Car maintenance: Why transmission fluid is critical for your vehicle’s longevity


Maintaining a car takes various forms, and it may mean different things to different people. A cursory survey and a conversation with some private and commercial drivers, have necessitated this auto-ducation.

Many people, when asked about car maintenance and what it entails, quickly mention regular engine oil change within a stipulated schedule.

Others mention the regular checking of car tyre pressure, change of faulty or weak tyres, topping off and or adding coolant to their cars regularly, while some ignorant drivers just replace water with coolant but still check regularly.

This practice is bad, as water tends to boil faster than coolant, and relatively takes a prolonged time to cool down, hence the primary cause for most engine overheating.

The reverse applies to coolant, hence water is not the best replacement for coolant. Anyway, an indepth conversation of water and coolant interchange would be for another day.

From the survey conducted, changing or checking transmission fluid and or oil, wasn’t mentioned in the interactions with the drivers. Perhaps, this may be due to the structural design and location of most gear box covering (Mostly hidden or require special tools to access) hence, making it next to impossible for motorists to check oil level on their own.

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Now, this is the most important question to both new and old drivers; have you ever heard of the transmission fluid change?

Do you make a conscious effort to check the level of your transmission fluid aside the regular car maintenance tactics?

Transmission fluid/oil change is an important aspect of maintenance that most car owners ignore. Mind you, most of the cars sold in Ghana are not brand new or tear-rubber as some would call it, and while owners are aware of the importance of changing engine oil, most remain unaware about the transmission oil/fluid. So now the question; what is the Transmission fluid / oil, and why should a driver take note of this?

There are two types of transmission; Manual and Automatic transmission – and both require lubrication to operate efficiently.

Transmission fluid, required in automatic transmission vehicles, serves as a lubricant for parts of the transmission to ensure their smooth operation and performance, providing hydraulic pressure and friction to make the internal parts of the vehicle work effectively/efficiently. It aids with functions like lubricating mechanical parts, conditioning of gaskets, gear lubricating, clutch friction, Torque converter operation cooling, preventing rust, and maintaining fluid pressure.

The transmission oil, used in manual vehicles, also performs similar functions. This oil aids in the smooth shifting of the clutch and shifter during gear change. In short, the transmission fluid/oil allows for the smooth shifting of a vehicle’s gear without wearing down some internal parts.

When to change the Transmission Fluids and Oil

Transmission oil change is not meant to be done regularly, however, there is the need to change it. Just like the engine oil, the fluid can deteriorate, get clogged or dirty and its ability to work efficiently might be compromised.

When changing, car owners need to ensure the right fluid/oil is used. A sample survey organised in some local oil change workshops indicated that most operators do not even know the types of oil hence go with the colloquial and unprofessional way of identifying the oil based on colour. Most often, what you hear is that; ‘Your gearbox either uses red or white oil.’

Warning signs that transmission fluid/oil needs changing include, fluid/oil puddles forming under the car which might be a sign of fluid leakage, roaring, whining or buzzing sounds when accelerating, over heated transmission, vehicle chattering or jerking during take offs, and last but not least,  difficulties when shifting gears, which in my opinion is one of the evident red flags.

Most of the gearbox issues tackled by Andycorp Autos over the past two years stem from customers ignoring the change of transmission fluid or oil.

Some of these cases included a customer who drove her car for 6 years straight without change of transmission oil causing the vehicle to lose mobility, damaging some gears in the transmission system. Another case at Andcorp Autos was a customer’s car losing power and the capability of moving beyond 40mph.

From the above cases, it is recommended that, transmission oil, depending on one’s style of driving, the type of transmission used and even the type and make of car should be changed at intervals – 30,000-60,000 miles for manual cars, and 60,000- 100,000 miles for automatic transmission.

In general, customers may always refer to manufacturer’s manual to determine the recommended transmission service interval for their car. In situations where second hand car owners don’t have access to the hardcopy car manual, it is advisable to check the internet for them as most manufacturers post them as free resource.

In a nutshell, always endeavour to check the transmission fluid/oil level regularly as failure to change it can cause permanent damage which could likely result in costly repairs and/or replacements. Remember regular checks prevents avoidable accidents and saves resources.

The author, Janice Osei-Essah Anderson ([email protected]), is a Communications Professional and a Managing Partner of Andcorp Autos, a fully owned Ghanaian automobile company and on-demand auto purchasing company which offers the best option for purchasing and importing quality vehicles (brand new, clean, salvage) from USA, Canada and Asia. 

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