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."
a trans thats dry will hold 8 to 12 quarts cause the converter holds alot. just dropping the pan you will have to add aprox 6 thu 8 quarts- i just installed a new one in my 67 camaro a TH350 holds 12 quarts
Think we have chaos now, just wait till all the automatic transmissions fail!
this is the 67 camaro i built for my son, and me behind the wheel- it has th 350 trans with 375 hp 350 engine— it’s quick
Jet engines like those from Rolls Royce or GE never ever have to have it’s lubrication replaced for the life of the engine under normal circumstances.
They do use synthetic lubricants.
Huh? Its sold by the quart, capacity charts are in quarts...but you could use milliliters if it floats your boat. The unit of measure has nothing to do with the subject at hand.
Got an F-150 and 30K miles also. Somehow, I think this is revenue for the dealer. They charge $159. Other vehicles I’ve had ALWAYs have hit 100k miles without anything but topping off, if at all, with the right fluid. I don’t think I’m going to do this. I’ll wait until maybe 75K if at all.
Way cool - that machine sounds healthy and your son is a lucky young man.
Engines have combustion in them; transmissions don’t. After awhile (3000-5000 miles or so?) those little microscopic particles of dust become a problem in the crankcase, along with maybe even some microscopically small fragments of steel and other stuff. That’s why your engine has an air filter and an oil filter.
i found the engine behind my uncles shed, with a small tree growing though one of the cylinders..lol.. i rebuilt it with all new parts- new crank,rods, trw pistons, comp cam, and 69 -202 corvette heads.
If your car has over 100K miles, opening the tranny for the first time to service it can give you a lot of problems.
Mercedes seals their trannys. You don’t even get a dipstick but a tamper resistant cap.
If your tranny is slipping or having issues, then changing the filter and fluid might help it; you really have nothing to lose except for the parts and service cost.
If the tranny is cruising your neighborhood, call the cops, it might be Ru Paul...
Nice. I have the same car....at least I think I can read ‘Camaro’ when I scrape the rust. One day...
You are being facetious right?
Grab some old car manuals for Toyota, Honda, Ford, VW...though the stuff is sold in quarts, note the unit used often to note capacity - and the unit used often to identify what the tickers relate to on the transmission dipstick as opposed to the engine oil dipstick.
i just bought a 1957 chevy belair 2 door— thats my next project- i also bought a 67-327 engine to put in it— thats gonna be my toy—lol
i gonna fix my 57 up like this but with a small block instead- and candy apple red
I just hit 80K miles on my 05’ Honda Pilot and had the dealer change the transmission fluid for the first time. They wanted me to change it every 30K miles. At 80K it was as clean, non-burnt, as the day it went in.
15K or 30K transmission fluid changes are a complete waste of money.
I’ll probably wait until 150K to change it again.
We have one of those machines in our small truck shop that pushes new transmission fluid through while it flushes out the old.It takes a few extra quarts to do this.It’s suppose to clean out the filter so you don’t have to remove the pan to replace it.If you do the drain and drop the pan to change the filter method,you’ll have old fluid trapped in the torque converter.That’s why the flush method is recommended so much.
You lucky guy.
Pretty rare car.
I’ve had 3 Camaros in my life, all sweet assed perfect cars.
My first car at 16 was a beautiful white 78 305 cc with a pearlesent white lacquer paint job and red interior.
I totaled it.
My second was a incredibly sweet silver 78 Z-28.
Looked almost exactly like the car Spicoli totalled in fast times but better.
I totaled that one too.
My third car was a real nice gold 80 Z with T-Tops that i bought off of my electronics teacher.
That one lasted me for many years, then i sold it for 500 bucks to put my new at the time Supra Turbo on the road.
The new Camaros are pretty sweet, too bad i neither can afford one now and for the fact that i am done with GM.
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