Piston Slap: A Fusion of Transmission Fluid Services?

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
piston slap a fusion of transmission fluid services

Mike writes:

Hi Sajeev,

I bought my 2008 Ford Fusion V6 AWD about two years ago from a Ford dealer. At the time, it had about 65,000 miles. I’m now at 85,000 miles. I also bought the three-year extended warranty (one year left).

Despite my usual aversion to buying extended warranties, it’s proven to be a sound investment. I’ve had a few things (including an oil leak) fixed for free (minus deductible). The warranty has already paid for itself. The dealer I used for the warranty service (not the purchasing dealer) gave me a few free oil changes and some credit on an account, so I’ve been going there for routine oil changes/tire rotations.

At the last oil change/tire rotation, I noticed they didn’t check the transmission fluid. I asked them to do so. The technician checked the fluid: it was at the correct level, but getting dirty. I asked if I should change it and he mumbled, “If you don’t do it now, don’t ever do it. Transmissions get used to the fluid and replacing it might ruin the transmission.”

He then asked if the fluid was ever changed. I shrugged. I never did it and I have no idea if the selling dealership or any of the prior owners changed it either.

The service writer printed out a maintenance schedule that said fluid should be changed at 60,000 miles. Both the service writer and the tech said I wasn’t too far over the 60,000 miles and if I wanted to change the fluid everything would be okay. I’ve searched forums and the rest of the web for any hard advice and come up empty.

What do you think? I intend to keep the car for several more years. Should I leave the fluid alone or change it? If the transmission goes in the next year, I’m covered by the warranty, but after that I’m outta luck.

Sajeev answers:

Several more years of ownership? You’ll be well-served getting a transmission fluid service.

I’d have reservations if the odometer crossed 100,000 miles, but maybe not: your detailed explanation of your service contract implies you’re a caring owner that ensures your vehicle is healthy from every angle, so change the fluid. But how? The old-school filter swap route, or the transmission flush route?

We get a flurry of comments from both sides every time we talk about tranny servicing. I don’t know the best move … in this case, any service is better than none. The mileage is low enough for me to wager that a new filter and then performing the flush would be ideal — you know, a fusion of both procedures.

No matter what we think, I know the Best and Brightest will agree with this: the next owner of this Fusion will be very, very lucky to do business with you.

[Image: Ford]

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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3 of 58 comments
  • Delow48 Delow48 on Oct 25, 2016

    I for one just started performing a drain and fill on my Hondas about every other oil change starting at about the 30,000 mil mark. This has worked well for the older one, and the CRV has about 55k on it now so we will see what happens when it gets older. What frustrates me is that my wife's Highlander however no good way to do the same service at home (lifetime fluid...yeah right). The only recourse for me is to pull the pan and replace at a mechanic which sucks because it was about $150 that I could have done on my own if they had just installed a drain plug and a dipstick. I hate Toyotas.

    • Scoutdude Scoutdude on Oct 25, 2016

      What I see is that the Toyotas with the overflow method of checking the level do have a drain plug. They were even so nice as to have a method to have the shift indicator light show when the trans has reached the proper temp range for checking the level. http://www.agcoauto.com/content/news/p2_articleid/345 So you just need a way to lift the vehicle high enough to access all three plugs and either a suction gun or a bottle pump that you can get at your local auto parts store. The jack stands can come in handy for other projects and for the special tool you can make that with a little ~18 ga wire. Or you can just spend a few dollars for a Bluetooth ELM and app for your phone and read the temp directly as well as have all the other benefits of having your own scan tool. You should be able to recover the cost of the tools the first or second time you DIY it.

  • MWolf MWolf on Oct 26, 2016

    I would do the change. Hear me out: You aren't that far over the scheduled maintenance that it would cause an issue, even the tech said so. Changing the fluid will ensure that you don't end up damaging the transmission by neglecting the fluid. You still have a warrenty. I promise you, if your fluid change causes a problem, you'll know well before a year's passing. Ford's transmissions, through my observations, do not tolerate neglect well. They do ok (in most cases) if you take care of them, so definitely do the maintenance. Not that any transmission should be neglected.

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