As time goes on transmission maintenance becomes more difficult for the regular joe mechanic who fixes their car in their driveway. Transmissions are, especially now, very complicated machines that last a lot longer than they used to, but aren’t beyond regular maintenance. Even auto manufacturers recommend changing transmission fluid, or gear oil, every 60,000 miles or so. While this isn’t a strict rule, as long as it’s done correctly, you can never change your gear oil too many times or too often. Over time metal shavings will chip off of the gears inside and find their way into the fluid, and if they build up too much can cause severe damage. Repairing a transmission can cost thousands of dollars, so it’s important to keep with the maintenance. Even if the auto manufacturer says a fluid change is never necessary (and some do), do it anyway and stick to the 60,000 mile adage.
It might become apparent after a lot of driving that your transmission needs new fluid if you’re experiencing some irregularities, specifically with how the car shifts. For instance, 2011-2012 Ford Fiestas equipped with the dual clutch transmission underwent jagged and borderline violent gearshifts after a number of miles. This kind of activity, along with late shifts or inconsistent and shifts that are not smoothly executed are red flags and should be investigated. Likely in a manual transmission, if you’re experiencing a lot of grinding that could come down to the fluid, or type of fluid you’re using and should be addressed. That grinding is metal shavings grinding away into the fluid and thereby circulating all around inside of the transmission.
If you suspect foul play, depending on the car you own you may be able to check it, and not have the worst time in the world. Some cars are equipped with dipsticks that are for checking transmission fluid, and with those it’s the same process as checking oil. Make sure the level is in the middle of the grated (or some other indication) section at the bottom of the stick, and as always the clearer the fluid is the better. Other cars without a dipstick it gets more complicated.
If your car does not have a dipstick for checking transmission fluid, you can remove the fill plug on the outside of the transmission.The fluid level should reach the bottom edge on the inside of the fill plug, and you can stick your finger in there and check the color that way. If you’re able to reach the fluid with relative ease, then the level is probably good as well.
If your transmission is sealed, which means there is no dipstick and no filler hole, the next course of action (if you suspect the fluid is bad) is to just have it changed at a shop. Depending on the car it could be a delicate process, so it’s better to have a professional take care of it. Don’t forget transmissions can be sensitive to oils, so go with the factory recommended fluid and have a professional mechanic do it.
When you go to check or replace your transmission fluid, do some homework and read your owner’s manual or at the very least look up on google for the status quo. Make sure everything is as it should be, with the level and color, and if it’s not, you should take it to a shop immediately. Transmission maintenance is not something you want to take chances on.
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