Most vehicles are equipped with automatic transmissions, a very complex piece of equipment with hundreds if not thousands of parts, all of which rely on the transmission fluid to keep it operating properly.
The fluid performs many tasks, from controlling and operating clutches inside the transmission to providing lubrication to the moving parts as well as cooling the intense heat generated inside. So critical is this fluid, that without it, your transmission will simply not work and your car will not move.
Flushing and servicing your transmission fluid is a relatively new service (20 years ago it was rarely done).
So why do we do it now?
Because modern transmissions keep getting more complex, are packed into tighter spaces and are made with lighter-weight materials which are often less durable. For many years 3 speed transmissions were the norm, then it became 4 speeds, now it’s 5 and 6 speeds with some manufacturers offering up to 10 speeds.
With these increased number of speeds, complexity just keeps growing and along with it come astronomical repair costs. If you have one of these 5 and up speed units that need replacement you could be looking at a $5,000 to $10,000 bill, and maybe more.
Routine maintenance, which consists of flushing the fluid and replacing the filter (if equipped) is an economical way to give your transmission its longest life. Many manufacturers recommend replacing the fluid, usually at around 50,000 kilometers. There are however, a number of manufacturers, mainly European who do not recommend replacing the fluid ever: it is supposedly “fill for life”.
Why would this be?
Most of the rationale behind this is that many of these transmissions use high quality synthetic fluids which are very durable and will maintain their lubricating properties indefinitely. Consider though, that inside these transmissions they still have components that wear and their fluid becomes just as contaminated as the fluid in any other vehicle. Over time, worn particles are being pumped through the transmission, increasing wear every time you drive.
It therefore makes sense to flush these fluids also. As long as the correct fluid is installed and the level is proper, only good can come of doing this.
It must be remembered that vehicle maintenance schedules are created by the engineers who design the vehicles, and while they are reasonably good on paper they may not always be good out in the field.
Also to be remembered is that the auto manufacturers are in the business of selling new cars, so while reliability is important it is only important for so long. The bottom line is that routine fluid replacement leads to longer transmission life which will keep lots of money in your pocket.