Today’s transmissions are engineered to shift smoothly and seamlessly. They are programmed for control solenoids to ramp up or down apply pressures to create the feel we all have been accustomed to. Advancements in computer technology give engineers even more control over shift dynamics than ever before. A perfect engineered system will fail if the fluids are not kept up to high quality standards. There are additives that make transmission fluid special; detergents, friction modifiers, anti-oxidation and anti-foaming agents, dyes, etc. These additives get used up due to excessive operating tempuratures, stop and go driving and heavy loads exerted on the transmission/vehicle. These Severe operating conditions require service intervals of 2 years or 30,000 miles.
If we could keep the operating temperatures to 100 degrees, fluid would last forever. Because that is completely impossible with how automobiles are engineered, fluid changes need to happen on a regular basis.
The traditional automatic transmission has a serviceable filter. Access is usually through the bottom transmission pan. Most are made of a Dacron/felt material. This filter is critical to change.
A growing number of newer transmissions do NOT have serviceable filtering systems. The suction side filters are buried deep inside the transmission case and are not replaced without major surgery. All Honda and Acura units are these type of units. Servicing more frequently is the only offense we have against a failing transmission due to internal contamination. We here at Zach’s strongly recommend service intervals of every 2 years or 25,000 miles.
Here at Zach’s, we do NOT do complete system fluid “flushes”. This procedure was invented by the quick lube companies to increase sales revenue and reduce stocked parts. Since this procedure requires the technician to hook up the machine to the vehicle, typically at the radiator, and runs the car to pump out the fluid into the machine, then the machine pumps the same amount of fluid by weight goes back in. Most facilities that use these machines will never change the filter. Some even state that the machines’ process will “back-flush” the internal filters making their replacement not needed. The truth is that there is no such procedure to back flush any filter. The fluid only is engineered to flow one direction thru the pump. The other reason that system flushes are bad is that they replace 100% of the fluid. You may say what?? The reality is that there is always some residue that is completely natural for a transmission to produce during its normal operation. There are areas that are designed to hold this sediment. If you “flush” all the fluid and replace it with 100% new, you will stir up these pockets and create a dirtier environment than before. This stirring up can cause valves to stick, filters to become restricted, or questionable areas to be worsened. When it comes to servicing, Keep It Simple Stupid! K.I.S.S. it goodbye.
Automatic transmission servicing guide
* Normal duty service
3 years or 50,000 miles
Mostly highway driving. 75% of time. 25% in-town, stop and go.
Cars and light duty trucks and SUV’s
* Servere duty service
2 years or 30,000 miles
Stop and go driving
Towing or mountain driving
All diesel applications
* Internal/sealed filtering systems
2 years or 25,000 miles
All Honda and Acura units
Most Volvo, Saab, Jaguar, Mazda and Land rover units.
S-Series Saturn and Ford CD4E
Transmission fluid serves a similar purpose as oil in the engine: it lubricates, cools the components and does hydraulic function inside your transmission. Transmissions contain gears, clutches (even in automatics), and valves which must move smoothly to provide seamless shifts.
If you experience any transmission issues, check the fluid first. Some cars have a dipstick, however others require a professional mechanic to inspect the fluid condition from a plug in the case or pan. If your car has a dipstick, the process is fairly straight forward. You’ll need to have the engine running and the transmission in Park or Neutral to get an accurate read. The transmission would need to be at operating temperature. Always set your parking brake! Inspect the fluid level, as well as its condition. It should be amber or red in color, and feel smooth. Like with other fluids, if it’s dark, cloudy, milky or gritty, it means there is a problem that needs to be inspected.
To add transmission fluid, pour it into the fill tube if your vehicle has one. Always use the manufacturer specific type of fluid for your vehicle. After verifying the fluid level on the dipstick, move the gear selector through the gears with your foot on the brake to help the new fluid flow through the transmission. Transmissions are complex pieces of equipment, so if you continue to have problems it’s best to contact a professional at Zach’s Transmission in Longmont.