In our continued efforts to educate consumers on the importance of maintaining your car, we are going to talk about your transmission. Simply put, without a transmission your vehicle will not go. Today’s vehicles last longer and are less likely to break down…..true and false. Today’s vehicles are much more sophisticated than their ancestors and their regular maintenance is more important than ever. With regular maintenance most new generation vehicles will go 200,000 miles without any major issues, but the key is regular maintenance. Their are some simple facts with any vehicle, parts to wear with time and use and when they break, it costs sufficiently more to fix. So smaller investments along the way can prolong your major expenses to the distant future.
As with any major system, the transmission is often ignored or overlooked until it actually breaks, and then it is huge expense and inconvenience. Transmissions run anywhere from $2500 to well over $5000 dollars depending on the vehicle. Admittedly, even with regular maintenance, transmissions fail. There are many factors that wear on your transmission, such as driving habits. Do you tow with your vehicle. Are you driving within the limits of your vehicle? Do you live in extreme temperatures, hills, dirt roads, heavy commuting traffic……all of these things take a toll on your vehicle, and that includes your transmission.
Your automatic transmission is the most complex and most expensive to repair/replace systems in your vehicle. It has to do a lot of work and it doesn’t require as many regular services as your engine. this is most likely one of the reasons that transmissions get neglected. Everybody knows that engine oil must be changed regularly for the engine to last, but what about the transmission? An automatic transmission depends on the transmission fluid to do all of the work: the gears, it lubricates all the moving parts and cools down the transmission. The transmission fluid lasts longer than engine oil, but it still deteriorates over time and under load and high temperature. For this reason, keeping your transmission fluid clean and at the proper level is vital. It is also important review your owner’s manual to make sure you are using the right type of fluid. This is one of many reasons that it is recommended that you take your vehicle to a certified brand shop such as your local dealership. Dealership technicians and advisors are certified and trained in their specific brand, and you can count on them using the appropriate fluids and genuine factory parts.
What can damage your automatic transmission:
Most transmission problems begin with overheating. Under heavy load, such as when towing a trailer, rocking the vehicle from the snow, having continuous stop and go traffic in hot weather, racing, etc. the transmission overheats. At higher temperatures the transmission oxidizes, losing its lubricating qualities and leaving deposits inside the transmission. If you check your transmission fluid in an overheated state it will be dark and dirty with a strong burnt smell. Exposed to the heat the rubber seals, O-rings, become hard and brittle. The metal parts warp causing valves to stick. Al of this, sooner or later, results in transmission failure.
There are many stories out there of people who have purchased a pre-owned vehicle and the transmission has failed shortly after the purchase, but there are an equal number of stories of new vehicle transmissions failing. It is inevitible the whole story will come out. Example: Guy buys a brand new Audi only has it 3 days. It snows, and he uneducated on how to drive in the snow, so he spends a very long time spinning out in the snow, rocking back and forth etc. This was not a failure on the part of the manufacturer, but improper use of the transmission and allowing it to get too hot. Another tale of woe: Brand new Ford Escape with towing package. The Escape is designed to tow a certain weight limit, the owners did not read the manual, and figured since it had a hitch on it it could tow anything. So they borrowed a friends large ski boat, and loaded it with all of their camping gear and headed over the pass. It was over the weight by about 2,000lbs and their attempts to not be one of those “slow people”, they pushed the vehicle beyond its limits. The transmission blew at the top of the pass. Because of their failure to read the owner’s manual, it was not covered by warranty.
How to prevent transmission problems:
It is always a good idea to regularly check your parking space for drips and leaks. Now your car will leave some traces of fluid that may appear to be oil, but are really just rode grime. However, when in doubt, check it out. While a full repair diagnostic can generally run around $100, a multi-point inspection is a few dollars (on average about $20), and sometimes no charge with an oil change or other minor service. During Car Car Months, multi-point inspections are free at all Bruce Titus Automotive Group locations.
Check your transmission fluid level and condition. Unsure how? stop in your local dealer and ask them to check for you, or request that they check at each of your oil changes. Now, some vehicles can’t be checked in your driveway, for example late model Volkswagen models can only be checked by a mechanic. However, if you car has the feature and you are up to it, check it regularly, especially if you have been putting it through its paces lately. Foul or exteme weather, towing, long trip, etc. Review your Owner’s manual for instructions on how to check the fluid in your make and model vehicle. Chage the fluid as often as it is recommended and get the lines flushed about ever 30,000 miles (this varies by make/model and type of fluid used, but it is a good guideline) or 2 years.
Your transmission fluid should be red, if it is brown, black or smells burned it needs to be changed immediately. Use only the same type of fluid as directed by your owner’s manual. Many new vehicles are very sensitive to the fluid type, for example the Subaru Forester, model 2011 and newer require synthetic transmission fluid..
Never shift to Reverse or Park unless at a complete stop. Do not shift from Park to other modes at high engine RPM’s.
READ YOUR OWNER”S manual! This is important but becomes critical when towing or extreme outside normal use of your vehicle. Operating outside of the guidelines of your owner’s manual can result in Warranty denial.
Transmission flush vs drain and refill:
There are two ways to replace transmission fluid. the “drain and fill” method involves draining all of the fluid from the drain plug, or if there is no draing plug, from the transmission pan and refilling ther transmission with new fluid. In some cars, there is a fluid filter that also should be replaced when the fluid is changed. The “transmission flush” is usually done with a special machine that is connected in series to one of the transmission fluid cooler lines. With the engine running the machine pumps out old transmission fluid replading it with new fluid at the same time.
What is the difference?
With the “drain and fill” method only about 40-50% of the fluid can be changed at once, because a large portion of fluid remaining in the torque converter, valve body and other parts of the transmission cannot be drained. The drain and fill is not a less expensive option and can be done early on in the breakdown of the oil, but will need to be done more often for maximum protection.
The “Flush” method allows a replacement factor of 90-95% and also pushes out any sediment that may be remaining or settled in thelines. However, the “Flush” method is not always the best method and depends on the make and model of the vehicle. Discuss the best options with your Service Advisor.
How to use an overdrive:
Generally speaking, and overdrive (O/D) is the highest gear in the trasmission. On most cars the transmission has 3 or 4 gears and an overdive (4th/5th). Overdrive allows the engine to have less repm witht he higher speed in order to have better fuel efficiency. When you switchit on, you allow the transmission to shift into overdrive mode after a certain speed is reached. When it is off the transmission will not shift into the O/D gear- in normal driving conditions the O/D should always be on.
You may want to switch it off when driving in mountainous regions or while towing a trailer.
The transmission automatically shifts from O/D to the lwoer gear when it feels more load. When it feels less load it shifts back to the O/D. Sometimes, under certain conditions, such as driving uphill or towing a trailer, the transmission may not b e able to decie to stay in O/D or to shift into the lower gear and it starts to shift back and forth continuously. This is a time when you may want to switch the O/D off and help the transmission decide.
You may also want to switch off when you want to slowdown using the engine braking for example driving downhill. As always, review your Owner’s Manual.
It’s time to visit the dealerhsip:
If you are experiencing any problems with your transmission such as leadks, noises, problems with shifting, etc., please don’t wait until the problem becomes worse. It is so much less expensive to have it checked and maintained than to replace. If you wait until it is worse it will be too late, you will finally stop and chances are it won’t be at a convenient time and location. These problems do not self correct.
Your vehicle’s transmission fluids need to be replaced regularly, read your owner’s manual for the minimum recommended intervals, to assure trouble-free shifting and to extend the life of your transmission, AND help your fuel economy. If you know that you have your transmission has experienced or possibly experienced, some extreme temperatures or activities, consult your Service Advisor on your next visit to the dealership and ask to check your fluid. And just so you know, it is ok, to watch them check it, so you can see the color for yourself.
Call 866-99MOTOR or online schedule your free Multi-Point Inspection today. Don’t wait until it is too late.