What Can Seriously Damage Your Automatic Gearbox?
Have you ever had to pay for a replacement transmission before? If you have, then you know how expensive a job it can be. Even if you’re not getting a replacement but are having to conduct major repairs on the gearbox, the bills can still run very high. While it’s true that any automatic transmission does have a limited lifespan, the kinds of common damage that people allow to happen to their automatic gearboxes are not inevitable.
With proper maintenance and good driving habits, as well as steering clear of other things that can seriously damage your automatic transmission, there’s no reason a single transmission won’t serve you the entire time you have that car, and you can leave its ultimate replacement to the next owner. In today’s blog, we’re taking a closer look at these factors that can damage your automatic gearbox. What are they? How can we avoid them?
Things That Can Seriously Damage Your Automatic Transmission
Skipping Maintenance and Servicing
The first and probably most common thing that people do to damage an automatic transmission is not get it properly serviced and maintained as they ought to. Whenever you buy a car, the owner’s manual typically has a full annual maintenance and servicing schedule that is designed to keep the main components — in particular the powertrain and drivetrain — in good condition. While this servicing schedule isn’t legally binding, it’s usually important to prove it if and when you want to claim anything against the warranty.
Some people are understandably worried when it comes to routine maintenance and servicing on their transmission. They become convinced that the bill is going to skyrocket and that they are going to end up not being able to pay in time. This leads people to skip certain service appointments or milestones, thinking that they’ll save money. It’s a false economy, however, as what tends to happen instead is that relatively simple defects and problems go unchecked, and are allowed to grow into more complex and expensive ones. In the end, you’ll always end up spending more.
The point of maintenance and servicing isn’t to enrich mechanics, but to ensure that your transmission is free of defect, and should it show any signs of defect, to deal with those quickly and effectively to keep you on the road for the minimum cost.
Towing too Much Weight
Next, another surefire way to cause damage to your transmission is to tow beyond the recommended capacity. If you have a large SUV or even a pickup truck as most people in the UK do these days, you might think you can tow just about anything, but even these mighty monsters have a towing capacity.
When you attach any load that you want to tow, you’re asking the engine and transmission to do more work. That’s fine up to a point, as many cars — especially larger SUVs and pickup trucks — are built for that kind of work. If you’re driving a smaller vehicle like a family saloon or estate, then you can likely tow as well, but you have to be sure never to exceed the capacity.
If and when the capacity is exceeded, then your transmission fluid can heat up too much, even hardening and forming seals and jams within the equipment. The only result of such excess is massive heat and friction buildup that quickly accelerates wear and tear on the transmission.
Shifting Before Coming to a Stop
This is another very common mistake people make as they get increasingly casual and relaxed when driving an automatic transmission car. They tend to form a habit where they start shifting the car between drive “D” and reverse “R” before the vehicle has come to a complete stop. The best practice has always been to bring the car to a complete stop before shifting to a new gear setting.
This is most common in people who have transitioned from driving manual cars to automatic transmission vehicles. Why? In a manual car, shifting while the car is still moving is normal practice because you push the clutch pedal when you do, thus ensuring that the clutch is disengaged as you shift. In an automatic, however, if you shift between drive and reverse without stopping, you’re essentially forcing the mechanics into place, and that only causes damage.
Mistakes with the Transmission Fluid
There are 2 main mistakes that people make when it comes to transmission fluid, the first of which is putting the wrong transmission fluid into the system. You might find a cheaper alternative, or a discount mechanic you’re using might not use the correct fluid also in an effort to save money. The result is going to be serious damage to your transmission.
While it’s true that more than one type of fluid could be used, it’s always best to stick with the one that is recommended by the manufacturer or dealer mechanic. Some fluids are engineered to work better in specific brands or types of vehicle and switching to others as an effort to save money will once again most likely prove to be a false economy.
The second mistake people make is not keeping an eye on the condition of the fluid over time. Transmission fluid usually needs changing every 30,000-60,000 miles depending on the make and model of your vehicle and the fluid it uses. Many cars come with a transmission fluid dipstick so that you can check its condition just as you do with your engine oil. Fresh transmission fluid is a deep red or pink colour, but as it goes bad, it shifts towards dark orange and brown, and will become steadily contaminated with metal shavings, dirt and other pollutants.
If you ignore the condition of your transmission fluid for too long, you run the risk of it becoming too viscous and overly contaminated and thus unable to do its basic function of cooling and lubricating the many moving parts. This inevitably leads to rapid and serious damage.
Overheating the Vehicle
Finally, one other enemy of your automatic transmission is excess heat, as with the rest of your vehicle. When your engine is overheating, for example, this excess heat is easily passed on to the transmission. The transmission itself will overheat if you don’t properly maintain the right fluid levels and condition. Excess heat tends to mean excess friction, which means parts are rubbing against each other and wearing each other away at an alarming rate. Always treat excess heat in your engine or transmission with the utmost care and urgency, and your transmission will serve you well for longer.