Your vehicle’s transmission eventually wears out, but you can make it last longer by taking care of it, including doing regular maintenance such as checking for leaks and changing the transmission fluid at the manufacturer’s recommended intervals. Without the transmission, your vehicle isn’t going to go anywhere. Simply put, the transmission transfers the power from the engine to the driveshafts, axles and wheels.
Routine Maintenance and Transmission Fluid Changes
Most manufacturers recommend that you change the transmission fluid every 15,000 miles. However, in some cases, you may have to change it more often. If you live in the mountains or otherwise drive in a hilly terrain, if you frequently tow, and if you drive on a lot of gravel roads, you should change the transmission fluid more often.
Additionally, each year, you should have a certified tech inspect the transmission every year. The tech will look for leaks and other problems. He or she will also check the transmission fluid for color and smell. Overheating the transmission fluid can make it smell bad. Shavings from the clutch could cause clogs inside the valve body in the transmission.
Drive in the Correct Gear
Whether you have a manual or an automatic, don’t always drive in the same gear. If you put your automatic transmission in drive, you don’t have much to worry about. However, some people like to manually shift an automatic transmission. Always make sure you remember to shift at the right RPMs.
If you drive a manual, don’t constantly drive around in first gear. You’ll end up wearing out the most used gears before other gears.
Always Check the Transmission Fluid Levels
With an automatic transmission, you can do this yourself. Always check the transmission fluid level when it is warm. You can check for odors when it is warm or cold, but it’s easier to smell bad transmission fluid when it is warm.
If you have a manual, it’s harder to check since you don’t have a dipstick. You should have your tech check the transmission fluid at least once a year if you have a manual.
Always Come to a Complete Stop Before Shifting Gears
Make sure you are at a complete stop before you shift gears, especially between a forward gear and a reverse gear. Being in a hurry and shifting before stopping completely will wear out the clutches.
Use the Correct Transmission Fluid
If you top off your vehicle’s transmission fluid, make sure you use the correct fluid. Check the owner’s manual for the right kind. If you’re still not sure, contact your auto tech or the dealer to find out the proper type.
Warm Your Vehicle Up Before Driving
Allow the vehicle to warm up before you shift gears, especially in the winter. The cold thickens oils and makes them harder to travel through the engine and transmission.
Keep Your Foot Off the Brake
Some people have a habit of driving with their foot resting on the brake. This puts pressure and stress on the engine and transmission and causes the transmission to wear out faster.
Use the Parking Brake
When parking on a hill, set the parking brake. It will take the pressure off the parking linkage, and is also a safety feature. Should your transmission pop out of gear, the parking brake will help keep your vehicle from rolling down the hill.
Don’t Ignore Your Vehicle’s Engine
The engine and transmission work together. That means that if your engine has to work harder your transmission is going to work harder. Always take your vehicle in for maintenance at the proper intervals for oil changes, tuneups, transmission fluid changes, and other maintenance items.
Also, have the cooling system serviced and kept in good shape. If the engine overheats, not only could you damage the engine, but you could also damage the transmission since the fluid is cooled, too. If the fluid gets too hot, it becomes less effective and adds more stress to the transmission.
Check Your Vehicle’s Tires
Driving on tires that are too low not only wear out the tires, but could add stress to the transmission since they have more resistance. Also, if you have to put a donut tire on for a spare, get it changed as soon as possible. Driving on different size tires puts wear and tear on the axles, which then puts strain on the driveshafts and the transmission.
Be Careful When Towing
Towing puts a lot of stress on a transmission, even when you do it properly. If you tow in hot weather, the transmission cooler might not keep up with dropping the transmission fluid’s temperature. The fluid then overheats, which causes transmission problems.
Also, know how much your vehicle is rated to tow. Never tow something that is more than the tow rating, as you will definitely heat up the transmission fluid.
Flushing the Transmission
Some auto technicians don’t recommend flushing, but others do. An automatic transmission uses clutches that rub against each other when the transmission shifts. Slivers of the material from the clutches and the clutch plate get shaved off because of the friction. These slivers end up in the bottom of the transmission pan.
A magnet in the bottom of the pan collects metal shavings, but not shavings of other material. As the transmission fluid travels throughout the torque converter, the valve body and the transmission, it can deposit these shavings in these parts, especially the valve body. Flushing the transmission gets rid of the debris from the clutches and clutch plate.
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