In short, transmission fluid change cost can cost roughly $320 for both parts and labor costs. However, the price can change significantly depending on your vehicle’s make, model, year, type of engine, shop you will go to, and sometimes the jurisdiction you live in.
The vehicle’s transmission is responsible for matching the engine’s power to the acceleration speed you select when driving by shifting internal gears.
Driving with low or contaminated transmission fluid can cause transmission failure. This failure is faster in automatic or hydraulic transmissions, where the liquid is involved in generating the power needed to shift gears. On the other hand, low manual transmission fluid can cause the internal parts to tear and wear fast, and eventually cause a transmission failure.
Despite the type of transmission, you need to have a regular replacement for the transmission fluid. Usually, it is recommended to replace the transmission fluid every 30,000 miles or once every two years.
When changing your transmission’s fluid, you need to expect new replacements and repairs, including changing the transmission filter, replacing the pan gasket, changing oxygen sensors, and more.
In this article, we will walk you through how transmission fluid works in automatic and manual transmissions, the common symptoms of bad transmission fluid, how often you need to replace it, how much will it cost to replace the transmission fluid, and more.
What is the transmission fluid?
Your vehicle’s transmission plays an important role in getting your car moving. Without good transmission fluid, your transmission will eventually fail, and therefore, you will not be able to drive your vehicle.
The transmission is responsible for transferring the power from the engine to the wheels. Besides, the transmission shifts gear to accommodate your driving speed. As a result, the transmission matches the engine’s level of power to the acceleration speed you are driving with.
Depending on the type of vehicle’s transmission, the transmission fluid will have different roles. For example, in an automatic or “hydraulic” transmission, the transmission fluid is located in an oil pan and has a fluid filter. This fluid is involved in providing the necessary force to shift gears. Therefore, having low or contaminated automatic transmission fluid can result in quick transmission failure.
On the other hand, if the vehicle’s transmission is manual or “mechanical,” the fluid is not involved in the power needed to shift gears; however, the fluid is located in a special oil case. This fluid is required to lubricate the internal parts and prevent them from accelerated wear and tear. Having low or contaminated manual transmission fluid will cause the internal components to tear and wear fast, and therefore, the transmission will eventually fail.
What are the common symptoms of bad transmission fluid?
Like any other fluid in the vehicle, the transmission fluid must be changed after a period of usage. These fluids deteriorate over time depending on your driving habits (e.g., hard use, driving in traffic, towing trailers, etc.)
Fluid change frequency depends on the type of transmission, type of vehicle, etc. You can find more detailed information about when to change your fluid transmission in the vehicle’s owner’s manual.
If you do not keep track of regular maintenance according to the vehicle’s specifications, you can monitor for any of the followings symptoms to check if your transmission is due for a fluid change:
- Transmission slipping. It is when the engine starts to revive while you are not accelerating.
- Transmission makes weird noises
- When you drive on an inclined surface, the vehicle stalls.
- You find it hard to run the vehicle
- Check engine light warning illuminates
Is it OK to drive a vehicle with a bad transmission fluid?
Regular transmission change is very important maintenance that you need to do periodically.
While you can safely drive a vehicle with low or contaminated transmission fluid, this will cost you very high repair costs in the long run.
The Automatic Transmission Rebuilders Association mentioned that almost 90% of the automatic transmission damages are due to driving with a bad or contaminated fluid transmission. The contaminated fluid transmission causes transmission failure because of overheating.
How often do I need to change the transmission fluid?
Changing the transmission’s fluid is one of the vehicle’s scheduled maintenance. Every manufacture will have a service interval.
You can go online and search for “vehicle’s maintenance schedule.” There are a lot of websites that can provide you with many service intervals estimates. You will need to enter your vehicle’s make, model, year, and mileage.
In general, older vehicles with higher mileage are more likely to have transmission issues than newer low mileage vehicles.
Some experts recommend changing your transmission fluid every 30,000 miles or once every two years. While some manufacturers might advise replacing the transmission fluid once every 100,000 miles, experts think it is too long of a wait, and it is a big risk to your transmission.
Despite the age of your vehicle, you still need to follow the recommended maintenance service by your vehicle’s manufacturer to avoid high costs repairs or sever transmission damages.
How to check if the transmission fluid needs changing?
To determine if the transmission fluid needs to be changed, you will be looking at the fluid appearance, smell, and level.
After running the vehicle for a couple of minutes, pull out the transmission fluid’s dipstick and wipe it clean. Then, insert the stick back and pull it out.
If the dipstick shows dark transmission fluid, the stick smells burn, or the fluid level is low, then you must get the transmission fluid changed.
On the other hand, if the fluid looks brand new, clear, smells OK, and has the appropriate level, you will not need a transmission fluid change.
Transmission fluid change service
The transmission fluid change service differs by the type of transmission (i.e., automatic transmission or manual transmission).
If you want to change the automatic transmission fluid, the service will not only change the fluid, and they will change the filter, the pan gasket, and the fluid itself. Some automatic transmission filters are “sealed for life,” which means you will not need any maintenance, and the filter is not serviceable. The vehicle’s owner’s manual will tell you if you have a sealed transmission system or not. If you do not have a vehicle’s owner’s manual, you can find it online or buy it from a local auto part store.
On the other hand, changing manual transmission fluid is slightly different. The transmission will not have a filter. A transmission without a filter means that you will need more regular fluid change than a transmission with a filter. The filter can help prevent particles and metals from going inside the transmission fluid and allow longer service life. That been said, if you have a manual transmission, you need to check your vehicle’s owner’s manual for recommendations on how often you need to change the transmission fluid.
How do you change the vehicle’s transmission fluid?
Changing the transmission fluid is very straightforward. The mechanic has first to drain any old fluid.
Then, if the transmission is automatic, the mechanic will install a new filter and pan gasket, as we mentioned before if the transmission is sealed for life (no need to change the filter) or not.
Once a new pan gasket and filter were installed, the mechanic will add the required amount of transmission fluid and oil according to the vehicle’s specifications.
Finally, the mechanic will check for any leaks and then do a test drive.
What are the common codes for a bad transmission fluid?
If your transmission is due for a fluid change, you will most likely find one of these error codes:
This code indicates “Shift Error.” As we mentioned before, the transmission is responsible for selecting the required engine’s power to match your driving acceleration speed.
This error is telling the vehicle’s internal computer that the engine’s rotational speed, or output power, does not match your driving acceleration. In other words, your car is driving on the same gear all the time.
While this might be a direct problem with your vehicle’s transmission, the code could indicate issues with other components, including shift solenoids, engine coolant temperature, valve body, etc.
This code indicates “Torque Converter Temperature Too High.” The torque is responsible for connecting the transmission to the engine. If the transmission has contaminated or low fluid level, the torque will slip and trigger the P2783 code.
If the torque converter slips, you will notice a decrease in your engine’s performance.
While a low transmission fluid might trigger the P2783 code, other more complicated reasons can trigger the same system, including full internal transmission damage and damaged torque converter.
This code indicates “Transmission Fluid Deteriorated.” This code is a direct indication of transmission fluid issues. It is telling the internal computer that the transmission has a contaminated fluid that prevents shifting gears appropriately.
How much does it cost to change transmission fluid?
Transmission change cost depends on the transmission type, vehicle’s make, made, and model.
Besides, the cost changes depending on the labor cost at the shop you go to.
Sometimes, the area you are living in might have higher taxes prices that can add up the total transmission fluid change cost.
In this section, we will provide you with general estimate costs for transmission fluid change. However, to best get accurate quotes, you might need to take your vehicle to a local automotive shop and have them evaluate the cost for you.
For example, the average cost for changing your transmission fluid at a local auto shop can range from $120 to $210 on parts only. Labor costs at a local auto shop range from $120 to $150, which is much lower than labor costs at a dealership. Without including any local taxes, changing the transmission fluid can cost you roughly $320 for both parts and labor costs.
Here are some common dealer repair costs for a transmission fluid change my vehicle’s type:
|Vehicle||Part cost||Labor cost|
|2008 Scion xB||$67||$88|
|2011 Nissan Pathfinder||$72||$79|
|2012 Lexus LS460||$80||$80|
|2016 Lexus IS350||$107||$90|
|2007 Porsche 911||$140||$130|
As we mentioned earlier, for automatic transmission vehicles, you will also need to change the transmission filter. Changing a transmission filter can cost you about $150 on parts only. The price could get up to $650 if you got it replaced at a dealership due to high labor costs.
There are other common repairs you might need to do when changing your transmission fluid, including:
- Replacing a PCV valve which can cost from $170 to $220 at a dealership
- Replacing a fuel tank pressure sensor, which can cost from $400 to $450 at a dealership
- Replacing a brake proportioning valve, which requires from $400 to $450 at a dealership
- Replacing body control module, which can cost from $550 to $600 at a dealership
- Replacing Pitman Arm, which can cost $250 to $390 at a dealership
- Replacing the hybrid high battery, which can charge from $6,700 to $6900 at a dealership
- Finally, replacing an oxygen sensor which can cost from $350 to $450 at a dealership
Your transmission is one of the core components of your vehicle. You need to make sure that the transmission is working all the time properly.
Despite the type of transmission (automatic vs. manual), driving with a low or contaminated transmission fluid can result in severe transmission failures.
It is recommended to change your transmission’s fluid every 30,000 miles or once every two years. Skipping this type of maintenance can cost you a lot of money along the road.
Transmission fluid change cost depends on the type of vehicle, the type of transmission, and the location you go to perform the fluid change. Roughly speaking, you might need to pay $320 to get the fluid replaced at a local automotive shot; however, the price might get much higher if you get it changed at a dealership.
You need to keep in mind that there are other repairs you might expect when changing your transmission’s fluid. These repairs might include changing the transmission filter, replacing the gasket pan, replacing an oxygen sensor and others.