Clean oil in the machine changes well

Clean oil in the machine changes well


In the winter, the 2008 Volkswagen Phaeton in this example shifts hard and dirty in the morning, holds gears too long or doesn’t shift well. A problem that not only the fourteen-year-old Phaeton has. Sooner or later, most used cars with automatic torque converters and old oil fillings are thrown away, despite the fact that a maintenance record is always kept.

In the worst case, stale oil can mean the end of the gearbox. Sometimes, high-torque models require fresh oil – although most car manufacturers talk about ‘lifetime refills’. Often generously multiplied.

Lifetime oil changes after up to eight years

After 200,000 km it is clear that the Automatic Transmission Fluid (ATF) – as the things are called in technical jargon – is gone. The high weight and fast highway steps increased the wear. Oil supply manufacturer ZF recommends changing the oil at ‘above average operating conditions after 80,000 to 120,000 kilometers or eight years’. For this, the seller has more than 58 service centers in Germany.

The oil from this car has been in transit for over 13 years. The engine oil has already been changed twelve times (despite the longevity). Interesting: the several hundred page manual does not mention the need to change the transmission oil in the V6 TDI. The ZF service center in Dortmund, Germany, knows the subject well and offers affordable service for all brands.

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The smell of burning oil

When draining the oil, the specialist smells black pitch oil. A slightly burnt smell. In any case, the magnet is untouched. So there are no metal chips in the transmission,” says the ZF man. He then adds new ATF oil and starts the transmission. The mechanisms involved and controls are removed, cleaned and read: except for one error message 20,000 km ago, everything is fine.

Before topping up, the technician replaces the rubber seals. In the end there is a good 560 euros on the list of oil changes. The investment is worth it. The old VW feels very different: it shifts smoothly and beautifully – like many years ago when it was new.

Other types of infection

Oil also ages in other types of gearboxes. Manual, DSG and CVT automatic transmission it must be maintained regularly. Professional workshops and transmission repairers know the exact intervals.

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Our tip

A transmission oil change every eight years or after 80,000 to 120,000 kilometers makes sense and prevents wear and tear. Especially during fast trips on the highway, towing a trailer and a sporty driving style place high demands on transmission oil.