The transmission is arguably the most important part of your car, and keeping it in good condition means remaining aware of potential problems and taking steps to protect your car under extreme driving conditions.
You’ll want to take these simple steps to avoid unscheduled transmission repair whether you’re planning a vacation, or your car is starting to show its age in mileage. Keeping a close eye on your car’s transmission is also the best way to catch problems early and reduce your transmission repair cost.
Vehicle Repairs: Getting Ready for Vacation
Before your vacation, you’ll probably spend a few hours packing, making travel arrangements, and setting up the pet sitter. Will you also spend some time making sure your car is road-worthy? If your vehicle is more than a few years old, you’ll want to take care of scheduled maintenance before you depart.
1) Replace The Simple Things and Get a Checkup
Get the oil changed and make sure all the fluids are checked including the transmission fluid. Don’t risk a transmission meltdown with old transmission fluid. Take a look at the tires, too. Make sure they’re inflated and aren’t bald or in need of replacement. Remember to fill the windshield wiper fluid. You don’t want to pass through a cloud of mosquitoes and realize you have no wiper fluid left!
If you’re looking at a transmission with more than 75,000 miles, it couldn’t hurt to get transmission service before you depart. A quick inspection can tell you if there’s a leak in the transfer case or if the differential fluids need replacement.
2) Watch the Weight
When you go on a vacation, there’s a good chance your vehicle will need to hold more weight than usual. If you’ve got a set of parents and a couple of kids in the back, as well as the luggage in the trunk and all over the interior, it’s easy to get close to the vehicle’s recommended weight capacity.
The transmission is already under a lot of pressure. Don’t overburden it by trying to tow something that’s too heavy. A simple look in your vehicle’s manual will give you the numbers you need to determine if you’re putting too much weight in the car.
3) Know How to Drive While Towing
After you determine that your vehicle can take the weight of a trailer and your family’s luggage, it’s also important to know how to drive with a heavy load. Don’t risk needing auto transmission repair while in the middle of nowhere because you’re driving in the wrong gear.
Take a look at the map before you depart and plan ahead for stressful hills and climbs. Find rest stops to park the vehicle for a few minutes if you’re towing at close to the capacity of the vehicle. Also, use the “drive” setting rather than the “overdrive” option to reduce the amount of heat created while driving in stressful conditions.
You’ll also want to get to know your vehicle’s warning signs and the levels of normal operation and temperature. Before leaving on the vacation, take a look at the gauges and take note of things like the oil temperature or the engine temperature. Then, when you’re on vacation, you’ll be able to tell when the temperatures are getting too hot, and you need to rest the vehicle.
4) Get Protection on the Road
Joining AAA or another roadside assistance program is an easy way to make sure any vehicle problems that occur on your vacation can be fixed without great hassle. You may want to check with your insurance company to see if your policy already includes roadside assistance.
You may also want to think about bringing items like an extra cell phone with a full charge, blankets, extra water, and some food, just in case something goes wrong and you have to wait for help. Even if you only have to wait a few hours, sitting in a hot or freezing car while waiting for help can be dangerous.
5) Getting Stuck on the Road: Mud & Snow
In addition to taking precautions before leaving on a vacation, it’s also important to care for your car in stressful driving conditions you may encounter on vacation. For example, you might accidentally get stuck in mud or snow. If you get stuck and press your gas pedal only to have one tire spin wildly while the other remains stationary, you could harm the car’s differential.
Even if your car is meant to work in harsh conditions, such as in the case of a work truck, you’re still risking automatic transmission repair and likely differential failure if you try to force the vehicle out of a rut by pressing the gas pedal as far as it will go.
If you try to drive the vehicle when both wheels aren’t spinning as they should, you may be looking at damage to a variety of parts like the axle, differential gears, and even the casing. As you might expect, a broken differential could eventually mean manual transmission repair because of how these systems are dependent upon one another.
Sometimes it might seem like you can rock the vehicle out of the rut by swinging the car into reverse after driving it forward a few feet, but this jarring can actually cause massive overheating of the transmission and eventual failure. Remember that transmission replacement is much more expensive than getting your vehicle towed out of some deep mud.
A Little Preparation Goes a Long Way
Even if you have complete confidence in the health and performance of your vehicle, it’s important to take these steps before departing on your vacation. In addition, it’s important to know the warning signs of when your transmission might be in trouble so you can prevent having to get a transmission rebuild from major damage.
Are you planning a family vacation? Will you be taking the family car on the trip? If it’s been a while since you’ve had your transmission serviced, consider a trip to My Transmission Expert for a checkup. Keep your family safe, and make sure your car or truck is road-worthy before you depart.