The Best Ways to Destroy Your Transmission

By Mister Transmission

Bad habits are hard to break, but unfortunately the same cannot be said about your transmission system. Indeed, it only takes one of the bad habits discussed below to spell the end of one of your vehicle’s most crucial and complex systems.

But don’t despair—keeping your transmission system in shape isn’t as hard as you might think. A little knowledge goes a long way, and the Mister Transmission team is here to help steer you clear of any costly transmission system maltreatment.

Read on to learn some of the best ways to destroy your transmission system and how to avoid them, or contact your local Mister Transmission to speak directly with a transmission specialist near you.

Maintenance malpractice: 14 ways to destroy your transmission system

The automatic transmission is one of the most important modules in your vehicle. It multiplies the torque of your engine to aid in propelling the weight of your vehicle, allowing you to hit highway speeds without overtaxing the motor, and makes driving in traffic less stressful by eliminating the need for constant clutch inputs.

And yet, though vital to the proper operation of your vehicle, many drivers take their automatic transmission for granted. Even worse, they contribute to its failure via bad habits.

With tongue firmly wedged in cheek, let’s take a look at some of the best ways to destroy your transmission system, so you can steer clear of maintenance malpractice and damaging driving habits.

1. Overheat your vehicle as often as possible.

Most automatic transmissions are designed to operate at a maximum temperature of 200 degrees. For every 20 degrees you go above this limit, you risk cutting the expected lifespan of the transmission by a factor of two. To put that in a better perspective, by the time your transmission reaches 300 degrees its life span will be reduced to 1/32nd of what is considered normal. You should also note that at temperature as low as degrees your organic oil based transmission fluid can turn to varnish, leaving it unable to properly lubricate the moving parts inside your transmission.

2. Maintain improper fluid levels.

Letting the transmission run out of fluid or operating it with a low fluid level is a guaranteed way to have a transmission breakdown. The fluid keeps the transmission’s internal components cool and lubricated. When the fluid level becomes low or runs completely out, the internal parts begin to grind and overheat, which quickly leads to serious damage and system failure.

3. Never change the fluid.

Another way to kill your transmission is failing to change the fluid according to the schedule in your automobile’s owner’s manual. Like the oil in your automobile’s engine, transmission fluid becomes dirty and eventually needs changing. Failure to change the fluid can lead to the seals and gaskets, as well as internal transmission components, beginning to overheat and break down.

4. Use the incorrect fluid type.

Adding the wrong type of transmission fluid can wreak havoc on your transmission system. Manual and automatic transmissions use different fluids (see ‘Choosing the Right Transmission Fluid‘). These fluids cannot be mixed with other fluids or added on a temporary basis to “just get by.”

5. Drag race from light to light.

Flooring it as soon as the lights turn green causes the torque converter to produce a lot of heat. If you don’t give the transmission a chance to cool down betweenjack-rabbit starts, it will overheat quickly. We know what happens to a transmission when it overheats. Unless your vehicle was specifically designed for this purpose, it won’t be able to sustain that form of abuse, and you run the risk of damaging all driveline components.

6. Always stop abruptly.

Like fast starts, sudden stops can damage drivetrain components like engine and transmission mounts. These can lead to transmission damage. After any sudden emergency stop, it would be wise to have your mounts checked, and we have technicians standing by to help at 56 locations across the country.

7. Leave the shift lever in park without the parking brake on.

If another vehicle were to even tap yours at the front or back while you’re parked, it could cause the parking pawl to break, leaving your vehicle to roll down the street unattended!

8. Downshift to “brake” at traffic lights.

A forced downshift at high engine RPM is sure to cause excessive wear on transmission friction components (e.g. clutches and bands).

9. Place the shift lever in drive or reverse when the engine is at “fast idle.”

This can cause abrupt transmission engagement leading to early failure of clutches, bands, gear sets, driveline components and engine or transmission mountings.

10. Use your shift lever instead of your brake.

Before reversing direction your car must be at a complete stop. Using the transmission to stop the vehicle will lead to premature transmission failure.

11. Start driving before the engine warms up.

For your transmission to perform properly, the fluid must be at operating temperature. (Give it a few minutes and it will give you better and longer service).

12. Tow your vehicle with the drive wheels on the ground, and/or tow over the factory recommended limit.

Rear wheel drive vehicles must be towed with the rear wheels off the ground, and front wheel drive vehicles must be towed with the front wheels in the air. All wheel or full time four-wheel drive vehicles should be flat towed, with all four wheels off the ground.

If you’re not sure which applies to your vehicle, check your owner’s manual or contact your local Mister Transmission for help.

Also, every vehicle comes from the factory with a recommended maximum towing limit. Unfortunately, few owners obey it, and when you exceed the manufacturer’s recommendations, bands and clutches can start to start. This causes them to wear out very quickly. It also results in the transmission getting pumped full of debris as they start failing.

In short, improper towing can cause serious damage!

13. Play “transmission doctor.”

Over the counter additives that are supposed to stop leaks or make the transmission shift better often contain chemicals that may cause worn seals to swell. This can interfere with the function of these operating rubber parts and lead to severe damage. Next time you spot transmission leaks or experience shifting problems, don’t play doctor—go pro with Mister Transmission instead.

14. Abuse the drivetrain.

There are plenty of ways to abuse the drivetrain, each of them just as bad as the next.

If you’re stuck in sand, snow, mud or another substance, don’t try to “rock” your way out of trouble—this will cause excessive heat which can burn out a transmission in a very short amount of time. Instead, dig your vehicle out or have it towed. While you might incur some service costs, they are much less expensive than those needed to repair or replace a transmission system ruined by quick-shifting.

Some other ways to abuse the drivetrain and wreck your transmission system include: driving in stop-and-go traffic for an extended period of time, idling the vehicle too long, using mismatched tire sizes, driving off-road, and using your automobile as a snowplow.

Avoiding these bad habits can do wonders for your transmission, not to mention your wallet!

Get a free quote on transmission system repairs and part replacements

If you found this article a little too late, don’t despair—Mister Transmission is here to help. We offer a complete suite of transmission repair, maintenance, and part replacement services under one roof, and no matter what you need, you’re guaranteed:

  • A history of success—Our commitment to customer care and superior service is accredited by more than 58 years of success and over 11,000+ glowing reviews
  • Leading transmission technology—To get you the best possible service and maximize the life of your system components, we only use the best transmission tools, diagnostic technology, and replacement parts.
  • Flexible payment plans and customer rewards—We offer flexible payment plans and give away $1000 worth of transmission repair services every single month, so you can keep your transmission in shape without breaking the bank.
  • Nationwide warranty—We stand behind our transmission repair, maintenance, and replacement services with one of Canada’s best warranties.

To get a free quote on transmission system services from a Mister Transmission near you, you can:

What happens if I put the wrong transmission fluid in?

Choosing the right transmission fluid is one of the most important things a driver can do to keep their vehicle safe – and avoid unwanted car repair costs!

At Mister Transmission, our mechanics have in-depth knowledge and training, and provide our customers with sound advice on which transmission fluid brand gives them the best performance within their budget. Read More

How do I fix my overheated car?

Contaminated or burnt fluid that contains particles can indicate overheating problems in the transmission.

An overheated vehicle is a common cause of mechanical breakdown and can be the cause of significant engine and transmission damage, therefore establishing the problem associated with the overheating is important for maintaining a well-running vehicle. Read More

What happens when fluid volume is too low?

If you drive with insufficient transmission fluid, you run the risk of compromising road safety, destroying critical system components, and having to pay exorbitant repair and part replacement costs.

Read on to learn some transmission fluid fundamentals, and find how to spot the signs of low transmission fluid. Read More

When should transmission fluid be changed?

Transmission fluid is the lifeblood of your transmission. Transmission fluid acts as a lubricant to help keep everything running smoothly and efficiently.

Just when you should change out your transmission fluid will vary depending on what kind of transmission you have, what vehicle you drive, where you drive, how you drive, and how much your drive. Read More

Is replacing transmission fluid worth it?

When done at the right time, a transmission fluid change can really benefit your vehicle. But when is a fluid change necessary? And what are the benefits of a transmission fluid change?

Checking your transmission—which you should do regularly—will give you insight into whether or not it needs to be changed. Read More

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Finally got around to doing this review and everyone seems to be saying the same thing I was going to say. They are professional. They do great work. They give great advice about what options you have and which option is best for you, and they are honest about it. No one wants to ever be in the position to get a transmission replaced/repaired, but if you are, this would be the place to do it and rest assured it will be done well -- in my experience and opinion based on the work that was done for us. In our case, Mr. Transmission actually came to the rescue. And by that I mean, we were going to be low-key scammed by another "brand name" service provider. After we escaped the trap, we found Mr. Transmission. I am not going to call out that service provider because they actually did great work for us in the past, so we forgive that 'blunder'/misdiagnosis. I think my husband eventually suspected/decided it had to be the transmission or whatever the case was [and he was obviously right], but when he called Mr. Transmission, he spoke with Luke. I don't really like to use names in reviews, but his name has already been mentioned and it is true that he is professional and reassuring and helpful and so on... It was mainly because of him we decided that this was the place we were going to receive the right help. The minute I overheard him on the phone with my husband, I thought to myself, "We are going to receive the right help." And I was right. Don't ask me how I know. I just know these things. Not sure if this Luke is a mechanic as well or even if he was the one that worked on the van, [didn't ask and not relevant for this review] but he is a perfect example of why I place 'customer service' most times even above product quality and delivery and ovi the product/service delivered was A+, but customer service is almost always number 1 in my books and this experience proves why. Thanks to Luke, we are now happy we made the choice to use Mr. Transmission. And thanks to whoever worked on our van as well. Whenever I decide to give a good review of any company it is because in my books they deserve an A or an A+ and this one gets an A+.
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