Has your car racked up the miles after all the years you used it? If you answered yes, you may be curious about how much it would cost to change the transmission fluid. Can you do it yourself if how much to change transmission fluid proves to be too expensive?
If you have your transmission fluid changed by the dealership, service center, or an independent garage, prepare $80 to $250. On average, though, you can expect to pay around $100 for transmission fluid replacement. This is regardless of whether your car is a manual or automatic transmission.
Read on to learn more about how much to change the transmission fluid and if you can do it yourself to save money.
How Much to Change Transmission Fluid
Factors That Affect the Cost of Transmission Fluid
The cost of getting your car’s transmission fluid changed will depend according to the dealer, mechanic, or service center. Note that it usually falls between $80-$250.
Have the Filter Changed and Pan Cleaned
It is highly recommended to get your filter changed, and the pan cleaned thoroughly, too. Avail of such services whenever you get your car’s transmission fluid changed. The filter and pan collect a lot of contaminants over time.
They may contaminate the new fluid and reduce its efficiency drastically. Changing them is not a requirement, but many recommend it to help your transmission last for as long as intended.
Not All Transmission Fluids Are the Same
Keep in mind that not all transmission fluids are the same. Modern cars usually need a specific transmission fluid type, like SP4 or ATF+4, around $8 to $20 a quart. The average car uses 5-15 quarts of transmission fluid.
This can add up to $300, depending on the brand. Additional costs include a new filter ($15-$30). Sometimes, you will also need to replace the pan gasket, which costs $75 to $150.
Factors Affecting the Cost of Transmission Fluid Changes
How much does it cost to change the transmission fluid, and what factors affect the final price? Several factors play a part in how much professionals will charge for the job, including:
1. Service Center
The place where you will avail transmission fluid changes will significantly affect their price. Expect to pay more for the service if you take your car to the dealership. Save some money by taking your car to your local mechanic’s garage. You can then have the transmission fluid changed there.
The cheapest way to do this task is to do the job yourself. However, you need to know that it is not as simple as changing the engine oil. For one thing, there is no drain plug. You will need to use a pump to drain the transmission fluid from the engine bay manually.
2. Car’s Make and Model
Do you drive a practical sedan, an SUV, or a high-end luxury car? The type of car will also affect the cost of transmission fluids a lot. The transmission for domestic brands and import sedans is usually cheaper than luxury vehicles.
3. Type of Transmission Fluid
The transmission fluid type you will use will also affect the price. First, are you driving a manual or automatic transmission vehicle? Automatic transmission fluid is typically more expensive compared to that used by manual transmission vehicles.
4. Amount of Fluid
Larger vehicles typically use more transmission fluid. Meanwhile, sub-compact cars usually need at least 3 quarts to a gallon.
5. Labor Costs
At Least $100 for Labor
This will mainly depend on the cost of living in your area. On average, you will pay at least $100 for labor when bringing your car to a mechanic or service center. Meanwhile, having the job done at a dealership is the most expensive option. This often costs 2-3 times the labor cost of a mechanic’s garage.
The cheapest is to DIY the job. This only applies if you already have all the tools you need, including the following:
- Wrenches, and
- A large pan for collecting the used transmission fluid.
Don’t worry if you don’t have any experience changing the transmission fluid since this is a straightforward process, and there are plenty of online tutorials to guide you.
If you choose to DIY the job, you will only be paying for the consumables such as the following:
- Transmission fluid,
- Gaskets, and
However, changing your car’s transmission fluid can be a messy affair, especially if this is your first time doing it.
Note that you will also have to spend on the following:
- Rubber gloves,
- Safety glasses, and
- Sawdust or kitty litter.
This is to soak up any transmission fluid that spills on your garage floor.
More on Transmission Fluid and Its Composition
Like engine oil, transmission fluid lubricates the gears inside the transmission cases. However, it also works as a hydraulic fluid to help the car switch into different gears.
Most brands of transmission fluids contain different ingredients, including, but not limited to:
- Anti-foam additives
- Anti-oxidation compounds
- Anti-wear additives
- Cold flow improvers
- Corrosion inhibitors
- Gasket conditioners
- High-temperature thickeners
- Petroleum dye
- Seal swell additives
- Viscosity improvers or modifiers
Some high-end brands will have more additives that further improve the performance of the transmission fluid. This is one of the reasons why they cost so much.
Again, how much to change transmission fluid? The cost of replacing a transmission fluid ranges between $80 and $250. This varies depending on whether your fluid is changed by a dealer, service center, or local mechanic. For automatic and manual transmission fluid replacement, prepare $100.
Do You Need to Change Your Transmission Fluid?
When talking about car transmission, which typically costs $1500 to $3500, it does not make that sense to skip changing what keeps it from breaking. Isn’t it much better to spend a couple of hundred dollars to ensure it works the way it should?
Besides, transmission fluid lasts quite a long time. On average, they can last anywhere between 30,000 and 60,000 miles between changes. Some brands even claim they can last up to 150,000 miles.
However, the point here is not to see how far you can push the transmission before changing its fluid. You need to change transmission fluid well before you are required to do so to prevent premature wear and tear.
Signs That You Need to Change Transmission Fluid ASAP
Here are some signs indicating the need to change your car’s transmission fluid as soon as possible:
1. Gear Slipping
This sign is noticeable when your transmission sometimes slips in and out of gear. When the gears’ teeth have been rounded, they cannot stay in position. If this is already happening, you should not only consider changing your transmission fluid. You might also need to get your transmission overhauled.
2. Inability to Shift
If you are driving a stick shift, even with a fully depressed clutch, you can’t put the car in gear. In that case, it either means there is no clutch fluid, or the transmission fluid is almost the consistency of sludge. If you are driving an automatic, your car won’t move, even when putting it in the drive.
3. Irregular Shifts
This occurs in automatic transmission vehicles when the gear shifts up or down, even when not supposed to. For instance, it shifts up even when the RPMs are still not that high. This can result in a significant loss of power. This also happens when the transmission downshifts, even when the tachometer displays high RPMs.
4. Overheated Transmission
If the center bump in your car seems unusually warm, then the gears may already be grinding against each other. When it gets so hot, the air conditioning cannot keep up. If you ignore it, there is a good chance that the transmission will seize. If that happens, you have no other choice other than to replace the transmission entirely.
In case you notice the mentioned symptoms, or even just mild versions of them, visit the nearest mechanic right away. Have them change your transmission fluid. Unfortunately, if you already see even one of these symptoms, your transmission might already need serious repairs.
In some cases, they may even need a replacement outright. This is why you must make sure that you keep abreast with your vehicle’s maintenance. This is especially true when it comes to the lubricants like transmission fluid.
Different Types of Transmission Fluid
Not all transmission fluids are created the same. You can also categorize them according to their uses and types:
1. Automatic Transmission Fluid (ATF)
As the name suggests, this transmission fluid is for vehicles that have automatic transmissions. However, some modern stick shift cars can also use this fluid, so it is not technically exclusive to automatics.
2. Manual Transmission Fluid (MTF)
This type of transmission fluid is ideal for cars that use manual transmissions. Also known as stick shifts, which are the common transmission of older cars. This fluid is heavier than that used for automatics, often 75W to 140W.
However, just because your car is a manual does not necessarily mean you can only use MTF. Most modern M/T cars use lighter-weight transmission fluids. Some even use ATF.
3. Synthetic vs Non-synthetic Transmission Fluid
Non-synthetic Transmission Fluid
Non-synthetic transmission fluid is made from refining crude oil. This reshapes the hydrocarbons to suit the specific vehicle using them. On the other hand, fully synthetic transmission fluid undergoes different chemical reactions before reaching its final composition.
Synthetic Transmission Fluid
Synthetic transmission fluid is much less likely to break down when exposed to the high temperatures occurring in the transmission. However, it is also much more expensive because of its more complicated manufacturing process. Typically, synthetic transmission fluid costs almost twice the price of non-synthetic products.
Which Transmission Fluid Should You Choose?
Is synthetic the right one for you, or maybe you should get non-synthetic? The answer is not that black and white. It will depend on your car’s transmission and how many miles you put on it. However, to be safe, it is always best to follow the requirements set by the manufacturer of your vehicle. Consult with a mechanic that specializes in transmissions, too.
Conclusion – How Much to Change Transmission Fluid
How much does a transmission fluid change cost? The cost of changing transmission fluid will largely depend on where you have it done. Will you be going to the dealership, a mechanic, or will you be DIYing it?
Wherever you choose to go, it is best to prepare to spend anywhere between $80 to $250. This is regardless of whether you are driving an automatic or manual transmission car.
It is unwise not to have your car’s transmission fluid changed regularly. This is especially true since it is essential for the proper function of your car. Not replacing it will result in the transmission not working properly. In worst cases, it could lead to it breaking down and requiring immediate replacement.