Your vehicle’s transmission plays a crucial role in transferring power from the engine to the wheels, ensuring the car’s movement. Thus, if the transmission malfunctions, your vehicle is not going anywhere. Common indicators of transmission trouble include challenges during gear shifts, sudden gear changes, slipping gears, delayed acceleration, or unusual noises like grinding or whining. These symptoms often suggest the need for a transmission fluid replacement at a minimum, if not an overall transmission maintenance.
Transmission System Decoding
A transmission system is an intricate assembly with hundreds of individual parts such as torque converter, hydraulic pump, planetary gears, clutches, bell housing, and filters. In automatic vehicles, transmission fluid serves a dual purpose — it acts as a lubricant, safeguarding against overheating, and assists in driving the transmission by creating necessary pressure and torque. However, failure to properly maintain this fluid can result in it becoming dirty and worn, which negatively impacts the overall performance of the transmission. Over time, this neglect could lead to a complete breakdown of the system due to overheating.
Assessing Fluid Color
Transmission fluids exhibit a wide range of colors. Even freshly added fluids may show a stark contrast, and a progressive darkening over time is not unusual. However, a deviation exists – the presence of blackened or burnt fluid signals an underlying issue with the transmission or the fluid itself. If such a condition is observed, immediate professional attention should be sought to prevent severe transmission breakdowns.
Regular Transmission Fluid Checks
It’s advisable to examine your transmission fluid at least twice a year, but if your vehicle often covers significant distances or frequently navigates challenging driving conditions, such as congested traffic or off-road terrains, monthly checks may be warranted. However, the most accurate guidance will always come from your vehicle’s owner’s manual, which should be consulted for this purpose.
Fluid Color as a Wear Indicator
Although the fluid color serves as a primary visual reference to gauge its age and condition, it is not always a reliable indication of a serious problem. While the color is a good starting point for diagnostics, a professional transmission technician should be consulted for an accurate evaluation of its condition. Their thorough vehicle courtesy check could reveal that a simple fluid change or transmission flush may be all that’s required to rectify the issue.
Understanding a Transmission Fluid Flush
A transmission fluid flush is a comprehensive procedure that purges the transmission system of old, degraded fluid and any accumulated contaminants, replacing them with fresh fluid. The process starts by connecting the vehicle’s transmission to a specialized machine that simultaneously extracts old fluid and introduces new fluid. Using the vehicle’s own transmission pump, the machine ensures all the fluid, even in remote corners of the system like the torque converter and cooler lines, is flushed out.
In some instances, cleaning agents may be used to break down stubborn deposits or sludge. As the process proceeds, the old fluid is completely replaced with new, clean transmission fluid. The procedure concludes with the technician running the vehicle, shifting through the gears to ensure full circulation of the new fluid and smooth operation. However, it’s essential to consult with a professional mechanic before opting for a transmission fluid flush, as it may not always be the most suitable course of action, particularly for vehicles with high mileage or existing transmission damage.
Getting the Job Done
Taking care of your transmission ensures a long life and reduces the chances of repairs or a replacement. Even so, rebuilding a transmission can cost $3,000 with a full replacement topping $6,500, according to S&S Transmission. Catch the problem early enough and repairs may run about $800. As for a transmission flush, Amsoil estimates that they cost between $150 and $400.
Story photo under license from Adobe Stock.