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."
No reason to leave the drain plug out for two hours. It's sufficient to do it until the oils stream turns from solid to drips. Once you're down to a ten-count between drips, you're done. None of my cars have ever failed me due to oil change issues. As a matter of fact, I used to have an old 1951 chevy truck that didn't have an oil filter on it (it came with one, but it was the source of too many leaks). I just changed the oil every couple of months, regardless of driving. That truck's been running on and off for more than 20 years doing that. Never leaked, always ran. I had more issues with the carb gunking up with varnish after sitting for too long than oil issues.
They can rehabilitate these guys on their own dime - I had one of the 'wanting to go straight' people put 50 lbs of pressure in two of my tires... These folks need factory jobs where they can't damage citizens ...
I own a repair shop and have a transfusion machine. I warn may customers that if there car has never had a trans fluid change and have over a 100k there taking a risk. I have had cars that would not even back out of the shop after a flush.
If you have done regular changes you should fine.Places like jiffy lube are not your friend.
Sometimes people on the internet amaze me. Even if you were correct, you could have had the self control to prevent correcting me on the unit of measurement. Think about that - what itch is it that you just can’t scratch, without correcting somebody on something not pertinent to the discussion. Beyond that, I am in a car right now (2002 Elantra). I opened up the manual and what do you know, the transmission capacity is in quarts. I’m parked at a gas station, about to go in. If I needed to buy transmission fluid, they would sell it to me in a one quart container. If you go to the auto parts store and ask them to look up your capacity, they will answer in quarts. All the dipsticks I have ever used have had a high level and low level mark...none of the tick marks of which you speak. Is it possible that some dipsticks have pint tick marks? Sure. This is why I am going to resist the urge to needlessly ‘correct’ you. I continue to be amazed at the expertise of people on the internet...and their desire to spread their knowledge, even when not requested.
You didn’t specify whether it was a non-filter setup or a sealed and filtered setup w/blend or synthetic setup.
Any competent mechanic will tell that even with the sealed and synthetic setups - the fluid will not lost forever UNLESS forever means you intend to replace your car every 7-10 years.
If you intend to keep the car around longer...
The 15k or 30k rule applies...
I just did a partial on my 2008 Tacoma Crew-Cab Short Bed at 40k. A tad late... For this vehicle - it amounts to about 1/3 of the total fluid capacity.
I run the recommended dose of Sea Foam through the engine on the Toyota for 30 minutes before hitting the dealer for the oil change. The oil coming out looked black from the upper block deposits it scavanged.
I know of a case in which Jiffy Lube told their customer that his transmission (manual) was dry of oil. Of course, put some in, he said. The problem was they looked in the inspection hole for the timing mark on the flywheel, and saw no oil. They proceed to pour several quarts of oil onto his clutch.
They paid for his new clutch. I don't think he uses Jiffy Lube any more.
I have also heard of them putting power steering fluid in the brake fluid reservoir.
Same here. At no particular milage, just when the fluid gets nasty.
When I said grab some old manuals I really meant old as in “1970s” and “1980s”.
I have worked - minor stuff - not overhauls - on many cars in my life and back then ran across quite a few that treated the engine capacity and dipstick as quarts and the transmission capacity as pints or pints/quarts and the dipstick as pints. Liter’s is another word you’ll see.
It didn’t matter whether foreign or domestic...it popped up often on both.
Back in those days it wasn’t uncommon for a newbie to overfill a transmission because they forgot to check the computer manual or the car manual to see whether the dipstick measured pints or quarts. A turkey baster with hose would solve the problem quick - mess free.
I could be wrong but my brain is thinking that my 1987 Hyundai Excel and my 1977 Honda Accord were pints/quarts with a dipstick that measured pints.
It’s been awhile...
I HAVE DRIVEN CARS FOR NEARLY 60 YEARS AND I HAVE NEVER CHANGED TRANSMISSION FLUID. I AM CURRENTLY DRIVING A 1999 DODGE CARAVAN WITH 280,000 MILES AND THE FLUID HAS NEVER BEEN CHANGED.
Like burning up the front pump in the transmission. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt.
I do my own, now days. Fluid & filters are available at Walmart, Autozone, O’Reilly Auto Parts, Chief, NAPA, and others. It's easy enough, even on my sloping driveway. Just bought a large flat pan at Walmart to keep the drips off the drive... Should make cleanup easier.
Sealed filter, OEM Honda fluid, i.e. dealer did it.
I’ll change it a little sooner next time, 120K.
They are mostly highway miles and I don’t drive it much now that I work from home. It shifts smoother after the fluid change.
Speaking of fluid, the VTM has to be changed every 20K miles.
A pain in the @#$@#$
“I have worked - minor stuff - not overhauls - on many cars in my life”
I have worked on...errr...major stuff...and often.
Now I’m just having fun...that 2008 Tacoma you changed the fluid on....when you looked in your owner manual, it listed this information: the 4 speed takes 2.1 quarts and the 5 speed takes 3.2 quarts:
So yes, as inconsequential as this is, I will continue to use quarts when describing the capacity of a transmission - this way I will match everybody else in the world.
I had this done by my independent mechanic to my 1996 Lincoln TC tranny. At about 75,000 miles it had developed a "stuck" shift - shifting with a clunk. I was reluctant to take it to a transmission specialist without at least trying the spin flush. After the flush, we added some super lube for transmissions (can't remember the name).
Lo and behold, the clunk disappeared and at 115,000 miles the tranny still shifts like a new one.
Never said my Tacoma was spec’d in pints...
So your facetious and purposely misrepresentation-driven point was?
Or are you just dense?
My point is that your unwarranted correction of my use of ‘quarts’ is ridiculous.
You are wrong, and you now know it...yet you carry on in attack mode instead of offering an apology.
“Or are you just dense?” ...right back at ya.
I’m sure we’re boring everybody else on this thread...but good grief, give it up. Next time you make a snarky correction, do your research first.
Follow your own advice...
I knew a guy who drained his engine oil and to clean his engine extra clean, he fill up it the with diesel fuel. He ran it for 5 minutes to dissolve all the sludge, then drained it and filled it up with oil. It ran after that. Never knew what eventually happened?
I remember reading where a tool partsman (like snap-On) went by a Jiffy Lube type shop once, and he found the shop guy out back. He asked the shop guy what he was doing? The guy said he was being paid to change the auto transmission fluid and was just killing time, until it appeared to the customer the job was done. He never changed the fluid. how was the customer ever to know?
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