10 Bad Habits That Might Kill Your Gearbox
Whether you own a car with a manual or an automatic gearbox, there are and always will be clever ways of destroying your transmission. You might acquire some of these habits without even realizing they are bad for your gearbox. If you’re reading this, we have good news! Most of these habits are really simple to prevent and it might not be the end of the world if you spent the last few months doing some of them. Your gearbox can take a “beating” for several years before problems arrive, so getting rid of bad habits is crucial.
Learning about your gearbox
The first step every car owner should do is learn basic information about their gearbox. This includes reading about the servicing schedule and learning about the “do’s” and “dont’s” of your manual or automatic transmission. To help you on your journey towards a life without gearbox issues we compiled a list of habits you need to avoid:
Neglecting the maintenance plan and using cheap transmission fluids
You probably heard this one before, but it is never enough seeing how much of an issue it still is today. Neglecting and not doing regular maintenance is the number one transmission killer, especially for automatic gearboxes. When you do get your transmission serviced, make sure it is with professionals that know what they are doing. This also means they know which transmission fluids are the right fit for your type of gearbox. Don’t cut corners and save pennies when it comes to gearbox maintenance.
Ignoring minor gearbox problems
Ignoring minor gearbox issues is a sure way to pave the road for bigger expenses and problems in the future. Any sounds or weird functioning that seems out of the ordinary and repetitive are reason enough to book a servicing appointment. Even though there are fewer issues to be expected with manual gearboxes, they still happen. If you feel that switching between gears tends to be more difficult than usual, have your mechanic check out the gearbox at your next scheduled maintenance.
Shifting while still moving
Never shift between park, neutral, reverse and drive when your car is still moving. Your car has to come to a complete stop before shifting. You risk grinding down your gears if you tend to shift while moving. Come to a stop, then shift.
Overheating your transmission
Overheating puts a big dent into the life expectancy of your automatic transmission. Situations like heavy towing, a hot climate and agressive driving from stop light to stop light are perfect for overheating your transmission. Once the temperature in the transmission reaches critical levels, even your transmission fluid starts breaking down. This means that even when the gearbox cools off, the broken down transmission fluid isn’t properly lubricating all the moving parts.
Not using the parking brake when parking
Manual gearbox owners tend to use the parking brake a bit more than the owners of cars with automatics. If you park your car on a slight hill, the parking brake takes the pressure off the gearbox and keeps your car in place. Leaving your car hanging in “park” or gear puts a lot of stress on your gearbox. Don’t do it.
Towing heavy loads
Every car comes with a towing limit. It is there for a reason, so make sure you know and respect the limits. Towing a load that is too heavy can cause clutch slipping, gearbox overheating and increased engine wear. Overall, towing heavy loads is never an easy job for your transmission.
“Fast and Furious” style-shifting
This one is for all the manual gearbox drivers out there. Popular automotive movies like the “Fast and Furious” franchise love to show people aggressively changing gears and abusing the shift knob. Your car is not really made for that. It will take the abuse for a certain amount of time, but sooner or later, the gearbox will be tired of you slamming gears. Avoid it at all costs.
Using suspicious additives
Using over the counter additives that will magically repair your failing automatic transmission is never a good idea. Some of those additives even contain chemicals that mess up the lubricating properties of your transmission fluid. Some additives also promise to stop gearbox leaks. They swell up your worn seals and resolve the issue for a short period of time. The best advice we can give you is to never use these magical products at all.
Downshifting to slow down
Downshifting a manual gearbox to slowly lower your speed or decelerate downhill is perfectly fine. Doing the same thing with an automatic transmission is absolutely not fine. Forcing your automatic gearbox into a lower gear causes unnecessary stress. Use the brake pedal and let the gearbox decide which gear is the best fit in any given situation.
The gear lever is not an armrest
Nobody likes being bothered all the time, neither does your gear lever. Only use it and touch it when you plan on changing gears. This goes for both, manual and automatic transmissions. Resting your hand on the gear lever means you are constantly applying a small amount of pressure and engaging the selector fork. Un-learn this common habit as soon as possible!
Symptoms of transmission problems
To make sure you avoid bigger problems, take notice of everything that your transmission is telling you. Here are the common symptoms of a faulty gearbox:
Jerky, rough gear changes
Automatic gear switching is delayed when the engine is cold
Severe hum or vibration
Some gears are no longer engaged
Metallic grinding noises
A smell of something burning
No more “drive” function, neither forward nor backwards
The habits we listed above could all be called “silent killers”. Some symptoms caused by these bad habits creep in gradually and if they go unnoticed, a simple and solvable problem can develop into a full-blown defect. Modern gearboxes, manual and automatic are incredibly complex and require professional attention and maintenance.