A stark majority of automatic transmission failures are caused by excessive heat. So, above all, if you can keep your vehicle from overheating, your transmission will stand a chance at reaching that 100K mile mark.
Avoiding these mistakes can extend the life of your automatic transmission by many years and may save you enough money to take a nice vacation.
1. Not Having Your Transmission Serviced Regularly
Through normal use, automatic transmission fluid (ATF) will begin to break down overtime (often referred to as oxidation). Overheating will cause the fluid to oxidize more quickly. As it breaks down, it becomes less effective at lubricating and cooling the transmission, resulting in increased friction and more heat. During transmission service, your mechanic will replace the oxidized fluid with fresh fluid.
2. Not Maintain Your Cooling System
Even a brand new transmission will overheat if your engine overheats. This is because your engine and transmission use the same cooling system. So, keep your cooling system in good working order and you’ll protect your engine — and your transmission — from overheating.
PRO TIP: Installing a secondary oil cooler for your transmission is one of the best things you can do to extend its life. We’ve established that keeping the fluid cool is critical, and a transmission oil cooler should definitely do the job. It’s also a relatively inexpensive precaution ($115-$150).
4. Towing or Hauling Beyond Your Limits.
If your vehicle isn’t built for towing, then don’t do it. If it is, be aware of the suggested weight limit. Towing heavy trailers puts major strain on your transmission, causing it to overheat quickly. It’s also particularly hard on the transmission’s clutches, and with enough wear the gears will start to slip The only way to fix a worn clutch is to replace it, which means removing the transmission from your vehicle and taking it apart.
5. Driving Too Fast and Too Furious.
It’s fun and sometimes necessary to accelerate hard. But, if putting the pedal to the metal is more of habit, and you like to shift your transmission manually at high RPMs, you’re likely doing some damage that will shorten the life of your transmission.
PRO TIP: If punching the gas and shifting like you mean it is the highlight of your day, you should consider installing a shift kit. This will improve shifts, reduce heat, and improve fuel economy.
6. Spinning Your Wheels When You’re Stuck
Flooring it always seems like a worthy strategy when you’re stuck, but few people understand the problems this can cause. The truth is, spinning the wheels in a forward or reverse gear quickly creates a tremendous amount of heat, leading your transmission to overheat in minutes. You’re likely to damage clutches and seals and hasten oxidization.
7. Shifting to Drive or Reverse In Motion
When backing up, many drivers will put their shifter into Drive before coming to a complete stop — and vice-versa. This bad habit will eventually crack, chip or cause a gear inside the transmission to explode. If this happens, your transmission is done for. Lots of us do this unconsciously or in a hurry, so the next time you back out of your driveway, make sure you come to a complete stop before shifting into Drive.
8. Neglecting Minor Transmission Problems
Minor issues like low fluid, a faulty solenoid, or bad sensor can quickly escalate into a bigger and more costly problem. Most catastrophic transmission failures are completely avoidable — the key is recognizing minor problems early and resolving them before further damage is done.
Have questions about your Automatic Transmission? Get help from one of our certified mechanics right now. Call 360-666-1533 or drop by the shop– no appointment necessary!