R35 GT-R Maintenance Logs Part 1 - Oil and Tranny

Today I'm adding a new series of blog posts talking about various maintenance jobs on my R35 GT-R as I go through them. Why did I think of doing this? It's simple really – the R35 is more accessible now to more people because even though the new ones have seen their price go up by almost 50% from when the car debuted in 2009 there are plenty of used ones on the market to be had. At around $50-60K on the bottom end the R35 has never been cheaper to purchase but like anything that's fairly exotic the ownership costs aren't something you want to ignore. My 2010 R35 will be going through some of the major services it needs this year so I thought it'd be a good time to post about them so that prospective owners can get an idea of what they're in for.

First off, lets get this out of the way – the R35 isn't so expensive to maintain that you'll have to beg Robert Wagner to give you a reverse mortgage in order to afford it. That being said, don't expect either that you'll pay Versa costs for a car that has about as much in common with one as I have things in common with Katie Ledecky.

Of course the most basic service you'll need is the ever-popular oil change – which on an R35 has to occur at least every six months or 6000 miles. The process on an R35 isn't very different from any other car except that you'll have to undo an access panel (or remove whole sections of the undertray on the 2009 cars) to get at the drain plug from underneath. It's certainly within the realm of a do-it-yourselfer but I prefer to leave my own R35's care and feeding to my local dealer since the service staff are friends of mine who give me a good deal so the cost savings just aren't enough for me to sacrifice valuable goofing-off time to do it.

If you don't have the benefit of being best buds with your local Nissan dealer typical labor for an oil change will cost $90. The bigger cost is the oil (synthetic of course), filter, and the clips for the access panel that need to be replaced periodically which comes out to around $145 at normal prices through a Nissan dealer. If you're not DIYing and want to save a little it's cheaper to just buy a good oil yourself and give it to the dealer. Nissan recommends Mobil 1 0W40 from the factory but if you have a modded car check with your tuner for his recommendation – mine used Motul 300V 15w50 so that's what I use. Besides, it smells like bananas.
My car uses Dodson GR6 transmission oil and banana juice a.k.a. Motul 300V full synthetic oil.

A private shop is also a good option to save but make sure you find one with plenty of experience. It's becoming much easier to find a good shop now though with more and more R35s running around. Whatever you do, don't take it to just some random quick lube joint so some inept monkey can forget to refill the motor with oil or hack up your undertray to get access.

If you do plan on DIYing an R35 service, note that you'll need a few things to do it properly – since the R35 is a pretty low car even at stock height you'll want some low-profile ramps to get the car up. Depending on your preferred method you may also need a low-profile jack and some properly outfitted jack stands. The R35 uses pocket-style jack points like on many European luxury cars rather than the pinch welds on most lower-end vehicles so for commited DIYers you should consider investing in some pads and/or special stands like the ones from Reverse Logic that I have for my car as shown in the pic below. Some people use blocks of wood for cushioning but I prefer the security of having a proper tool for the job when dealing with my own baby.
On top are a pair of modified Torin jack stands from Reverse Logic and at the bottom is their R35-specific jack pad.

The most expensive fluid change on an R35 is the tranny fluid change. Thankfully, for the average street-driven R35 this is recommended only every 18,000 miles or 18 months for a CBA (2009-2011) R35 or an even longer 36,000 miles or 36 months for the later models, so it'll be a while between changes. Cars frequently driven on track however may need this done in a tenth of that interval or less depending on the tranny temps reached so be aware of that if you're addicted to the circuit. You may need Robert Wagner on speed dial after all in that case.

The OEM Nissan tranny fluid is pricey at about $700 for enough to do one change. Add about $175 in labor minimum plus about $40-50 in miscellaneous washers, clips, and plugs and you can see why this is a pretty big expense. One good way to save is to pick up aftermarket fluid like the one from Dodson that costs about $500 for a 10 liter container that's enough for one service. Even with my R35's upgraded stage 2.5 tranny Sheptrans recommends the Dodson fluid so you know it's good stuff.

I had both of these services done a couple of months ago and normally I'd also have had my diff fluid swapped at the same time as the tranny fluid as per the manual but my car's on a slightly different schedule due to the build it went through. That service is coming up though plus a coolant flush so I'll talk about that in the next maintenance log. In the meantime I hope this has been helpful for anyone considering picking up Nissan's flagship car.

Cost summary for part 1:
Oil change - ~ $235 through a dealer
~ $ 100+ if DIY (varies widely depending on oil used)

Transmission fluid change - ~$915 through a dealer
~$540 depending on fluid used

UPDATE (9/25/16): Changed the listed intervals for the transmission fluid change to reflect the extended recommendation for the later generation R35s that's different from the one for my 2010 car.