Our Repair and Maintenance Services:
- Q1. Regular Service Keeps Your Transmission on the Road
- Q2. Checking the Transmission Fluid Level
- Q3. Reading the Transmission Fluid
- Q4. What Type of Fluid Should I Use?
- Q5. Additives Alter Friction Characteristics
- Q6. Diagnosing Today's Transmissions
- Q7. Extend Transmission Life by Reducing Heat
Servicing your car’s automatic transmission regularly can dramatically extend its life.
That’s because the oil or ATF does more than just lubricate: It also helps drive the transmission. Damage to the fluid, such as oxidation and shear, will reduce its holding power. This allows the transmission to slip and overheat, and quickly cause it to fail.
A complete fluid exchange service, performed annually, can add years to your transmission’s life. Most ATRA member transmission repair centers offer this service, and will be happy to explain the details to you.
It’s no exaggeration to say that automatic transmissions run on oil, more properly called automatic transmission fluid, or ATF.
Unfortunately, in recent years, many manufacturers have started to eliminate the transmission fluid dipstick. Called sealed units, these transmissions require a much more involved process to check fluid levels than in days gone by. The process often involves electronic testing devices, such as a computer scan tool. This puts checking the transmission fluid level beyond the capabilities of the average car owner.
If your car doesn’t have a dipstick, you should have your local repair shop or dealership check the transmission fluid level at least a couple times a year, even if you don’t notice a problem with the transmission operation. A good time to do this is while you’re having the engine oil changed, in the spring and fall.
But if your car does have a transmission dipstick, you should check the transmission fluid level at least once or twice between oil changes. Your car’s owners manual should provide a detailed procedure for checking the transmission fluid level in your car.
If you don’t have an owner’s manual, here’s a basic procedure that’ll work on just about any car with a transmission dipstick.
WARNING: Checking the transmission fluid level requires working under the hood of your car with the engine running. This can be very dangerous if you aren’t sure what you’re doing. Watch out for moving components, such as fans, fan belts, pulleys, etc. If you aren’t comfortable with this procedure, always take your car to your local service station to have the transmission fluid checked.
1. Make sure your car is on level ground.
2. Start the engine.
3. Bring the engine and transmission to normal operating temperature. The easiest way to do this is to check the fluid level right after driving the car for a while.
4. Hold your foot on the brake, and work the shifter slowly through the gears. Give the transmission a second or two in each gear range.
5. Put the shifter all the way back into park.
6. Set the parking brake.
7. Carefully open the hood.
8. Find the transmission dipstick (your owners manual should show you where to look for the transmission dipstick):
- Rear wheel drive vehicles — the dipstick will usually be on the passenger’s side of the enginecompartment, near the back of the engine.
- Front wheel drive vehicles — the dipstick will usually be on the driver’s side of the vehicle, on either side of the transmission.
9. Remove the dipstick, and wipe it off with a clean rag or paper towel.
10. Slide the dipstick all the way back down into the transmission fill tube.
11. Pull the dipstick back out, and check the fluid level against the markings on the end of the dipstick.
12. Add fluid as necessary.
Always use the fluid recommended by the manufacturer. See the consumer information on fluid types to be sure you’re using the right fluid for your car.
If the transmission requires more than a quart, or is using fluid regularly, take your car in to have it checked for leaks.
And if you’re unsure of the procedure or where to find the transmission dipstick, check with your local ATRA member center: They’ll be happy to show you where the dipstick is, and how to check the fluid level.
There’s a lot you can learn about the condition of your transmission just by examining the fluid.
New transmission fluid is usually transparent, and relatively odorless. A few years ago, virtually every transmission fluid was red; technicians would aptly describe a transmission with exceptionally clean fluid as being “cherry.”
Today, many manufacturers have begun to stray from the traditional red color. Transmission fluids may be green, yellow, some may even have a bluish tint. But in virtually every case, clean fluid will look clean, and smell clean. So checking the fluid’s color and giving it a little sniff is a great way to determine whether your transmission is in good shape, or in need of service.
Here are the basic conditions you should be looking for:
CLEAN, CLEAR FLUID, WITH VIRTUALLY NO ODOR — the fluid’s like new. Chances are the transmission’s working fine. Use the vehicle mileage or time since it was last serviced to determine whether you should have the transmission serviced.
SLIGHT BROWNISH TINT, WITH A LIGHTLY BURNT ODOR — the fluid’s beginning to burn, and is probably due for a service. If you didn’t have the fluid exchanged completely the last time you had the transmission serviced, you may just be looking at the old oil that was left in the transmission. As long as the transmission seems to be working okay, consider a complete fluid exchange service in the not-too-distant future.
BROWN COLOR, WITH A DISTINCTLY BURNT OR VARNISHED ODOR — the fluid’s burnt, and you may already be experiencing transmission operating problems. If the trans seems to be operating okay, you might still get away with a complete fluid exchange service and filter replacement. But there’s little doubt that the transmission is beginning to wear, so the best you can expect from a service is to buy you some time. Eventually you’ll be facing a transmission job.
BLACK COLOR, WITH A STENCH THAT WILL MAKE YOUR TOES CURL— the fluid’s severely burnt, and the transmission probably is, too. You’re probably experiencing a serious transmission operating failure. A service at this point will usually be a complete waste of money; the trans is going to need a rebuild. And there’s the possibility of related problems, such as a clogged trans cooler or a cooling system problem. Make sure you have these systems checked at the same time, to avoid a second transmission failure.
Of course, fluid condition isn’t the only thing technicians check when examining a transmission’s condition. They also look at operating condition, computer system codes, and any loose material in the pan, to name just a few. Oil condition is just one of a series of clues they use to diagnose transmission condition. If you’re unsure of whether your transmission fluid indicates a problem, stop by or call us 858 693 8282 : We will be happy to check your transmission fluid, and suggest an appropriate course of action.
Automatic transmissions use a special type of oil, called Automatic Transmission Fluid, or ATF. This fluid has a number of duties in the transmission, including lubrication, cooling and clutch application.
ATF even provides the connection between the engine and transmission, through a hydraulic coupling called a torque converter. And, when squeezed between the clutches, ATF acts as a “glue,” providing additional friction and holding capacity to drive the vehicle.
So ATF is a very versatile fluid. That’s why maintaining that fluid can be so critical to transmission life.
A few years back, there were only two types of fluid on the market: Type A and Type F. Conventional wisdom said that Type F was for Fords and Type A was for everything else. Conventional wisdom wasn’t all that accurate even back then, and today it’s completely out the window.
These days there are four main types of fluid on the market. And there are dozens of brands and styles to choose from.
So how do you know what your transmission uses? The easiest way to make sure you’re using the right type of ATF is to check the owner’s manual. It’ll tell you exactly which ATF the manufacturer recommended for your car. You may also find a recommendation on the dipstick. Either is a reasonable resource for determining the right type of fluid for your trans.
Here’s a list of the different types of fluids, and the basic differences between them:
Type F—Yes, it’s still around, as a quick walk through at your local parts store will attest. The only think is,
almost nothing uses it anymore. Type F was designed for Fords that used bronze clutches; the last trans made with bronze clutches was the Cruizematic, last used in the early ‘70s. Unless you’re talking about a classic car or an antique, you can be pretty sure your car doesn’t use Type F.
Dexron III/Mercon — This is one of the most common fluids on the market. Most GM and Ford units call
for this type of ATF, as well as many imports. If your owners manual recommends any form of Dexron, or any Mercon — other than Mercon V — this is the fluid you want.
HFM-Style Fluids — HFM stands for Highly Friction Modified; it’s a fluid that provides different friction
characteristics than Dexron III/Mercon. This fluid appears under a number of different names, including
Chrysler’s ATF+ — also called 7670. Other manufacturers that use HFM ATF include:
Are these fluids interchangeable? They should be… logic dictates they are. But to be safe, always use the specific fluid the manufacturer calls for.
Synthetic Fluids — A number of manufacturers have begun to discontinue the use of organically-based fluids, in favor of synthetic fluids. Preliminary tests have shown that most synthetics have similar friction modification characteristics to Dexron III/Mercon, but with improved resistance to heat, cold, oxidation and sheer. In simple terms, synthetics last longer.
Synthetic oils are one reason why many manufacturers are also beginning to eliminate the transmission dipstick. Their feeling seems to be the ATF will last longer, so there’s no reason to let people interfere with the transmission and its operation. Will they work? Will synthetics really keep the transmission operating longer, without human intervention? Only time will tell.
CAUTION — Ford labels their synthetic fluid Mercon V, which can be a bit confusing. If the manual says
Mercon V, it’s calling for the synthetic fluid; if the name is Mercon without the V, that’s the regular Dexron
While there are many different types of ATF on the market, a few aftermarket chemical companies have come up with an idea to save repair shops and vehicle owners money. What they’ve done is develop additives that mix with standard Dexron III/Mercon, to alter the friction characteristics to match the other types of fluid.
One of the most common of these additives is the HFM additive. When added to Dexron III/Mercon, it alters the friction characteristics enough to allow you to use it in any transmission that requires HFM fluids.
This probably won’t affect you for adding a quart of ATF; chances are you won’t be able to get this additive
anyway. They’re usually only available through professional sources. If you need to add a quart of ATF to your transmission, you’re probably better off using the factory recommended ATF.
But if you have your transmission serviced and the fluid replaced, the repair shop may use one of the HFM additives along with Dexron III/Mercon in your trans. That’s okay; these additives work just fine for altering the fluid’s friction characteristics.
However, if your transmission is still within its factory warranty, check with the dealer or a factory representative before allowing anything in your transmission besides the factory recommended ATF. Other additives or oils could affect your warranty.
Though they may be trying their best to do consumers a good service, transmission professional who do quote prices for major repair over the telephone are doing just the opposite.
First, even qualified automotive technicians who specialize in other areas of the car seldom have the ability to observe and then relate all the information necessary to come to an accurate conclusion related to transmissions. Then, there is the ever constant problem of conveying their observations in a manner that is meaningful to the transmission specialist. For example, will one's definition of the terms slip, squeak, grind, squeal and bump be the same as the transmission professional who is trying to interpret those terms? Categorically—no!
Next, have all the complicated diagnostic procedures been performed which are necessary to provide a correct and cost efficient repair recommendation? The odds are poor at very best. With today's sophisticated, electronically controlled transmissions, in many cases accurate diagnosis requires "high tech", expensive diagnostic test equipment before even the professional can render a qualified opinion.
Further, when it has been determined which system(s) in the transmission have failed, then the extent of the internal damage must be determined before a meaningful price can be discussed. Short of performing these essential diagnostic procedures, persons who quote prices are either guessing, with virtually thousands of variables or stating a meaningless price which will have to be adjusted when all the diagnostic data is obtained.
We could compare this situation to a patient who calls his dentist, describing oral pain under a given set of circumstances.
Is the pain caused by a gum infection, a cavity, the need for a root canal or is the only remedy complete tooth removal? The average consumer would be less than confident if the dentist were to recommend root canal or extraction with such incomplete information.
The same is true in transmission diagnosis. Any meaningful diagnosis can only be rendered after a complete inspection is performed.
Should you have questions of any nature, please feel free to Call Transmasters . We pleased to assist you.
When you come to a stop does your car stall? While driving down the highway do you feel a shudder? Have you ever tried to pass another car and felt like someone abruptly applied the brakes?
You wouldn't be alone if you blamed the transmission for causing these problems. In fact, these problems may be due to something else.
We are all aware that late model cars use a computer to control the engine. Many cars use the same computer or another computer which shares the same information, to control the fuel injection, ignition and transmission. Automotive engineers did this in order to achieve more efficiency and better mileage. This means that your engine and transmission are connected together in more ways than just simply being bolted to one another.
Since the engine and transmission are controlled and work together, they are referred to as a 'Powertrain".
Consider that shudder you felt cruising down the highway. The computer is using sensors on the engine and transmission to detect such things as throttle position, vehicle speed, transmission input speed, stop light switch position, etc.
As you drive the car, you are constantly changing the demands on the powertrain (i.e. acceleration, cruising, passing, coasting and idling). The computer recognizes this by monitoring various sensors. To improve fuel economy, the computer will (under the right conditions) engage a clutch inside the torque converter.
NOTE: The torque converter is a device located between the engine and transmission. It is filled with hydraulic oil (automatic transmission fluid). The hydraulic oil coupled with the design of the torque converter allows the engine to run slowly at an idle (like being disconnected) with the vehicle stopped. At higher engine speed, torque is transferred through the hydraulic oil to the transmission.
Without special equipment and experience, no one can tell if a shudder is caused by something slipping inside the transmission, the torque converter, a weak spark, a dirty fuel injector or a loose electrical connection. Your Automatic Transmission Rebuilders Association (ATRA) transmission specialist is a highly qualified professional and can best determine what, if anything your transmission needs.
Should you have questions of any nature, please feel free to contact your local ATRA Member. They will be pleased to assist you.
The most common cause of automatic transmission failure is heat. You can get more miles out of your transmission by reducing the heat that builds up during normal operation. Here are a few things you can do to help reduce heat, and keep your transmission working longer:
1. Avoid Jackrabbit Starts — Hard accelerations create a lot of friction and heat in the transmission. Take it easy on the gas, and your transmission will live longer.
2. Help the Shift — Most of the friction and wear in the transmission takes place during the shifts. Get to know when your transmission shifts normally. Then, just before the shift, back off on the gas just a bit. That’ll reduce the load on the clutches, and eliminate much of the friction during the shift.
3. Keep the Cooling System in Good Shape — Your car’s radiator also provides cooling for your transmission. And heat damage will take place in the transmission long before the engine appears to overheat. So regular cooling system service can help your transmission run cooler… and last longer.
4. Add a Transmission Cooler — If you travel a lot in extremely high temperatures or carry a lot of weight in your car, an auxiliary transmission cooler is a great way to reduce heat and add years to your transmission’s life.
Powered by: AutoVitals