Ford Freestyle transmission fluid, how often does it need to be changed?

manyqxmanyqx Member Posts: 9
edited July 2014 in Ford
This is a follow up on the "Very cold engine" post....
After taking my 2007 FS SEL AWD to the dealer for the poor performance in very low temps (extremely noisy engine and no pull) they suggested I check the transmission fluid level. Since this model has the closed transmission system there shouldn't be a low level, right? Also, we are at 25.000 miles now, I heard that the fluid wouldn't have to be changed until approx. 50,000.
What do the experts on FS and CVT say?
Thanks for your input!!!


  • coldcrankercoldcranker Member Posts: 877
    manyqx, This is a subject I know well. Trust me. Here is what I know:

    1. Ford recommends a CVT transmission service every 60,000 miles regardless of time (only mileage is important). That being said, I personally wouldn't leave fluid in for more than 6 years if I put fewer miles on, in case that is an issue with anyone.

    2. The CVT transmission fluid is special & unique, and can only be purchased at a Ford dealership, as far as I know. This is nowhere near conventional transmission fluid, but the Ford mechanics should know that and put the right stuff in.

    3. Ford mechanics should never flush this CVT. There have been rare reports of silly mechanics who might have flushed it with some kind of solvent. Don't ever do that to this CVT. (OK with normal transmissions, just not this CVT.)

    4. There are two filters inside the CVT. The pan filter never has to be changed, according to Ford. The other filter, Motorcraft part number FT-178 Filter Kit, should be put on every 60,000 miles when the fluid is changed, and there are also o-rings in that kit that a Ford mechanic would know what to do with. There have been rare reports of dealership service departments not knowing quite what to do with the CVT, treating it like a conventional transmission, and changing the pan filter and forgetting about the real filter (FT-178) that they need to replace (some confusion). When I go to do all this, I'm going to list out the steps and bring the FT-178 part to them to make sure it jogs the Ford mechanics memory. I'd recommend getting an FT-178 mail order from, as they are about 70% cheaper than most Ford dealership parts departments with this small filter.

    5. When they change the fluid, I don't think they can get all the old stuff out. Thats OK, just let them drain it and fill it back up with as much new fluid as they can.

    6. One person I read about on another thread got a used Freestyle with about 100,000 miles on the CVT, and the original past owners forgot to service the transmission. This was not a big problem apparently, as the Freestyle CVT was doing fine. This is a tough fluid, after all. So one shouldn't panic too much if 60,000 miles isn't nailed on the head.

    7. When checking the fluid level, the temperature of the fluid has to be carefully taken into account, a procedure a Ford mechanic should know, and he'll pull a top plug out and stick a special dipstick in there.

    8. I'm pretty sure that low CVT fluid level would show up as a warning light on the instrument panel. Not absolutely sure of that, so ask a Ford mechanic.
  • barnstormer64barnstormer64 Member Posts: 1,106
    Funny you should ask this now. I went by Ford today and asked about how frequently I should have the fluid changed in the CVT. The manual only says 60,000 miles, with no mention of time or "hard service". Mine is 4 years old with 30k miles on it. I was considering changing every 30k miles.

    The Service Advisor told me that you don't have to change the fluid on this thing. Strange answer. He said that the 60k mentioned in the manual is just a "generic thing" for most transmissions, and shouldn't be in there. I don't think I believe him.
  • coldcrankercoldcranker Member Posts: 877
    barnstormer, You are right not to believe that Service Advisor. The "generic" Ford automatic transmission service fluid/filter change is 100,000 miles on most newer Fords. The CVT has a more frequent fluid/filter change interval, unfortunately for us.

    It is true that time is not a factor, only mileage, in both kinds of automatic transmission fluids.

    If I were you, I wouldn't change it every 30,000 miles. I'm thinking about doing mine at 55,000 miles, just a little early.
  • barnstormer64barnstormer64 Member Posts: 1,106
    He did mention that the new Fords were 100k miles for the transmissions.

    I was assuming that at the time I bought my Freestyle (and Five Hundred with a CVT, too) that Ford's transmissions were typically 60k.

    I also asked about any fluid for the AWD system (I have that on both vehicles). He indicated that there wasn't anything that needed to be changed. Doesn't seem right to me.
  • coldcrankercoldcranker Member Posts: 877
    I don't know about the AWD system, but it wouldn't surprise me that it never needs changing, as car makers have moved toward using synthetic diff oil in those that will last for 10 years, which is all they care about.

    When we say "newer" Fords have a 100,000 transmision change interval, I think thats been the case for about 8 years now in Ford's conventional automatics, so thats what I mean by "newer". The CVT is really an aberration. A totally different animal, as that big steel chain inside needs its lube.
  • barnstormer64barnstormer64 Member Posts: 1,106

    Seems surprising to me that the Service Advisor was that unaware of the CVT's requirements.

    I honestly don't think that particular dealer has ever serviced the CVT. That Service Advisor has been there at least 5 or 6 years.
  • coldcrankercoldcranker Member Posts: 877
    That service advisor probably just had a brain freeze or something. Ford has put about 350,000 or so CVTs in Ford500s/ Freestyles/Montegos in recent memory.
  • barnstormer64barnstormer64 Member Posts: 1,106
    Yeah, but how many of those have had to have the fluid changed so far?
  • tim156tim156 Member Posts: 308
    If that particular dealer, or any dealer for that matter, sold only a few or no Freestyles they may not have sent any techs to CVT training. The first question I would ask is "have your transmission technicians received CVT training and does your shop have the proper equipment for a CVT fluid change"? Any cross contamination with conventional tranny fluid can damage your CVT. I asked at my dealer and two techs are certified. Also, if you purchased your Freestyle from a small town dealer, I would consider taking it to a higher volume dealership to have the CVT maintenance done. The reason being, there's a better chance they have the proper equipment and the certified techs, not a transmission tech who has to read a step, perform it, read another step and so on. Since this work is done at approximately 60000 miles, many cars will be past the warranty date. If there was a problem say 2000 miles later because the tech wasn't properly trained and you couldn't prove it, well, I know how ticked off I would be.
  • coldcrankercoldcranker Member Posts: 877
    Ford sold more Ford500s than Freestyles, and about half of those had CVTs. Since the average vehicle gets 12,000 miles per year, probably only about 5% of all CVTs sold have had the service. Guessing, of course. Some small percentage anyway. Its probably getting to be a common, hot issue now among the technicians at Ford dealerships. Just a few more months and they will be practiced.
  • edwinloosedwinloos Member Posts: 3
    I looking to go to Ford to have my 2007 Freestyle transmission serviced. Does anyone know what type of "certification" the Ford mechanic should have for this transmission? It seems like there is a lot of potential to get a mechanic (even at a Ford dealer) who isn't specifically trained on the CVT and might do something wrong that would end up costing me money in the end.
  • bruneau1bruneau1 Member Posts: 468
    I wonder how many Freestyle owners have had trouble after having the transmission serviced. There are several specific procedures to follow with the cvt and i doubt that all technicians know what to do. Find out if the person who is going to do it has experience with this cvt. I am not going to have mine serviced until 60,000 miles and then only after some investigation. In any case,. this cvt is not to be flushed and the fluid is expensive.
  • coldcrankercoldcranker Member Posts: 877
    edwinlos, I wouldn't be too concerned now, in 2010 after the CVT has been out there for over 5 years. The mechanics know it by now. However, some service advisors are kind of slow to figure it all out. I took mine in for the CVT service and had to teach the service advisor what Ford's recommendations are! Just be informed and make sure the service advisor doesn't think or do weird ignorant things here. Of course, the mechanic should be able to insist on whats right anyway, so it should be fine anyway.
  • mrachedimrachedi Member Posts: 6
    Yep agree 60,000 is change target, and right it is not cheap. I think we paid $450 or such to have it done at KC MO dealer.
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