How Long Do Transmissions Last? – 6 Ways to Make it Last Longer

Fixing a broken transmission is often the single most expensive automotive repair that you’ll ever have to make, so it’s important to know how long you can expect it to last and what you can do to extend it’s life. Here’s what we’ve found out from talking to countless car owners about their transmission issues:

Need a replacement transmission? Get an estimate for replacement transmissions and local installation. Look up your transmission model by vehicle make and model.

What Transmission Do I Have?

In This Guide

How Long Do Transmissions Last?

There is of course no set time or mileage, but there have been cases reported to us by car owners of transmissions failing after only 7,000 miles (rare – typically a used transmission in poor condition) and others that have lasted 300,000+ miles. From the reports we’ve received, the average automatic transmission lasts around 150,000 to 200,000 miles.

The two main factors that determine how long your transmission will last are: how well you follow the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance procedures and your driving habits.

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Do Manual Transmissions Last Longer?

Due to its complex design, an automatic transmission has more potential points of failure than a manual transmission that doesn’t have any intricate hydraulic circuits, or complicated electronically controlled solenoids to worry about. Just a clutch pedal, some gears, and a gear stick between the seats.

In theory, the simpler manual transmission will last longer than an automatic. That said, you will have to replace the clutch (the thing that separates the engine from the transmission while you change gears) every so often. And depending on the vehicle, a new clutch can be expensive.

6 Tips to Extending its Lifespan – Transmission Maintenance Checklist

Most car owners have their engine serviced regularly, but many completely ignore their transmission until it breaks.

Let’s look at how you can ensure they keep working properly:

1) Check Your Transmission Fluid Regularly

The fluid’s job is to absorb heat and carry it away from the moving parts. If the fluid level gets low, the internal components of your transmission can overheat and cause irreversible damage.

Check your ATF every 2-4 weeks (depending on how much you drive) with the engine running, and check your owner’s manual to be sure that you’re using the correct type of fluid.

If you drive a manual, check the clutch fluid reservoir every 2-4 weeks (if so equipped), and the transmission / differential oil every 6-12 months.

2) Have Your Transmission Serviced Regularly

Like an engine, a transmission has oil and a filter that needs to be changed every 20,000-30,000 miles, or once every 18 months. For newer cars, you should also have the transmission flushed every 40,000-50,000 miles or every 2 years, to remove all of the sediment and debris from the torque converter and cooler lines.

Vehicles with manual transmissions should have the clutch fluid and gearbox oil changed every 30,000-40,000 miles.

3) Upgrade to Synthetic Fluid

Over time, heat breaks down the organic compounds in ordinary automatic transmission fluid, rendering it much less effective. Synthetic fluid on the other hand, is much more heat resistant, making it the ideal heat removal agent if you regularly tow/haul heavy loads, or drive in environments that cause strain on the transmission (like the mountains or heavy traffic).

4) Buy a Transmission Cooler

The number one transmission killer is heat. As all of those parts move around, the friction creates heat, which causes long term damage to the seals, friction materials, metal surfaces and electronic components.

When the operating temperature climbs above 200-degrees, every 20-degree interval reduces the service life by 2. A good quality transmission cooler can significantly lower the gearbox operating temperature, which can prevent it from wearing out 2-3 times as fast.

5) Consider Your Driving Style

Driving aggressively from a stop causes intense heat buildup, as does constantly accelerating and decelerating. So if you want to extend the life of your transmission, go easy on the gas pedal, and plan your moves. This will reduce the strain on the transmission, and you’ll still arrive at your destination in about the same amount of time.

6) Find a Quality Repair Shop

An experienced transmission mechanic will be able to save you time and money, because they already know what transmission problems to look out for on your particular vehicle. They also know how to quickly solve existing problems and be able to catch potential issues before they sideline your vehicle.

What Can Reduce the Life of a Transmission?

1) Driving before your engine and transmission are warm

Cold fluid is thicker than when it’s warm, so it isn’t as good at moving up from the bottom of the transmission pan to prevent friction damage if you just turn the key and go in cold weather. For best results, let the vehicle idle until the engine kicks down to a lower RPM before putting it in gear.

2) Shifting gears while the vehicle is still moving

If you’re backing out of a parking spot, or need to make a quick maneuver like a 3 point turn, always let the vehicle come to a complete stop before changing gears from drive to reverse and vice versa. Otherwise you’ll damage the gears, clutches, and universal/CV joints.

3) Racing or driving aggressively

Do we even have to explain this one? 😉

4) Using an inexperienced mechanic

Given the complexity, and ever-changing service procedures and software updates available from the manufacturer, you need someone who is familIar with your car’s particular type of transmission, and the most up-to-date information about keeping it working properly. Otherwise, that “cheap fix” could evolve into an expensive problem.

Need a replacement transmission? Get an estimate for replacement transmissions and local installation. Look up your transmission model by vehicle make and model.

What Transmission Do I Have?

What to Read Next

Over to You

We’re interested to know – if your transmission is still working, how long has it lasted so far? If you’ve had one fail on you before, how many miles did you put on it? Let us know by leaving a comment below!

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Leave a Comment

roger

2008 vw passat manual tran 110500 still on OEM tranny and OEM clutch

Covert

You’re correct about warming the car up, I say a automatic car should be warmed up for at least 2 minutes

Miles McAnally

578,000 original trans and engine on my ‘99 Camry LE 4 cyl. Runs like champ still.

Ant

04 trailblazer 165,000 transmission went out. Got it rebuilt, got it back today. Wonder how long itll last…?

Rob Sterling

Ant, I had a 2000 Blazer. My mechanic told me its transmission was known for not lasting longer that 110K miles. I didn’t tow or drive crazy, however, I never changed the fluid which may have resulted in its early demise. I didn’t know how important regular ATF changes were back then. Consider yourself lucky to get that far.

If the transmission is rebuilt properly and the ATF is changed every 30K miles thereafter, you should see another 165K miles easily.

I now service my 09′ Accord’s transmission by using a vacuum pump to remove the fluid from the dipstick. You can get close to a full flush by removing the old fluid and replacing with new fluid a total of three times.

For example: If your transmission holds 8 quarts and you remove 4 quarts, you will have 50% NEW fluid. Do it again and you will have 75% NEW fluid. Do it a third time and you will have 88% NEW fluid. I would wait a week between ‘drains’ to allow the ATF additives to clean out the gunk. Also, change the fluid when the transmission is hot, this will help in the removal of the debris suspended in the fluid.

Miep

I drive Jeep TJ 2004 manual 265000 km….. so far so good.

Debby

Really useful in my assessment of whether to buy an older car with automatic gearbox.

Justin May

Very informative, provides an easy and digestable guide to my question.

Steve

2008 Lucerne 200,000 miles trans is starting to shift rough three fluid changes

marley

I have a 97 blazer with 525k miles..original motor and transmission..i change fluid and filter every 30k miles and run a 160 degree stat

Rob Sterling

Marley, Well done, that is a testament to why regular service is so important for transmission longevity.

I had a 2000 blazer and never changed the fluid. I didn’t know any better at the time. The transmission died at 110K miles.

Julian

My car is at 40000 2015 Jeep I got it from a dealership. And they had to change the entire transmission because it was damaged. Should I keep this car or switch it? Will it continue to give me problems?

Jordan

Honda civic 2000 D15B auto tranny. 211,000k so far. Feels a bit rubbery but all selections work otherwise. I hope I can get to 400,000k with it. I use both tranny filter and custom cooler. I do change fluids about every 8-10,000k with good synthetic fluid.

John robbins

2004 ram 1500 4×4 quad cab, 265,000 still going strong.

Wes

I own an ’09 Camry, 2.4L, 5-speed auto with 330,000 miles. It’s running on its original transmission. I had it serviced for the first time (or rather since before it had 60k miles) only a couple of weeks ago. Everything continues to work great as far as I can tell.

It’s a 5 speed and if I had to make some note about it, I find that the auto-shift “brain” upshifts into overdrive (5th gear) way too early for optimum efficiency. I usually keep the overdrive off (meaning stay between 1st and 4th gear) until I’m above 60mph or driving in rain, snow, ice, etc.

Dmitry

I have a 1992 honda civic lx that has 211000 miles with the original tranny on it. Im the 3rd owner too. I always take it easy on my tranny.

Dave CP

I owned a 2006 Dodge Dakota 4WD and when the odometer reached 63,000+ the torque converter failed, resulting in a complete tranny replacement.

I called Dodge and they referred me to a dealer who flat-out lied by saying I did something to cause it fail.

I later learned that torque converters before and after this year were defective and that Dodge wouldn’t accept responsibility.

AVOID DODGE!

Sean

Yep, this is very typical of Dodge. Chrysler, Dodge, Fiat, Jeep, it really doesn’t matter which you get. Almost everything that comes out of FCA has transmission or electrical issues very early in its life. Unlike GM and Ford, parts aren’t even particularly cheap to make up for it. The Pentastar V6 is one of the most bulletproof engines on the market if you take care of it, the problem is the entire rest of the car they build around it. The only exceptions are the RAM brand if you option the more expensive powertrains, but those are very expensive and the size of a house.

If you want to go the route of a cheap, unreliable car with parts so cheap that you still save money over a Toyota/Honda no matter how many times they need to be replaced, the brands I’d suggest are Chevy, Kia, and Mazda. Maybe Buick too, but those tend to be more different from Chevies than they used to be because they’re based directly on the GM global platforms, instead of Chevy’s version of that platform, so you can’t just throw on Chevy parts for 1/3 the price like you used to. In some cases you still can, but not all. Research the particular model, what its parts cost, and which equivalent Chevy parts fit, before you buy a Buick.