If your vehicle is fitted with an automatic transmission it will arguably be the most technically sophisticated component of the vehicle.
Modern automatic transmissions have all been developed to maximise fuel economy and minimise emissions, while providing a smooth and responsive driving experience.
Transmission fluid can be considered an integral component of the automatic transmission. The fluids are engineered by the transmission and vehicle manufacturers to function optimally with their individual transmission specifications and vehicle applications.
Transmission fluids are responsible for so much more than lubrication of the internal components.
All fluids start life as a high-quality base oil, chemical additives are included to create a fluid that matches the specification requirements of the transmission and vehicle manufacturer.
Chemical additives can include, anti- wear and corrosion inhibitors, viscosity index improvers, detergents, anti-foam and anti-oxidation additives, cold flow improvers, high temperature thickeners and friction modifiers to name a few!
Collectively they are referred to as an additive pack, which with the base oil will create the fluid recommended by the manufacturer for an automatic transmission fitted in one of their vehicles.
For the automatic transmission to operate correctly the fluid must function as intended. It is a fact that over time and dependant on driving conditions, the additives deteriorate and no longer perform as intended. This deterioration can show itself in various ways. Typically, drivers can notice a lock up ‘shudder’ as the torque converter clutch applies, gear engagement issues and poor shift quality.
Sometimes, some or none of these may be apparent but the lubricating qualities of the fluid will have deteriorated, allowing small abraded particles and clutch material to circulate with the fluid.
Apart from the driveability concerns, this material creates a real possibility of complete transmission failure.
Timely replacement of the ATF and filter, (when applicable), will restore driveability and extend the service life of the automatic transmission.
Transmission replacement can cost between £2000 to £10,000 so a fluid exchange could prove to be a very wise investment.
Many manufacturers have in recent years introduced a fluid change recommendation at 60,000 to 70,000 miles recognising the critical job carried out by the fluid. Some manufacturers recommend a fluid change if the vehicle is operated under harsh or severe conditions, which in fact covers most of the motoring in the UK.
There are some manufacturers that claim their fluid is a lifetime fill. Lifetime is a debatable point but generally means 110,000 Km.
These recommendations are not made on the use of some technically advanced fluid or transmission that no one else has. It is usually at the request of the finance department who are keen to keep the cost of ownership down.
One of the leading transmission manufacturers, ZF recommends a fluid change on all their transmissions at around 75,00KM, regardless of the vehicle to which it is fitted
Fluid exchange should be regarded as a maintenance procedure, to protect and maintain transmission longevity.
No, a fluid exchange will not fix a broken gearbox, so if it’s slipping badly, very noisy or setting fault codes related to electronic failure or slipping, it may be past the benefit of a fluid exchange. Your fluid exchange centre will be able to advise you.
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