Are Automotive Fluid Flushes Worth the Cost?

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This post is related to the vehicle preventative maintenance post. The majority of the time, when people are at Matt’s Automotive Service Center for their auto and truck maintenance, we are consistently asked if “vehicle flushes are worth it” or if “vehicle flushes are even worth the cost”. These can be challenging questions to answer, as there are many different factors that have to be considered in able to determine what is best for you and your vehicle. Our short answer is yes, however, it’s always recommended to reach out to us so we can help determine what is best for your vehicle.

Vehicle Flushes

The bottom line about vehicle flushes, is that it all comes down to how long you want your vehicle to last. If your vehicle was purchased brand new and is less than 3 years or below 30,000 miles, you more than likely will not receive a return on investment with having your vehicle’s systems flushed. But, if you purchased a pre-owned or used vehicle and don’t know if it was properly maintained you should definitely have your fluids checked to determine if the fluids need to be flushed or changed at all.

If you want to find out the vehicle maintenance history yourself, we recommend obtaining a CarFax Report for your vehicle to help determine the maintenance history (if any) has been completed on your vehicle. This can be greatly useful in determining if you need a fluid flush. However, the CarFax Report doesn’t help you in determine how the previous owner(s) treated the vehicle and cannot determine the current quality of the fluids in your vehicle. If the vehicle was treated poorly, it could require the need to have your fluid to be flushed earlier than recommended since the treatment of the vehicle eroded. Speaking of recommended, you can usually find the vehicle recommendations for fluid flushes in your owner’s manual to see what the manufacturer recommends for your vehicle. Again, we just emphasize that if you didn’t own your vehicle brand new, you may still want to get your fluids checked to determine their condition if the previous owner(s) did not take good care of your vehicle. This can help extend the life of the vehicle and prevent costly repairs in the future.

In many cases, vehicle owners are not aware that their vehicle contains a lot of fluid in it besides oil. These fluids are for the transmission, engine cooling (coolant), power steering fluid, brake fluid, fuel injection systems and rear-differential flush. It’s important that you take care of all the fluids in your vehicle, to ensure the operational longevity of your vehicle to ensure you receive the biggest return on investment with your vehicle purchase and the maintenance of it with these fluid flushes.

A fluid flush is the process of ‘flushing’ out all the bad fluid that is at end-of-life, sludgy, contains containments, or just either clogging your system or not performing the way the fluid should be for the system it is operating within, in your vehicle. At Matt’s Automotive we recommend having your first flush at around 30,000 miles and then every 30,000 miles after during the life of your vehicle. This should ensure the longevity of your vehicle by having all your systems operating at their best. If you are past 30,000 miles are even at or past 100,000 miles and don’t know if the fluids have been flushed in your vehicle. Relax. It’s okay. We just recommend you schedule an appointment to have your fluids inspected and to determine if you need a fluid flush, which you more than likely will if your vehicle is that high in miles with no fluid flushes being completed through the life of the vehicle.

Types of Vehicle Flushes

Transmission Flush

We recommend having your transmission fluid flushed every 30,000-35,000 miles and ensure that the transmission filter is changed during this flush as well. Automakers may have the recommendation of around the 75,000-100,000 mile mark to have this service completed. However, transmission fluid is actually an oil, and like any oil it breaks down after awhile. You don’t drive your vehicle with 3,000 mile oil in it, until 30,000 miles. So why would you do the same with your transmission? With transmissions and their costly repair, we recommend to side on the err of caution since the transmission flush cost is usually around $150 (depending upon make and model of the vehicle) and is cheaper than a full transmission repair.

Engine Cooling (Coolant/Anti-Freeze) Flush

This is a combination recommendation as vehicles 2011 and newer are using 5-year to 10-year coolant/antifreeze, greatly reducing the need for an engine coolant flush from the ordinary antifreeze. However, we are ‘weary’ of the 5-year to 10-year claim and still think you should check the quality of the fluid over the miles and is why we still recommend getting your fluids checked every 30,000-35,000 miles as it can also determine if something is wrong with the system before something major happens. For all the ‘older’ vehicles of 2011 and older, it is still recommend to have this completed every 50,000-75,000 miles.

Power Steering Flush

Many automakers claim that this fluid can last for a ‘lifetime’ but power steering systems are exposed to engine bay heat and sub-zero winter temperatures that can breakdown the consistency of the fluid and could slowly damage and erode the steering gear seals, pump and/or hoses that can eventually lead to failure. Therefore, we recommend a power steering fluid service flush every 50,000-75,000 miles and to at least have the fluid checked every 30,000-35,000 miles.

Brake Fluid Flush

This is an important fluid for your vehicle as it’s the reason you can stop your vehicle. But, many automakers seldom have a recommended replacement interval for brake fluid. However, we recommend to have your brake fluid checked because brake fluid addresses the reduction of the water content in the fluid, as with the age of the brake fluid water can be introduced into the brake system via condensation. Brake fluid should be clear or translucent, if the fluid is rust-colored it means that moisture has or is getting into the system and a flush is needed, if the brake fluid is black or burnt smelling, contact a mechanic immediately as your brake system is failing!

Fuel-Injection Flush

We all know the importance of gas mileage, and having clogged fuel system cleanings can prevent reaching your vehicles optimal gas mileage performance. That’s why you should get a fuel system cleaning every 30,000-35,000 miles and this this done by a certified ASE Technician with a shop, like at Matt’s Automotive as fuel system cleanings requires specialized training and equipment that many places cannot offer.

Rear-Differential Flush

This is one of the most overlooked maintenance flushes for all rear-wheel drive vehicles. In a rear-wheel-drive vehicle the rear-differential has its own lubrication and keeping all the moving parts in the rear-differential healthy prevents ‘slipping’ or complete wear down that would require full replacement of the rear-differential which is not a cheap repair. We recommend changing this oil at least every 30,000-35,000 miles and should not really exceed 50,000 miles.

Vehicle Flush Conclusion

Lastly, if you need more convincing, here are a few more reasons why automotive fluid flushes are important:

Odds are your vehicle is worth significantly less now compared to when you bought it. If you financed it and don’t have money saved for a down payment on a newer vehicle, you’ll be driving it until your loan is paid in full or even after your loan is paid off;

Any system that uses fluid will need a flush, that means transmission fluid, coolant, power steering fluid, and brake fluid – they’re all different, and just like everything else in this world, it wears out and needs replacing; These are major systems and are EXPENSIVE to replace;

At Matt’s Automotive Service Center we use Valvoline Flush Kits and as long as you have it performed by a professional at their recommended service intervals, they’ll at least cover a portion of the repair should that particular system fail. If you have any questions about how that works, be sure to contact us and talk to one of our Service Advisors for more details!

Finally, just remember that all these system flushes don’t really cost much to ensure your vehicle is being maintained to remain at optimal performance. Schedule your appointment today to have your fluids checked and/or flushed by Matt’s Automotive Service Center!