Caring for Your Car Transmission: 15 Best Tips

The transmission system is one of the most crucial components of your car. As its name implies, it transmits power from your vehicle’s engine to the wheels. Without a transmission, your car wouldn’t move.

Because it’s such an important and complex system, replacing a busted transmission can cost thousands of dollars. That’s not a bill you want to get. Fortunately, there are many simple things you can do during everyday driving to extend the lifespan of your transmission.

Read on to learn the best tips and tricks on how to care for your car transmission.

15 Tips on How to Take Care of Your Transmission

It’s not difficult to keep your transmission in good shape. Instead of one huge project, good transmission care consists of little things you can employ every time you get behind the wheel. And the best part is that caring for your transmission won’t just save you money — it can also help keep you safe on the road.

Here are our tips for keeping your transmission working longer.

1. Keep an Eye on the Transmission Fluid

Transmission fluid is critical for your system since it lubricates the moving parts of the transmission while also providing hydraulic pressure. Checking the condition of the fluid is one of the easiest ways to know you need transmission service.

To check the fluid, idle your car in park, pop the hood, and pull out the dipstick. Wipe it clean, reinsert it, and check that the fluid level is where it should be. You should also see that the fluid isn’t dirty or dark.

2. Use the Right Kind of Transmission Fluid

There are many kinds of engine oils, and the same goes for transmission fluid. For example, automatic and manual transmission require different fluids. There are also differences in the requirements between car makes and models.

The owner’s manual will tell you what kind of transmission fluid your car needs. You can also bring your car to a reliable service shop and ask the technician to identify the right fluid.

3. Swap to a Synthetic Fluid

If your car has traditional transmission fluid, you may want to consider changing it to synthetic fluid. Synthetic transmission fluids resist heat, cold, oxidation, and shearing much better, extending your transmission’s lifespan.

Just make sure you pick the right kind of synthetic fluid. When in doubt, consult your owner’s manual or a friendly car technician

4. Keep Your Cooling System Operational

Excessive heat will eventually degrade any transmission fluid, synthetic or not. Your car’s cooling system is responsible for keeping the fluid’s temperature in check.

For this reason, you need to make sure the cooling system always works optimally. Ask your technician to check the cooler at least once a year.

5.  Warm Up Your Car in Winter

Just like high temperatures, freezing weather can also harm your transmission. Cold transmission fluid is more viscous and slows gear engagement, which can damage the system.

During the cold northern Virginia winters, let your car warm up for a few minutes before you start driving. It might also be a good idea to invest in a transmission heater for the winter months.

6. Get an External Transmission Fluid Filter

Every transmission system has a filter, but they’re often simple fine mesh screens. Adding an external filter can help catch dirt and particles that get through the original filter.

Cleaner transmission fluid keeps the system operating better and for longer. Installing an external filter can be a challenge, though, so it’s best to ask a pro technician to do it.

7. Keep Your Foot Off the Brake Pedal During Driving

Many people like to rest their foot on the brake pedal when driving for quicker reaction times. But here’s the thing — don’t do it.

Car brakes are sensitive and even slight pressure can partially engage the brakes. As a result, your engine and transmission have to work harder, causing unnecessary wear.

8. Shift Gears Appropriately

It goes without saying that not shifting gears the right way can damage your transmission system. Owners of manual transmission vehicles particularly need to learn how and when to engage the next gear.

But automatic transmission drivers must be careful, too. Always bring your vehicle to a full stop when shifting into park or from drive to reverse — or vice versa.

9. Use the Parking Brake

The parking brake is sometimes called an emergency brake, but it’s not just for emergencies. You should always engage the parking brake when you park your car, especially when parked at an incline.

If you don’t use the parking brake, your transmission system does a lot of the work to keep your car in place. This extra strain will naturally wear down and damage the transmission.

10. Don’t Accelerate too Fast

The harder you drive, the harder your transmission has to work — it’s just logical. If you have a heavy foot on the gas pedal, your transmission will struggle to keep up with your driving.

Have mercy on your vehicle and accelerate slowly when you start moving. Your transmission will reward your kindness with reduced wear and longer service life.

11. Engine Brake Cautiously

Engine braking — taking your foot off the gas pedal and shifting into a lower gear to slow down — is a good way to save your brakes. But it’s not a foolproof solution, since you’re shifting the responsibility of slowing your car from the brakes to the transmission.

Excessive downshifting and engine braking can cause significant wear to transmission components. We’re not saying you shouldn’t engine brake, but don’t do it all the time.

12. Don’t Be a Towing Service

If you have a big truck, your friends or family might ask you to tow their car. It can be hard to say no, but you shouldn’t stand in for a tow truck unless you have no choice.The extra weight of the towed vehicle will put immense strain on everything from your engine to brakes and transmission. So, unless it’s a matter of life and death, consider getting a towing service instead.

13. Don’t Rely on a Spare Tire

The spare tire can get your car moving again after you have a blowout. But don’t keep the spare on — get new tires as soon as possible.

Spare tires are often smaller than your regular ones, and the discrepancy can cause wear on your transmission. The spare tire can help you in an emergency, but it’s not meant to replace a proper tire.

14. Use Transmission Additives

There are additives you can add to your transmission system, like a transmission conditioner. These additives may help with various things, such as maintaining seal health or preventing leaks.

Be cautious, though, since using the wrong kind of additives can easily do more damage than it does good. You should always ask your trusted car technician before adding strange liquids into your transmission.

15. Get Your Transmission Checked Regularly

Above all else, regular transmission inspections will ensure your car stays in tip-top shape. The owner’s manual should specify how often you need to bring your car in for transmission service.As a general rule of thumb, however, automatic transmissions should be serviced every 15,000 miles, or once a year. Manual transmissions can go longer without service, but getting an annual checkup is still an excellent idea.

The Most Common Signs of Transmission Issues

But no matter how lovingly you care for your car, things can still always break. Anything from accidents to hitting potholes could damage any system or component in your car — including your transmission.

For this reason, it’s good to be aware of the most common signs of transmission problems. If you notice any of the below symptoms, don’t delay getting your transmission checked. Ignoring them could seriously damage the transmission and land you with a huge repair bill

How to Know if Your Car Has Transmission Problems

The mechanical parts of your transmission could fail for any number of reasons. These issues let you know that your car has transmission problems:

  • Check Engine Light: Nobody likes that pesky Check Engine light, but it’s there for a reason. Many times your car will let you know when it’s not feeling right, so don’t slap tape over the light and bring your vehicle in for service.
  • Grinding or Whining: A well-functioning transmission is largely silent. If your transmission suddenly sounds like an industrial stone grinder or an upset puppy, something’s definitely wrong.
  • Dragging Clutch: This problem is exclusive to manual transmissions. A dragging clutch indicates slack in your clutch pedal, which may make it impossible to switch gears.
  • Vibration When Shifting: A healthy transmission shifts gears smoothly. If you feel shaking during shifting, there may be an issue with the gears.

Gear Slipping: If your car suddenly slips into the wrong gear while driving, your transmission bands may be worn out. It could also indicate a transmission fluid problem.

How to Know if Your Car Needs Transmission Fluid

Any of the symptoms in the previous section could also mean your transmission fluid is low or dirty. But there are also some issues that almost always indicate problems with the fluid. Here’s how to know if your car needs transmission fluid:

  • Burning Smell: A burning smell is usually the result of low transmission fluid. Without enough lubrication, parts start overheating and scorching the fluid.
  • Puddles Under Your Car: If you notice puddles of reddish, sweet-smelling fluid under your car, that’s your transmission fluid leaking out. Bring your car in for service immediately.

Refusal to Switch Gears: If your car simply refuses to switch gears, you’re most likely facing an issue with low or dirty fluid.

Where to Get Auto Transmission Service in Chantilly & Warrenton

It’s particularly important to take good care of your car in northern Virginia. Our cold winters are transmission fluid’s worst nightmare, while the hot and humid summers can pack your car internals full of dirt and leaves.

Advanced Automotive has been helping Virginians maintain their cars for more than 35 years. The ASE-certified technicians at our convenient locations in Chantilly and Warrenton will diagnose and repair your transmission problems, no matter what car you drive.Book an appointment, call us, or drop by for a surprise visit today.