If you’ve ever driven a vehicle with a manual transmission, you became more aware of how much it shifts as you drive around. You shift into reverse to move out of garages and parking spaces. You move from first to second, to third and fourth gears as you speed up and slow down from stop signs and traffic lights.
When you move to an automatic transmission, it works in much the same way. The difference being that the internal workings of the car do the job for you. No pushing in the clutch and moving the gears into position.
The transmission system transfers power from the car engine to the wheels. It’s what gives your vehicle mobility. It’s what allows your car to move backward and forward.
As you can imagine, a lot of stress is put onto each of the components within the transmission system over the years. That’s why transmission failure is common; it’s not a matter of if, but when. The transmission will require repair work the older it gets.
The good news is there are warning signs.
If you pay attention to the signals, you can catch problems early. That can save you from being stranded, and prevent expensive repairs in the long run.
How do you know if your transmission is failing?
Your vehicle was designed to warn you well in advance of serious threats to your car’s systems. Pay attention to lights on your dashboard. A lit up check engine light can mean a variety of things. It can be a simple repair, or a sign of a bigger problem. Don’t ignore it. Instead, schedule an appointment with one of our technicians as soon as possible so we can diagnose the problem and get you back on the road without issue.
Struggles to switch gears
Sometimes, with an automatic transmission, you start to hear it struggle to find the right gear. If you have a manual transmission, shifting becomes more difficult, often feeling like you have to add force to move it between the various gears. This could be a signal your transmission fluid is low, or the mechanic you trusted your car with put in the wrong kind of fluid.
Another thing you might notice is that your vehicle’s transmission tends to impulsively slip in and out of place. This can be highly dangerous if you’re on a busy road and your gears slip. Imagine flying down the highway from a day up skiing, and your gears slip to neutral. If you feel this at any point, bring it in to have it evaluated as soon as possible.
This is more common in an automatic transmission, where a grinding or shaking occurs as you move between gears. This is one of the clearest indicators that your transmission is failing.
With a manual car, if the clutch fails to disengage the clutch disk from the flywheel as you press down on the clutch pedal, it’s a sign your transmission is having problems.
Always be conscious as you approach your car for visible signs of a problem. Transmission fluid is dyed red in color to help distinguish it from other fluids. It also has a sweet smell.
While your engine is running, if you ever smell a burning smell, it’s time to bring it in to be serviced immediately. It’s often an indicator that your transmission is overheating, which could be from something as simple as low transmission fluid. The faster you repair it, the less risk you have of causing further damage to the system.
In some cases, your car will refuse to respond to any attempt to change gears. If you can’t move from park to drive, it’s a problem with your transmission. Your only course of action may be to have it towed in for service.
How to properly maintain a transmission
Now that you’ve determined you may be experiencing problems with your transmission, how do you maintain it? How do you ensure you won’t run into trouble at the most inconvenient time?
First of all, remember regular maintenance is the key to your vehicle’s success. You should also pay attention to your car, and be alerted to any changes that may present a problem.
Check the level of your transmission fluid regularly, depending on your make and model. Some vehicles have a dipstick similar to your motor oil for easy access. Still others are closed systems, and require knowledge and a few tools, or bring it in and one of our mechanics can check the levels for you.
You should also schedule an automatic transmission fluid service change every 30,000 to 60,000 miles, depending on your vehicle’s requirements. The old transmission fluid will be flushed from the system, the fluid pan removed and cleaned, and a new filter will be installed to the correct amount.
Be aware of the way you drive. Slow down. You should never make quick switches from drive to reverse, or reverse to drive, especially if the car is still moving. In most cases, this will stall the engine, and possibly do a lot of damage to your transmission.
Be conscious of how you drive. Smooth acceleration helps to allow gears to change at the correct times, and provide you with the most fuel efficient behavior.
Take care of your transmission
You may have heard the horror stories of drivers facing expensive repair bills installing a new transmission. And we’re not going to lie, a replacement can be one of the most expensive auto repair bills you’ll ever receive.
Instead of waiting for that repair bill to come, commit to regular maintenance instead. By watching your vehicle and getting to know how it acts, you’re more likely to recognize when something goes amiss. That means you can drive it into our service station long before you have a seized transmission.
We’re here to help you keep your car running, no matter how old it is or how many miles you’ve put on. Let us give you a quote today.