I recently had my car (2013 Chevy Cruze) serviced by the Dealer. I was told my transmission fluid was near black (I haven't seen it) and it was critical to be replaced. I have the following facts:

  • Current mileage is 43k with light to moderate usage
  • Dealership sales pamphlet recommends changing transmission fluid every 50k
  • Owner's Manual recommends changing at 156k miles (normal, pg 11-5) or every 77k (severe, pg 11-7)

As I understand it, my situation is either

  1. Early failure of the transmission causing degradation of the fluid (the Dealer stated this is not the case)
  2. The Dealer is pulling my leg trying to make a quick buck

Is there a situation in which transmission fluid could have been degraded without a failure of the transmission?

  • I presume the car's out of warranty?
    – Zaid
    Commented Jan 13, 2017 at 18:18
  • @Zaid, I haven't look into whether this is covered under any warranties, but I will if I decide it needs to be changed out or addressed in some fashion
    – wnnmaw
    Commented Jan 13, 2017 at 18:50
  • 1
    A red flag for me is the "Dealership sales pamphlet recommends changing transmission fluid every 50k". They should be following the manufacturer recommended service intervals. This would make me suspicious of the dealership not being honest. Error on the safe side...trust but verify. Get a second opinion.
    – CharlieRB
    Commented Jan 13, 2017 at 20:41

1 Answer 1


Transmission fluid will darken over time as it oxidizes and gets contaminants in it. This doesn't mean the transmission is on the way out or that the fluid absolutely needs to be changed. The black fluid would be an indicator to me I need to start thinking about changing the fluid. With only 43k miles on you car, I would doubt you'd need to worry about your transmission actually having issues.

One of the things you can do is to smell the transmission fluid. If it smells burnt (it will be very distinctive if it is), then it absolutely needs changed. Once it's burnt, it starts losing a lot of its cleaning properties and will start to cause issues internally to the transmission.

Realistically, it sounds to me as though the dealership is trying to get you to have a service which could probably be used, but which probably doesn't absolutely need to be done. If you feel it might be an issue, I'd take it somewhere else and get a second opinion. The only thing changing the fluid will hurt is your pocket book. Changing it in the car won't cause the car any issues and it may prevent some issues down the road.

As an aside, in most cases, cars fall under the "Severe" category of maintenance as seen in the owner's manual. Stop and go traffic in a normal downtown setting puts most people there.

  • That's an interesting note about the wear category. I had assumed owner's manuals would be pretty conservative in the suggested maintenance!
    – wnnmaw
    Commented Jan 13, 2017 at 20:42
  • Assuming it has a dipstick, you can also pull it and wipe the tip on a clean white paper towel to see the fluid color for yourself to see if they're outright lying (or at least bending the truth). If it is black, don't delay a fluid change for too long.
    – atraudes
    Commented Jan 13, 2017 at 20:58

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