Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!
Jody asks: I’ve got a 2013 Hyundai Elantra with 170k miles. I’ve never changed the automatic transmission fluid. I have a mechanic I’ve been using for years. He does good work. He couldn’t say for sure if it was a good idea to change the fluid or not at 150k. The car runs well. I don’t feel any slipping or anything else to indicate transmission problems. Most of the miles are highway driving. What is your opinion? Should I change it?
My reply: You have an interesting dilemma. On the one hand, you car is pretty new – or at least, it’s not very old. A seven-year-old car is a barely middle-aged car. It should have at least another 8-10 years of daily-driver service left in it before it begins to feel (and look) old.
But the fluid in your car’s transmission is ancient. It should have been changed 50,000 miles ago, probably. Then there would be no dilemma about changing it now.
Why the dilemma?
If the car were say 12-15 years old I’d leave it be, because changing it now could result in disturbing some small piece of grit within the small passages inside the hydraulic circuit, resulting in a problem you don’t have right now. Probably, it’ll be okay for the next couple of years – and if not, it’s an old car and that sort of thing (transmission failure) happens to old cars.
Your car is not even mid-way through its useful service life. You no doubt want to drive it for at least another five or six years and probably longer. But with 170k on it, the fluid is likely pretty contaminated – and the filter, too. A transmission failure before the next 5-7 years elapse would be bad news indeed.
If it were my car, I would probably change the fluid – but not just what comes out of the pan, which is only about a third or so of the total fluid capacity. I’d drain the whole thing and flush the whole thing – the transmission and torque converter – to get all the old fluid out. Obviously, a new filter should be installed – not so obviously, do this before you have your mechanic flush the transmission. So that the junk in the old filter isn’t forced into circulation. And also the sludge that is likely in the bottom of the pan.
Drop the pan, clean the pan. Remove the filter/replace with a new one and then flush the whole thing. Being extremely OCD, I would then drop the pan again, to clean out any crap that broke loose and to check/clean (and if need be, replace) the new filter you installed prior to the flush.
This procedure is a bit labor intensive and may cost a couple hundred bucks but it’s cheap insurance against a transmission failure caused by not changing the fluid, ever.
. . .
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