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

AP

2007 Camry: I drove my 2007 Camry to 305 k with only changing the transmission fluid once. At 305 k it was still shifting fine. Decided to get a new camry since little things started breaking all the time at 305k. Can’t complain though. That’s pretty good!

Minifan

Much to the displeasure of my wife, I’ve been driving her much cherished, and ‘lady driven’ 2020 Honda Odyssey minivan on the weekends. (keeping the wear n tear off my new Tesla) She of course has no idea that I’ve been street racing, & drifting it with the kids at a local hotspot. 3 sets of tires later however and the transmission is already beginning to slip. (only 12000 mi.) What a piece of 💩! I expected much more than this from a rice burner. Still rides smooth though. Anyway, I’m planning on taking it to the drag races this coming weekend in hopes of finishing it off/blowing it up so I can get her a new Toyota Sienna. Hopefully it will hold up a bit better than this one.

Pat Richardson

My 2001 Ford 150 Super Crew has just been towed in for a slipping trans. First problem ever. Original trans. Mileage 528,280. Truck also has original “unopened” engine>

Davidson

I had a 2001 Saturn SL1 sedan with a 5-speed manual sold to the scrap yard with 314,000 on it because I messed the column up transmission still shifted great I treated that little car like a truck

no troubletc

I have an 03 Seville the computer code says I have torque converter trouble 3 years ago. I did not and have not experienced anything different in the way it runs since it code came up. And have been driving it ever since with the check engine light on.

Mad

2005 Honda Accord had the transmission replaced at 60,000 miles and we are being told it needs to be completely rebuilt again now at 100,000. Not driven aggressively.

dclaudew

My 1999 Chrysler Town & Country LXi has had 7 transmission flushes in 110,000 miles. I drive the car gently.

Dan

1995 Ford F150 has 320000 on it has pulled a trailer most of it’s life still runs great