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Is Transmission Service Necessary? The Cost and Benefits

Is Transmission Service Necessary?

Many people may be unaware, but oil changes aren’t the only routine maintenance that’s required for your vehicle. Cars and trucks both need many other types of service at various intervals. The transmission is one of the components that may need service more often than owners realize.


What Is A Transmission?

The transmission is the component on a vehicle that changes the gear ratio of the drive wheels in relation to the engine and crankshaft revolution rate. The transmission has anywhere from 3 to 10 gears in consumer cars and trucks, or even upwards of 12 gears in commercial semi-trucks. These gears are connected with “gear trains” that connect various sets of gears to provide the driver or the vehicle with control over how much of the engine power is delivered to the wheels without changing the engine speed itself.

Simply put, the transmission ensures that no matter what speed the engine is operating at within its normal operating range, the wheels can turn and move the vehicle at the appropriate speed. This is why you can be traveling at several different speed ranges, while still having the engine turning at 2,000 rpm, for example. It is the vehicular equivalent of the gears and chain on a bicycle and allows the car or truck to easily adapt to changing speed and engine load conditions.


What Is A Transmission Service?

A full transmission service involves the service technician adding a special cleaning solvent to the transmission, and letting the vehicle run for a short period. This gives the solvent a chance to break up the sludge and varnish that has built up over time.

Once the solution has had an opportunity to clean out the transmission and fluid system by breaking up contaminants, the vehicle is connected to a specialized machine. This machine forcefully removes all of the old fluid and loosened contaminants, while adding new and untainted transmission fluid to the system. This is usually done by using the vehicle itself as the “pump” to power the machine that changes the fluid.


Transmission Service vs. Transmission Flush

Many consumers assume that a transmission service and a transmission flush are the same thing, but there are some notable differences. During a transmission service, the transmission internals are cleaned with a cleaning solution or solvent, then the contaminated fluid and the solvent are pumped back out of the system at the same time that new fluid is added.

During a transmission flush, the technician only replaces the fluid. The old fluid is drained and new fluid is added to replace the old. In this scenario, not only can some of the old and contaminated fluid remain, but the build-up and sludge that accumulates over time are also not specifically addressed and cleaned out. This means that while you have new fluid, you also have varnish and other gunk that remains in the transmission, reducing its effectiveness and the protective action of the fluid, and shortening the fluid life as well.


Benefits of Transmission Service

The primary benefits of getting a transmission service are that it can extend the life of your transmission and it can reduce or eliminate many of the signs of poor transmission performance. Old and contaminated transmission fluid and built-up varnish can result in performance problems like reduced shift speed, rough shifting, transmission noise, and more.

By replacing this fluid you give the transmission increased protection against friction damage and allow it to operate with more efficiency and smoothness. New, fresh fluid also serves the important role of keeping the gaskets and seals of your transmission from drying out and cracking or burning up. This means that frequent fluid changes, as well as making sure that the fluid is always full, can prevent leaks.

Many different error codes belong to the transmission, and any one of them can cause the “check engine” light to come on and can cause expensive diagnostic checks at the mechanic’s shop. Frequent transmission service can ensure that the transmission operates healthily and efficiently, and ensures that the pesky check engine light only comes on when there’s an actual mechanical problem.

Routine transmission service can also help keep you and your passengers safe while driving. Adequate transmission fluid is needed to keep proper hydraulic pressure in the transmission and the fluid lines at all times. If that pressure drops and there isn’t enough fluid in the transmission or torque converter, you could find that your transmission slips out of gear entirely. This could cause you to lose control of your vehicle at a crucial moment.

Finally, making sure your transmission is properly serviced at regular intervals can prevent much more expensive repairs to your vehicle. If the components of the transmission become stressed enough they can deteriorate and malfunction or break. This could lead to the need to replace components, rebuild the transmission or even replace it entirely, which can run you thousands of dollars. Additionally, if your transmission requires more power to operate properly, that is putting more stress on your engine, which can cause premature wear and tear on vital engine components, resulting in even more costly repairs.


How Much Does Transmission Service Cost?

The cost of a transmission service can vary widely based on several factors. Not only will the type of transmission and the fluid required to lubricate it be factors, but so will where you have it serviced, the type of vehicle, and even the local cost of living which affects the labor needed in your general area.

One of the biggest factors that influence the cost of transmission service is who does the job. The most expensive location is almost always going to be the car dealership, while the cheapest way will usually be doing it yourself or with a knowledgeable friend. The make and model of the vehicle will determine what type of fluid you need and some types of automatic transmission fluid will be more costly than others.

In general, changing your own transmission fluid will cost an average of $50 to $100. Having a local mechanic do it will add to the expense, for an average of $100 to $150. Going to a dealership will cost the most, often starting at $150, with costs exceeding $200 being common.


What Happens If You Don’t Service Your Transmission?

Clean, uncontaminated transmission fluid is essential for a healthy, smoothly-running transmission. Failing to perform routine maintenance to keep the transmission fluid clean and filled to a proper level can result in symptoms of transmission stress, minor malfunctions, performance reductions, and even transmission failure.

You may start to feel minor changes in the way your vehicle accelerates under load, such as sticky or slow shifting. You may also hear odd sounds while operating your vehicle, like chattering, humming, buzzing or even heavy clunking sounds that come from the transmission area.

The engine service light may come on with no other explanation, or your OBD-II system may register transmission malfunction codes. Your vehicle may begin jerking or even shaking while idling or accelerating, or you may notice a burning smell. In extreme cases, you may experience a total inability to shift into gear or to change gears while driving.


Transmission Service Experts: Blaine Brothers

Transmission service is necessary for all vehicles. If you’re just doing a fluid change at regular intervals you may be able to handle it yourself. However, transmission service requires trained and experienced professionals. If you haven’t had your transmission serviced in a while or if you are experiencing any signs that your transmission may have a problem, contact Blaine Brothers today and speak with a transmission expert!

Blaine, MN


10011 Xylite Street NE
Minneapolis, MN 55449

Cloquet, MN


1325 Hwy 45
Cloquet, MN 55720

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750 Heaton BLVD
Clearwater, MN 55320

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2500 Alreich Ave
Baldwin, WI 54002



9515 150th Avenue NE
Columbus, MN 55025