Home » Auto Repair Information » 5 Tips to Avoid Automatic Transmission Breakdown

5 Tips to Avoid Automatic Transmission Breakdown

Automatic Transmission Care

Summer is almost here and your’re probably already planning a trip our of town with the camper, trailer, boat, or motor home. Nobody wants to be thinking about how hard towing can be on our automatic transmissions. No one plans to be the guy broken down on the side of the road that everyone else is driving past on their way to the best camp sites. But with Memorial Day fast approaching, here are some tips to help you save money by preparing your tow vehicle or motor home for that first weekend away from it all.
Transmission service intervals and procedures vary from one Original Equipment Manufacture (OEM) to another. With the aftermarket repair industry and many new car dealerships going beyond the OEM servicing guidelines to recommend more frequent transmission flushing and service intervals, always consult your vehicle owner’s manual. The price of most transmission overhauls range from $1500.00 to $2500.00. The much smaller price you will pay for servicing is more than worth the investment.
A day or two before you leave town be sure to check your transmissions fluid level. Warm you vehicle’s transmission to its normal operating temperature. This can be done by simply driving it the recommended mileage distance or time and then check the fluid level following the procedure in your owner’s manual.

Transmission dipstick location
Transmission Dipstick Location

Here are 5 tips that could help you avoid a potential breakdown.  You can also find some additional information about your transmission at the Car Car Aware website.

Avoid excess heat in your transmission

Research suggests that 90% of transmission failures are caused by heat.  A 20 degree increase in transmission fluid temperature above normal can cut the life of the fluid in half.  When driving conditions increase the normal operating temperature of the fluid it accelerates oxidation breaking down of the protective characteristics of the fluid.  This oxidation causes the fluid to turn brown and smell burnt.  It also causes the rubber parts in the transmission to harden which interfers with their ability to function correctly.  Metal parts car warp or expand so much that they damage gaskets and seals.  Heat is a serious enemy of transmission health.

Install an auxiliary cooler

The OEM built-in coolers that come on your tow vehicle may not cool enough to give you the protection you need.  An auxiliary cooler can save your transmission from the damage done by excess heat.  When properly installed the auxiliary coolers may help your transmission to run 30% to 50% cooler when towing.  Running in the neighborhood of a few hundred dollars, this investment is definitely worth looking into.

Don’t tow in overdrive

Most OEMs recommend you not tow while in overdrive, but always consult your manual.  Look for a button on the dash or steering column that turns overdrive off.  If your vehicle doesn’t have this button, if probably has the overdrive position on the shift indicator.  Pull the shift lever from overdrive to the drive position before towing.

Use the correct fluid

Types of fluid vary from vehicle to vehicle.  General Motors, Ford, Chrysler, Dodge, Toyota, Honda, Nissan and other OEMs have their own Automatic Transmission Fluid(ATF).  Many OEMs over the years have improved their fluids and specify that the new fluid will work in their older cars and trucks.  They usually produce a technical bulletin to that effect if such is the case.  The newer fluids may be more expensive but will likely improve the protection of the transmission which makes it worth the expense.

Don’t overfill your transmission

Follow your manual very carefully when checking and adding fluid.  Overfilling can cause the fluid to foam, which can lead to erratic shifting, loss of internal lubrication and potential transmission damage.

Also follow these 5 tips to avoid automatic transmission breakdowns and you will enjoy a long life for your transmission and avoid the inconvenience of a breakdown. Here is another article with additional tips and information about automatic transmission care.

Call Dale’s Auto Care at (208) 345-5620 to make an appointment to have your transmission checked or serviced.  We are located in Boise, Idaho at 2602 Vista Ave.

We appreciate knowing if you found this information helpful and would welcome comments.  Watch for another post soon about  automatic transmission care.  Drive safely!


Leave a Comment