want to keep it until it croaks.
Also can aynone recommend a good site to find a thorough maintenance checklist that I can print out?

Thanks. I will definitely get those done. And, yes the manual…duh, I had not even thought about that, lol. I will look at that too.

Unless you have engine performance issues, skip the fuel system “flush” & throttle body cleaning. I would also skip the Power Steering fluid change out. I have a 95 Ford truck that has original fluid in it, and have had no issue, so I am not a believer in doing the power steering flush.

Changing out the coolant, drain and fill, should resolve any cooling system neglect.

Traditionally I have preferred pan drop/filter change out, but I have had fluid exchanges done (with filter replacements) and have seen no ill effects on the auto trans. My current mechanic prefers the fluid exchange method, but also does the pan drop and filter change out. Not all mechanics do this, so ask about what you are getting, exactly.

Best maintenance checklist is the maintenance schedule in your owner’s manual. It may or may not talk to auto trans mainenance requirements (manuals seem to vary in this respect), but it covers all the other maintenance requirements your car needs.

There is hope for you Altimagirl! The dealers confuse the issue with service intervals and recommend more costly services more often than what the mfg’s list in the owner’s manual. So, the owner’s manual is your bible of maintenance. Do what is says for the normal schedule. You do not need the severe service intervals. If it says change the oil less frequently than every 5,000 you may adjust to 5,000 miles for oil changes. 3,000 miles is overkill for oil changes, 5,000 is fine. Other fluids, follow the manual.