I have a 2011 Chevy Traverse that has 111k miles on it and has never received transmission maintenance. It still contains the original fluid and we have received different opinions on what we should do in regards to changing the transmission fluid.

We have been told that we need a transmission flush. However, others have told me that if we change the fluid we may have problems with the transmission.

Any recommendations on whether or not to change the fluid, and what can happen if we do change it and what happens if we don't?

  • For what it's worth, I think a lot of the evidence of transmission failure after a flush is anecdotal. In some cases the flush was done because a problem was observed and the flush doesn't fix it.
    – mikes
    Commented Dec 30, 2016 at 20:53
  • Broader discussion on changing transmission fluid in older cars: mechanics.stackexchange.com/q/17217/2330 Commented Nov 9, 2019 at 15:46
  • In older transmissions there was a lot of wear debris , much of it in places where it did not drain with a change . This debris could be disturbed by the change and get into valve bodies , etc, and cause problems. Later transmission have better quality ( things fit better) and do not generate so much debris. I worked in a trans shop long ago and my job was to take a scraper and clean off 1/4 in. of junk on the bottom of the pan during a rebuild. Commented Nov 9, 2019 at 17:18
  • That is, the oil had already been drained and the 1/4 in. remained in the pans. Commented Nov 9, 2019 at 17:27

2 Answers 2


In the Owner's Manual (page 11-5) it is recommended at 100,000 miles (under normal driving conditions). So you are only about 10% overdue.

It is recommended to be changed at 50,000 miles if the vehicle is used in severe conditions (page 11-4);

vehicles mainly driven in heavy city traffic in hot weather, in hilly or mountainous terrain, when frequently towing a trailer, or used for taxi, police, or delivery service

It would be a good idea to have it changed. It should not cause any problems. In fact, you may notice smoother shifting and better performance afterward.

Not changing it can eventually cause shift issues and poor performance.

  • You're welcome. If you find that this answered your question, please accept it by choosing the check on the left. This will indicate to others who are searching with similar questions that your question has an answer.
    – CharlieRB
    Commented Jan 3, 2017 at 17:43

Sorry for the long response in advance. Transmission fluid changes are a hotly debated subject so there's a lot of information out there. This is my attempt to try to boil it down so you can make an informed decision.

I've been researching something similar recently and here were the understandings I gathered. Based on what you said, though, (and the interval CharlieRB pointed out) the quick answer is yes, you should replace the fluid.

  • The only time you may not want to change the fluid is if a rebuild is known and inevitable and you're trying to postpone that as much as you can. The reason is transmission fluid is an excellent solvent and will clean away things like varnish deposits and burnt clutch material which may be serving as the spit and bubble gum that's keeping it running right now. In this case you'll be getting new fluid with your new transmission ;-)
  • If the fluid was very overdue or was dark and/or burnt but the transmission was still otherwise functional, replacing part of the fluid a number of time over thousands of miles would be advisable. Changing it all at once may knock buildups loose/clean things up too quickly which can cause the transmission to start malfunctioning. Introducing new fluid gradually (30-50% at a time, with something like 3k miles between changes) can minimize or sidestep these effects completely. I've seen this referred to as the new fluid "shocking" transmission components.
  • If the fluid is in reasonably good condition (red/brown, not black, not burnt-smelling), then just get a flush done.

If you do get a flush, make sure they use a gentle flushing technique. Some flushing devices pressurize the new fluid going in which has a tendency to break up and dislodge buildups. Those bits are then free to float around and get stuck in other places where they will cause problems. The gentle devices basically pour in new fluid as the old fluid is evacuated. Any subsequent cleaning done by the fluid is gradual and results in smaller pieces which are unlikely to upset anything.

Also, do not go to a quick-lube shop for this. They have a long and sordid history of fumbling the simplest of tasks and not taking responsibility for it. A reputable repair shop will have better equipment and know-how.

  • Thanks for the response and knowledge shared. You recommended taking it to a reputable repair shop but given the potential for something to go wrong especially with transmission do you think it would be a good idea to take it to the dealer? Commented Dec 31, 2016 at 18:40
  • I'd say a good shop and a good dealership are about on par, but if you're not certain of any good places nearby, the dealership's the safer bet.
    – atraudes
    Commented Jan 1, 2017 at 20:09

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