How to change gearbox oil? – DIY tips and manual guide

How to change gearbox oil? – DIY tips and manual guide

Oil replacement in a car is as necessary as expensive. For most of cars there’s no need for visiting a garage. With a bit of technical skill you can change gearbox oil yourself and save money. We will show you how oil replacement can be easily done and what to observe at all times.

Why should gearbox oil be changed at all?

How to change gearbox oil DIYOil is an important lubricant in every car preventing friction in suspension and drive technology. Metal components are omnipresent in the engine, heating up fast and coming into contact with each other. Without oil as a lubricant, wear would soon occur, leading to serious damage to the gearbox. Unwanted friction is prevented with gear oil, extending the life span of the car.

Unfortunately, gearbox oil loses its effect over time. Dust and dirt cause oil to lose its quality and performance with respect to engine combustion. Furthermore, gradual loss of oil occurs. This loss does not become apparent until the dashboard warning for engine oil leakage, but must be nevertheless under control.

Adding or changing gearbox oil

Adding or changing gearbox oilGearbox oil is not changed as often as engine oil. Where the latter needs to be changed every one to two years, gear oil is often only added once in a car’s life span. Against general opinion, the following recommendation does not only apply for cars with the traditional manual gearbox: also when you have automatic gear, you should consider gear oil change after a few years.

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Adding oil can be useful when more extensive loss of oil is indicated. For example, inspection by an experienced car mechanic might bring this to light. During driving, it might become apparent that there is too little oil in the gearbox and adding some oil is necessary. This applies, for example, if you hear unusual, loud noises when changing gear. Metal parts of the gearbox are rubbing together and the gear oil no longer adequately fullfils its task as a lubricant. Apart from a lack of oil, also too old gearbox oil can cause these symptoms.

Which oil is required?

gearbox oil or engine oilFor gearbox oil has other criteria compared to engine oil. Under no circumstance should you use the common engine oil for your car with type designation such as 5W-30 etc.
Gearbox oil has a different international standardisation.
In modern car construction, the versions GL-3 to GL-5 play an important role. As the wrong choice of gearbox oil provokes damage, you need to inform yourself in advance about the purchase of the right oil.

Engine oil at a bargain priceFor example, it is not advisable for cars with recommendation for GL-5 gearbox oil to choose a lower number, as this increases wear.
On the other hand, there is too little friction if you choose GL-5 gear oil in case of suitability for GL-3 or GL-4. This error could gradually cause damage to the gearbox.

Gearbox oil replacement and the environment

gearbox oil change intervalIf you wish to change the gearbox oil yourself, you need to apply the same criteria for disposal as for engine oil. The drained oil is chemical waste and should be handed in at the proper recycling units in your town. Every intelligent driver should nowadays act environmentally conscious, as garages too are legally required to do so. Disposing of your gearbox oil in a different way, you run the risk of a heavy fine.

Gearbox oil replacement
– everything you need to know in an overview

When should it be changed?
– Depending on car type
– Generally: once every five to eight years
– In case of noises or malfunctions of the gearbox
Which oil?
– Special gearbox oil, not engine oil
– Check the suitability of the oil GL-3 to GL-5
What does it cost?
– Price per litre: between £8 and £17
Advantages of DIY oil replacement
– Saving costs in comparison to visiting a garage
Disadvantages of DIY oil replacement
– Depending on car type a lot of work
– Individual responsibility of old gear oil disposal

Manual guide for gearbox oil replacement – step by step

Manual guide for gearbox oil replacementYou can read recommendations on how to manually change the gearbox oil in your car manual. It gives you tips for checking of this specific oil level and where to find the drain plug for the gearbox oil. If you are not certain about being able to conduct oil replacement the right way, you better leave it to the garage. You may assume that the gearbox oil replacement is somewhat more complicated than changing engine oil.

Changing oil in a manual gearbox is somewhat simpler. When you have found the position of the drain plug, you can open it, just the same way as in the oil carter for the engine oil, and drain the old oil to the last drop. As the plug is always situated at the bottom of the gearbox, it might not be easily accessible. Therefore you need a car hoist for this job. The traditional car jack and similar tools are not sufficient for a safe gear oil change.

Changing oil in a manual gearboxWhen you have drained the oil and screwed the plug back tightly, you add the new oil. Generally, a special screw for adding oil can be found on the side of the gearbox. After adding oil, you can relatively soon use your car again. Driving a couple of miles and changing gear a few times are necessary for optimal spreading of the gear oil.

Oil replacement for automatic transmission – considerably more complicated

why change gearbox oilAdvantages of DIY gearbox oil replacementDisadvantages of DIY gearbox oil replacement
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In a car with automatic transmission, the gearbox oil change is a bigger challenge. Depending on the construction, the automatic gearbox oil can never be completely drained. A simple draining of the old oil and the ensuing adding does not apply here. In technology of a modern car, special gearbox rinses are conducted by garages where they thoroughly clean the interior gearbox from old oil. Only then, the new oil can be added.

Private car owners do not have the required tools and therefore the oil change in case of an automatic transmission is not a DIY job. Adding oil is still possible in case of gradual oil loss over the years.
Also in case of a manual gearbox, DIY oil change is difficult without a car hoist. Therefore, gear oil replacement is only recommended for experienced car fans, who have adequate access to drain plugs for gear oil.

Foto: Dmitry Kalinovsky, Antonio-BanderAS, navee sangvitoon, loraks, kostastudio, Redfox1980, Leonid Eremeychuk, Tyler Olson /

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