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Transmission Filter Maintenance 101

Transmission Filter Maintenance 101

The transmission is one of the most important components in your vehicle. It works along with the engine to transfer the power produced by the motor directly to the wheels of your vehicle. Yes, the transmission is what allows your car to move. The transmission requires regular maintenance to ensure that it’s running smoothly and efficiently. The transmission filter is an essential part of your vehicle’s transmission that when maintained can ensure that your transmission is in good health and lasts for several years to come.

Auto Repairs Are EXPENSIVE


What Is The Transmission Filter?

The transmission filter is situated right above the transmission pan but underneath the pickup tube that is connected to the oil pump.  The transmission filter is a metal slate that’s made from a fibrous material. Whereas the picture regulates the pressure of the transmission fluid, the transmission filter is designed to capture dirt, debris, and other harmful particles before it flows into the transmission and its gears. Such contaminants can be harmful to your transmission which is why the filter collects them.


Transmission filters are used on both automatic and manual transmissions. As the miles whiz by an automatic transmission endures a lot of stress from the intense heat that is generated while it's being operated. As the transmission begins to wear, metal shavings start to develop and contaminate the transmission which can have harmful effects that lead to transmission failure. Fortunately, the transmission filter regularly sift out the metal shavings. 


How Important Is The Transmission Filter?

Keep in mind that the gearboxes aren’t all the way sealed. The transmission is designed with breathing vents, a level check, and a filler tube. These opening areas give outside participles a chance to make their way inside to the transmission. However, the transmission filter prevents this from happening. The transmission extends the life of transmission by keeping the lubricating fluid clean. 

Do You Have To Change The Transmission Filter?

Like any other filter, the transmission filter needs to be replaced after some time. Because the transmission filters out so many outside contaminants it eventually gets clogged up with such particles. If you don’t change the transmission filter it won’t be able to effectively do its job and it won’t be able to effectively protect your transmission. 


While each vehicle has different maintenance schedules the transmission filter should be replaced when you have your transmission fluid change. It should be changed every 30,000-100,000 miles. 


How Do I Know If The Transmission Needs To Be Changed?

It can be difficult to determine when it’s time to change your transmission filter. After all, visually inspecting the filter is nearly impossible for a novice. The filter is located in a hard-to-reach area that requires removing  the transmission pan first and fully drain its content. You’ll need specialized tools to even remove the transmission pan and the filter. 


Depending on your vehicle, a dashboard warning light will illuminate when it's time to change the filter. Swapping out an old transmission filter can be very time-consuming and it can get messy. That’s why some car owners leave the job up to a professional. 


How To Detect A Faulty Transmission Filter 

Since it can be difficult to determine whether or not the transmission filter needs to be changed look out for these telltale signs:


Pungent Burning Smell

When the transmission filter has become clogged with debris, dirt, metal shavings, and other particles you’ll eventually start to smell a strong burning odor. This smell can be intense if the transmission fluid needs to be changed as well. In especially extreme cases, the transmission filter can become so clogged that it starts smoking and you can see from the engine. 


Difficulty Changing Gears

If you are experiencing hard shifts from park to drive and then reverse or you are unable to change gears at all this can be due to a dirty transmission filter.  When the transmission filter has become clogged the gears might start grinding for no reason or it may surge forward when you shift gears. These symptoms can indicate a malfunctioning transmission filter or a bigger problem with your vehicle’s transmission. 


Whining Noise From The Transmission

Do you hear a whining or whirring noise coming from the transmission? This sound is more prominent in vehicles with manual transmissions. This distinct noise sounds as if the engine is revving up while stuck between gears. However, the transmission fails to fully engage or it doesn’t engage as quickly as it should. 


In an automatic transmission, the sound is more of a high-pitched screech that is mainly noticeable when you shift from park to drive and then to reverse. 


When you are shifting gears you shouldn’t hear any kind of noises. So when shifting gears becomes noisy and laborious it may be time to change the transmission filter. 


Transmission Leaks

Are you leaving small puddles everywhere you park your car?  Don’t brush it off as simply being an AC leak.  If the transmission filter is fitted properly it can result in leaking. The transmission is designed with several seals and gaskets throughout the transmission. When cracks start to develop in the gaskets and seals fluid can leak out. Transmission leaks are noticeable, you’ll see puddles of liquids on the ground over where you park. 



If the transmission fluid has become contaminated that the transmission filter is not doing its job. If dirt and sludge start to mix into the transmission at a critical level this can cause harm to your transmission. The transmission fluid should be a reddish color. If the transmission fluid is dark muddy color then it's time to get a transmission flush. 


Can I Change My Transmission Filter Myself?

There is a learning curve to changing your vehicle’s transmission filter. 

While changing the transmission is a time consuming and challenging task it can be done. The process of changing the transmission filter varies depending on the vehicle. You should refer to your owner’s manual. Here are some basic instructions for changing a clogged transmission filter:


  1. Lift the vehicle up

You’ll want to start by first jacking the vehicle up off the ground. Make you exercise caution by securing the vehicle to the jack stands or ramps.


  1. Place a container under the transmission fluid pan

You will have to remove the transmission oil pan. Make  sure you have some type of container under the pan to catch the old fluids.  Before you drain the old transmission fluid you need to make sure the transmission is at a normal operating temperature. 


  1. Drain the transmission fluid

Loosen the bolts on the transmission pan to begin draining the old fluids. Once you remove the bolts from the pan the fluids will gush out. Be careful because the fluid will likely be hot. 


  1. Replace the transmission filter and pan gasket

Before installing the new parts you should make sure the transmission mating surface is clean and that the filter has been completely removed. 


  1. Don't forget to tighten the transmission pan

Once the transmission pan has been completely drained and the fresh new filter and gasket are in place you’ll need to tighten the bolts on the transmission. 


  1. Add in the transmission fluid

Now is the time to add the fresh transmission fluid. Pop open the hood and pull out the automatic transmission fluid dipstick. Insert the tunnel and the transmission fluid into the tunnel for a flawless application. Check the owner's manual to see what type of fluid you need to use in your car. Reinsert the dipstick and close the hood.


How To Use A Transmission Filter Kit To Change The Filter


Usually, when it’s time to change the transmission filter people purchase a fluid filter kit which makes the process so much easier. This kit contains essential hardware that it’s wise to replace when it’s time to install a new filter. Here is what’s included in a standard automatic transmission filter kit:


Pickup Tube- The pickup tube is the component that connects the transmission filter assembly to the oil pump.


Gasket –  The gasket is essential because it makes sure there is a tight fit between the transmission filter and the pan assembly so that none of the fluid seeps out while it’s circulating the transmission. Depending on the type of gaskets they can be screwed on or they can snap on. There are gaskets that are made from cork and rigid rubber.


Seal – The transmission seal is the last part of the transmission filter. The seal provides a secure fitting between the pickup tube and the transmission case. 


Using a transmission filter kit is a straightforward process. It comes with everything you need to keep your transmission in prime condition. 


What Are The Different Types of Transmission Filters 

A high-quality filter can cost between $20-$30. The most expensive filters are designed for heavy duty engines and are manufactured with durable metals. There are three main types of transmission filters:


Automatic Transmission Filter Kit

The market is flooded with aftermarket automatic filter kits because they are compatible with most modern transmission systems. These kits are designed to be easily installed in vehicles across varying brands. When it comes to purchasing a transmission filter kit you should make sure you select one that is efficient at removing contaminate. 


Engine Vent

These transmission filter kits are designed to remove contaminants from engine vents. These kits are slightly more expensive than your standard automatic transmission kits. When it comes to filtration they are highly efficient and they are lighter. Engine vent transmission kits are available for different engine models. 


Diesel Engine Fuel Kits

These motor oil transmission kits utilize Aquabloc technology which ensures a seamless sifting of water to fuel. These kits are made for 6.0 to 6.4-liter engines. Diesel engine fuel kits can filter the smallest particles starting at 10 microns. These filter kits are often recommended for Ford engines. The great thing about Diesel Engine Fuel kits is that they have the highest dust and water removal capacity of about ninety-six percent. 


What To Consider When Buying Transmission Filter Kits 


If you are considering replacing your car’s transmission filter yourself the kit is the best way to go. When you are shopping for a transmission filter kit here are a few factors you’ll need to consider:


Ease of Installation

Whether you are a novice or you have little mechanical experience you should invest in a transmission filter kit that’s easy to use. Most of these kits come with simple tools such as a screwdriver. Before you purchase a kit you should also make sure it has an OEM direct for design. It shouldn't be complicated to assemble and fit on your engine. 


Low Abrasion Metal Surface

The best transmission filter kits are made with a low-abrasion metal surface that is durable even when subjected to frequent friction with other components of the transmission system. When you are purchasing a filter you should make sure the metal used can withstand friction and doesn't wear rapidly that way it can be used with a heavy-duty motor. 


Do I Have To Flush The Transmission When I Change The Filter? 


Most automotive experts will recommend that you flush the transmission or have the transmission fluid changed when you swap out the filter. A transmission flush involves removing all of the old contaminated fluid from the vehicle. Transmission flushes are recommended for every 45,000 miles or every three years.  Usually, during a transmission flush, a new filter is installed in the transmission oil pan and is thoroughly cleaned. 


On the other hand, a transmission fluid change typically consists of adding fresh fluid to your vehicle. This is especially important if your transmission fluid levels are low. Depending on your vehicle’s specific need you might require a transmission flush or fluid change by the time you need to replace the filter.


Regularly changing your vehicle’s transmission filter is necessary for extending its life and boosting the overall performance of your car’s transmission. A transmission filter kit makes replacing the filter super easy however you can always have your transmission serviced by a professional.