07 Nov Change Transmission Fluid Regularly
When to Change Transmission Fluid for Automatic and Manual
Transmission fluid is the magenta-colored liquid that serves as lubricant for the transmission system. Proper fluid levels and conditions are essential to the smooth operation of transmissions. In fact, most transmission problems, such as rough shifting, slipping gears, or transmission clunking, can be traced back to issues with the fluid. A common issue is if the fluid level is too low it leads to insufficient lubrication. Another common issue is if the fluid is simply too old and contaminated, it results in prolonged damage to gears and bearings. Just like engine oil, transmission fluid is a vital automotive fluid that fundamentally affects a car’s performance. Most car manuals will tell vehicle owners the proper interval to change transmission fluid.
Most cars on the road today have automatic transmissions. Thus, these cars use automatic transmission fluid, or ATF. ATF is a special liquid optimized for valve operation, brake band friction, and gear lubrication. The life of the ATF depends on its operating temperatures, with the optimal range around 175 degrees Fahrenheit. When temperatures fluctuate beyond this range, the ATF starts deteriorating at an accelerated rate. The chemical compounds break down and the fluid starts to lose its original properties, resulting in rougher shifts or unresponsive gears. High operating temperatures occur during high-stress driving, such as stop-and-go traffic, mountain driving, long-distance driving, and towing. Vehicle owners can check the condition of the ATF with a dipstick to determine if they need to change transmission fluid. If the dipstick indicates low fluid levels, or reveals a dark, burnt-smelling liquid, it is time to get a transmission fluid change.
The fluid in manual transmissions is slightly different. Some manual transmissions use gear oil, but many newer models also use ATF. Unlike automatic transmissions, the main issue in manual transmissions is fluid contamination. Contamination occurs when the gears, bearings, and synchronizers wear down, resulting in metal particles becoming part of the gear fluid. These particles increase wear and tear of the transmission parts, and, depending on the level of contamination, can significantly shorten a transmission’s lifespan. Owners can check the fluid of manual cars through a plug on the side of the transmission to see if they need to change transmission fluid or if levels are low.
Even though the transmission is one of the most important machinery in a car, many people still don’t know that they need to change transmission fluid regularly for a smooth operating vehicle. Consult your owner’s manual for proper mileage intervals for transmission maintenance. To schedule an appointment, call West Coast Transmissions today at (916) 348-3962!
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