Should I change my transmission oil?(2003 Altima)

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#1
Hi, I just bought an used 2003 Nissan Altima with 137K km. I recently changed its engine oil and front brake at two different auto repair shop. One suggested me to change the transmission oil right away and the other one told me to change it when I will change the engine oil next time. They told me that the color of the transmission oil should be light red(pink), but mine is light brown(seen red color on white rag). Since I don't know if the first owner changed the transmission oil before, I am wondering whether I should change it or not. If the answer is yes, could I do it myself?(interested in doing this and want to save some money:) ) Is there any helpful info guiding this process?

Thanks a lot!
 

Jim Davis

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#2
Probably a good idea to go ahead and have it and the filter changed. If you are wanting to do it yourself, and wanting to do other maintenance on the car in the future, really consider an Alldata subscription (look up top of the page), gives you step by step instructions, what to look for, and any info about your car you could possibly want. that and it keeps Batauto going to boot. Changing the trans fluid and filter can be a little messy. If you decide to let a shop do it, dont go for one of the flushes, just ask for a filter and fluid change.
 

Transman

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#3
Agreed here, but just for my info... Are you having any noticeable issues with the trans? Slipping, late or early shifts? Check engine light on? The problem develops when you have an issue with the trans that changing the fluid could make it worse. If you have no issues and the check engine light has not turned on or sent any trans codes then by all means get it serviced. This trans takes special fluid and i recommend you go to the dealer and buy it yourself even if you are having a shop do the work, most good shops won't mind if you supply your own fluid. Post back, Transman
P.S. good idea on the Alldatadiy, it is good for a year on one car unlimited usage.
 
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#4
You should change by mileage not color of fluid or how it looks on dip stick.
Check your owners manual for fluid type and mileage to change.
Transmission fluid is same color as engine oil untill they add the red dye.
Some fluid has more red dye and stays redder longer.
 
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#5
There is no any problem with the trans: no slipping, no late or early shifts, engine light is off. The only thing that I am not sure is sometimes when I shift from P to R, it has to be shifted hard, but sometimes it is very easy. The mechanic checked the color of the trans fluid and smelled it, so he suggested me changed it in the next service schedule of engine oil.

Transman said:
Agreed here, but just for my info... Are you having any noticeable issues with the trans? Slipping, late or early shifts? Check engine light on? The problem develops when you have an issue with the trans that changing the fluid could make it worse. If you have no issues and the check engine light has not turned on or sent any trans codes then by all means get it serviced. This trans takes special fluid and i recommend you go to the dealer and buy it yourself even if you are having a shop do the work, most good shops won't mind if you supply your own fluid. Post back, Transman
P.S. good idea on the Alldatadiy, it is good for a year on one car unlimited usage.
 
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#6
My altima uses Dexron III ATF, which is supposed to be good for 100,000 miles according to some online articles. My car has only about 85,000 miles. The owners manual doesn't say when to change it by mileage. Anyway, I thought it would not be a bad idea to do it now. Thanks
crunch said:
You should change by mileage not color of fluid or how it looks on dip stick.
Check your owners manual for fluid type and mileage to change.
Transmission fluid is same color as engine oil untill they add the red dye.
Some fluid has more red dye and stays redder longer.
 
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#7
I would let them online articles go in one ear and out the other. :)
Check with your dealer or a GOOD SERVICE REPAIR MANUAL.
Owners manual should say change as needed or under server service change ever 30K.
Good luck
MT
 

Transman

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#8
Agreed again here, change often. 30k or at most every 2 years, I like yearly for my vehicles regardless of mileage. Don't fall for the hype about high mileage fluids, use good quality name brand fluid. If dex3 is what they call for then use that.
Hard shifting from park... do you mean it is hard to get the shifter to move or when it engages the trans bangs into gear? Post back, Transman
 
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#9
The owner's manual has three different maintainence schedule. The premium on suggests to change every 2 years but the schedule recommends regular inspection and change if necessary.

I mean it is hard to get the shifter to move from "P" to "R" by hand when I start to drive, but just occasionaly. Thanks

Transman said:
Agreed again here, change often. 30k or at most every 2 years, I like yearly for my vehicles regardless of mileage. Don't fall for the hype about high mileage fluids, use good quality name brand fluid. If dex3 is what they call for then use that.
Hard shifting from park... do you mean it is hard to get the shifter to move or when it engages the trans bangs into gear? Post back, Transman
 
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#10
One more question: do I need to change the AT filter and AT pan gasket every time I replace the trans fluid? Could I just drain the fluid from the pan and the AT cooler line completely? Thanks
 
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#11
If it has a filter change it. :)
Do you change your engine oil without changing the filter?
The filter is what helps keep the trash and dirt and metal shavings and clutch dust out of it
 

Transman

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#12
The hard shift thing, When it becomes hard next time.. Try releasing the shifter and re-step on the brake pedal. If you are quick about grabbing the shifter before the signal gets there that you have stepped on the brake pedal then you sometimes will lock the shifter in. Kinda' like shutting the car off with the steering wheel turned tightly and trying to turn the key the next day. Hmm, maybe not a good example, the point is you wedge the shift unlock lever if you try to move it before the brake switch has fully released it.
Crunch is correct about the filter in reality. My experience however shows, depending on the filter media. The "screen type" can simply be cleaned unless torn or gooey. The "Felt/Dacron" type cannot be cleaned and are very fine filters. If you are servicing every year and 10/12k miles then you can safely change every other service. The point here is actually what are you saving by not changing it? 20 bucks? Is that really worth risking the trans? Just a question, Transman
 
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#13
Well.. The AT filter and the AT oil pan gasket cost me about CAD$80 in Vancouver, canada, Much expensive than in USA and less choice. :(Moreover, the owner's manual suggests replace ATF every 2 years. Since I am a beginner of auto repair, simply replacing the oil only makes me life easier. That's what I though initially. But now... I may consider to change the filter as well. :) My friend told me that that will be difficult and messy to do it by myself, I might let the dealer do it. Thanks

Transman said:
The hard shift thing, When it becomes hard next time.. Try releasing the shifter and re-step on the brake pedal. If you are quick about grabbing the shifter before the signal gets there that you have stepped on the brake pedal then you sometimes will lock the shifter in. Kinda' like shutting the car off with the steering wheel turned tightly and trying to turn the key the next day. Hmm, maybe not a good example, the point is you wedge the shift unlock lever if you try to move it before the brake switch has fully released it.
Crunch is correct about the filter in reality. My experience however shows, depending on the filter media. The "screen type" can simply be cleaned unless torn or gooey. The "Felt/Dacron" type cannot be cleaned and are very fine filters. If you are servicing every year and 10/12k miles then you can safely change every other service. The point here is actually what are you saving by not changing it? 20 bucks? Is that really worth risking the trans? Just a question, Transman