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Automatic Transmission Service and Maintenance

timely transmission serviceAutomatic transmission service and maintenance normally consists of routinely checking the fluid level and condition and then changing the fluid and filter at the manufacturers recommended mileage intervals.

Note: The schedule for servicing your transmission is covered in your vehicle owner's manual.

Keeping your transmission full of clean automatic transmission fluid (ATF) and following the manufacturer's recommended service intervals will not only save you money on costly repairs but you'll enjoy better performance, better gas mileage, peace of mind and a higher resale value if and when you ever sell or trade your vehicle.

Service and Maintenance Costs

When you service and maintain the transmission in your vehicle yourself, the costs are minimal.  For example, it cost nothing to check your transmission fluid level and condition once a month.  Adding ATF will cost you between $5 and $10 per quart of fluid, depending on the fluid type your transmission uses.  The do-it-yourself cost for a transmission service, (which is a simple fluid and filter change), can cost between $35 and $150 depending on the vehicle.  At the repair shop a transmission service will cost you anywhere from about $125 to $300 or more.  Again, depending on your vehicle year, make and model.

Note: In the big picture, whether you service the transmission yourself or you have it done at the repair shop is not important.  Getting it done is all that matters!      

  Engines vs. Transmissions?
If it were a contest for longevity
the transmissions would be crying "Foul".
  Generally speaking, vehicle owners tend to show more care for the engine in their vehicle(s) than they do for the transmission.  This reason for this simple; most people are more familiar with engine service items like oil and filter changes and tend to follow the manufacturers recommended service intervals more closely for engine maintenance.  This is why car engines typically outlast transmissions.

If this were a contest and transmissions could talk - "he-he" they would all be crying "foul" and saying; "you can't neglect and ignore our service needs and expect us to last.  Take care of us like you do the engines and we will survive".


Most Premature Transmission Failures Are AVOIDABLE!
Here is what "
To Do" and "NOT To Do"


To Do... Check Transmission Fluid Level and Condition

  My Automatic TransmissionGet into the routine of checking your transmission fluid level and condition on a regular basis.  This is the #1 thing you can do to help insure your transmission continues to run smoothly and trouble-free.
How to properly check transmission fluid level
How to check transmission fluid condition

To Do... Transmission Service


Follow the vehicle manufacturer's recommended transmission service intervals.  Depending on the vehicle, transmission service intervals can range from every 30,000 miles to never for sealed transmissions.  (Although few experts agree that a transmission never needs the fluid changed).


A typical transmission service involves removing the transmission oil pan, cleaning and inspecting the pan for the presence of metal shavings, replacing the filter and pan gasket with new parts and filling with clean fresh ATF.


NOT To Do... Exceed Tow "Weight" Limit

  DO NOT tow a vehicle or trailer that exceeds the tow weight limitation of your vehicle.  Doing so causes tremendous heat build up inside the transmission.  Even when towing within the vehicle's rated tow limit, the transmission can become overheated, especially when traveling through mountainous terrains, the desert and city stop and go traffic.

Be very careful here as the heat build up from towing will ruin your transmission.  This isn't hype - it's the truth!  

NOT To Do... Manual Shifts (Upshifts and Downshifts)

  Always place the shifter lever in the Drive "D" position allowing the transmission to control shifts and shift timing.  Automatically controlled shifts occur at optimum RPMs taking into account vehicle speed and load.  Manually upshifting and downshifting at higher engine RPMs causes hard shifts and excessive wear to gears and friction clutches.

NOT To Do... Shift from Reverse to Drive While Moving

  When backing up, always come to a complete stop before shifting into Drive "D".  Shifting into Drive from Reverse before the vehicle comes to a complete stop can chip, crack or break gears and severely damage other transmission hard parts.  Repair costs for these type damages are high because the transmission must be removed from the vehicle and disassembled.

To Do... Set E-Brake When Parked

  When parking your vehicle, especially when parking on an incline, set the emergency brake (e-brake) BEFORE shifting the transmission into the Park "P" position.  Doing so places the weight of the vehicle on the brake instead of the transmission's parking pawl.  See Transmission Parking Pawl for more information on how this works.

NOT To Do... Spin the Wheels When Stuck

  My Automatic TransmissionWhen stuck in ice, snow or mud, do not spin the wheels in an attempt to free the vehicle.  Moving the shifter back and forth between Reverse and Drive and spinning the wheels builds intense heat inside the transmission very quickly.  It only takes a few minutes of high speed wheel spinning to ruin a perfectly good transmission.

To Do... Install an External Transmission Oil Cooler

  As you know by now, excessive heat is the quickest (and most common) cause of premature transmission failure.  Keeping your transmission cool in every situation is sometimes more than the factory transmission oil cooler is capable of doing.  An external (or auxiliary) transmission oil cooler is a very inexpensive safety measure to avoid a very expensive breakdown.
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