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How often should transmission fluid be changed?

I had the transmission fluid on my 2010 Toyota RAV4 changed at the dealer in May, 2015 – and already it is telling me I need to change it again because it is dark in colour. It's been fewer than 20,000 kilometres and I only drive locally, in the city. Is this normal? – Flavian P.

Typically, when a vehicle arrives for an oil change and vehicle inspection, one of the duties of the technician is to analyze the condition of all fluids. The most commonly employed technique for inspecting transmission fluid is to observe the colour and the smell of it on the dipstick. Accurately calculating transmission-fluid life expectancy based on this method is hit-and-miss, as it depends heavily on the experience of the technician.

After the inspection report is completed, it is handed off to the service writer/adviser, where the recommendations are turned into dollar amounts and presented to the customer.

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Prior to presenting the findings to the customer, the adviser will have checked the vehicle's service history, looking for any recent duplicate fluid replacements. If found, the technician will be consulted and asked to double-check their findings, and to offer an explanation to the customer if they are still insisting on repeating the fluid change so soon.

Many drivers don't track their own maintenance and agree to have fluids replaced unnecessarily. I believe you have just saved yourself some money, as I can't imagine your vehicle is in need of this service again.

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