Guide to Transmission Fluid Flushes

mechanic performing transmission fluid flush service

A properly working transmission system is essential for your vehicle to go anywhere. Like other auto systems, the transmission consists of various interdependent components. All of these components work together to move the necessary power from your engine to the wheels to move the vehicle at the desired speed. And the transmission fluid is the critical piece of the puzzle that allows all of this to happen smoothly.

But transmission fluid doesn’t last forever. It occasionally needs to be changed or flushed when it becomes dirty enough that it can no longer sufficiently perform its job. A transmission flush is an important part of preventative maintenance to help extend the life of your vehicle.

Many drivers have heard of the term “transmission fluid flush” but don’t really know exactly what it entails, why it’s so important, and how often it should be done. That’s why, in this guide, we’ve broken all of that information down. Because the more you understand how the systems in your vehicle work and how to take care of them properly, the longer you can keep your vehicle running at its best!

The Important Role That Your Vehicle’s Transmission Fluid Plays

Before we get into the actual transmission fluid flush service, it is important to break down exactly what the transmission fluid does for a vehicle. This fluid creates a lubricating coating that works to protect all of those delicate gears and moving parts within the complex system that is your transmission. This coating works to prevent excess wear, absorb excess heat, and prevent gears from slipping. Without transmission fluid, the system can seize up very quickly, leading to a big, costly problem.

Transmission fluid is purposely manufactured in bright colors to easily distinguish it from your engine oil. It is most often bright red but now also comes in purple, blue-green, or amber. When it comes to your vehicle’s fluids, it is important to know what you’re looking at to help keep all its systems operating in optimal condition.

Regular transmission fluid checks and professional transmission fluid flushes (as recommended) are easy ways to ensure that your system is always properly protected and in good working order.

Including Transmission Flush Service in Your Vehicle’s Preventative Maintenance Routine

Some of the most frequently asked questions about the transmission system revolve around changing transmission fluid. The importance of a transmission flush service isn’t often given much thought until serious transmission problems arise. But, as mentioned above, allowing your vehicle to run on dirty or low transmission fluid, whether you have an automatic or manual transmission, can cause improper shifting or even cause the whole transmission to seize up.

Since transmission fluid gradually loses its effectiveness over time, including a transmission fluid in your vehicle’s preventative maintenance routine will help extend the system’s lifespan and help prevent further problems down the road.

A transmission flush servicing should be done at the mileage suggested by your vehicle manufacturer, regardless of the type of transmission system you have. This will ensure the system stays properly protected and running at its best.

See below for more specific information on how often this service should be done.

The Difference Between a Transmission Flush and a Fluid Change

These two terms are frequently used interchangeably but are actually two different services. The confusion lies in the fact that they are both transmission fluid maintenance services. But the main difference is how much new transmission fluid goes into the system.

A transmission fluid flush uses machine assistance to remove all of the old transmission fluid from your vehicle and replace it with all new transmission fluid. It also removes grime and contaminants from the torque converter and transmission cooler lines to prevent these things from causing problems.

Alternatively, a transmission fluid change simply drains transmission fluid from the bottom of the system using natural gravitational force. This service does not drain all the fluid from the system, and it does not flush out the contaminants. On average, a transmission fluid change only drains roughly 40% of the old transmission fluid.

The Benefits of a Transmission Fluid Flush

Several significant benefits come from a full transmission flush that you won’t get with just a transmission fluid change. These include:

  • Protecting system components: Completely changing transmission fluid with fresh, new fluid properly lubricates components and enables the transmission to run cooler. Thus, resulting in maximum protection for the bearings, gears, and clutches.
  • Minimizing clogging: A transmission fluid flush gives the transmission system an in-depth cleaning, preventing sludge and other contaminants from building up within the fluid and clogging the transmission filter.
  • Improving shifting: Over time, as transmission fluid gradually wears down and loses its performance ability, it can result in hesitant or hard, jerky shifting. A full transmission flush will restore the ability of the fluid to properly facilitate smoother and more consistent shifting.
  • Preventing fluid contamination: In most cases, during a transmission fluid change, some of the old fluid will get left behind, contaminating the new transmission fluid that is added and possibly causing performance issues. A full transmission flush eliminates this risk by completely removing the old fluid.

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What Happens During a Transmission Flush

In many cases, before the service is started, the mechanic will test drive the vehicle to look for and diagnose any serious transmission problems that need to be addressed before or during servicing. The system will also be inspected for any visible signs of leaks or problems.

For the service itself, a professional transmission fluid flush will use specialized transmission fluid machines. There are two main methods used for this service.

The Transmission Cooler Line Flush Method

In this most common method, the fluid line connecting your transmission to the cooler will be temporarily disconnected and attached to the line into the transmission fluid machine. This will pullcar transmison the old fluid into the machine, removing it from the transmission.

Then, the line out from the machine connects to the vehicle’s transmission cooler. This line brings the new transmission fluid in the machine into the transmission. This transfer process utilizes just the pressure produced by the vehicle’s pump to circulate it, preventing the system’s internal parts from being damaged.

As the old fluid side of the diaphragm within the machine fills, it pushes the new transmission fluid diaphragm up, forcing it through the lines. This allows the transmission fluid to circulate just like it would under normal operation. The only difference is that the incoming fluid is totally clean, and the outgoing liquid is removed for good. But, due to the way the fluid cycles through the machine, a small amount of the old fluid will end up back in the pan without going to the cooler. The new oil will continuously dilute this old fluid as it circulates.

The Transmission Pump Inlet Flush Method

Another transmission flush service method is the pump inlet flush. In this method, the machine’s line out is attached to the transmission pump intake. This process completely flushes the transmission system by moving the fluid through the system and into a drainage pan. When the old fluid is cleared, the new fluid will be added. This process requires completely removing your transmission pan and filter, and a new pan and filter will be installed. This method requires more time, a few extra quarts of transmission fluid, and will cost slightly more. But this is a more complete and ideal flush.

Dropping the Transmission Pan

Ideally, a professional transmission flush service should include removing the transmission pan first (aka “dropping the pan”) and inspecting the old fluid for indications of current or near-future transmission issues. This is important because the used transmission fluid, what is in the pan, and what is stuck in the filter will all provide a lot of information about the transmission fluid’s condition.

Plus, some of the gunk flushed during the service ends up in the pan and, if not removed, can be sucked up into the transmission fluid filter.

Replacing the Transmission Fluid Filter

Regardless of whether you’re getting a full transmission flush or just a transmission fluid change, it is recommended to always have the transmission filter replaced during the service, too. (Though some newer vehicles do have a permanent transmission filter.) Also, while some gaskets may still be usable, it is always best to replace both the filter and the gaskets.

How Often Should a Transmission Flush Be Done?

The exact recommended mileage for a transmission fluid flush will vary depending on the type of transmission/vehicle. Generally speaking, you may hear varying recommendations from different mechanics and transmission shops, but most will suggest that the transmission system be flushed roughly every 100,000 miles as preventative maintenance. But your vehicle owner’s manual is where you’ll find the specific recommendations for your vehicle’s transmission service intervals.

Although transmission system maintenance is important, it is different from other vehicle systems because it doesn’t usually require as frequent attention as something like the engine oil system.

Overall, the key to properly maintaining the transmission fluid is to follow exactly what your vehicle’s manufacturer recommends. It will tell you whether to get a transmission fluid change or a fluid flush and how often it should be done.

Note: Flushing the transmission fluid and replacing the filter are important preventative maintenance procedures. But they are not a solution for transmissions that either already have problems or may have a problem soon due to burned, black, or high-debris-content fluid. Getting a transmission flush when you think there is a problem can harm the system more and make it fail sooner than it would have otherwise.

The same applies to high-mileage vehicles that have never had the transmission flushed. By that time, there is probably a lot of sludge and deposits built up inside. The additives from clean, new transmission fluid will attack the deposits, causing them to break off and possibly clog passageways, jam valves, etc. Also, fresh fluid is likely to break down the seal caused by deposit buildup around gaskets and cause a leak.

If you have a high-mileage vehicle and the fluid has never been changed, your best bet is to do nothing to it, set aside money for future repairs, and drive it as long as you can.

Normally, and it varies by year, make, and model, slightly darkened transmission oil with some debris or residue is normal. Some metal flakes may even be visible in the fluid or on the drain plug. However, if you notice an excess of gunk or metal flakes, a burning smell, or other unusual odors, or if the oil is jet black, it often means that your transmission has (or will soon have) some serious problems.

The Importance of Using a Reputable Transmission Shop

A good mechanic can advise you on several aspects when it comes to your transmission. They can accurately determine if you need a transmission flush based on your vehicle’s mileage, your drivingtransmission icon habits, and the manufacturer’s recommendations.

If you need one, they will also determine the proper service method for your vehicle and do the job properly and professionally. They won’t finish the service until the fluid appears clean and clear, thoroughly inspect what comes out of the vehicle, replace the filter and gaskets, and properly install all parts back onto your vehicle so it runs as it should.

You Can Count on Martin Tire Company for Expert Transmission Fluid Service

When you need a professional transmission fluid flush or change in El Paso, visit the Automotive Service Excellence–certified mechanics at Martin Tire Company. We can properly perform professional transmission flush service and help prevent common transmission problems.

Our expert team can also answer any questions you may have about your vehicle’s transmission system or changing the transmission fluid and provide any other auto maintenance or repairs that your vehicle may need.

Schedule your appointment online for transmission service today!

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Frequently Asked Transmission Fluid Flush Questions

What’s included in a transmission flush service?

Although it’s not as extensive as a complete transmission repair, a transmission flush requires several elements. When a Martin Tire Company professional mechanic manages your transmission flush service, you can expect a job well done. Every time we work on changing transmission fluid, we will perform the following tasks.

  • Lower the transmission pan and flush out the old transmission fluid.
  • Replace the old fluid with fresh, clean transmission fluid.
  • Replace the transmission filter if your vehicle needs a new one.
  • Run a thorough inspection of your transmission to check for signs of damage or extreme wear.

You can trust our ASE-Certified mechanics to handle your transmission flush needs.

Is it really necessary to change transmission fluid?

Like any system in your vehicle, the transmission needs service and maintenance performed periodically to run properly. As the transmission fluid ages in your car, it will begin to break down and become less effective over time. While it may not be noticeable initially, old or low transmission fluid can cause unnecessary tension while shifting between gears. If left entirely unchecked, the transmission will eventually have issues and require a much more costly repair.

Changing the transmission fluid is something that most drivers forget about, but it is an essential process to keeping your car healthy. Not only will it provide your transmission with the lubrication it needs, but it can also help prevent damage to the transmission system.

How much is a transmission flush?

We know that saving money is important to our customers. Knowing what it’ll cost before getting a transmission flush is likely a contributing factor in where you choose to do business. Every vehicle is slightly different and will have specific challenges associated with its maintenance services. While there is no one-size-fits-all option for auto repair, Martin Tire Company vows to have reasonable prices on every service we provide.

While we do not have a blanket price for changing transmission fluid, our team would be glad to quote you a price based on your specific vehicle. Request a transmission flush quote today, and one of our team members will contact you shortly.

Is changing transmission fluid something I can do myself?

We get this question onDIY transmission fluid flushes a lot. While you certainly could change your own transmission fluid, we do not recommend it. The transmission is a highly complex system in your vehicle and can be challenging to work on. Even skilled mechanics, like our team at Martin Tire Company, have to take their time and pay attention to every detail of a transmission fluid flush.

With something as important as your transmission, it’s important to have the proper training and tools to avoid a mishap. Our crew has spent years studying and developing their mechanical knowledge. With their expertise under the hood, you don’t have to worry about it going wrong. While everyone wants to save where they can, we recommend letting the experts handle your transmission flush.

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