Transmission Service: What you need to know about transmission fluid changes and maintenance.
Transmission Service

A transmission service, or transmission oil change is just as important, if not more important than getting an engine oil change. Most people know to change their engine oil every 3,000 miles or so but they don’t realize the transmission needs to be serviced as well. Each transmission is different, and will have different types of fluids and filters, requiring a service at different intervals. The manufacturer dictates when the transmission service should be done usually every 15,000-30,000 miles, and the types of fluid and filter that can be used. All transmissions take a transmission fluid including standard, automatic, DCT, CVT etc.

A pan drop transmission service allows  for inspecting the old fluid, filter and pan magnet. Some debris is normal, but chunks of metal and pasty sludge are signs of a bad transmission.
Shavings And Debris On A Transmission Plug Or Transmission Magnet. Some Materials Are Normal, But Excessive Or Large Debris Is a Problem.

One of the biggest mistakes someone can make is to neglect a transmission service, allowing the fluids to get old and dirty. Once the fluids gets old if loses its viscosity and stops lubricating and dispersing heat as it should. Transmissions have a lot of parts, most of them are metal, and they are moving constantly. Sometimes at very high rates of speed or revolution. The friction creates heat and can cause the metal parts to rub against each other. This will disperse materials into the fluids that run through the system and can clog your filters, ruin the pump, clog up the cooling lines and more.

Most people who bring their car to the transmission shop are there because the transmission wasn’t serviced and fluids are old, dirty and burned. Transmission fluids are usually pink in color, sometimes green or amber. It all depends on the fluid, but old fluids are dark brown or black and will have clutch material, metal shavings and sometimes chunks of metal.

Transmission Flush VS. Transmission Service

Often times people refer to a transmission oil change as a transmission flush. There is a difference between the two. Flushing the transmission usually consist of hooking up a machine that sucks the old fluids out and adds new fluids as it goes, sometimes using heating element and additives in an attempt to clean the transmission as well. A traditional service doesn’t require a machine and will be done manually by dropping the transmission pan, changing the filter and resealing the pan before adding new fluids.

Most transmissions have a pan on the bottom which can be removed to drain fluids, access and change the transmission filter, and inspect the pan magnet for debris.
Drop The Pan To Drain Transmission Oil & Inspect Pan Magnet For Debris.

Traditional shops will more than likely provide a transmission service, they will remove the transmission pan and allow the fluid to drain out of the transmission, replace the filter, and reseal the pan to the transmission with a new pan gasket. A service will not remove all of the old transmission fluid, there will be some left in the torque converter, cooling lines etc. It sounds like a negative thing but most people will tell you that its not always a good to remove all fluids at one time. Dropping the pan also allows the technician to examine the fluid, the old filter and the magnet inside the transmission pan which is there to collect metal shavings and debris. You’ll pay for less fluids too as some of the old fluids is staying in the vehicle.

A transmission flush, or hot flush is a method of changing the transmission fluid  but uses a machine to exchange all of the old fluids and replace with new.
Transmission Flush Using Transmission Flush Machine To Change All Of The Fluids.

A transmission flush requires expensive equipment and will be attached the vehicle, usually through the transmission cooling lines, and will suck all the fluids out of one end while adding new fluids to the other end. This procedure is clean and easy, but its typically looked at as less quality and in some cases can actually cause issues. The transmission is a very complicated piece of machinery, especially the automatic transmission. Every transmission will end up producing materials that pollute the oil, and that’s ok, its excessive materials that start to cause problems. Sometimes that material is helping, it finds a crack or crevice and sort of seals it up, not bothering the transmission at all. When you completely flush the system all those little cracks and crevices are wide open again, and in some cases will be the cause of failure. All in all if the vehicle is serviced properly and on regular intervals a flush should do no harm. But again, we don’t get the change the filter, inspect the old fluid or filter or magnet.

How Long Does It Take To Do A Transmission Service?

A transmission service will typically take about an hour or so to get the vehicle on the lift, get the old fluids our and the new fluids in. You should always double check the fluid level when adding new fluids. Every vehicle and transmission is different and some will take longer than others. Some of the newer vehicles don’t have a dipstick and will require special tools to check the fluid levels. Some vehicles will want the vehicle in neutral while you check the fluids others you can be in park or drive. It’s also a good practice to drive the the vehicle around the block and make sure the transmission is shifting properly, that the temperature is proper and to double check the transmission pan and or cooling lines to make sure there are no leaks.

Pricing will vary depending on the type of vehicle, the type of fluid and pan or filter that it takes and where your getting it done. A dealership is typically the most expensive but they are used to working on your make and model of vehicle and will be using the dealers actual fluids. An oil and lube shop probably does more oil changes than transmission services and they purchase oil in the bulk allowing them to save money, your not always guaranteed to get the correct fluid, and or the best quality fluids, they may or may not be familiar with your vehicle as well and it could effect their ability to fill it to the proper level and or check the level. An actual transmission shop will be your best bet as they are working on transmission all day, and are used to multiple types of transmissions and should be aware of the quirky little differences between one type of transmission vs another.

How Much Does A Transmission Service Cost?

A transmission service is more expensive than an oil change, it takes a little longer and the overall cost of fluids are more. The average vehicle should be around $150.00 or so at a transmission shop. Lube shops will vary and may be more or less. The dealership will usually be the most expensive probably $200 or more for a normal service.

Special transmissions such as the CVT transmission, certain Mercedes transmissions and a handful of others will require a specific type of transmission fluid that costs more than your average fluids. These will drive up the cost of a transmission service. For example a CVT transmission fluid change will usually cost $220-$400 depending on where you go. Some vehicles have the transmission pan and filter assembly all in one, forcing the cost of a service to go up because you have to replace the pan as well. A big truck or diesel truck will take more fluid than a little Honda, so you’ll spend more on that.

Regardless of the type of transmission you have or the type of transmission fluid you need it is always less expensive to change the fluid and maintain your vehicle rather than to neglect it and end up spending thousands to replace or rebuild your transmission.

It’s more expensive, but it’s also a good practice to buy the proper transmission fluid from a dealership rather than getting an aftermarket brand through a parts supplier like Autozone or Oreillys. Especially for specialty fluids like CVT. If you were to compare Nissan’s NS3 transmission fluid with an aftermarket all in one CVT fluid you will notice a big difference in the thickness. You can literally feel, see and smell the difference. If you swirl the two types of fluid in a plastic water cup the cheaper stuff is much thinner and will have bubbles in it. Trust us… your transmission will thank you later!

Get Your Transmission Serviced Today!

Contact Desert Transmissions for a free estimate on your next transmission service and to schedule an appointment!
Call 623-248-8016

Scheduling a transmission service is quick and easy. Contact us and let us know the year, make and model of your vehicle. We will schedule a day for you to bring your vehicle and or drop off. We’ll clean the vehicle, run a quick, free diagnostic to make sure your transmission is healthy enough for a service and then get to work. When we’re done we will double check to make sure everything is clean and that there are no leaks and you’re ready for pickup!

We use only the best quality transmission fluids and will not cut corners to save a buck.

Transmission services are available for all make and models of vehicle and available for customers all over the valley including Glendale, Peoria, Phoenix, Tolleson, Avondale, Goodyear Buckeye and more.

Save hundreds of dollars over dealer pricing and support local business! We guarantee the best pricing and warranty in the valley on all of our services including transmission replacements, rebuilds and more.