When to change transmission fluid and filter?

My owners manual states that I should change my transmission fluid and filter at 100,000 miles for a vehicle that experiences “normal” driving. My question is this- should I follow the owners manual on this or change out the fluid and filter at 75,000 miles? I just turned 70,000 miles and the fluid is not showing any signs of burnt material it it and it still looks and “smells” healthy. Oh, I would consider myself a “normal” driver as well. The vehicle is a 2004 Chevy Silverado 4x4 with the 5.3 L engine. Any thoughts?

Change the fluid when it starts to look bad, that means way before you have “burnt material” in it, usually the fluid starts to look brownish first. Best way to tell is by spotting some on a white paper towel next to new fluid and comparing. Use this image for reference:

@sjonnie - Change the fluid when it starts to look bad, that means way before you have “burnt material” in it, usually the fluid starts to look brownish first.

Unfortunately many cars these days have sealed transmissions where there is no dip-stick to check the oil.

My Toyota and wifes Lexus both have this type of tranny and both use the WS fluid and it’s considered a life-time fluid. And with this life time fluid my 4runner has a little over 200k miles and I’ve changed the Life Time fluid 4 times. I do NOT like keeping the fluid in there for that long.

It should be changed every 30k miles and even more often if a lot of towing is done. You can’t always tell about the fluid’s condtion by eyeballing it and by the time you notice the fluid is brown, black, or smells funny this usually means it’s too late and problems have already started.

The phrase is closing the barn door after the horses done escaped; to butcher the language a bit.

After dropping hundreds and hundreds of transmission pans I have never seen one come off clean. There is always a layer of black sludge and some amount of iron dust in them. And more often than not the cooler is partially plugged with sludge. Like so many things in life it is much safer to err on the side of too much care.

That Silverado is overdue anywhere from 10,000 to 40,000 miles in my book.
I would do a pan drop and filter change now. Then another fluid change in a couple thousand miles.

Thanks for all of the suggestions. I really liked the visual from sjonnie… I will have to compare my fluid when I get a chance soon. Another question- what should I expect to pay for a fluid, filter, and gasket change? Can a Firestone garage deal with this or should I take to the dealership? Thanks!

Can a Firestone garage deal with this or should I take to the dealership?

Both could do it, but Firestone typically pays low wages, and you will likely get an inexperienced mechanic. The dealer can certainly do it, and it will be the highest cost option. Ask friends and neighbors where they take their vehicles. You should hear a few names several times. Take it to one that gets good reports from a number of people and start a relationship with that garage.

When you change transmission fluid may be more use dependent then motor oil. This is one item I would err on the side of caution. Though many change their transmission fluids every 30 k, at least with cars I own, halving their rates to 50 k or a little less for vehicles with heavier use seams reasonable. Paying attention to characteristics between changes would be important too.

Can a Firestone garage deal with this or should I take to the dealership?

Neither…Take it to either a good independent or a place that specializes in transmissions. And NOT one of the transmission chain stores like AAMCO. I have mine done at a local tranny shop.

What type of driving do you consider ‘normal’? Most people drive in a manner that the manual describes as ‘severe’, meaning a lot of stop-n-go driving, numerous short trips, periodic towing (especially with SUVs and Pick-ups), etc. I’m not trying to denigrate, just let you know that this particular topic has been brought up before. Your idea of ‘normal’ may not agree with the manufacturer’s idea of ‘normal’.

That being said, oil is still relatively cheaper than a transmission. By using the ‘severe’ duty schedule or more frequent, as some posters have mentioned, certainly could not hurt. Waiting until the fluid ‘looks’ like it needs to be changed is generally too late to prevent accelerated wear and damage.

I have been using this firestone garage for over a year now and they do good work so far. With that being said i stilI talked to some friends and family that have had fluid and filter changes there and so far no one has any complaints. Still, I am still relatively new to the area and will take any advice and suggestions . I will be checking out some transmission shops this week.

Your right busted knuckles, I had to put the word ‘normal’ in quotation marks because everyone is different in varying ways. For me it’s pretty accurate though, in that I treat my vehicle pretty well and driving style is pretty tame. Most of my miles are highway at the speed limit. I do not haul or tow anything except for a few trips hauling odds and ends in the summer and a trip or two off the beaten path in the winter.

I was going to have the fluid changed at 50,000 but in the past I have gone longer with vehicles I have treated a lot harsher- and never had any issues ( knocking on wood )!

For some reason it seems that transmission service has become almost a thing of the past. Not that it should have, Mechanics make lost of money every year replacing transmissions that only failed because they were not serviced or serviced too late.

I suspect one of the primary problems is the old story. Most drivers wait until the transmission shows problems before they change the fluid. By then it is too late, but rather than blaming themselves for waiting too long, they blame the transmission.

Most drivers would find that their transmission will last a lot longer than they suspect IF they would change the fluid every 30 or 40,000 miles.  

Yet time and time again, drivers hear about the transmission that failed right after the fluid was changed they don't get the fluid changed.  Later when  they start noticing the smell or function of the transmission, then they finally get it changed, only to have it fail shortly after so the same story is passed down again and again.  

The owners who changed their fluid are not leaving messages here because they don't have a problem.

Joseph; you are correct. I bought my first car with automatic in 1965! Since that time, the only transmission repairs I have had was on a 1971 Mercury Comet with a C4 transmission which wore out a band. The repair in 1977, was $185 if I remember correctly. I’ve also had 4 transmission oil coolers over the years when we towed a holiday camper trailer.

I’ve always had fluid and filter replaced at 30,000-40,000 miles and checked the fluid levels regularly. If serviced properly, an automatic can be the most reliable part of a car!

Looks like I am overdue… I will going to the shop on Monday to get this done. Thanks again for all the advice!