Does Changing Transmission Fluid Help Shifting? 

Shifting or changing gear can become problematic at any time. But can something as simple as changing the transmission fluid cure the issue?

The thing to note is that transmission fluid differs massively from engine oil. Transmissions do not operate at the same high temperatures as the engine, so a simple transmission oil change doesn’t have quite the same effect as changing the engine oil. 

However, there are certain circumstances in which changing the transmission fluid can help with shifting in an automatic transmission. This is because of the small metal filings (debris) contaminating the fluid, making it dirty and need to be removed, which can only be done by changing the fluid. I’ve explained this and how changing the transmission fluid can help shift issues where applicable in more detail in this article. 

Does Changing Transmission Fluid Help Shifting?

Please keep in mind the following: Changing the transmission fluid on a manual transmission will not improve shifting, as it is not responsible for the smoothness of gear changes. This is providing the transmission fluid is changed at regular intervals as detailed in the car’s service schedule. The primary function of transmission fluid is to lubricate all moving components inside the transmission. If the fluid level on the dipstick is between the minimum and maximum levels and there are no leaks, changing the fluid will not make any noticeable difference to shifting gear. 

However, if the transmission fluid is excessively low, changing or adding it will certainly help. 

Lastly, I want to add that changing the fluid will not fix issues such as crunching noises when shifting, leaking transmission fluid, clutch problems like slipping, missing gears, or the car jumping out of gear. So, if you are facing any of the above issues, unfortunately, your vehicle needs a visit to the garage for a more serious repair.

Will Changing Transmission Fluid Improve Shifting in an Automatic?

Changing the transmission fluid can improve shifting in an automatic transmission vehicle because they work very differently from manual.

The solenoids are responsible for receiving the signal to change gears, and they work by opening and allowing transmission fluid to pass through a plunger. This, in turn, puts pressure on the clutch and transmission to change gear. 

However, if the transmission fluid is dirty or contaminated with debris, it can cause the shift solenoid to stick open or shut, resulting in issues with gear shifting. To solve this problem, a simple transmission fluid flush is usually enough. It’s worth noting that changing the transmission fluid in an automatic transmission is much more critical than a manual one.

What Are Signs That the Transmission Fluid Needs to Be Changed?

There are a few signs that indicate your transmission fluid may need to be changed. It may be time for a change if you notice a burning smell coming from your transmission or the fluid appears dark or cloudy. Additionally, in an automatic transmission vehicle, if you experience slipping gears or if your car is slow to engage when shifting, these could also be signs that your transmission fluid needs to be changed. It’s always a good idea to consult your vehicle’s owner’s manual for specific recommendations on when to change your transmission fluid, as this can vary depending on the make and model of your car.

How Often Should You Change Transmission Fluid?  

Changing the transmission fluid is part of the vehicle service schedule. Vehicle dependent, this is normally anywhere from 30,000 to 60,000 miles. If you don’t drive a lot, you could consider changing it between every 3 and 5 years. 

Although changing the transmission fluid will not improve shifting when changing the fluid, the debris can be removed from the gearbox. A gearbox is a sealed unit, so you may wonder how debris can get in. 

Well, tiny metal particles from gears are shaved and crunched away over time. You aren’t doing anything wrong; it’s just the transmission always has two metal components in contact with each other. These gears will wear out, and the metal has nowhere to go until removed. 

The reason for changing the fluid in the first place is to relubricate the touching gears and keep them in the best shape for as long as possible.

What Happens If You Don’t Change The Transmission Fluid? 

If you do not change the transmission fluid, it can become contaminated with dirt and debris. This can cause the fluid to stop acting as a lubricant and hydraulic fluid, which can lead to damage to the transmission components in both manual and automatic vehicles. In a manual car, this can take considerable time, while in an automatic transmission, the debris can quickly pass through sensitive components and cause damage. 

This highlights the importance of following the recommended maintenance schedule and changing the transmission fluid regularly to prevent potential damage.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should You Change The Transmission Fluid If It Has Never Been Changed?

Garages will indicate the need for a transmission fluid change during an annual service. A flush is cheap and can extend the life of the transmission. If no record of a change is available when buying a used vehicle, consider a flush for peace of mind. The process usually takes less than an hour.

What Is The Process For Changing The Transmission Fluid In A Vehicle?

The process for changing the transmission fluid in a vehicle can vary depending on the make and model of the car. In general, the steps involve:
1. Draining the old transmission fluid by removing the drain plug.
2. Replacing the filter (if applicable).
3. Fill the transmission with new fluid through the filler hole on top of the transmission.
Using the correct fluid type for your vehicle is essential, as found in the owner’s manual.

Final Thoughts

Changing the transmission is part of a vehicle’s standard service schedule and shouldn’t be ignored throughout the car’s life.

To summarise, does changing the transmission fluid help with shifting? The answer is yes in an automatic transmission car with old, dirty fluid, but no, not in a manual transmission car. 

My name is Tom although my friends call me Tommy. Messing around with cars and bikes has always been a hobby of mine even from a young age. So I made it my day job 17 years ago. I am a fully qualified mechanic as you would expect. I've worked in all different areas of the motor trade, valeting, panel beating, engine repairs, I'm sure you get the idea. I enjoy sharing my wealth of knowledge and experience with others, which is the reason I spend a lot of time here writing for this website.

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