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First introduced in 2000, the midsize sedan Kia Optima produced by the South Korean automaker Kia Motors has mixed reviews from customers regarding the transmission. Some say it’s more than smooth and efficient, whereas some reportedly claimed rough and slipping shifting over the years. 

However, the performance of the transmission, not just for the Kia Optima, largely depends on the strategy you follow in terms of transmission fluid change.

Under normal driving conditions, I would recommend you change the Kia Optima transmission fluid every 60,000 miles or 4 years, whichever comes first for the automatic transmissions. At the same time, you should keep in mind that the fluid change intervals can vary from model to model and driving conditions.

When To Change Transmission Fluid Kia Optima?

When to change transmission fluid kia optima

The need to change transmission fluid depends on certain factors. The type of transmission system your vehicle has, the transmission fluid it uses, the way you drive your car, and so on. 

Taking the owner’s manual into account, you need to change the transmission fluid every 60,000 miles in most cases. But if your vehicle is involved in towing or heavy-duty maneuvers, you likely need to change it earlier than the recommended fluid change interval. 

Now, there are times when the owner’s manual is not everything you would get benefitted following blindly. For instance, if you experience rough gear shifts, frequent slips, and a lack of strength from the transmission, it is high time you changed your Kia Optima’s transmission fluid, no matter how old your transmission fluid is! 

These symptoms also include hesitation, delayed shifting, and overheating of the transmission. On top of that, a whining, buzzing, or clunking noise coming from your Kia Optima’s transmission may be a sign that the transmission fluid is old or degraded and needs to be changed immediately. 

Changing the transmission fluid on your Kia Optima is comparatively easier than changing the transmission fluid on a Jeep Cherokee. On the other hand, Honda Civic is known best for its easy transmission fluid pan access. 

Kia Optima Transmission Fluid Type

Kia Optima Transmission Fluid Type
Kia Optima Transmission Fluid Type

Now that you know when to change the transmission fluid change, it’s time to answer the most important question- “What kind of transmission fluid does a Kia Optima take?”

Well, it depends on the model you are using and the type of transmission installed on that particular vehicle. Below are the model numbers and their transmission fluid type with standard specifications- 

2010 Kia Optima:

2010 Kia Optima is the first generation of Kia Optima which recommends the use of Automatic Transmission Fluid SP-III for vehicles with automatic transmissions.

2011-2013 Kia Optima

2011 -2013 Kia came with a change in their transmission system typically requires Automatic Transmission Fluid SP-IV type for optimal performance.

2014-2015 Kia Optima

Along with a facelift, this particular version of the vehicle features a shift-by-wire system, which allows for more precise and responsive shifts, and a transmission cooler to help regulate the transmission fluid temperature. This version of Kia Optima typically requires SP-IV Automatic Transmission Fluid.

2016-2021 Kia Optima (Non-hybrid)

2016-2021 Kia Optima is designed to use Automatic Transmission Fluid SP-IV or SPH-IV for optimal usage. The transmission 2016-2021 Kia Optima (Non-hybrid) is equipped with a lock-up torque converter. It’s good at reducing slippage between the engine and transmission and fuel efficiency. 

2016-2021 Kia Optima (Hybrid)

Hybrid Automatic Transmission Fluid is recommended for the 2016-2021 Kia Optima (Hybrid) version. The Kia Optima hybrid transmission fluid change is known best for high efficiency in terms of intervals. 

2022 Kia Optima

The latest version of Kia Optima 2022 uses the Automatic Transmission Fluid SP-IV for better results. However, you should always check your owner’s manual before choosing the type of transmission fluid. 

Kia Optima Transmission Fluid Check

Kia Optima Transmission Fluid Check
Checking the transmission fluid is not a tough task if you know the basics of vehicle maintenance. Almost all of the Kia Optima models are the same when it comes to fluid check options.

Parking On a Level Surface:

Since you are going to determine the level of the transmission fluid, it’s important to park the vehicle on a level surface to get accurate readings. Park it on a suitable surface and engage the brake.

Starting The Engine To Warm Up The Transmission:

It’s always better to start the engine and give it a little time to warm up the engine. When the engine is cold, the oil level might remain lower than the actual, resulting in a false reading in the dipstick. So, don’t forget to leave your Kia Optima turned on to let the oil settle down to an accurate level. 

Locating The Transmission Dipstick:

The transmission fluid dipstick of the Kia Optima is located near the back of the engine compartment. Typically it is marked with a red or yellow handle, which depends on the model of your Kia Optima.

Pulling The Dipstick Out And Cleaning It:

Once you locate the dipstick pull it out and clean it with a towel cloth. Make sure the engine is on while you do the process. 

Putting The Clean Dipstick Again To Get The Readings:

Now it’s time to reinsert the dipstick. Put it all the way back into the tube and gently pull it out again. Check the readings of the fluid transmission level. If a change is required, it should read “Hot” marked on the dipstick. Some of the dipsticks read “F” for Full and “L” for Low transmission fluid. Now, with the readings at hand, you know what your next move should be!

Kia Optima Transmission Fluid Change: Step By Step

Kia Optima Transmission Fluid Change
Kia Optima Transmission Fluid Change

Changing the transmission fluid of your Kia Optima takes so little time and effort. Perhaps if you have the equipment at your disposal, you can complete the task single-handedly within an hour. 

To change the transmission fluid of your Kia Optima, make sure you have the following equipment- 

  1. Recommended transmission fluid
  2. A socket or wrench set to remove the drain and fill the plugs. 
  3. A large drain pan to catch the old fluid
  4. A funnel to add new transmission oil
  5. A new transmission filter (If required)
  6. A floor jack (if possible)
  7. Wheel chocks

Step 1: Putting The Car In The Parking

Never forget to park your vehicle before you start changing the transmission fluid. I would recommend you use wheel chocks for extra caution. Since the ground clearance of the Kia Optima is not that high, I would suggest you use a jack or car lift for smooth operation. 

Step 2: Locating The Transmission Fluid Pan

The transmission fluid pan is located at the bottom of your Kia Optima. It is typically a flat, rectangular-shaped metal piece. 

The location will be slightly different in terms of the 2016 Kia Optima hybrid transmission fluid change. It is located on the driver’s side of the engine compartment. However,  if you are performing a Kia Optima 2016 automatic transmission fluid change, it will be at the bottom of the transmission. 

Step 3: Placing The Drain Pan

Put the large drain pan under the transmission fluid pan to catch up the existing fluid.

Step 4: Removing The Bolt From The Transmission Fluid Pan

Use a socket wrench, typically it will require a 15/16 mm socket wrench to unbolt the transmission fluid pan. Use a hammer if it’s too tight. However, pans or gaskets are fragile things. So, don’t overdo it. 

Step 5: Draining The Old Oil and Cleaning The Pan Using a Towel Cloth

Make sure you have placed the drain pan in place. Let gravity work to bring the old oil out. You can also bring the dipstick out and use a towel cloth to clean it to the fullest. 

Step 6: Reinstall The Bolts

Once everything is clean inside, it’s time to reinstall the bolts. I always suggest tightening the bolts in a crisscross pattern. Do not over-tighten the bolts, it will damage the pan.

Step 7: Refilling The Fluid Using a Funnel Through The Dipstick Tube

Reassemble everything. Now, go up and use the funnel to pour the transmission with the recommended type of oil for your Kia Optima. 

I always suggest people not fill transmission fluid fully at once. Refill 90%, put the dipstick back,  and turn on the engine for a few minutes. Now, pull the dipstick back again and check if it needs more fluid or not. This way you can get high efficiency. That’s it, you are done!

Kia Optima Transmission Fluid Change Cost

The standard cost of transmission fluid change of Kia Optima is between $100-$250. Which is comparatively lower than the Silverado, or the likes of GMC Sierra transmission fluid change cost. 

Note: The transmission fluid change cost of the Kia Optima varies from model to model. It also depends on the location, the type of fluid you are using, and the service charge of the workshop.  However, the difference is not sky-high.

Kia Optima Transmission Fluid Change Interval 

The recommended interval time of some of the popular models is as follows: 

2010-2015 Kia Optima models with automatic transmissionsEvery 60,000 miles.
2016-2022 models with automatic transmissionsEvery 100,000 miles
Kia Optima 2010-2022 with manual transmissionEvery 30,000-45,000 miles or every 48 months, whichever comes first. 
Kia Optima hybrid models Every 60,000 miles, or every 48 months, whichever comes first. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

What is the Kia Optima transmission fluid capacity of 2010-2022 automatic transmission versions?

2010-2015 Kia Optima with 6-speed automatic transmission has 7.8 quarts (7.4 liters), 2016-2022 Kia Optima with 6-speed automatic transmission has 7.7 quarts (7.3 liters) transmission fluid capacity.

What is the Kia Optima transmission fluid capacity of 2010-2022 manual transmission versions?

2011-2015 Kia Optima with 6-speed manual transmission has 2.4 quarts (2.3 liters) and the 2016-2022 Kia Optima with 6-speed manual transmission has 2.4 quarts (2.3 liters) transmission oil capacity. 

Is the transmission fluid change cost higher for Kia Optima hybrid versions? 

Yes, the transmission cost of the hybrid versions is slightly higher than the Kia Optima non-hybrid versions.

What will happen if I use the wrong type of transmission fluid in my Kia Optima?

It’s likely that your transmission system will encounter overheating, leaks, and reduced performance if you use the wrong type of transmission fluid in your Kia Optima. 

Final Verdict 

Frequent transmission fluid changes on Kia Optima can increase the performance of your vehicle. It may feel like a hectic job in the first place, but trust me, the performance of a regularly changed transmission fluid vehicle will never be as smooth as the one not taken care of.

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