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The Importance of Maintaining Your Vehicle's Transmission Fluid

The Importance of Maintaining Your Vehicle's Transmission Fluid

Let's start with the basics to explain what the transmission does. The transmission is responsible for transferring the engine power to the wheels of the vehicle, while it is separate from the engine; the engine and transmission operate together to make your vehicle go forward or backwards. Automatic means the gears shift on their own and manual means the driver must manually select the proper gear at the proper speed for efficient movement.

Transmissions are very complicated internally and have a lot of moving parts. In this post we will focus on automatic transmissions.

Vehicle owners tend to fear transmission failure because they are very expensive to replace, however when properly maintained they usually have very few problems. The average well maintained transmission should be able to last 150,000 to 250,000 miles but due to different driver habits and commutes this is not always the case. A good example for this would be comparing the vehicle condition for a driver who commutes 5 days a week from Corona to Torrance versus a driver who has a short city commute 5 days a week.

How is the transmission inspected? The inspection process is very simple, the first step we take is to check the fluid condition. New transmission fluid is usually a bright red or almost pink color. There are other colors on the market but 90% of the fluid is red in color. The next step would be to smell the fluid, does it smell burnt? The last part of the inspection would be to run a road test; to see if the transmission shifts. Does it shift smoothly between all the gears? Does it hesitate, shudder, slip, rattle, etc? A common question we get asked by customers are what OBD-11 codes (​onboard diagnostics that refer to a vehicle's electronic system that performs self diagnostics and reporting; whenever there is a problem detected the system records a unique code) to look out for and unfortunately there are many different codes. It may be be difficult to have an exact answer but generically a transmission code will be P0700. The code may say anything from pressure switch problem or incorrect gear ratio which usually means it is slipping

We remind our customers that transmission fluid needs to be well maintained because the fluid is the only component of an transmission that is easy to service and the least expensive. The next part would be the transmission filter but that doesn't need to be replaced as often. Everything else is inside the transmission case which means if anything goes bad inside, the transmission needs to be removed and then taken apart. This takes intensive labor causing your repair bill to increase drastically.>

We recommend to replace your transmission fluid every 20,000 to 30,000 depending on your driving. Some may say this is excessive but in the long run spending $80 every 20,000 miles is a huge savings versus having transmission problems at 150,000 miles. Now when a transmission will fail cannot be exactly determined but if you don't service it, the chances increase for it to be on it's llast leg at 150,000 miles.

So let's do the math. 160,000 miles would be the equivalent of 8 transmission services. At $80 that's $640.00 of service and if you need a transmission at that time, the average transmission depending on the year make and model is somewhere between $2500 and $6000.

Now what does that break down to? Well today's average driver drives around 12,000 miles per year. So 160,000 miles divided by 12,000 miles is about 13 years. In 13 years $640 isn't a lot of money. That's $49.00 per year for peace of mind that your transmission is well taken care of versus $462.00 per year if you didn't service your transmission. Which sounds better to you?

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