10 Common Habits That Can Seriously Damage Your Transmission
Whether you’re driving a car with a manual or an automatic gearbox, there are several ways you might unknowingly be harming your transmission. Over time, these bad habits can lead to costly repairs and even complete gearbox failure. However, there’s no need to panic if you’ve been guilty of some of these habits recently. With the right knowledge and care, you can avoid these issues and extend the life of your transmission.
Educating Yourself About Your Gearbox
The first step towards maintaining a healthy gearbox is to familiarize yourself with its inner workings. Make sure you understand the recommended servicing schedule and learn about the do’s and don’ts specific to your manual or automatic transmission. To help you avoid transmission troubles, we have compiled a list of habits you should steer clear of:
Neglecting Maintenance and Using Low-Quality Fluids
You’ve probably heard it before, but it bears repeating: skipping regular maintenance is the leading cause of transmission problems, especially for automatic gearboxes. When it’s time for servicing, ensure you entrust your vehicle to knowledgeable professionals who understand the right transmission fluids for your gearbox. Avoid cutting corners and opting for cheap maintenance options.
Ignoring Minor Gearbox Issues
Ignoring seemingly minor gearbox problems can have major consequences down the road. Any unusual noises or strange behavior while shifting should prompt you to schedule a servicing appointment. Even manual gearboxes can encounter issues, so pay attention to any signs of difficulty while changing gears.
Shifting While in Motion
Never attempt to shift between park, neutral, reverse, or drive while your car is still moving. Wait until your vehicle comes to a complete stop before changing gears to prevent unnecessary wear on the transmission. A moment of patience can save you from damaging your gearbox.
Overheating Your Transmission
Heat is the nemesis of automatic transmissions. Heavy towing, aggressive driving, and hot climates can lead to transmission overheating. When the temperature inside the transmission rises to critical levels, even the transmission fluid starts to break down, leading to inadequate lubrication of moving parts. Avoid putting your transmission under extreme stress to maintain its longevity.
Neglecting the Parking Brake
Manual gearbox owners tend to use the parking brake more frequently than those with automatic transmissions. When parking on a slope, engaging the parking brake relieves pressure from the gearbox, preventing unnecessary strain. Leaving your car in “park” or gear without the parking brake can lead to gearbox stress, so make it a habit to use the parking brake whenever necessary.
Towing Excessive Loads
Respect your car’s towing capacity and avoid towing loads beyond its limits. Overloading the vehicle can cause clutch slipping, gearbox overheating, and increased engine wear, significantly damaging your transmission. Always adhere to the manufacturer’s recommendations for safe towing.
Avoiding “Fast and Furious” Style-Shifting
Refrain from imitating aggressive gear shifting as seen in movies like the “Fast and Furious” franchise. Slamming gears and abusive shifting may seem cool on the big screen, but it puts excessive strain on your gearbox. Treat your car with care and avoid unnecessary wear and tear.
Steering Clear of Suspicious Additives
Steer clear of over-the-counter additives promising magical transmission repairs. Some of these products contain chemicals that harm the lubricating properties of your transmission fluid. Others might provide temporary fixes for gearbox leaks by swelling worn seals, but they are not a long-term solution. Rely on professional maintenance and avoid using these unproven products.
Using Downshifting to Slow Down (For Automatics)
While downshifting in a manual gearbox to slow down is acceptable, doing the same in an automatic transmission is a bad idea. Forcing your automatic gearbox into a lower gear puts unnecessary stress on the transmission. Instead, rely on the brake pedal and let the gearbox handle gear selection appropriately.
Avoid Treating the Gear Lever as an Armrest
Remember, your gear lever is not meant to be an armrest. Avoid resting your hand on it when not changing gears. This habit applies to both manual and automatic transmissions. Continuous pressure on the gear lever engages the selector fork, causing unnecessary wear. Break free from this common habit as soon as possible.
Recognizing Transmission Problems
To prevent major transmission issues, pay attention to any signs of trouble. Here are common symptoms of a faulty gearbox:
For Automatic Transmissions:
– Jerky and rough gear changes
– Delayed start
– Delayed gear shifting when the engine is cold
– Severe humming or vibrations
– Certain gears not engaging properly
– Metallic grinding noises
– Burning smell
– Loss of “drive” function, both forward and backward
The habits listed above are silent killers that can slowly deteriorate your transmission. If left unaddressed, what may seem like a minor problem can escalate into a severe defect. Modern transmissions, both manual and automatic, are complex and require professional attention and regular maintenance to ensure longevity and trouble-free operation.