Wednesday, October 2, 2013

How to Take Proper Care of Your Transmission

You probably already know that the automatic transmission of your car is one of the most critical components that keeps your vehicle moving forward. And something as intricate as that needs proper maintenance in order for it to keep going for the long haul. Automatic transmissions are a little more complex than its manual counterparts so it needs a little more care than one might expect.

As you should already know automatics rely heavily on transmission fluid in order to keep it running strong. The fluid is critical in that it lubricates and cools the many various components that lie within your vehicle and it is important to maintain that fluid at a reasonable consistency. Old, dirty fluid can cause a number of problems including slipping gears, loss of acceleration, and of course failure. The last thing you want to have is a transmission failure that can cost a whole heap of money to repair let alone replace. The biggest reason why transmissions fail or develop problems is because owners forget to maintain it on a regular basis.

Heat is your worst enemy. Heat is the main cause for short car lifespans and I will explain why. Transmissions rely on fluid to keep it running smoothly. As I have said fluid is what lubricates and cools the many parts in your car. The harder your transmission works the more heat it produces and the more heat it is exposed to causes it to eventually develop problems. When fluid temperatures rise above 215 degrees Fahrenheit varnish forms; higher and seals harden, plates slip, seals and plates burn out, and carbon forms. If fluid temperature rises above 315 degrees Fahrenheit than expect your car to last less than 800 miles. If kept at 175 degrees Fahrenheit than your car will be able to drive over 100,000 miles. See how much difference that makes? Even a 20 degree drop from 220 to 200 degrees in fluid temperature can double the lifespan of your transmission! So of course this is why fluid is critical to the health of your transmission.

Probably one of the most common and most effective ways in prolonging your transmission is by getting a fluid change as recommended by the car manufacturer. Most automotive experts suggest getting a fluid change every 30,000 miles or 2 years, whichever comes first. It really all depends on your driving habits and the type of fluid used though. A fluid change can be done by yourself but it is recommended that you take it into a repair shop where the technicians are knowledgeable in car maintenance. The service is quite simple and consists of dropping the pan to remove the old fluid as well as to inspect for contaminants. The filter gets changed accordingly and fluid is then added to the proper levels. The main reason why you want to bring it into a repair shop is because the technicians will know if there is a problem with the transmission by looking at the old fluid. However a fluid change does not insure that ALL of the old fluid is removed. A lot of fluid can still remain in cooler lines and the torque converter which is why the next method explained is generally a better option.

Another common car maintenance routine is to get a transmission flush. A transmission flush is where all the fluid is removed and the system gets thoroughly cleaned. The process involves connecting a pump to the cooler lines to remove all the old fluid. New fluid is then replaced at the same time so that the old fluid is not able to contaminate the new fluid. A flush is much more effective than a change because ALL of the old fluid is replaced. This allows the new fluid to do a much better job at cooling and lubricating the transmission. Costs for a flush can run a little higher than a fluid change but many say it is well worth it for how much it helps to extend the life of the tranny.

If you are not sure how long or how many miles it has been since you have had a fluid change or a flush then a good way to know when to get your car serviced is by checking the fluid. Automotive experts recommend checking the fluid level and condition every month regardless of whether you are experiencing problems or not. You can find many detailed tutorials online about how to check the fluid but I will give you a quick synopsis about how it is done.

The process goes something like this. For most makes and models the car needs to be running in order to get accurate results. Usually the car is taken for a drive in order to warm up the engine and fluids. Transmission fluid actually expands quite a bit when it is warmed up so checking the fluid while the car is cold can have misleading results. Once the car is warmed up it should be put in park or neutral on a level surface and then the hood needs to be popped. Most cars have a fluid dipstick near the transmission; you can find where it is located in the owner manual. After you have found the dipstick you will want to remove it and wipe it on a clear paper towel or a rag of some kind. This will be where the color and condition is inspected. Normally fluid should be a bright, clear red. A dark red or light brown are okay colors if the fluid has been used for some time but darker colors can mean it needs to be serviced, especially if it is a dark brown. Colors closer to black may mean that your transmission has a problem. Also if the fluid smells burnt then this can also mean that it has problems. If there are metal shavings or large particles floating about then that may mean that the filter has failed to do its job or it may mean bigger problems. To check whether the fluid has oxidized wipe some of it on a paper towel, if it does not spread then this means it has oxidized. If the fluid shows any of those symptoms - dark colors such as brown or black, a burnt smell, large particles or metal shavings, or fluid oxidation -- then it means your car needs to be taken in to be serviced. If everything seems okay then at this point you will want to check the fluid levels. Simply re-insert the dipstick after wiping it down and then remove it again. The fluid should be somewhere between the two marks. If it is below the second mark then you will want to add the specified transmission fluid suggested in the owner manual in small quantities, checking periodically until the levels reach in between the two marks.

If you stay on top of maintenance procedures then your car will last much longer than average. It is vital to take care of your car unless you want to face expensive repairs or the purchase of an entirely new car later on. Be sure to properly maintain your car on a regular basis because it works tirelessly for you, the least you can do is to keep it in good running condition.

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