Change Your Car’s Transmission Oil On Time Before It Hurts Your Wallet

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One important add-on of your car that gets ignored quite a bit is its transmission oil. It is what makes sure your car drives smooth and effortless. Whether its auto or manual transmission, both need your attention and you must make sure you get them replaced after certain miles or if you have started to observe some certain signs while driving.

First thing first, gear oils for manual, auto and CVT are different. I remember folks using regular ATF (automatic transmission fluid) oil in their newly imported Vitz with CVT gearbox and ending up in workshops after excessive use. Also, Honda City Vario affectionately known as ‘chooha shape’ among the Pakistani used car dealers also had CVT box. One of my friends who had a 2003 City Vario told me the gearbox dipstick on the car had ATF written on it although it was a CVT. This is what I have been told but cannot personally confirm it. Vario owners reading this, please let us know.

shell mangearoil

But first, let’s talk about transmission oil first. Just like your engine, the gearbox has the moving parts as well. And the gear oil makes sure those moving parts don’t overheat and seize up during operations. It provides lubrication for those moving parts. In a conventional automatic car, the fluid works not only as means to drive the car by transmitting engine power to wheels through the gearbox, but also keeps the gearbox unit temperature under control. In some cars and mostly in single cylinder bikes, your engine oil works as a gear oil as well. Your Honda CG125 or for that matter any other locally available 70 to 150 cc bike has a wet-type clutch. And the engine oil you use keeps the gearbox lubricated as well. To be sure you use correct oil for your car, always refer to your car/bike owner manual or consult a trained technician.

You Should Stop Spraying Oil Under Your Car!

Manual transmission

Check your car’s manual for exact mileage the company recommends to change the oil but usually, it is somewhere around 40,000 kilometers. If you think you drive in hilly areas with lots of inclines for the most part of your driving, you should cut your gear oil change interval to half. If 40000 is recommended, change oil at 20000 or at least 30000 kilometers. Vehicles driving under stress all the time will, of course, have more wear and tear. The good thing about manual gearbox oil is that it doesn’t get degraded easily. The oil will not lose it efficiency with the passage of time, but it does get contaminated. The metal parts such as gears, bearings and synchro get usual wear and tear. And all those tiny metal particles keep floating in the oil. In some cars, manual or auto, there are small magnets in the gearbox to catch the floating metallic particles. Normally, its GL-4 or GL-5 gear oil for manual cars.

4-Speed Gearbox

Honda recommends SAE 10W-30 or 10W-40 motor oil for their manual Civic in case you don’t have original Honda manual transmission oil. But Honda claims the replacement oils don’t have necessary additives to help protect the metal parts of your transmission that their oils have and it can shorten the life of your transmission.

And here is what Lancer owner’s manual says:

Lancer Specs (1)
Mitsubishi Lancer Owner’s Manual
Lancer Specs (2)
Mitsubishi Lancer Owner’s Manual

Automatic transmission

It is a different thing in the case of an automatic transmission. The oil is used actually to make the vehicle move. It goes through a pump that pushes the oil to make the transmission parts move in order for you to drive the car. You have a torque converter that basically connects your engine to your transmission. There is a lot of kala jadu going on in your auto gearbox, and it can get confusing to understand. It has a boat load of moving parts. The thing to remember for this article is that the fluid moves through it to make it rotate, and power goes through multiple gears and move your wheels. Since ATF gets pushed around in the bell housing and torque converter as a means of transference of power, it gets heated up. And heat causes it to degrade over a period of use. And just like manual gear oil, ATF also gets contamination from continuous moving parts. Floating metal shavings are no fun!

Honda recommends their ATF-Z1 oil for automatic transmission or DEXRON III automatic transmission oil as a replacement. Following image is from the owner’s manual of a Mitsubishi Lancer.

lancer automatic transmission
Mitsubishi Lancer Owner’s Manual


It is simple; regularly check your car’s oil level and change it on time. In the case of automatic cars, you will have to replace its fluid filter as well. And be careful when shifting gears. Don’t put your car in reverse, whether manual or auto, when moving forward. That can kill it. It will damage the syncros in your manual car or blow the planetary gear in your auto.


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1 Comment
  1. Guest says

    Gone are the days when gear oil used to be thicker than honey. These days if you put that thick gear oil, your car will run heavy and maybe the gearbox would even seize.

    Zic FF is a good oil (manual gear), saying from experience. The gearshift is very fluid, specially on winter mornings.

    One problem is that after 40,000 km if you change fluid, you run the risk of leaking all the rubber gaskets. So then you’d have to go in for a complete overhaul (gear overhaul).

    It is impossible to throw a manual into reverse gear while moving forward. The gears will grind and the lever will jump back. There was a technical reason for this, don’t remember now. However when the car is moving at a snail’s pace, like taking a 3-point turn, you should wait for it to completely stop before shifting.

    Never put GL-5 oil in a gearbox for which GL-4 is specified and vice versa.

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