Replace the spark plugs? Check. Swap out the air filter? Done. Change the transmission fluid? What? This is one of those tasks that should never be ignored. Thankfully, it’s not a costly procedure – and if you’re at least somewhat mechanically inclined, you can do it yourself at home.
What does it cost to change transmission fluid? It depends on where you take it. At a mechanics shop or dealer, the price will likely range between $80 to $250. However, if you’re willing and able to do it yourself, it should fall between $50-$100.
Thankfully, in this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about transmission fluid. Including what it is, how often it needs to be changed, and what you can expect to spend for the service.
Finally, we will provide a step-by-step guide on how to change your transmission fluid yourself at home.
What Is Transmission Fluid And How Often Does It Need To Be Changed?
Transmission fluid is similar to engine oil in that it provides lubrication for the transmission – but it also acts as a hydraulic fluid. It helps keep the transmission at a safe operating temp, facilitates gear shifts, and lubricates the moving parts.
Most transmission fluids contain:
- Corrosion inhibitors
- Anti-wear additives
- Viscosity improvers/modifiers
- Seal swell additives
- Anti-foam additives
- Anti-oxidation compounds
- Cold flow improvers
- High-temperature thickeners
- Gasket conditioners
- Petroleum dye
When you are talking about a part that costs between $1,500-$3,500 to replace, does it really make sense to skip changing the one thing that keeps it working? Especially when the list of beneficial ingredients is as long as the one above?
Most transmission fluids last between 30,000-60,000 miles, though, some claim to last as long as 150,000 miles. The idea is not to see how long yours can last. It is to keep it as efficient as possible to protect the transmission.
What are the signs that you need new transmission fluid? A few of the most common include:
- Gear slipping
- Inability to shift
- Irregular shifts
- Overheated transmission
- Delayed gear shifts
Now that you know how vital transmission fluid is and how often it needs to be changed. Let us now look at how much you might expect to spend on the service.
How Much Does Changing Transmission Fluid Cost?
The first factor that influences the cost is where you have it done – at a dealer or at a mechanic/service center. The next contributor is the make and model of your car. This determines the type of transmission fluid you need and how much.
Most transmission fluids range from about $8-$20 per quart, and most cars take between 5-15 quarts ($40-$300).
When you change your transmission fluid, you should also change the filter and sometimes the pan gasket. Filters range between $15-$30, and pan gaskets between $75-$150.
Add these all together, and you get a total cost of between $130-$480, with the average price ranging between $80 to $250. If you have the service performed at a mechanics shop or service center, expect to be towards the lower end, otherwise, be ready to spend more at a dealer.
If you’re willing to get your hands a little dirty, you can always change your transmission fluid on your own for between $50-$100. Not sure how? Great news, we’ll cover that now.
How To Change Your Transmission Fluid At Home
Step #1 – Jack The Front Of The Car Up
Start by sliding a jack under the front of your car, positioning it so that it sits under the frame. Next, position a jack stand in place to ensure it’s secure.
Step #2 – Drain The Transmission Fluid Into A Drain Pan
Locate the bottom of the transmission, next to it should be the drain bolt, which you will loosen using a hex head. You may want to wear some rubber gloves because once it’s loose, it will start pouring out. Finish by removing the bolt by hand.
Step #3 – Remove The Pan And Change The Filter
If your vehicle is equipped with a filter, you’ll have to replace it with a new one. You’ll notice several bolts surrounding the pan, take these out to release it, at which point you can swap out the filter and put the pan back in place.
Step #4 – Tighten The Drain Bolt And Refill
Grab your hex head and tighten the drain bolt back in place. Then, you will need to determine how much fluid to add back in.
You can do this by taking the drain pan (that is now full of dirty transmission fluid) and pouring it into empty quart bottles. The number you need is how much to add back in.
The last step is to locate the transmission fluid cap and pour the new fluid in.
If you prefer visual instructions, check out this video guide.
Why Take The Risk? Instead, Maintain Your Transmission Fluid
As we mentioned earlier, the cost to replace a transmission ranges from about $1,500-$3,500. Which would you rather spend your money on, a new tranny, or an $80-$250 fluid change every 30,000-60,000 miles?