Transmission oil or fluid is a vital part of your vehicle’s performance, as it lubricates the various components and inner surfaces of the transmission system to prevent wear over time. Although you rarely need to change transmission fluid other than every 30,000 miles or every other year as a preventative measure, there are instances where you may need a transmission fluid flush more frequently. Promptly consult a mechanic if you notice any of the following symptoms in your vehicle that can indicate it’s time for a transmission fluid change:
Grinding or squealing noises while shifting: These noises aren’t just annoying but indicative of a more serious problem beneath your hood. If you hear grinding or squealing, pull over as soon as possible and check your transmission oil or fluid level while the engine is still running. When you do, also note the color of the fluid. If it is anything other than bright red, you may need a transmission fluid change.
Shifting is difficult: Whether you drive a vehicle with an automatic or manual transmission, it still changes gears. If you have an automatic, you may notice that it shifts “harder”, or at odd times that seem sooner or later than usual. With manual transmissions, it can be physically difficult to shift into position.
Inexplicable surging: Sometimes, when you need a transmission oil change due to dirty fluid, your vehicle may surge forward or backward as if you pressed the accelerator or brake for no apparent reason. This is due to contaminants in the fluid preventing consistent flow through the transmission system.
Gears slipping: When the transmission fluid or oil flow is interrupted by grit and grime within the system, it interferes with the pressure levels that keep the gears in place. This can cause your transmission to periodically slip out of gear without any warning.
Delay in movement after shifting: Occasionally, dirty transmission fluid can cause a delay in your car or truck moving after shifting gears, which is also related to fluid flow interruption. This delay may be only a moment or several seconds, and longer delays likely indicate greater contamination of your transmission oil.
If you have experienced any of these issues while driving, it makes sense to have your transmission system checked thoroughly. Although simply getting a transmission fluid change, especially if the color of the transmission oil is anything other than bright red or has a burnt odor, may solve your woes, there is a good chance something else is awry and the fluid issue is simply a symptom of a bigger problem. If for no other reason than peace of mind, consider calling one of our experienced mechanics for a consultation, which can save you a significant amount of money and degree of headache down the road.
This article originally appeared on YourMechanic.com as How Do You Know When Your Transmission Fluid Needs to Be Changed? and was authored by Elan McAfee.