Skip to comments.Transmission Fluid Changes a Scam
Posted on 05/01/2011 10:49:54 AM PDT by Signalman
Take care of your transmission Oil-change shops push fluid changes that aren't needed May 1, 2007
BY MARK PHELAN FREE PRESS COLUMNIST The $14.99 oil change Linda Good wanted for her 2001 Dodge Voyager ended up costing her more than $100 and buying her a new set of worries. A Madison Heights oil-change shop sold her a transmission fluid change that is almost never necessary, experts say.
"For customers, it's basically throwing your money away," said Daniel Black, Chrysler senior manager of automatic transmission engineering. Despite that, many service stations -- including leading national chains -- offer the procedure. There's no telling how many people pay for it every day. After the oil change, the service attendant said the Voyager's automatic transmission fluid looked dirty and should be changed. Good, who relies on the minivan for her housecleaning, Avon sales and home caregiver businesses, took his advice. The rough, clunky shifts began before she got to the first traffic light. Good cleans my house and knows I drive cars for a living, so she called and asked me how much trouble she was in. Potentially plenty, and it could happen to you. "We don't recommend a" transmission fluid "change in the life of the vehicle," Black said. "The risks are leaks, putting the wrong fluid in, over-filling or under-filling." A bungled fluid change can destroy an automatic transmission or void the manufacturer's warranty on the delicate and expensive component. "As a general rule of thumb, newer transmission designs are sealed for life," said Tim Miskotten, who leads North American business for ZF AG, the German company that is the world's largest independent transmission maker. ZF supplies gearboxes to Ford, Audi, BMW Jaguar and other leading automakers. "You don't need to change the fluid in the normal life of a vehicle," Miskotten said.
Chrysler makes its own transmissions, and its minivans routinely cover 150,000 miles in service as Las Vegas taxis without a transmission fluid change, Black said. "They're our toughest customers," because of constant stop-and-go driving and 24-hour-a-day operation in the blazing desert heat, he said. Black wouldn't diagnose Good's vehicle over the phone, but he said rough shifting after a fluid change could be caused by a refill with the wrong fluid. While few vehicles ever need their transmission fluid changed, even national auto service chains like Jiffy Lube offer the service as routine maintenance. On the rare occasions the fluid actually should be changed, it should be done only by a technician who's certified to work on automatic transmissions and has access to specialized tools and the exact fluid the manufacturer specifies, ZF's Miskotten said.
"You can't just go to the service station and pick up a quart," he said. Each transmission requires fluid produced precisely to formula, he said. "You absolutely have to have the fluid that's specified. It's no longer the case where" an oil shop "says 'We have ATF.' " Using the wrong fluid can lead to rough shifts and noisy operation, he said.
"The correct fluid is most important for shift quality," Black said. It's also vital to fill the transmission to precisely the right level, both experts said. Transmission fluid levels are much more exacting than engine oil, where you can miss the sweet spot by a pint or more with no consequences. "If a vehicle is under-filled and operated in cold weather, you could have a transmission failure," Black said.
Even transmission specialists don't do fluid changes very frequently, said Barry Bryan, owner of American Transmission in Troy. "I check the owner's manual," Bryan said. "If the manufacturer says the fluid never needs to be changed, I agree." Changing the transmission fluid doesn't help if there's already damage, said Bryan, who has owned his station since 1985 and has 40 years' experience working on transmissions. "A problem in the fluid is a sign of other trouble."
After Good had problems with the minivan, she went back to the shop, where she was told she needed more fluid and told if she had more questions to go to a nearby shop under the same ownership. At the second shop she was told to go to a transmission specialist. Mo Dia, who owns Major Oil, where Good had her van serviced, said he recommends a change when fluid is the wrong color or has a burnt smell, adding that the shop does not change fluid if the owner's manual says it is not necessary.
"Does that mean it was a mistake if somebody changed the fluid in a Voyager where Chrysler says it's not necessary?" I asked. "If the vehicle is over 100,000 miles, you don't go by the owner's manual," Dia said. Chrysler said the owner's manual advice still applies after 100,000 miles. Dia initially said he kept every type of transmission fluid in stock. Asked about ATF +4, the fluid Chrysler specifies for the 2001 Voyager, he said, "We have an additive, Smart Blend, to convert regular automatic transmission fluid to ATF +4." "We haven't tested that additive," Chrysler spokeswoman Heather May said. "It's not something we'd recommend." Ten days after the fluid change, Good's Voyager still has rough shifts, but she's comforted knowing that it could be much worse.
"I thought my transmission was going," she said. "That would be a big expense."
I own 2 high mileage cars. I have definitely noticed a “lag” in the auto XMSN even when the oil has been changed (i use synthetic).
Minor transmission problems like your “lag” are usually due to slightly dirty or sticking components... I have used “AUTO-RX” to clean a Mercedes tranny (slow upshifts when cold) and a Taurus (AXOD tranny) that slipped completely out of gear in hard left turns ... The stuff is magic ,, cleans slowly and completely ,, drove both cars another 100k afterwards ... Follow the advice on the website and have the fluid and filter completely changed by a transmission specialist after treatment. http://auto-rx.com/transmissions.html
Don't ever, never take your car to jiffy lube or any of those places.
When ya drain the oil, leave the drain plug out for 15 or 20 minutes. I leave my out for 2 hours. You have to allow all the dirty oil to drain out that is clinging to all the internal engine parts..
If ya don't do this, your putting new oil in with old nasty dirty oil.
If ya like your vehicle, and want it to last, do this.
Right you are about that! My late dad always let the oil drip out of the engine for at least 2-3 hours before adding new oil to the engine. That is how you do the job right!
Dad was right, but this has more to do with engines than transmissions. But transmissions should also be allowed to drain out for at least 20 minutes.
BTW, I sometimes allow my engine oil to drain completely over night before adding new, when I know I wont be using my vehicle over night.
Reminds me of the time as a kid when I changed the engine oil in my car.
I couldn’t figure out why the transmission was slipping while I was out for a test drive. I coasted over to the curb and checked the transmission fluid — nothing. Not a drop.
I checked the oil — it was well above top mark on the dip stick.
I pulled the plug on the transmission fluid instead of the engine oil. The car was fine after I added transmission fluid and drained the oil. My grandfather had a good laugh.
We just had our transmission filter changed and it’s been running lousy ever since. Bringing it back to the shop tomorrow. Maybe I’ll print out this article and bring it with me.
The chaos of the world sucks a lot more with a busted car.
“As for Jiffy Lube, my last visit there a decade ago had them tell me a throttle plate cleaning at $245 was part of my vehicles scheduled maintenance. It was not.”
I took a company vehicle to a local place once. As I was waiting in the lobby, I witnessed an almost comical parade of ‘technicians’ bringing hoses, filters, belts, etc. into the lobby to show to this elderly woman. She stood firm and told them ‘no’ every time...but this is how I discovered what the business model of these places is.
Who knows, maybe they asked to clean her throttle plate too :). I can’t remember all the junk they tried to sell her.
I constantly stew about how often to change diff, transfer case, and manual tranny fluid on my 4WD. Was worrying about it even this morning. Not allowed to do it at home and can’t shell out the bucks for the inflated dealer intervals.
And the sealed bearings on your wheels need periodic service. /s
Don't ever take your vehicles to a jiffy lube type place.
Once my car was out of extended warranty, I began all the maintenance myself.
First time I changed the tranny fluid, it ran poorly. The manual said to use SPII fluid which is what I used. I then read the manufacturer's TSB and there was a bulletin advising the use of SPIII fluid. So, i drained the fluid I just put in and replaced it with SPIII and it ran much better although still had some shift problems due to the amount of SPII fluid that was leftover in the torque converter. I went back, drained the fluid again and added fresh SPIII and that did the trick. Shifts as smooth as silk.
Unfortunately, it cost me an extra $100 worth of fluid to make up for having added the wrong fluid.
Engines consume oil. .... I don’t believe we are talking engines. We are talking transmissions here.
there is nothing wrong with changing your transmission oil and filter- i do it every 30 thousand miles cause your filter starts to stop up with fine clutch shavings. after 30,000 you can pull your oil pan off and scrap about 1/16 of and inch of clutch shavings with your finger. so you know its in the filter if its settled in the pan also. i’ve heard of people putting pure synthetic oils in there trans, and the car woundnt even move cause the clutchs slip to easy due to the oil is to slick- trans fluid is kinda dry when you feel of it, i guess so the clutchs plates can grab better. it is good to change your trans fluid, cause heat will break down any oil over time. oil would last a lifetime if the heat wasnt breaking it down.
For all hydraulics the thing to remember is...keep it cool and keep it clean. Heat will destroy a transmission, and an automatic is run by hydraulics.
2003: Tranny started losing fluid and smoking when it got low. I couldn't drive 20 miles without losing so much fluid that it smoked. Even got pulled over by a State Trooper once 'cuz it was smoking trying to nurse it home (very rural area, no place to stop and pick up a quart or two to get it home).
Bought a large bottle of Lucas Auto Transmission stop leak, filled the tranny with it and drove it 4 more years, no more smoking, no more leaking, and shifting as smooth as the day I got it. The stuff is gold.
Worked in my Ford C-4 also.
You are doing what I do....replace the filter and what is in the pan.
The lube shops are selling a ‘total fluid exchange’.
Say you replace 4 quarts when you drop the pan...there may be another 7 in the transmission...they are trying to scare people into exchanging all of this fluid.
I have operated on the notion that changing out some of the fluid with every filter change will be sufficient...but apparantly some new cars don’t even have changeable filters and pans.
I would never do the ‘transfusion’ the shops offer...seems like alot of stuff can go wrong.
I think you mean pints, not quarts.
Most transmissions that I’ve changed fluid on, or added fluid to were spec’d in pints.
yeah, you cant get it all, cause you have approx 3 to 4 quarts in the torqe converter- i always just drop the pan and change filter, and add oil thats needed.
“Chrysler makes its own transmissions....”
That explains a lot.
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