Probably the most neglected component, in terms of maintenance, of a car is its automatic transmission. Although it has to perform a lot of hard work it does not seem to get the proper attention. One must also remember that it does not require repair often but when it does it is considerably expensive. The automatic transmission needs the right fluid to function properly as it is the fluid that makes the hydraulic pressure needed to shift gears. The deterioration of transmission oil quality takes place a lot slower than engine oil but this does not give us a reason to ignore its importance. Keeping the appropriate level of fluid and filling the right transmission oil is all that is actually needed by the transmission.

See the owner’s manual to spot the location of the transmission fluid dipstick.

Examine the automatic transmission oil; this is usually done with a dipstick similar to engine oils. Read the owner’s manual as procedures are different for different cars. Some cars do not even have a dipstick and have to be taken to a workshop for automatic transmission oil inspection.

Standard Procedure:

1. Park on a level surface and set the parking brake firmly.

2. Idle the engine for about two minutes. Push down on the brake pedal.

3. Move the shift lever through all ranges and set it at P.

Checking transmission fluid level

4. With the engine still idling, pull out the dipstick, wipe it clean, and put it back.

5. Pull it out again and check the fluid level.

The proper fluid level is indicated on the dipstick. If it looks good then there is no problem but if it seems low, it may be time to get the fluid replaced or topped off. It might be a good idea to drip a bit of the fluid on a white towel to take a better look at fluid quality. New oil is red and tends to get brownish with time; it is a good idea to replace the oil before it becomes too dark. A replacement is recommended after 25,000-30,000 miles but might vary up to 60,000 miles depending on your car.

What damages your automatic transmission?

Transmissions are mostly damaged because of overheating which is mostly caused by driving under heavy load. When the oil overheats it loses all its lubricating qualities and starts oxidizing causing damage to the transmission.

However, overheating is not the lone reason; sometimes automatic transmission troubles are caused by design errors, faulty parts, poor maintenance or rebuilt job. A low or even too high transmission fluid level or wrong transmission fluid type can harm the transmission.

Preventing automatic transmission problems

Keep an eye out in your parking area for any leaks. If you spot any, get them fixed as soon as possible before they cause expensive repair jobs. Check the fluid level and condition once in a while; change the oil at proper intervals. Use only the specified oil for your transmission as newer cars are more sensitive to these oil changes and type.

If you experience strange noise, leaks and troubles when shifting gears, it is much likely that it is time to take our car to a transmission shop for check-up and repair.