How to Prepare Your Automatic Gearbox for Winter Season
The cold season is firmly upon us and already parts of the UK have been battered by winter storms and terrible weather. Besides our homes, roads, and ourselves, the other big victim of harsh cold in winter is our cars, and in particular the transmission. That is, unless you find good ways to take care of them in the cold months.
With the right kinds of preparation and care during the winter, your automatic gearbox will emerge in the spring as strong and full of vitality as ever before. In today’s blog we’ll be explaining the steps you can take.
What Does Cold Do to Your Automatic Transmission?
Temperature extremes of both kinds will do bad things to your transmission and indeed the rest of your car. Here are a few examples:
Transmission Fluid Becomes Viscous
The first thing that can happen is the transmission fluid becomes thicker and more viscous. This makes it harder for the fluid to flow freely where it needs to go in the car’s transmission. This subsequently increases the level of unwanted heat and friction, and speeds up the wear and tear on the gearbox. It will create harder shifts and thus generate an overall more unpleasant driving experience.
Leaks Become More Common
Besides changing its viscosity, the cold makes your transmission more susceptible to fluid leaks. Cold forces components to contract, or get smaller. That creates more space between components, making the system looser, which causes them to wear and get damaged faster. On top of that, the more viscous fluid finds it even harder to lubricate these contracted parts, which further exacerbates interior damage that ultimately leads to transmission fluid leaks.
Protecting Your Transmission: Prepare for the Winter
Below are several important things you can do to prepare your transmission for the winter months:
The first and more important thing you can do for your car is get the transmission serviced and checked over by knowledgeable mechanics. The fact is that most of the big problems that occur within an automatic gearbox start as small problems that are ignored by car owners until it worsens and develops into something more serious. Having the transmission checked will cost some money, it’s true, but consider it as an investment. Discovering any small issues before the harsh winter season and getting them fixed will stop the winter from exacerbating those minor problems into much more serious (and expensive) issues to fix in the spring.
2. Warmer Storage and Warmer Running
Another key strategy to prepare for the winter is in storage solutions. Anything you can do to keep your transmission warmer over the winter will help lower the risk of unnecessary damage being done to its mechanisms. If you have a garage that you’re not using for a car but for storage, consider clearing it out to make room for the car. It’s not just better to have the car in the garage through the winter season, but it’s safer in general. It can even save you some insurance money if your insurer knows you have a locked garage in which to store your car. Any steps you can take, including using a car cover can contribute to a better overall result. Try to favour indoor parking wherever possible.
Besides storage, ensure that your automatic transmission has sufficient time to warm up before putting it into drive “D” and setting off. This is especially important on older models with more standard torque converter automatic transmissions. A balance needs to be struck here, leaving the car idling in park “P” too long can also be bad for it, but you need sufficient time for warming up. Typically, a period of 5-8 minutes should be enough. Don’t leave it idling for more than 10 minutes if you can avoid it.
3. New Transmission Fluid
Your transmission service might well include a flushing and replacing of the transmission fluid, which is a good thing of course. Having said that, it’s only a really good move if you’re using the best-possible transmission fluid. The latest and most cutting-edge synthetic fluids have helped improve the product immeasurably, but if you’re still using an old type of fluid then you’re stuck with the same old problems.
Talk to your mechanic about making a switch to a new fluid. Even if it costs more, it’s a worthwhile investment if it better protects your transmission from (expensive) damage, and if it lasts longer between flushes and replacements. A bit more spent in the short term can mean less spent in the longer term.
4. Practice Smooth Driving
In the hard winter environment, the best thing for your automatic gearbox is to have a smooth and even run without any extremes. Practice the art of steady and even acceleration and braking, and avoid any and all kinds of jerky and sudden movements. The same goes for acting on the pedals, both the accelerator and the brake should be treated smoothly and more gently. Your winterized transmission will thank you for the change in driving style.
If you get stuck in the snow while out driving, you should try to make your exit from the snow as smooth as possible, too. The best thing to do is to get some help and push the car out of the snow, rather than using a rocking back and forth kind of strategy, or trying to spin the wheels until you get loose. These may work on some other cars, but they’re not a good move to use on automatic transmissions.
Good driving habits throughout the year will always benefit your automatic transmission. Things like bringing the car to a complete stop before shifting into reverse, or back into drive, for example, are another simple good habit that if practiced throughout the year will ensure a properly working automatic gearbox in the winter.
Conclusion: Most Important is a Pre-Winter Service
If you are concerned about your automatic gearbox this winter, then at the very top of your list should be a visit to the mechanic to get a full and proper service. Regular maintenance and good driving habits together should ensure that your automatic transmission serves you through many winters to come.