Here are some words of wisdom: Love your transmission. Why? Whether it is a vehicle or a truck, it’s why your vehicle moves, why you can accelerate and decelerate, why you get better gas mileage, and why you don’t stall at a stop light. When you ignore your transmission or mistreat it through neglecting maintenance or poor driving habits, the result is transmission failure—a costly fix and a big headache.
If you want to safeguard yourself from transmission breakdowns and avoid paying hefty repair bills, here are a few helpful tips:
- Check your vehicle’s transmission fluid level, condition, and quality
- Service your transmission at OEM prescribed time and mileage
- Avoid aggressive and abusive driving
- Prevent overloading of your vehicle or towing beyond its capacity
These are just a few ways to keep your transmission healthy and save money in the long run.
Before we give you our top transmission breakdown prevention tips, let’s see how vehicle owners mainly stress their transmission.
How to Stress Your Transmission
1) Ignore Overheating
If your transmission operates above its 230-degree maximum temperature threshold, you risk cutting its lifespan fast. Whenever your transmission overheats, you should stop driving, let it cool down, then immediately visit an auto shop specializing in transmissions.
2) Ignore Leaks
Transmission fluid leaks, sooner or later, will cause a complete breakdown of your transmission. How? A leak leads to low transmission fluid; thus, less lubrication for components, which will grind metal-to-metal, generate excessive heat, and ultimately fail.
3) Ignore Check Engine Light (CEL)
Seeing the Check Engine Light is a sign or warning of an issue from your vehicle that it can not correct or adjust for, and needs immediate attention from a technician. The CEL can indicate hundreds of various problems that could crop up. Some issues are very simple, like a loose gas cap; others are more serious, such as a problem with your engine, ABS brake system, or transmission.
4) Aggressive Driving (hard stops and starts)
Erratic and aggressive driving is the easiest way to stress your transmission and shorten its life. Burning rubber, engaging the transmission at high engine rpm, or pulling accessive loads are all examples that can cause stress not only to your transmission but also to your engine, suspension, brakes, and drivetrain.
5) Ignore Routine Maintenance
Ignoring routine transmission maintenance is probably the most common and surefire way to wear down your transmission internal parts quickly. Dirt and contaminants accumulate over time, get mixed with your fluid, creating abrasive conditions; in turn, lack of lubrication and cooling properties can cause performance issues and wear out internal transmission parts.
6) Stress the Drivetrain
Apart from jamming the accelerator pedal to the floor when the light turns green and squealing to a stop at every stop light, there are plenty of other ways to stress the drivetrain. Here’s a quick list:
- Trying to rock your vehicle out when stuck in the sand, mud, or snow
- Constant stop-and-go traffic
- Excessive idling
- Towing or hauling over the weight limit
- Driving with engine issues such as misfires and tune issues
7) Use the wrong fluid or never change the fluid
Remember, manual and automatic transmissions require specifically designed fluids to run properly. The wrong type or specification can be disastrous for your transmission. Similarly, not changing or replacing the transmission fluid and filter at the manufacturer’s recommended interval can lead to excessive wear, overheating and breakdown of internal transmission parts.
8) Go to a shop that doesn’t specialize in transmission repair
Your vehicle's transmission is the most complex piece of machinery in your vehicle. Only knowledgeable and trained technicians should service and repair it.
How To Know if Your Transmission Is Stressed
As we mentioned earlier, your transmission typically doesn’t stress or fail without some early warning or reason. There are warning signs, and early detection can save you a lot of money. Here are a few most common transmission trouble symptoms:
- Difficulty Switching Gears: It happens when someone uses an incorrect type of transmission fluid or if it is lower than the recommended level in your transmission due to a leak.
- Burning Smell: A burning odor could indicate a slipping and overheating transmission, most commonly due to low or leaking transmission fluid.
- Noisy in Park or Neutral: A noise when you shift to neutral could indicate your vehicle needs diagnosing to determine what is causing the noise. Most parts are not moving in neutral or park, except the transmission pump, torque converter and flexplate, and other engine related parts.
- Slipping Gears: If you witness engine revving higher during a gear change, a pause in acceleration, odd noises, or a hesitant reaction while changing gears, you may have a slipping transmission. We recommend you stop driving your vehicle as soon as possible and visit a transmission expert immediately. A slipping transmission may be very dangerous on the road, especially when trying to accelerate from a stop or merging at highway speeds.
- Leaking Fluid: Finding a liquid below your vehicle could indicate a transmission fluid leak, although any leak can be bad news.
- Check Engine Light (CEL): The CEL lights up to indicate problems in your vehicle that can vary depending on the code, so make sure it is not related to the transmission.
- Grinding or Shaking: If you experience grinding or shaking of the vehicle when driving or during a shift to another gear, it could signal transmission trouble or drivetrain issues. The grinding noise is also a common problem related to manual transmission vehicles.
- Unusual Sounds: Whirring, squealing, bumping, and thumping sounds in manual vehicles are a sign of misaligned transmission, worn-out gears, worn bearings, or worn-out synchronizers, among other things. Any weird sound coming from your vehicle can signal something amiss, so get it checked out as soon as possible.
If you notice any of the symptoms mentioned above, you should visit a transmission expert immediately for a complete examination and diagnosis. It may just help you catch a minor transmission issue early before it grows bigger.
Remember, having an inspection at the earliest signs of trouble and regular transmission service early will cost much less than replacing your entire transmission system.
Why Regular Maintenance Is Vital for Your Vehicle's Transmission and Overall Drivetrain Health
Like other mechanical systems of your vehicle, the transmission also requires regular, specific maintenance to avoid breakdowns and remain healthy. Some of the best ways to keep your transmission healthy include:
- Get your transmission checked and serviced by a trained technician regularly to correctly diagnose and repair potential transmission issues.
- Regular inspection of transmission fluid level, condition and quality
- Apply the parking brake, especially when you park on a steep incline to help reduce stress on internal transmission parts
- Warm up your vehicle a bit before driving
- Avoid rocking your vehicle from drive to reverse rapidly when stuck in snow, as this can damage your drivetrain.
- Avoid driving through really deep water. Any amount of water in your transmission can quickly lead to catastrophic failure.
- Use an auxiliary transmission cooler in line with your factory cooler if you regularly tow heavy trailers or carry heavy loads with your vehicle.
Keep Your Transmission Healthy with AAMCO
In conclusion, treating your transmission right through proper driving, service, and maintenance is crucial to its health and longevity. A well-maintained transmission will last longer and perform better. By following the tips and advice above, you’re looking at a happier, longer future with your transmission.
If you think you may have a transmission problem or any other vehicle concern, contact a Southern California AAMCO Center near you!
AAMCO has more than 50 years of experience diagnosing, servicing, and repairing more than 20 million vehicles. Customers rely on us for:
- Quality repairs
- Expert technicians
- Superior customer experience
- Trustworthy, honest service
- Best warranty coverage available
AAMCO Centers of Southern California and surrounding areas represent trust, quality, and value.