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Flushing the automatic gearbox with Powerflush – the review

A month ago I posted my 2001 Volvo V70 would receive a Powerflush treatment to replace and flush the automatic transmission fluid. Since I drove about 1.000km (625 miles) since the Powerflush treatment I decided to write a review about Powerflush and share my experiences. Well: here it is!

The Volvo-dealer changed the ATF of my V70 a couple of years ago, at a mileage of 223.000km (the car had at the moment of the powerflush 295.000km so the ATF is 72.000km old). The dealer used the drain & fill method (old oil is removed, filled with new one and that’s done a couple of times until the right amount of litres is changed). Since my car had troubles in shifting up at 70km/h to the fifth gear (it took very long) and wasn’t shifting really smooth anymore I decided it was time to change the ATF of my V70. It’s a part of standard maintenance in my opinion and a broken gearbox makes a car impossible to sell (but I didn’t want to sell it at all and prevent any damage on the gearbox).

Powerflush machine materials ATF flush

Click below on more to read the full article.

Some history about the ATF in the Volvo S60, S80 and V70 automatic gearboxes

When the S60, V70 and S80 with Geartronic and AW5 transmission were available at the end of 2000, Volvo said the cars never needed a change of ATF (unless it’s been used under heavy conditions or as a taxi) and the oil should be a longlife oil. Unfortunately it isn’t: many problems and even broken gearboxes are caused by the lack of oil changes: dirt and oil that’s not smooth enough will cause severe damage on solenoids and mechanical parts, resulting in electronic errors, a slipping gearbox or even a complete failure. Besides: the ATF that was used has a expiration of 5 years (according to Powerflush). Toyota and Lexus also used the same type gearboxes in their cars and said the oil needed to be changed every 60.000 to 80.000km (between 35.000 and 50.000 miles). Needless to say the transmissions in a Lexus or Toyota almost never failed and didn’t cause any trouble at all!

Volvo changed their point of view about the longlife ATF and told their dealers after a couple of years to change the oil every 80.000km (50.000 miles). But for many cars it was too late: if they already crossed that mileage (or even doubled or tripled it), the gearbox could be already been damaged. Some Volvo dealers are offering the Powerflush method and the amount of dealers offering Powerflush will increase in the near future. If you have a S60, S80 or V70 automatic and you have doubts about the ATF: change it! It will prevent high bills in the future.

Differences between Powerflushing, drain & fill and a regular ATF change

Back to the story of the flushing. The biggest difference between a Powerflush and a regular ATF change is pretty simple: the Powerflush is done with the whole system of the automatic transmission. The oil cooler, oil pipes and torque converter are being flushed as well. A normal or regular ATF change only empties the transmission itself: the oil cooler, torque converter and pipes will contain some old oil and dirt. You can guess the result: not all ATF has been removed and the most important part (the torque converter) is still dirty and will make the new ATF dirty again. The drain & fill method is a bit better than a regular change: it will remove more old ATF because old oil is being removed, replaced and being removed again. But it’s not a real optimal replacement: dirt and old oil will stay in the torque converter and pipes (but not as much as in the standard replacement). The best way to change ATF is to use the Powerflush method: it cleans the complete system (under some pressure), making sure all old oil is being removed including dirt. And if it’s done with a special cleaner during the Powerflush all dirt is removed. A special conditioner can be added to the new ATF to be sure the ATF will be clean for a long time.

How a Powerflush is done

The Powerflush machine has 2 hoses which will be linked between the oil cooler (radiator) and gearbox pipes (which circulates ATF between transmission and radiator). One hose is installed at the ingoing pipe and one hose is installed at the outgoing pipe. The Powerflush machine has a big tank that is divided into 2 compartments: one for the old oil and one for the new oil. The machine also has a switch which let the oil circulate (nothing is moved to the tank), letting the oil circulate to the left compartment or letting the oil circulate to the right compartment and of course: drain old ATF from the gearbox and torque converter to the tank or fill fluid into the gearbox.

Volvo V70 S60 powerflush connecting radiator oil cooler hoses
These hoses are connected to the oil cooler in- and outgoing pipes 

I went to GS Powerflush (a company of Gery Slot which started and introduced the Powerflush method in The Netherlands) because I heard very great stories about them and it’s the closest powerflush station in my area.

First of all: the hoses of the Powerflush machine are installed. After that the engine of my car is started to warm up the oil. In my case it didn’t take long since I drove about 30km and the ATF should be pretty warm. After that a cleaner is inserted into the tank and sucked into the gearbox. This cleaner will clean the torque converter and solenoids. After being circulated for about 15 minutes the old ATF was being drained until the torque converter is being heard (the engine must be shut down immediately).

ATF Volvo automatic transmission filling pressure flush
More preparation before flushing the automatic gearbox

Powerflush Volvo automatic gearbox machine
And the Powerflush is started! 

When the old ATF is out of the gearbox, radiator, pipes and torque converter the entire system is being flushed with 16 litres new ATF and a conditioner. Then the new ATF will be circulating for a while until the ATF that’s coming out will be 100% clean and bright red. The gearbox is completely clean and will shift as a new gearbox.

Old ATF oil during flushing flush drain After old ATF oil drained from automatic gearbox and is filled with new oil
The old oil is pretty dark and not smooth anymore. The old ATF is pretty dirty, hygroscopic and lost a lot of its viscosity

In case of the Volvo S60, V70 and S80: the software of the automatic transmission will be reset and the learning mode will be activated. After a testdrive with Gery Slot (the owner of GS Power-flush) the gearbox will be learned how to react on the new oil and determine its shift moments. This learning mode is a kind of training for the gearbox and very important to do it the right way, otherwise the gearbox will not act perfectly on the new ATF. When the training is done the results of the flushing are already noticeable: the transmission reacts a lot better and the shifting is smoother. Gery Slot (of GS Power-flush) warns the gearbox can be acting a bit weird in the next days but that’s normal after being flushed. These small hick-ups or strange shifting should be gone in a few days.


After driving more than 1.000km (625 miles) with the flushed V70 I can conclude it works pretty well. The Powerflush doesn’t give a “wow!”-effect but the gearbox shifts a bit smoother. The differences aren’t huge but pretty small and only if you pay extra attention on it you’ll notice a small difference. But I have to say: the gearbox shifts a lot better at 70km/h. Before flushing the gearbox the car had troubles to shift up to the 5th gear and had doubts to shift up or not (very annoying since a lot of roads here are having a 70km/h speed limit and has a lot of speeding cameras). After the flush this strange problem is gone. Besides: changing the ATF should be part of regular maintenance of a Volvo S60, S80 or V70 and just like motor oil changes you’ll not notice any difference.

Powerflushing the gearbox seems a bit pricy : about 300 Euro or $ 430. But actually it isn’t really expensive: the ATF itself costs about 110 Euro (16 litres, $ 150, maybe a bit cheaper depending where you buy it), the conditioner is about 20 Euro and the cleaner is also about 20 Euro. The total costs only for material is 150 Euro, so 150 Euro for labor and the use of the Powerflush machine is not expensive at all. You can’t do it yourself, and even if you can: 150 Euro for this kind of service is a bargain!

My advice: if you need to replace the ATF of your gearbox I recommend the Powerflush method above all other methods. It cleans the entire system perfectly and it should be standard maintenance for your car. And: if you want to sell your car in the future it is a big asset the gearbox is being flushed in the right way.

© Volvotips October 2012

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