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Transmission Maintenance

Transmission maintenance is vital to keep your vehicle running smoothly and effectively. It is made up of hundreds of complex components that enable your vehicle to move. The transmission fluid also serves a multitude of purposes. It cools, lubricates, transmits force, transmits pressure, inhibits varnish build-up and protects the transmission. Regular maintenance helps keep the transmission fluid clean and the transmission running smoothly.

Harsh driving conditions can devastate the life of the transmission fluid, which can then lead to transmission failure. Old and dirty transmission fluid can lead to the need for an entirely new transmission. Before draining or flushing you should pull the dip stick and look at the fluid with a white paper towel. If it is dark, burnt smelling, and you see little flakes or specks in it, DO NOT FLUSH IT. This is a sign that you may need a transmission. What is happening in these cases is that the fluid is too old or got too hot and actually became burnt. Almost like catching fire, in fact probably very close to a fire inside the transmission. By letting the fluid become burnt and damaged, all of the additives become ineffective. One of the main additives is a detergent they put in the fluid. The detergent or cleaning agent is used because transmission fluid is not changed as often as engine oil. Therefore it becomes necessary to have plenty of detergents or cleaning agents in the automatic transmission fluid so the contaminants stay in suspension and don’t congregate in one area. When the fluid is burnt up and dirty, by replacing the fluid with fresh fluid full of detergent and cleaners, the debris becomes dislodged and naturally finds its way to the control mechanism called the valve body. The other thing that happens is the new fluid with detergent can loosen the glue that holds the clutch plates and band material that holds them to their backing plates. The goal here is to flush the transmission BEFORE the fluid gets damaged. If you have the insight to keep the fluid changed then the fluid will never change color or become burnt, which is why a strict maintenance schedule needs to be implemented and followed.

Advanced Transmissions maintenance services include a free in-car diagnosis (drive, scan, and diagnose). Preventative maintenance includes the replacement of transmission fluid, replacement of transmission filter (where applicable), replacement of pan gasket and a lift inspection.

Automatic Transmission Fluid color and smell; what does it mean?

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 indication of whether your transmission is in good shape, or in need of service.

Here are the basic conditions you should be looking for:

Clean, Clear Transmission 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 transmission fluid, 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 transmission fluid, 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 some time. Eventually you’ll be facing a transmission job.

Black Color transmission fluid, 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. We 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, Advanced Transmissions: We’ll be happy to check your transmission fluid, and suggest an appropriate course of action.

Transmission Overheating

Extenuating circumstances call for early maintenance. Particularly if the engine overheats. The transmission is cooled by the engines radiator also, so when the engine overheats, so does the transmission. Most transmission issues start from overheating. Under heavy load, such as towing a heavy trailer, rocking the vehicle from the snow, having continuous stop and go traffic in hot weather, racing, etc. the transmission overheats. At higher temperatures the transmission fluid burns, losing its lubricating qualities and becomes oxidized leaving deposits all over inside the transmission. Exposed to the heat the rubber seals and gaskets inside the transmission become hardened causing leaks. The metal parts warp and lose their strength. It becomes imperative to check the transmission fluid until the slightest hint of discolor appears. At that point you know to change the fluid in your transmission 1000 miles before the point it has a slight hint of discoloration. Thus preventing needless transmission failure. One of your transmissions best friends is an auxiliary transmission cooler. It is very dramatic at how much longer your transmission will live, if it fails at all, when you remove 15 to 20 degrees of heat from a transmission.

Transmission Overdrive

How to Use Overdrive

Generally speaking, overdrive (O/D) is the highest gear in the transmission. On most cars the automatic transmission has 3 speeds and Overdrive (forth speed). Overdrive allows the engine to have less rpm with higher speed in order to have better fuel efficiency. When you switch it on, you allow the transmission to shift into overdrive mode after the certain speed is reached (usually 30 - 40 mph depending on the load). When it's off, you limit transmission shifting by third speed. In normal driving condition the overdrive should be always on. You may need to switch it off when driving in mountainous area or towing a trailer.

The automatic transmission automatically shifts from OD to the 3-th gear when it feels more load. When it feels less load it shifts back to the O/D, but under certain conditions, e.g: driving uphill or towing a trailer, the transmission can not decide to stay in OD or to shift into 3-th speed and it starts to shift back and forth. That's the time you may switch it off and help the transmission to decide.

You also may need to switch it off when you want to slowdown using the engine braking, for example, driving downhill. For more details, check your owner's manual.

Transmission Problems

Regular transmission maintenance services can help to prevent transmission failures and keep your transmission in Road Ready condition. To help familiarize you with the types of difficulties that may arise with your transmission, we have listed a few of the common transmission problems that can occur. If you have noticed any of the following signs, it probably means that it is time to have your transmission looked at:

bullet Warning lights telling you to add transmission fluid

Thumping or lagging when shifting


Failure to shift or delay when shifting


Applying gas only increases the speed of the engine, not the car itself


Car shows signs of sluggishness when cold


Any stains in colors of red, pink or brown below your car


Unusual noises such as grinding or clunking


Engine overheating


Loss of power upon acceleration


Transmission is unable to go into gear


Hard or late shifting of gears


Transmission slipping


Chatter or grinding noise in the transmission


Transmission leaking


Car is unable to move


Do's and Don'ts of Transmission Maintenance



Do scheduled maintenance according to vehicle owner's manual. Do not drive a vehicle with low or no transmission fluid
Do have transmission fluid checked when having oil changed. Stick to one brand of transmission fluid instead of mixing various brands. Do not change gear ranges from drive to reverse when your vehicle is moving.
Do start your car properly with electrical accessories turned off Do not spin tires on turns with front wheel drive vehicles.
Do come to a complete stop before you shift into first or reverse. Do not drive your vehicle when there are transmission problems, this may cause further damage.
Do make sure you come to a complete stop before moving gear into another range. Do not drag race your vehicle as it puts unnecessary strain on your transmission.
Do check your tires regularly and keep them properly inflated. Do not drive in 4x4 range on dry pavement unless vehicle is all wheel or automatic 4x4.
Do turn the steering gently and take it easy around corners. Do not drive on spare tires or mismatched tire sizes with front wheel or all wheel drive vehicles for extended periods of time.
Do heed your vehicle’s warning lights. Do not run the engine down to a completely empty tank.
Do listen carefully to your car. Do not ride the clutch
Do use emergency brake properly. Do not let your car sit idle for extended periods of time
Do shift your transmission smoothly, allowing time for the synchronizers to do their job, if you have them Do not try to shift your car faster or harder than it was designed to take
Do have your transmission rebuilt by a professional. Trying to save a relatively small amount of money without the specialized knowledge necessary to evaluate and repair a complex transmission is false economy Do not shift your car without using the clutch


Do ensure that your transmission is filled with the correct lubricant Do not “bump-start” your car if you can avoid it

Do not tow your car with the transmission connected to the drive wheels. The gears will not be lubricated properly.

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Last modified: 09/30/16