Some vehicle maintenance items become so routine, you rarely think about them. You fill up with gas, pull in for oil changes, and replace your tires when the tread wears down.
But internal items are trickier to understand. How do you know if your transmission isn’t operating well? Would a transmission flush work, or is the problem deeper?
A quick search online will tell you controversy surrounds transmission flushes. Some reports say it’s a myth to need to flush the system at all. Other resources tell you it’s a must to keep your car in good working condition. Who do you believe?
A quick search by brand tells you it’s mixed between manufacturers. Toyota recommends automatics flush the system every 60,000 to 100,000 miles, while manual vehicles need care every 30,000 to 60,000 miles. Mercedes has a wider range of recommendations, depending on the year, make, and model. You’ll find advice for transmission flushing between 40,000 and 100,000 miles.
Understanding automatic transmission fluid
According to a CarMax study, Americans love automatic transmissions, with 96 percent of the population driving automatic vehicles. Maybe it’s our multitasking strategies that make automatic transmissions more convenient.
Automatic transmissions use a hydraulic system that relies on a constant flow of transmission fluid to provide the correct supply of hydraulic pressure for ultimate response. It’s the transmission fluid’s job to provide proper flow through each hydraulic line within the transmission system.
Transmission fluid is designed with a specific viscosity and additives that help reduce expansion as the fluid heats under pressure. If operating well, it will remain consistent over time.
Over the years, the additives will wear down, which can cause the fluid to thin and be more susceptible to the expansion process. This is when it’s time to replace the transmission fluid to ensure your car continues to operate well.
Why a transmission flush is necessary
Today’s vehicles use a variety of fluids to continue to operate well:
- Windshield washer fluid – to ensure your safety while driving on dirty roads
- Motor oil – to keep the engine healthy and running smoothly
- Coolant – also known as antifreeze, helps to keep the engine cool
- Brake fluid – keeps the brake system fully operational
Each of these fluids is important to ensure your vehicle continues to operate, and you won’t be stranded while out on the road.
Some fluids drain out of the system and simply need to be refilled to continue working. Windshield washer fluid provides the necessary spray to keep your windshield clean in all driving conditions. If it runs out, you simply fill up the reservoir and it’s available once again.
Transmission fluid works slightly differently.
With an automatic transmission, the fluid continues to circulate throughout the fuel lines. As it wears down, small particles travel with the fluid, and can stick or corrode the inside of the lines. Even if you were to drain the lines, those tiny particles could still be a problem. The only way to thoroughly remove those particles is with a flush to the system.
If those particles continue to build, they can wear down the various parts of the transmission system. Here are four reasons why it’s important to perform a transmission flush according to manufacturer’s guidelines:
It increases transmission lifespan
Clogs in the hydraulic fuel lines can lead to all kinds of problems. As particles and contaminants build up, they can lead to inner seal leaks and breaks. It can force liquid into areas where it shouldn’t be. And while you might not notice the results immediately, they can have a trickle down effect. Flushing the transmission occasionally and replacing minor parts is a lot more friendly on the wallet than replacing a transmission after complete failure. A transmission flush can extend the life of your vehicle by ensuring the entire system is once again operating properly.
It makes shifting easier
It’s the transmission’s job to ensure smooth shifting as you speed up and slow down. Over time, particles and contaminants can cause gears to slip or stick, impacting the effectiveness of your driving. A transmission flush gets rid of those imperfections and ensures a smoother shift.
It improves fuels economy
How well the transmission operates is what ultimately controls fuel efficiency. If the flow of gasoline is inhibited in any way, it takes more energy to produce the same results. A vehicle in good working condition ensures the best fuel efficiency possible. If the transmission slips or doesn’t engage properly, it requires more fuel inside the engine. A transmission flush brings the entire system back to good working condition, helping your car be as efficient as possible.
It protects your car’s warranty
Do you have an extended warranty on your vehicle? More manufacturers are offering years of coverage on well cared for parts. The key is ensuring each system is well cared for, and that you meet their key requirements. Do you know what your owner’s manual says about transmission flushes? If not, it’s time to read up and learn what your vehicle needs to thrive and stay within the acceptable guidelines. Be sure to track it in case you need to fall back on the warranty at any point you own the vehicle.
Is it time for a transmission flush?
A lot of what we’ve referred to in this article concerns automatic transmissions. Manual transmissions work differently, and require different levels of maintenance. The best way to ensure you’re giving your vehicle what it needs to operate well is to refer to your owner’s manual regularly, and use the advice to set up your own maintenance routine.
We’re also a great resource to have on your team. With our diagnostic tools, we can evaluate your vehicle periodically, and assess what maintenance items need to be scheduled. Every vehicle is different, depending on the way the car is driven.
By being proactive, you can stay ahead of potential repair problems. Fixing issues before they escalate is the best way to keep your repair bills low.
Does your vehicle need a transmission flush?