What is a Transmission Flush? Cost and Process

The importance of a transmission flush often goes unnoticed until serious problems arise. It is a process that is important to the health and maintenance of your car, and if done properly, is an excellent preventative maintenance procedure. Check your owner’s manual for the proper maintenance schedule. However, if you feel there are certain problems with your vehicle such as odd noises or gear shifting issues, it might do more harm than good.

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


Transmission Flush MachineA transmission flush is a maintenance process where all of the oil in a transmission is removed, new oil (and sometimes cleaning solutions) is run through it using a special machine to push out grime and sludge and then it is filled up with new oil. The process is used to remove debris and sludge and replace 100% of the used oil with fresh, clean quarts.

Average Cost and Factors

The typical price range for a transmission flush is $125 to $250 – approximately twice as much as a fluid change due to the additional fluid required (12-22 quarts instead of 5-7 quarts) to completely replace the old fluid. The average you can expect to pay is $150 for the full service.

Transmission Flush vs. Change Cost
Flush$125 to $250
Change (Shop)$80 to $150
Change (DIY)$40 to $90

The cost depends on several factors including your car’s make and model, your location, the type of shop you go to, the machine they use and any additional services such as pan removal and filter replacement. For example, at a quick lube shop the cost ranges from $100 to $200, while a dealership will charge between $150 and $300.

Factors that Affect the Cost

  • Year, make and model of your car/transmission (high end cars cost more)
  • Your location (cities have a higher cost of living/labor)
  • Type of shop (quick lube, independent mechanic or dealership)
  • Type of flushing machine (pump inlet or cooler line)
  • Type of fluid used (synthetic is more expensive)
  • Amount of fluid required (11-21 liters)
  • Additional services (filter replacement, pan removal)

Note: We highly recommend choosing a service that includes pan removal and a new filter. This will add to the cost, but it will help extend the life of your transmission.


There are debates as to the effectiveness of this procedure. Some state that flushing your vehicle using professional equipment may actually damage your vehicle. They say that the gunk and residue that are being flushed out may actually get lodged somewhere where it shouldn’t be, which could cause failure sometime in the future. Some believe that valves and seals may be bent or weakened with the pressure some machines use to force cleaning solution and fluid through the lines.

On the other hand, most agree that it is a legitimate maintenance procedure for your vehicle. They believe that a flush can help remove residue and materials from the engine, improving its performance and its lifespan. Whenever you are considering having one done, consult your owner’s manual first, then your dealership or local service center.

Flush vs. Change

A flush uses a professional grade machine to completely flush all the transmission fluid from your vehicle and remove some grime and contaminants from the torque converter and cooler lines to prevent them from causing transmission problems. This process involves running a special solution through the lines until they come out completely clean and then fills up the system with new fluid.

A fluid change on the other hand simply drains it using natural gravitational forces. Not all the fluid in the system is drained using this method and it does not flush out contaminants. Most say it only drains between 20%-40% of the total volume.

The goal of both changes and flushes is to improve and extend the life and performance of your car.

Process – How it’s Done Properly

Before hooking your car up to the machine, a technician should take it on a test drive in order to recognize and diagnose any serious problems that should be looked into during inspection and servicing. The unit should also be inspected for any external signs of problems or leaks.

A professionally done procedure requires the use of specialized, government regulated machines. There are a few ways in which these machines differ in their performance and operation, but you can discuss the type of machine and method used with your mechanic.

Machines typically connect to the cooler lines. The line that connects your vehicle’s transmission to the cooler will be disconnected and attached to the machine’s line in. This will allow the car’s fluids to drain into the machine. The line out from the machine then connects to your car’s cooler. This allows the new fluid in the machine to be transferred into the vehicle. The transfer process only utilizes the pressure produced by the car’s pump to circulate it, so no damage can be done to the internal parts of the system.

As the old fluid side of the diaphragm fills, it pushes the new fluid diaphragm up, making it flow through the lines. It circulates just as it would under normal operating conditions, the only difference being that the incoming oil is perfectly clean and the outgoing liquid is gone for good. The one downside of this process is that due to the way that fluid cycles through the unit, some of it is dropped back into the pan without going to the cooler. This means that the old is not completely replaced, but is continuously diluted with new oil instead.

Another method used is a pump inlet flush. This method attaches the machine’s line out to the pump intake. The process transfers fluid through the vehicle and into a drainage pan, completely flushing the system. When cleared, new fluid is supplied to fill up the car. This process requires the complete removal of your pan and filter and a new filter and pan are installed at the end. This requires more time, a few extra quarts of fluid (around 20) and costs a bit more, but it is a much more complete, ideal procedure.

Note: Some service centers use machines that add additional force to blast fluid and/or cleaning solution through the system. This is NEVER a good idea as this can damage seals and/or lodge sludge in places it shouldn’t be as mentioned above.

Used Pan and Filter

A complete service should ideally include removing the pan and inspection of the old oil to look for signs of current or near-future issues. Dropping the pan is important because the used fluid, what is lying in the pan and what is trapped in the filter will all tell you a lot about what condition it is in. Some of the gunk that is flushed ends up in the pan and is then sucked up into the filter. If the filter becomes too clogged, then the pump will starve for fluid, components will not get lubricated which leads to heat, friction, slippage and eventually failure.

Normally, and this varies between year, make and model, darkened oil with some debris or residue is normal. Metal flakes may be seen in the oil or the plug. However, if you notice an excess of gunk, grime, or metal flakes; if there is a burning smell or other unusual odors or the oil is black, it often means that your car has (or will soon have) some serious issues.

It is recommended to always have the filter replaced regardless of whether you’re getting a fluid change or flush (some vehicles do not have one that is replaceable). Some gaskets may still be “usable”, but it is always best to replace both filters and gaskets.

Overall, the key to maintaining a transmission is following exactly what is recommended in your vehicle’s owner’s manual. It will tell you whether you to get a flush or change and how often to have it done (after a certain number of miles or amount of time). Do not trust it’s health to something you read online or heard from a mechanic/service technician as some are just looking to get your money and do not care what is best for your transmission. (not saying all mechanics are dishonest, but they DO exist). Be sure to ask the person servicing your car to make sure they are following the proper procedures recommended above and in the manual.

Fluid Color Range

Note: Flushing and changing the filter are important preventative maintenance procedures, they are not a solution for ones that already have problems or are on the way to a problem according to their black, burned and/or high-debris-content fluid. Getting a flush when you think there might be a problem can do more harm than good and make it fail faster than it would have otherwise. The same applies for higher mileage vehicles that have never had their lines flushed.

By that time the damage has already been done and there is likely a lot of sludge and varnish built up inside. The fresh additives from the new fluid attack the deposits, causing them to break off and jam valves, clog passageways, etc. In that case the tranny is doomed anyway, so your best bet is to do nothing to it, set aside some cash, and drive it for as long as you can.


Types of Automatic Transmission FluidsThere are different types and grades that can be purchased and used in the exchange. Some of the most recommended are full synthetic fluids. However, certain vehicles and their parts may degrade with the use of full synthetic oil. This is usually the case for older makes and models. For the most part, full synthetic will lubricate better, combat heat and friction better and last longer. However, consult your owner’s manual or a service technician for the recommended type for your particular make and model of vehicle.

Important: Make sure that whoever is servicing your transmission uses the right type for your vehicle and not some cheap generic/universal version that could cause problems down the road.

How Often Should it be Done?

This maintenance procedure should be performed every 30,000 miles or so. Some service centers will advise doing it every two years or 24,000 miles. You can often review your owner’s manual or speak to your dealership, however it is important to understand your driving habits and relay that information to a professional. Vehicles that are often towing or drive through sand, dirt and other harsh terrain, may require earlier service. Consult a reputable service provider if you need advice.

Alternatively, if you don’t think it is safe enough, you want to save some money by doing your own maintenance or your owner’s manual recommends changing instead, you might want to consider changing it slightly more frequently than is advised to keep the oil in a more like-new condition.

Importance of Finding a Reputable Service Provider

A reputable mechanic will advise you on several aspects. They will determine if you even need one based on your driving habits, mileage and the manufacturer’s recommendations. They will also determine the proper method to use and will do the job professionally and properly; utilizing the proper kind for your particular make and model, not finishing until the fluid appears clean and clear, thoroughly inspecting what comes out of the car, replacing all gaskets and filters and properly installing all parts back onto your car so that it runs just right. In addition, they will do all this at a reasonable price and should back their work with a warranty.

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 summary, this procedure is an easy, low cost maintenance option to perform on your car. It is essential over the lifetime of your vehicle in order to protect it from harmful damage cause by wear and tear. It is also a great indicator of the internal health of your vehicle and will prevent costly damage over time. Transmission repair can be quite costly so it is important to do your best to maintain a healthy, properly functioning transmission.

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Janet Andes
2 months ago

I have a 2014 Honda Accord and need transmission washer, drain and fluid replacement how much should I be charged.

3 months ago

I have 2013 Nissan Sentra I know that these transmissions are nothing but problems, I purchased this car 2 years ago used i had it 2 weeks when the tranny went out i had the dealer fix it which was a big problem but they supposby put another trans in now grant it it’s been 2 years, now my car is giving me problems again my RPMs keep going up and down when on the freeway and times i can feel it fluttering. I took my car to a mechanic to check to see if it might need some fluid, he brought me a sample of the fluid that looked dirty like a rusty color he said that it looked burnt… should i get my trans flushed? He did tell me that it might fix it but again might make it worse what would you recommend?

Linda Huckabee
1 month ago
Reply to  Linda

Draining fluid is usually best if it’s burnt

4 months ago

I have a 2012 mustang with 190,000 miles (Highway miles) I went ahead and decided to flush my transmission after being told not to since it had never been done before and could create problems. Car has been doing good so far.

6 months ago

i have a 1992 tyoga moterhome i know the trasmition fluid is burnt will i need a new filter or can i claen this one

6 months ago

I have a 2015 Ford Edge with 86k miles. I have no problems with it, should I do a transmission flush.

5 months ago
Reply to  Mar

I have a 2014 RAV4 with 95,000 miles, I had the flush done and had no issues, It actually made the transmission shift smoother.

1 year ago

I have a 2010 Lexus is250 awd. Having bought the car with 120k and not knowing the history , I had the shop ,at their recommendation,do fluid changes including a BG transmission fluid exchange . Shortly after that exchange the transmission has what appears to be a torque converter shudder at about 35mph from time to time. Shift quality was and still is smooth and crisp but now the shudder. There was not a problem prior to this and I’m wondering if it’s coincidental or if it’s fluid type or something that happened because if the exchange. This shop has a great reputation and mostly works on Toyotas and Lexus and is a great alternative to the dealer . Anyone have any ideas?

Dev Null
1 year ago

I have a 2007 Dodge Dakota 4.7 with 80,000 miles. The manual says nothing about transmission fluid changes for normal service. I intend to keep the truck until my death. S (maybe 10 more years) should I change the fluid and filter? Flush? BTW, I have a “Lifetime powertrain warranty” from Dodge because I bought the truck when they in bad financial shape.

Mr. Fix it
8 months ago
Reply to  Dev Null

If you are going to rely on the”lifetime warranty” read it closely for it’s clauses and conditions. Might have normal service or certain time or mileage constraints to honor the warranty not just what is in the manual. Warranty may be from a third party not the dealer. They usually find reasons to get out of paying the bill. Also may state lifetime of the trans not your lifetime, trans lasted 120K that may be considered normal lifetime to them. Alot of Hyundai buyers think they get 10 years and 100K warranty represented by sales but they didn’t read the details. I had a extented warranty from Ford dealer by third party it had a clause must require 4 hours of shop time to complete the repair. Problem was a dual fuel tank control module about an hour to replace it $600 estimate, they done it in 45 min and wouldn’t cover the bill. My contract didn’t have anything on time required, they got out this book and it indicated the time limit, I said book was not shown to me or with the signed contract but in small print on back of a page was statement of policy manual indicated by asterisk in the middle of the sentence not at the side or beginning of the sentence. Took some arguing and negotiating to get out of there, paid half price of the part only. Have heard some warranties are requiring proof of oil changes receipts with mileage on it. I asked a dealer about DIY oil changes they said keep all of your receipts and good records and verify if this acceptable to warranty contract or dealer. So beware, sorry lengthy reply.

1 year ago

I have a 2010 Camry,all with the name of changing oil seal while leaking,the car won’t move at Fisrt and after some cleaning and fixing the gear brainbox the right way,my car can’t accelerate more than the 3rd anymore,please any helpful tips

1 year ago

Have a 2008 Pontiac G6 Ft. Have a hose come loose after a radiator change. Got the repaired but don’t think enough fluid was put back because it jerks when going into 1st gear. Should I add more. Put 4 quarts in already.

Issues with the transmission and yo
1 year ago

If u r having Issues with the transmission and you change the fluid does it hurt it

1 year ago

It doesn’t hurt but might not fix it

1 year ago

When my battery went out and after new one was put in now there is light on looks like a key or wrench type and on radio part it say transmission service soon

Moonlight Mech
1 year ago
Reply to  Ann

I would imagine your battery has nothing to do with your tranny mechinally operations, other than power the thing up. It may just be a co-wink’ a dink. You need to have a mechanic look at it.

1 year ago

I have a ‘03 z71 w/290000 miles on it, I bought it used, so I changed the transmission filter and fluid, I took the proper steps according to the manual and now it won’t shift out of 2nd gear into 3rd and so on. Can someone tell me what most likely the problem is please, thanks

1 year ago
Reply to  Mike

at 290000 and if the transmission had never been service than I would expect transmission failure. No transmission fluid last forever. Do research on your transmission type an you should be able to fine out why your transmission is not shifting correctly

Thomas Peck
1 year ago
Reply to  Mike

If it’s the 4l60e trans the clutches are out common on that one mine was exactly the same

Moonlight Mech
1 year ago
Reply to  Mike

You should check for the correct fluid type, first. Ive changed trannys fluids with so called compatible fluid from the local auto parts store but some times they dont work and are not compatible with certian vechiles. I would go to Amsoil or get from the dealer. Just as your first step.

Mr fix it
8 months ago
Reply to  Mike

Wow 290K what did the fluid and pan look like? Did it have the factory pan gasket still on it? All rubber gasket would indicate the pan was removed. Did you open the filter for inspection?

1 year ago

I have a Kia Amanti 2004, 188,000 mi, and have never flushed the transmission. No transmission problems thus far.
Mechanic wants to flush trans. Is it safe to do so?

1 year ago
Reply to  Debbie

dont do it

Ujjal Seal
2 years ago

I have a Mazda milania, year 1999. . the miles it ran is 89000 miles. I have no problem to run the car so far. Do i need to change the transmission fluid now or wait for 100,000 miles. Should I need to do a flush or just change the fluid at 100,000 miles. Appreciate for your kind advise.

1 year ago
Reply to  Ujjal Seal

Look at your owners manual or take to the dealership that you trust for advise. Do a transmission service if possible .

Andre Lamont Brady
2 years ago

Just wanting a flush my transmission to keep a (Good) running vehicle by having a fluid change and the pan change because I would like to keep this vehicle since its paid off.

2 years ago

I had a trans flush on my wife’s 2010 Toyota Rav 4 at a local Big O shop. The Rav has about 150 miles and runs great. About a week after the flush I checked the trans fluid and it was a dark grey. I took it back to Big O and they ran the flush again resulting in a lighter grey. Is the grey normal, I thought we were going for a pink color. There are no shifting issues.

Any opinions?

Moonlight Mech
1 year ago
Reply to  Zac

You could take a little bit of the fluid and rub it on a white paper to see its true color. If its red then your good. It may just be dark.

Ed Martin
2 years ago

We have a 2010 Chrysler Town & Country. The owners manual says do a transmission flush at 102,000 miles (in normal use) Talked to a service writer at local Chrys dealership and he recommended don’t flush because it’ll put sludge where you don’t want it. The other local dealership says flush it. Would you recommend just changing the fluid and filter and then repeating that every couple of years (about 30k miles), or doing the flush, and then after a few weeks, change fluid and filter, and then the repeating every couple of years… Thanks

Moonlight Mech
1 year ago
Reply to  Ed Martin

Only flush if you suspect the transmission has issues. Issues like the step you do before you replace a tranny. If its just maintenance, drop the fluid and filter. Put new clean fluid and filter. No machine flushes. This is just an opinion. Ive been repairing my own vehicles and I have a side business, repairing alot of different types of vehicles. Automatic transmissions have tiny little channels. Inside it looks like an ant farm kinda. Dont force metal shavings and sludge throu tiny ant tubes. Shavings can get wedged in places and slug can plug or restrict fluid flow, which starves a pump. Just draining and dropping the pan and replacing the internal filter or replacing an external filter (like on some Subaru’s) should be all you need for a fluid change.

Heather Bartholomew
7 months ago
Reply to  Moonlight Mech

I have a 2005 Toyota Avalon after finding out that the pan was cracked and covered with a glue to seal the leak I got a new pan and changed the fluid and replaced the pan and new transmission fluid ( forgot to change the filter) I’ve had problems right after . It Sounds electric and immediately starting slipping gears and wouldn’t pass 4th gear and then jump into neutral with high RPMs. Shortly after my check engine light came on and I got the code for P0741 torque converter solenoid stuck off. Not sure what to do at this point and where I went wrong ? Levels are all fine and no more leaks . How do I fix this issue and is there anything I can check before assuming that I need to replace the torque converter?

my Toyota Camry 2002 transmission won’t shift from first to the other gears even at a high rpm
please what should I so?

Moonlight Mech
1 year ago

Might have the wrong type of fluid. If you dont have the exact fluid rated for you vechile, shifting issues can happen.

3 years ago

Having issues with 2007 Mazda 3. When stopping at stop signs and red lights car shudders when brakes applied. Does not do it when cold but when it warms up. Had transmission fluid, pan, and filter all changed.. Still happens. All new rotors and pads with no changes. Shifts and drives very well but acts like it’s not getting something. Air filter changed also. Not heating up but has an odd smell sometimes as well. Any suggestions

Miklo Martinez
2 years ago
Reply to  Cheryl

Hi April, I would suggest cleaning your throttle body and mass airflow sensor as these are usually never cleaned in a car, then being dirty can cause fuel economy issues as well as a rough idle.

4 years ago

never put your ride on transmission new fluid change machine always go old school and drop the pan and check for metal chips and change the trans filter. Would you change your engine oil without changing your oil filter ?

4 years ago

I have a Nissan Sentra 2001 automatic, 1.8L and about 180000 miles. this car won’t move when i park it over night. After starting the car and shifting the gear to D it will take like 5 minutes before it engages. i have recently changed my transmission oil as well still didn’t work. Kindly assist me the way forward.

Thank you.

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