Breaking Down the Cost of a Transmission Oil Change

As a responsible driver, you do your best to care for your vehicle. Naturally, you want to keep costs down without sacrificing quality. DIY maintenance is one way you can accomplish this goal — for example, a DIY transmission fluid change. This guide breaks down the supplies you’ll need and how to calculate your transmission oil change cost.

Understanding Transmission Fluid

When buying your supplies for a transmission fluid change, be sure you understand what you need. If you’ve heard transmission fluid referred to as “transmission oil,” you may feel a little confused. It’s different than motor oil, which lubricates your engine. However, it performs a very similar function. 

Transmission fluid comes in two basic varieties: automatic and manual. Automatic transmission fluid lubricates the gears and cools the transmission, but it also aids in break band friction as well as valve body, clutch friction, and torque converter operation. Manual transmission fluid performs similar functions, but its viscosity is thicker to prevent excessive wear on internal components.

Manual and automatic transmission fluids are labeled to help you choose the right type. Depending on the type you need, you will likely pay between $5 and $20 for a quart and between $35 and $45 for a gallon. Check your owner’s manual for specific recommendations for your vehicle. 

The Right Supplies for the Job

Besides the transmission oil itself, you’ll need the tools and supplies for the job. From gloves to drain pans, adding up these costs ensures you can effectively budget for this task. 

Drain Pan and Funnel

Changing the transmission fluid is much like changing the oil: You must drain the old stuff out first before you add the new fluid. Among your list of supplies, you’ll need an oil drain pan that holds at least 13 quarts. Your drain pan will likely cost between $20 and $60, depending on the brand, style, and capacity you select. As for the funnel, this should cost no more than $10. Combined, you’ll spend between $30 and $70 for both. 

Cleaning Supplies

For safety and cleanliness, you should have several types of cleaning supplies on hand. These include brake cleaner, which costs between $5 and $10 for a 14-ounce can, as well as shop towels or rags priced at around $10 or less. Expect to pay around $20 for these supplies.

Personal Protection Equipment

Gloves and safety eyewear are essential protection. Expect to spend around $20 to $40 for these two items combined. 

What About Tools? 

So far, our estimated cost for a DIY transmission oil change ranges between $115 and $310. That’s assuming your vehicle holds around eight or nine quarts of transmission fluid. If you have a truck or large SUV, you’ll need more fluid. This estimate also assumes that you already have essential equipment such as a jack, wheel chocks, and tools. If you don’t, you’ll need them — and that’s more money out of your pocket.

If you want to dive in head-first and go the DIY route, getting your supplies and tools ensures you’ll have them for later maintenance tasks. You can also check with your preferred auto supply store for loaner tools and similar options. 

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