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From a basic Seattle area transmission flush to a complete rebuild of your system, our mechanics are well-versed in all the nuances of automobile transmission service. For your peace of mind, our business offers nationwide warranties for 3 years or 36,000 miles with extended options available.
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In addition to our Downtown Seattle area transmission repair services, our expert mechanics also provide a wide range of other automobile maintenance and repair services. Visit our Mechanical Services Page for a comprehensive list of our services.
- How often to change transmission fluid
- How to use the overdrive
- How not to damage the transmission
Most Important things to Know:
- What can damage my transmission?
- How do I prevent my transmission from damage?
- How do I use overdrive?
- Where can I service my transmission?
- When is it time to visit the transmission shop?
- Where can I find repair information, etc.?
The automatic transmission is one of the most complicated and thus one of the less reliable parts of the vehicle. The repair of an automatic transmission is complex and tends to be quite expensive. More than that, automatic transmission problem can make your car unsafe - some transmission defects may cause, for example, that the car can roll with the shifter in Park or drive forward with shifter in Neutral. On the other hand, if taking a good care of, your transmission can last you really long with no significant problems.
In this article you may find some simple tips how to prevent your automatic transmission from damage and keep it in a good shape. It doesn't require too much of your efforts - just periodical checking and regular maintenance.
Tip: Have you looked in your vehicle owner's manual? Try, it's a best source of information on your vehicle maintenance. You will be amazed how many useful info you may find in this book! Having more questions? Don't know what type of fluid to use? - just call Barr Transmission and ask them, they have all the information and they will be pleased to help you.
What can damage your automatic transmission
Most of the transmission troubles start from overheating. Under heavy load, such as towing a heavy trailer, rocking the vehicle from the snow, having continuous stop and go traffic in hot weather, racing, etc. the transmission overheats. At higher temperatures the transmission fluid burns, losing its lubricating qualities and becomes oxidized leaving deposits all over inside the transmission. Exposed to the heat the rubber seals and gaskets inside the transmission become hardened causing leaks. The metal parts warp and lose their strength. All this, sooner or later, results in transmission failure. For example, a friend of mine burned the transmission when he was spinning the wheels too hard trying to free his shiny Audi from the snow on the next day after he bought it!
However, overheating is not the only reason - sometimes transmission breaks down because of poor design, due to lack of maintenance or after being rebuilt by inexperienced technician. Few other reasons: harsh driving, too low or too high transmission fluid level or wrong transmission fluid type - a person I know added gear oil into the automatic transmission... guess, what happen? - the transmission died after 40 minutes of driving!
How to prevent the transmission from damage
- Regularly check your parking space for leaks. Doesn't matter, is it the engine oil leak, power steering fluid or transmission fluid; if you discover any, get it fixed before it caused something serious.
- Once in a while check the transmission fluid level and condition. Not all cars however have the automatic transmission dipstick, in some cars, for example, in late Volkswagen models, the transmission fluid can only be checked by the dealer. Consult with your owner's manual for details. If the transmission fluid level is too low, there is a leak somewhere that needs to be fixed.
- Change the fluid as often as it said in your owner's manual or when it becomes too dark (rather brown than red) or dirty.
Also, keep in mind that an automatic transmission can not be drained completely - there is always some transmission fluid left inside the transmission (the torque converter, in the valve body, etc.) which means you only can change about %60 of the fluid at once. This is one more reason to change it more often.
- Use only the same type of the transmission fluid as specified in the owner's manual or on the dipstick. Some vehicles (e.g Dodge Caravan) are very sensitive to fluid type
- Never shift to the Reverse or Parking until the car comes to a complete stop.
- Never shift from the Parking mode when engine rpm is higher than normal idle.
- Always hold a brakes down when shifting from Parking.
- The automatic transmission can be damaged if towing with the drive wheels on the road. Always use a dolly or place powered wheels on the towing platform (if the vehicle is front wheel drive - tow it from the front leaving rear wheels on the road.
How to use overdrive
Generally speaking, overdrive (O/D) is the highest gear in the transmission. On most cars the automatic transmission has 3 speeds and Overdrive (forth speed). Overdrive allows the engine to have less rpm with higher speed in order to have better fuel efficiency. When you switch it on, you allow the transmission to shift into overdrive mode after the certain speed is reached (usually 30 - 40 mph depending on the load). When it's off, you limit transmission shifting by third speed. In normal driving condition the overdrive should be always on.
You may need to switch it off when driving in mountainous area or towing a trailer. [The automatic transmission automatically shifts from OD to the 3-th gear when it feel more load. When it feels less load it shifts back to the O/D, but under certain conditions, e.g: driving uphill or towing a trailer, the transmission can not decide to stay in OD or to shift into 3-th speed and it starts to shift back and forth. That's the time you may switch it off and help the transmission to decide.]
You also may need to switch it off when you want to slowdown using the engine braking, for example, driving downhill. [For more details, check your owner's manual]
Servicing your transmission
I'd recommend bringing you car to our shop - we have original parts, we know exactly what type
of the fluid to use and our technicians are highly trained to service your car. Even if you go to the dealer, always ask to use original parts - sometimes, they give you generic parts which not the same quality as original.
When it's time to go to the transmission shop
If you experience any problems with your transmission such as leaks, noises, problems with shifting, etc. (Follow this link to learn more: How to check an automatic transmission) - don't wait until the problem will become worse and car will finally stop somewhere on a highway, visit your trusted local transmission shop. Automatic transmission problems never disappear by themselves. Also, when going for the repair, try to explain to service person more detailed - what exactly problem you experience, when it happens, what does it look like. It will be easier for them to repair the transmission. Before going to the transmission shop for the repair ask them about the warranty - the longer warranty they will give you, the better will be the repair.
More About Transmissions
There are a few words in the language of auto repair that make car owners want to crawl back into bed, and transmission
is at the top of the list. There is something about that mysterious box underneath your car that incites fear. Unfortunately, most repair shops know this, and will take advantage of the situation by reaching deep into your pocket. At Barr Transmission of Seattle, we believe that the fear can be removed from Downtown Seattle area Transmission Repair by having just a little bit of knowledge.
Before you hand over your keys and a blank check, brush up on the simple end of automatic transmissions. If something is seriously wrong, at least you will be armed with enough knowledge to avoid being overcharged, over-repaired or straight ripped off. Sometimes it is easy to diagnose automatic transmission problems.
Your transmission is a remarkable contraption. Somehow it can shift your car from gear to gear, knowing how fast you need to go and how quickly you need to get there. What goes on inside is a mystery to most. Unless your thirst for automotive knowledge borders on compulsive, you can leave it a mystery. The basics will be enough to have an intelligent (which translates to not about to be ripped off
) conversation with your mechanic.
Basic Parts of a Transmission
While there are many, many little parts inside, your transmission is essentially made up of a few key parts of systems.
This is the cone shaped metal case that you can see when you peek underneath your car. If you have a front-wheel-drive car it is stuck on the side of the engine under the hood. If your car is rear-wheel-drive, the transmission will be mounted underneath the car behind the engine.
- Gears: Even though you are not shifting them, an automatic transmission has gears. They are broken into main gears and planetary gears. You need all of these to be able to drive.
- Fluid: Transmission fluid is very important to an automatic transmission. All of the magic happens in the fluid. Most cars come with red transmission fluid, good to know if you are looking for a leak.
- Filter: All of that fluid has to be clean for your car to shift gears at the right time. To keep things fresh, your transmission has a filter to catch any gunk.
Now that you know a little about what is happening in there, you can try to figure out why your transmission is acting up, or at least understand what your mechanic is talking about while he tries to make your bill into his new fishing boat.
Transmission problems fall into two very similar categories:
- Will not go.
- Will not go smoothly
These two groups of problems are caused by the same faults in your transmission, so whichever your car is doing, the following applies.
Is your fluid level correct?
It is important to check your transmission fluid at least twice a year. Not only can a low fluid level cause your car to shift poorly, it can eventually lead to transmission damage, and a costly repair. If your car seems to be losing fluid on a regular basis, you may have a leak.
Is your transmission leaking?
Checking for leaks is not as trying as it may seem. The transmission is a closed system, so there are only a few places that can spring a leak. Unless it is been changed to a non-dyed fluid, your car will have red transmission fluid.
Here are a few places to check for leaks:
- At the filler tube base.
- At the drain hole underneath the transmission.
- Between the transmission and the engine.
- At the selector shaft: the rod that connects your gear shift to the transmission.
- Speed sensor mounting point. This will either be your cable screwing into the transmission housing or an electronic sensor bolted to the housing.
The radiator. If your car has a transmission cooler, it is possible that a leak will cause transmission fluid to leak into the radiator fluid. They do not mix well, so you will see it floating around in there.