How to Take Care of Your Automatic Gearbox on a Daily Basis
Automatic cars used to be a lot less common in the UK, but over the years they have increased in popularity, which means more people than ever managing an automatic gearbox instead of a manual one.
The tricky part is that we often all of us learn to drive in manual transmission cars, but perhaps later swap it out for an automatic. That being the case, some people ignore some of the important things that you should be doing to help take care of your automatic gearbox. It may be called “automatic,” but it doesn’t automatically look after itself.
Taking Care of Your Automatic Gearbox
1. Use the Correct Transmission Fluid and Check it Regularly
You might wonder immediately how on earth it is that you check your transmission fluid, but it’s actually just as easy as checking the oil. Do you remember learning to check the oil via the dipstick? There’s a dipstick for the transmission fluid as well.
While the engine is idling, you can remove the dipstick, wipe it off, put it back in and draw it out after a moment to get the most accurate reading. If the red fluid levels are low, then you might have a leak on your hands. It might also smell rotten or have changed to a much darker colour. In all of these events, you should take it to the mechanic.
2. Get a Regular Transmission “Flushing”
The term “flushing” here is similar to flushing your radiator with fresh coolant. It refers to the action of changing your car’s transmission fluid. It needs to be done perhaps once a year depending on how much driving you do. You should check for the signs that we mention in the previous step and then take it to the mechanic for a proper check and possible fluid change.
3. Don’t Move the Shifter While the Car is Still Moving
This is among the most common mistakes that people make with their automatic gearbox. They push it into reverse while still rolling forward, or vice versa. You should bring the car to a full and complete stop before moving the shifter into another gear, otherwise you risking put a lot of undue strain on the transmission.
4. Get the Cooling System Serviced
Your car’s engine has an integral cooling system that prevents it from overheating. It’s actually that same system that helps cool the transmission fluid before it gets pumped through the automatic gearbox. It’s an unfortunate fact that if your engine is overheating, then your transmission is already experiencing extreme difficulties and will be in need of repairs. A properly working engine cooling system will prevent damage to both transmission and engine.
5. Avoid Heavy Towing in Hot Weather
In the summer, particularly in the south of England it can get surprisingly warm. If you regularly tow heavy loads in those temperatures, this is very bad for the automatic gearbox. Towing heavy loads in any temperature is bad for an automatic, but heat exacerbates the issue. What happens is the transmission fluid will oxidise and even burn.
6. Don’t Drive on the Spare Tyre Any Longer Than Necessary
If you have a puncture or a blowout and have to get the spare tyre, then take the car directly to the mechanic by the shortest, most direct route possible. The spare is often somewhat mismatched in size with your regular wheels and that not only is bad for the wheel alignment, but it’s not good for your automatic gearbox too, adding a lot of strain to it.
7. Look Under Your Car for Signs of Leaking
The automatic gearbox housing is located under your car. You might not be able to get under there quite like a mechanic can, but if you can get a look to make sure there are no signs of transmission fluid leaks, then that’s a positive step to take. You could base an inspection on the results of your checking the dipstick first. Low transmission fluid levels are strongly suggestive of a leak.
8. Warm Up the Transmission in Cold Weather
When it’s chilly outside, you can follow a simple procedure that will help warm up your transmission before you start driving. All you have to do is start the car while in park, press on the brake then shift to low “L” and back to park. Repeat this a few times just to get the transmission warmed up. It may seem like an odd ritual at first, but if it preserves the life of your automatic gearbox, then it’s worth it.
9. Drive Steadily and Avoid Aggressive Driving
An automatic gearbox is built for smooth sailing. If you push the car too hard then you risk putting undue strain upon the transmission. Trust us when we tell you that while there’s no part of your car you want to break and have replaced, you especially don’t want to be forced to buy a brand-new automatic gearbox. It will cost in the many hundreds of pounds at least, and quite possibly thousands.
10. Get an Annual Inspection
At the end of it all, it’s just absolutely essential that you always remember to have a professional mechanic inspect and, if necessary, change your transmission fluid whenever necessary. What’s more, checking and flushing the fluid is just one part of an overall inspection of the transmission and its current health that you should have done to your car every single year.
As we mentioned, the automatic gearbox is an expensive piece of equipment to ignore. Make it a regular part of your maintenance routine to keep your car running smoothly. You’ll always be glad that you do, whatever it costs you in the short term.