When to change the oil in an automatic transmission
Tips for motorists

When to change the oil in an automatic transmission


      A few decades ago, automatic transmission (AKP) was only in expensive cars of European or American assembly. Now I am installing this design in flagship cars of the Chinese automobile industry. One of the exciting questions that arise when operating such a car is: “Is it worth changing the oil in the gearbox and how often should I do it?”

      Is it worth changing the oil in an automatic transmission?

      All automakers unanimously claim that an automatic transmission needs almost no maintenance. At least the oil in it does not need to be changed during its entire life. What is the reason for this opinion?

      The standard guarantee for the operation of automatic transmissions is 130-150 thousand km. On average, this is enough for 3-5 years of driving. It is worth noting that the oil at the same time will perform its functions at “5”, since it does not evaporate, does not become contaminated with carbon monoxide, etc. Further, guided by the logic of the manufacturer, the car owner should either completely replace the gearbox (in which it will already be filled with new oil), or buy a new car.

      But service station workers and experienced drivers have long had their own opinion on this problem. Since the conditions for using cars are far from ideal, it is still worth changing the oil in the automatic transmission. At least because it is ultimately cheaper than replacing the entire box.

      When do you need to change the oil in the automatic gearbox?

      The decision to replace the technical fluid should be made after checking the following signs:

      • color - if it has darkened to black, it is definitely necessary to fill in a new one; a milky white or brownish tint indicates problems in the cooling radiator (leakage is possible);
      • smell - if it resembles the aroma of toast, then the liquid overheated (over 100 C) and, therefore, lost its properties (partially or completely);
      • consistency - the presence of foam and / or bubbles indicates excess ATF or improperly selected oil.

      In addition, there are two mechanical tests to check the oil level and its quality.

      1. Using a probe. When the transmission is running, the fluid heats up and increases in volume. There are marks on the dipstick indicating the level of ATF in a cold and liquid state, as well as the need for topping up.
      2. Blotter/white cloth test. For such a procedure, take a few drops of working oil and drip onto the base. After 20-30 minutes, check whether the stain has spread/absorbed. If the oil does not spread and has a dark color, then it's time to update it.

      Up to critical values ​​(preceding automatic transmission failure), the condition of the oil will not affect the operation of the mechanism. If there are already problems in the operation of the gearbox, then most likely it will have to be replaced completely.

      When is it necessary to change the oil in an automatic transmission?

      There are several symptoms that may indicate that the oil needs to be changed or topped up:

      • it becomes more difficult to get into the transfer;
      • extraneous sounds are heard;
      • vibrations are felt in the shift lever;
      • in high gears, the automatic transmission starts to make a howling sound.

      These signs, as a rule, already mean a malfunction in the automatic transmission itself, so diagnostics of the entire box will also be required.

      How many miles does an oil change need to be done?

      Dealers of most brands recommend changing the oil every 60-80 thousand miles, despite other prescriptions. For some automatic transmission models, the regular replacement interval in our driving conditions and with our temperament is too long. So, changing before the scheduled time - after 30-40 thousand kilometers - is a great idea.


      The oil needs to be changed. Until they come up with a way to get around the aging of technical fluids and the wear of the mechanical part of the automatic transmission, this operation is inevitable. Ecology and marketers are not on your side, they have little interest in the long operation of the car. Do not believe in fairy tales about eternal fluids that keep automatic transmissions for years. The aging time depends only on the operating temperature, volume and operating conditions. Change the oil without fanaticism, but not when the machine is already half dead and changing the oil will not help in any way.

      Add a comment