Newer vehicles usually don't require transmission services, unless there is a manufacturer's defect in the transmission or the vehicle is driven in a manner that may cause transmission damage.
However, the transmission in older vehicles may eventually show signs of wear and tear that requires an inspection and possibly a flush and fill of the transmission fluid. There are signs that may indicate that an inspection and transmission services may be needed, and they should not be ignored, because minor issues can quickly become expensive repairs when transmission problems are allowed to continue.
What are the signs of possible transmission problems?
Whether your vehicle has a manual or automatic transmission, if you step on the accelerator as the gear is shifting and there is a hesitation followed by a sudden jerking forward as the transmission goes into the next gear, you are experiencing slipping gears.
You should have your transmission inspected as soon as possible if this occurs, because this violent motion causes additional damage to the transmission, and will likely cause enough damage to require the transmission to be rebuilt or replaced, at a cost of hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
Issues with your transmission fluid
Unlike your oil level, your transmission fluid level should remain constant. You should never need to add transmission fluid to your vehicle. A low level indicates fluid loss by leak or burning of fluid.
The transmission fluid level should be checked when the vehicle is running and warmed, and always on level ground. If the fluid level is low, you should have the transmission checked as soon as possible.
If you cannot get an inspection performed as soon as you would prefer, you can add fluid to the fill line in the dipstick while the engine is running. You must use the type of fluid recommended by the manufacturer of the vehicle. Failure to do so can cause further damage and void any warranty that may be in effect.
Transmission fluid should be a light pink color with a sweet smell and oily in texture. If your fluid is brown and has a burnt smell, you should take your vehicle in for transmission service.
Sometimes an older, high mileage vehicle may need a transmission flush and fill service just because of normal wear and tear associated with years of use. Local automotive service centers will usually offer a transmission service special that includes an inspection as well as flushing and filling the fluid.
Some services also change the transmission filter and the gasket from the pan that holds the fluid. The type of service that you choose will vary according to your vehicle's needs and the manufacturer's recommendations for your vehicle.