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April 2022

Yes, A Transmission Fluid Change is Needed (And Here’s Why)

Yes, a transmission fluid change is needed

If you notice your transmission slipping or have difficulty shifting gears, it may be time for a transmission fluid change. Over time, the fluid can become dirty or low, causing problems with your car’s transmission. A transmission fluid change is a relatively simple and inexpensive maintenance task that can help keep your car in good working order.

What is a Transmission?

A transmission is a gearbox that connects the engine to the drive wheels of a vehicle. The purpose of the transmission is to transfer power from the engine to the drive wheels while also providing a means to change gears, depending on the speed and load. Transmission fluid helps to lubricate and cool the transmission while preventing overheating and other serious problems.

When performing maintenance on your transmission, one of the things you should do is a transmission fluid change in order to ensure that your vehicle’s transmission is not only adequately lubricated and cooled but to keep it running at its optimal performance. Additionally, here are some other reasons:

  • Keeps components lubricated
  • Provides cooling
  • Prevents oxidation
  • & much more!

How Often Should You Change Transmission Fluid?

Most carmakers recommend that you change your car’s transmission fluid every 30,000 to 60,000 miles. However, this interval may be shorter or longer depending on the make and model of your vehicle as well as your driving habits.

For example, a person who uses their vehicle for light driving may only need to get a transmission fluid change much later. In contrast, a person who is constantly on the road traveling (e.g., heavy city driving) would likely need one sooner.

Additionally, deciding when to get your vehicle’s transmission fluid changed can be dependent on if it’s automatic or manual. Different transmissions may fall on different schedules for maintenance.

How to Check a Car’s Transmission Fluid Levels

To check your car’s transmission fluid levels, start by finding the dipstick. Typically, it will be located near the front of the engine on the driver’s side. Once you’ve found it, pull it out and wipe it off with a clean cloth or paper towel.

Then, place the dipstick all the way back into the transmission and pull it out again. Look closely to see where the fluid level is on the dipstick. If it’s below the “full” line, add more transmission fluid until it reaches that point. Finally, replace the dipstick and screw the cap back on.

When observing the transmission fluid, make sure to look at the color. Your transmission fluid should be bright red, while a darker color indicates that it’s time for a transmission fluid change. Sometimes you might find the fluid to be dirty or contain debris particles. This is another sign that your car needs new fluid.

When finished, take your car for a spin around the block to see if the gears are shifting correctly and to make sure the vehicle is running as intended.

Warning: Always check to ensure the engine and other components have cooled down before working on your car!

It’s advised to check transmission fluid levels while the emergency brake is set and the vehicle is parked on an even surface at operating temperature for best results. Also, place a jack under the car to raise it up, which will allow you to work under the vehicle.

Which is Better? Flush or Drain?

A transmission flush is when all the fluid in the transmission is flushed out and replaced with new fluid. This is generally considered to be a more thorough way of changing the transmission fluid, as all the old fluid and any debris that may have collected in the system is completely removed.

A transmission drain is simply draining the fluid out of the transmission pan and then replacing it with new fluid. This will generally remove most of the old fluid, but there may still be some debris left in the system.

If unsure, it’s best to speak with a professional mechanic or read the owner’s manual to see what the manufacturer suggests for your vehicle type and model.

Types of Transmission Fluid

There are many different types of transmission fluid on the market, including automatic transmission fluid (ATF), continuously variable fluid (CVT), and manual transmission fluid (MTF). ATF is the most common type of transmission fluid, while MTF is typically used in manual transmissions. CVT fluid can often be found in modern vehicles with advanced technologies equipped.

Likewise, there are different blends available, such as synthetic. Although it costs more, synthetic transmission fluid has quickly become a popular choice amongst car enthusiasts due to it providing better performance.

The Benefits of a Transmission Fluid Change

By changing the fluid in your transmission, you’ll get a host of benefits. Not only will your car be overall healthier, but it will also gain a ton of other perks:

1. Improved transmission performance

2. Reduced wear and tear on transmission components

3. Extended transmission life

4. Improved fuel economy

5. Smoother shifting operation

6. Better fuel economy

Additives, Age, and Quality

Additives are chemicals that are added to transmission fluid to improve its performance. Age can affect the quality of transmission fluid, as it can break down over time and become less effective. Using high-quality transmission fluid can help extend the life of your transmission and improve its performance.

When choosing transmission fluid, always consider these factors. For example, with older vehicles, it might be best to use a mineral-based oil fluid.

Risking your transmission by putting the wrong type in can put a dent not just in your car but in your wallet too!

Fresh Fluid for Smooth Ridin’

There are many reasons to change your transmission fluid, especially if you haven’t done so in a while. Transmission fluid breaks down over time and can start to cause problems. Fresh transmission fluid can help prevent these problems and keep your car running smoothly. As mentioned earlier, when in doubt, always speak to a professional mechanic and read the owner’s manual.

For more tips and insights on all things transmission, check out Gearstar’s news section each week! If you’re looking to upgrade or rebuild your car’s transmission, we are your one-stop shop for Ford, GM, and Mopar automatic high-performance transmissions and torque converters. You can find installation resources and other how-to materials on our support page.

8 Basic Automatic Transmission Maintenance Tips

8 basic automatic transmission maintenance tips

Transmission maintenance is important because it can help prevent future car problems, extend the life of your transmission, and improve your vehicle’s overall performance.

But wait, that’s not all! Transmission maintenance can help you avoid costly repairs, and you’ll be saving a lot of money long-term! Now, who doesn’t love saving money? We sure do!

Transmission Maintenance Tips You Need to Know

To keep your car happy and your wallet full, here are eight basic transmission maintenance tips.

1. Allow Your Engine to Warm Up

First, always let your engine warm-up for a few minutes before driving off.

If you don’t, your car will be running on cold transmission fluid, and the transmission itself will have to work harder to do its job. It’s not good for your transmission to be placed under this type of stress, especially during the winter months when it’s freezing outside.

You should also avoid accelerating too fast or too hard until the transmission has had a chance to properly warm itself up. The time it takes a transmission to warm up can be anywhere between 5 to 20 minutes. However, if you have a newer car, your engine may only need a mere 30 seconds.

2. Be Wary of Driving on Spares or Mismatched Tires

Avoid driving on a spare, small, or mismatched tire for a long period of time. Driving under these conditions can cause premature wear on the transmission and jeopardize the safety of yourself and other passengers sharing the road.

If you have a flat tire, it’s crucial to replace it as soon as possible. However, sometimes this isn’t always possible right away for many reasons (e.g., cannot afford to or the local tire shop is closed). If you can’t replace the flat tire right away, allow your car to sit in a safe place until you can get a permanent tire.

3. Annual Transmission Inspections

As part of your transmission maintenance, it’s wise to have your transmission inspected by a professional mechanic for leaks, creaks, and other potential ongoing issues on an annual basis (one year). This will help to ensure that your transmission lasts for as long as possible.

Additionally, be sure to regularly check your transmission fluid level and top it off if necessary!

Remember: If you notice any strange noises or behaviors, don’t hesitate to get it checked out – it’ll save you a lot of money, worry, and stress down the road (no pun intended)!

4. Perform a Transmission Flush

As one of the most critical parts of a car, your transmission needs to be taken care of in order to keep your vehicle running smoothly. One way to take care of your transmission is to get it flushed regularly, which would be approximately once every year. More than likely, this type of transmission maintenance will be included as a part of a transmission inspection service.

A transmission flush is performed by flushing out the old fluid and replacing it with new fluid. This helps to keep the transmission clean and running smoothly. It also helps to prevent transmission problems later on.

If you’re not sure whether or not your transmission needs to be flushed, it’s always best to consult with a professional mechanic. A mechanic will be able to take a look at your car and let you know if a flush is required.

Furthermore, you can also read through your owner’s manual to know the recommended time for a transmission flush specific to your vehicle.

5. Picking the Right Transmission Fluid

Be sure to choose the correct transmission fluid for your vehicle. Placing the wrong type of fluid in your car can cause significant damage to the transmission, such as overheating, which can cause transmission failure. Again, it’s always best to read your owner’s manual or talk to a professional mechanic to ensure you’re using the right type.

There are several different types of transmission fluids, each designed for specific types of transmissions. For example, there are fluids specifically for automatic transmissions, as well as fluids for manual transmissions.

Once you’ve chosen the correct type of transmission fluid, it’s important to also select the right brand. Not all brands are the same, and some may be better suited for your car than others.

6. Regular Transmission Fluid Checks

A car transmission is a complex system made up of many different parts, and transmission fluid is essential to its proper function. Over time, transmission fluid eventually breaks down and becomes contaminated, which can lead to problems. That’s why it’s always important to regularly check your transmission fluid and change it as needed.

When checking the transmission fluid, there are several things to keep in mind:

  • Low Fluid: Indicates a possible leak.
  • Dark Fluid: Not normal; transmission fluid should be bright red.

7. Change the Transmission Filter

If your car has a transmission filter, get in the habit of changing it on a regular basis because it will help keep your transmission healthy. A lot of people forget about this filter, but it’s actually an essential part of your car’s transmission maintenance.

The process of changing your transmission filter may vary depending on your car. Generally, it’s recommended that a filter be changed out every 30,000 miles or 30 months.

8. Service the Cooling System

If your engine’s cooling system isn’t functioning correctly, it could create other issues for your transmission in time.

For example, if the coolant level gets too low, it can cause the engine to overheat. This can cause serious damage, including warping the cylinder head and damaging the transmission itself. In extreme cases or a worst-case scenario, it can even lead to a fire.

Practice Routine Transmission Maintenance Today

Transmission maintenance, such as getting the cooling system serviced or getting routine checks to identify potential leaks, is essential because it helps to ensure that your car’s transmission is working correctly and as intended. By keeping the transmission in good condition, you can avoid costly repairs and extend the life of your vehicle.

While typically performed by a qualified mechanic, you can also do some simple maintenance tasks at home to help keep your transmission in top condition for many years!

For more information, check out our news section for weekly posts on transmissions, converters and controllers, tips, and more.

Gearstar takes pride in building custom automatic transmissions from start to finish by a single builder. If you want more resources, visit our support page for a list of FAQs to get you started for installations, instructions, and all things transmission. Still have questions? Reach out to us anytime, and we will be glad to assist you.

10 Signs of a Bad Transmission (And what to do)

10 signs of a bad transmission

One of the most disheartening things any car owner can hear is that you need a brand-new transmission. This is why detecting the signs of a bad transmission early on or at an early stage can save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars. It can also help avert more severe damage to your automobile, which will ultimately cost you a lot more of your hard-earned money.

This is why it is highly crucial to learn how to recognize the telltale or warning signs of a bad transmission. You also need to know precisely what to do as soon as you experience any of the top 10 signs of transmission trouble.

But before, what will happen if your transmission goes bad? Find out below.

What Happens When Your Vehicle’s Transmission Goes Bad?

When your vehicle’s transmission goes bad – or ‘goes out,’ as they say – you start experiencing some terrible or adverse effects on how your vehicle operates.

For instance, you start experiencing different shift patterns or vibrations that weren’t there before the transmission issue came up. These could be the overall effects of breaking down one or more gears within the transmission system. This may – or may not – be associated with fluid pump issues.

You can only confirm the extent of damage or if your transmission has gone bad by having it checked by a certified mechanic.

Top 10 Signs of a Bad Transmission

1. Burning Smell

When you notice or perceive burning smells from your vehicle, it may imply that your transmission is overheating. It could also indicate that the transmission fluid is burnt or old.

What to Do: Visit the nearest auto repair shop as soon as possible.

2. Slipping Gears

Driving with a slipping transmission is dangerous and never recommended, no matter how skillful you think you are with your car. Gears that impulsively slip in and out of place while driving can be alarming and scary.

The telltale sign that your transmission has slipped is when your car’s engine revs during a gear change. This can be compared to that feeling you experience when driving over ice with zero traction on the road.

Other symptoms that inform you your transmission may have slipped include strange noises, delays in acceleration, or a harsh response anytime you attempt to shift gears.

What to Do: Check the transmission fluid level and then top it off as required. Use only the recommended type of transmission fluid for your specific transmission design.

3. Strange Noises When in Neutral

When weird noises emanate from your car when it is in neutral, it is a sure sign that your transmission has issues. The noise may only indicate that your vehicle needs nothing but a new transmission fluid. A professional can help you flush and replace the old transmission fluid with a new one.

But the noise could indicate something much more severe than getting a new transmission fluid.

What to Do: Get your vehicle to your local auto mechanic for a proper diagnosis to confirm what exactly is wrong with it.

4. Refusal to Smoothly Switch Gears

Have you noticed your car struggling or refusing to change gears? The problem may be from your transmission system.

At times, incorrect types or low transmission fluids may be the culprit behind your vehicle’s refusal to switch gears smoothly.

What to Do: Get a professional mechanic to look over your transmission and restore it to its former glory.

5. Leaking Fluid

One of the most uncomplicated transmission issues to notice or identify is leaking transmission fluid.

If you suddenly notice the appearance of a sweet-smelling red fluid beneath your vehicle in a parking lot or garage, there is trouble.

What to Do: Get a certified mechanic to check the transmission fluid level. Let the professional inspect the transmission for possible leaks.

6. Dragging Clutch

When a clutch drags, it fails to disengage the clutch disk from your vehicle’s flywheel whenever you press your clutch pedal.

This problem causes the clashing of gears while the vehicle moves when shifting gears. The misplacement of the clutch or mechanical failure causes dragging clutches.

What to Do: Get a specialist to adjust the clutch or correct the mechanical failure as soon as possible.

7. Unusual Sounds

Whining, humming, or clunking noises are unusual sounds no one wants to hear in their vehicles. Your car may be emitting those strange noises for several reasons. The only way to confirm this is by getting a certified professional to check your vehicle’s transmission.

What to Do: Get a certified technician to check and diagnose your transmission, tracing the noises to what is generating them.

8. No Longer Responding

If your vehicle suddenly refuses to respond whenever you try to change gears, especially from ‘Park’ to ‘Drive’ – there’s an issue with your transmission.

What to Do: Get your vehicle to the local auto repair shop for transmission service.

9. Shaking or Grinding

Shaking or grinding is a symptom more commonly experienced in vehicles with automatic transmissions. There is shaking or grinding whenever the gears change. This shows that your transmission has a severe problem that must be attended to as soon as possible.

What to Do: Get your vehicle to the nearest auto repair shop and get the transmission carefully inspected right away.

10. Check Engine Light

When the check engine light on your dashboard lights up like a Christmas tree, it indicates several car problems, which could be severe or minor.

But do not take any chances whenever the check engine light on your car’s dashboard lights up the entire place.

What to Do: Get your vehicle to the nearest auto repair shop as soon as possible. Let the certified technician find the root cause behind the lighting up of the check engine light.


No one enjoys having car issues, especially if it has to do with its transmission. Diagnosing car problems on your own can be tricky if you do not have the correct information or know what to do with it.

But luckily for you, you just went through the top 10 signs of a bad transmission and the vital steps to take if you experience any of them at any particular time. Hopefully, this information will come in handy someday, and you will be glad you knew the exact steps to take to prevent a total breakdown of your transmission.

If you found this information useful or helpful, kindly share it with your colleagues and friends who own cars. Additionally, contact Gearstar for high-performance automatic transmissions, built by trusted professionals you can count on for the quality you deserve! We offer a range of transmissions, including Ford, GM, and Mopar.

Good luck and safe driving!

4L60E Transmission Swap Tips and Tricks

4L60E Transmission Swap Tips and Tricks

If you have questions about a 4L60E transmission swap and wondering what’s the best way to do so without any hitch, then this is your ultimate guide.

The 4L60E is a series of transmissions that were introduced for cars, trucks, and SUVs in 1993 by General Motors. And it was an improvement on the 4L60 transmissions earlier made–the improvement was the upgrade from hydraulics to electronically controlled transmissions. It is a perfect fit for retrofitting and street performance since they can be easily modified.

Its main characteristics are:

  • Electronic valve body with varied ratios for optimal performance
  • Four forward gears
  • Longitudinal mount
  • 60 relative torque rating of 360 lb-ft
  • 8.4 quartz fluid capacity
  • V6 and V8 engine compatibility

This transmission has had notable improvements and additional features over the years, and some of them include:

  • Pulse width modulated torque converter was added in 1995
  • Six-bolt tail shaft and modified downshift solenoid in 1996
  • Increased torque capacity in 2001

4L60E transmissions are efficient when you need to restore a vintage car or give a recent one an upgrade, especially when the use of these vehicles will be mostly on rough terrains or long road trips. Ordinarily, you can choose to use a manual gearbox, but with the fantastic capabilities of the 4L60E, it might just be your best shot.

What Vehicles are Suitable for the 4L60E Transmission?

It is important to note that there are vehicle configurations that are specific to the 4L60E transmissions; they include Buick Rainer, Cadillac, Chevrolet, GMC, Hummer, and Isuzu.

Comparing the 4L60 & 4L60E Transmissions

While the 4L60 is controlled with a TV cable, the 4L60E gets its own control from a computer. This difference can be sorted when the latter is placed in the position of the former; for this reason, all that is needed is for you to get a new transmission controller so that you can override its control mechanisms. Furthermore, another notable difference is that the 4L60 transmission requires the use of a custom bracket for the TV hook to fit in properly, which would not be a problem for the 4L60E transmissions since it would be controlled by a computer.  

In comparison, both transmissions have a few similarities–and topping this list is the fact that they are of the same length and have the same number of gears and gear ratios. Also, their bell housing bolt patterns are also similar.

Pros & Cons of 4L60E Transmissions

Before making a choice of whether to override your existing gear with a 4L60E transmission, you might want to take a break to ascertain if it is going to be a worthy investment. Let us delve into the pros and cons of this transmission.


  • Controllers of the 4L60E make it very easy; the establishment of exact shift points
  • Adjustment of shift firmness is also easily controlled
  • Full and firm control of all aspects of the shift
  • Changes can be easily made to the line pressure and shift points
  • Shift points can be adjusted from the interior, and this makes it less stressful
  • Calibration of the speedometer is super easy
  • Increased torque capacity
  • Fuel economy performance is solid
  • Super-fast transmission


As good as the 4L60E appears, there are certain disadvantages that have been identified. And, it is important to have an idea of these things before investing in them:

  • Expensive to set up because of the need for an external controller, which in this case is a laptop
  • Users must add a TPS input along with a carburetor
  • To spin the speedometer, you would need to add an adapter or run it electronically
  • Push-in clips often leak and might require constant replacement
  • Some users encounter issues with reverse clutches
  • Shifts are sometimes harsh and delayed while some completely stop working or get worn out

Users that have had previous issues with their 4L60E transmissions noted signs to be aware of when the transmission begins to fail so that it can be quickly managed. When you notice one or more of the following signs, please have an expert take a look at your vehicle:

  • A fluid leak occurs, and you occasionally get the ‘low fluid’ notification which in turn might make the transmission slip
  • The transmission might fail to move out of gear
  • Automatic transmission is affected, and the gear would neither upshift nor downshift

Handy 4L60E Transmission Swap Tips

Below are the tricks to successfully using 4L60E transmissions on vehicles and the difference in the process depending on the year of the vehicle:

4L60E year + Vehicle Year Required Processes
94 4L60E + 95 Vehicle There would be no need for any serious reprogramming and changes in mechanical or electrical configurations are not needed. The process is smooth and bolt ins are direct
94 4L60E+ 96 Vehicle The tail shaft housing and VSS of the vehicle would have to be installed on the 4L60E transmissions before it is bolted into the car. The 3-2 downshift is recommended for swapping too
96 4L60E+ 95 Vehicle The TCC lockup would have to be adjusted before the transmissions are done on the car as failure to do this might produce more heat during transmission as a result of the gas mileage that would have been affected
95 4L60E+ 94 Vehicle The tail shaft housing plus VSS has to be installed on the 4L60E before it is bolted into the car

Please note that the swap from a different transmission to the 4L60E requires the interchange of flexplates and torque converters which could be a herculean and confusing task for nonprofessionals.

Lastly, another important thing to note is your vehicle’s mile time before switching to a 4L60E so that you do not waste money on the switch and end up with a car on borrowed time.