Tips for Preventing a Transmission Breakdown

By Mister Transmission

Think of your car’s inner workings as similar to that of the human body.

If your stomach begins to hurt without warning, you’ll probably start thinking of the last thing you ate in order to figure out why you’re having the pain. When it comes to diagnosing car trouble, a similar type of thinking goes into finding out what’s wrong.

The moment you start noticing something out of the ordinary with your car, it’s time to start considering the problem and finding a way to fix it. It’s great if your problem can be sorted without much trouble, but even better not to have a problem in the first place. This is especially true when it comes to your vehicle’s transmission, as this can be one of the more specialized parts to repair. Looking after your transmission is important, so don’t neglect it. The best way to do this is to catch problems early.

 

Here are 12 tips that could help you avoid a potential breakdown:

1. Check your transmission fluid level, color and smell regularly.
Your fluid should be checked roughly every 1,600 kilometres. The fluid should also be changed every 80,000 kilometres or every other year, depending on which comes first.

2. Use the correct fluid.
Types of fluid vary from vehicle to vehicle. Some newer fluids may be more expensive but they will likely improve the protection of the transmission, which makes it worth the expense.

3. 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.

4. Avoid excess heat in your transmission.
Heat is a serious enemy of transmission health. Research suggests that 90% of transmission failures are caused by heat. If you reduce the heat back to normal operating temperatures, you increase the life span of your vehicle.

5. Don’t tow in overdrive.
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.

6. Install an auxiliary cooler.
An auxiliary cooler can save your transmission from the damage done by excess heat.  When properly installed they may help your transmission to run 30% to 50% cooler when towing. This investment could save you hundreds of dollars.

7. Don’t overload your vehicle.
All that weight from towing makes the transmission work too hard so it overheats, which causes real damage. If you do a lot of towing, consider the point 6.

8. Allow your vehicle to warm up thoroughly on cold mornings.
Warming up the engine/transmission for about 30 seconds to a minute before driving is best practice. After that take it easy until the car is actually warm.

9. Avoid rocking between gears if your vehicle becomes stuck in mud or on ice.
If you must rock, do so as gently as possible and make sure the wheels have stopped moving before each gear change. This will drastically reduce the strain placed on the transmission.

10. Do not perform high performance starts, or spinning of your tires except in emergencies.

11. Use your emergency brake when parking on an incline.
This reduces stress on the parking pawl (pin) and linkage.

12. Play it safe; get any potential trouble looked at promptly by a professional.
If you think a problem is developing (say you notice sudden changes to the way your car drives, or any changes to the way your transmission works, such as trouble changing gears or a delay before the gear seems to shift), but you aren’t sure, get it checked out by an expert.

Other considerations:

Automatic vs. Manual

Cars come in two basic models: automatic, where you only need to worry about basic gears plus the gas and brake, and manual, where you use a stick shift and clutch to manually choose the optimal gear for your driving conditions. Both types need transmission fluid to keep the transmission in working order, but it can be easier for you to check the transmission fluid yourself in a manual car. If you want to keep your car running as long as possible and as safely as possible, you’ll want to know all about the transmission fluid and the role it plays in your transmission maintenance.

Transmission Fluid

The transmission fluid helps keep your transmission’s gears moving smoothly without friction. If you smell something burning, while driving your car or while checking the transmission fluid, the fluid is likely old and will need to be replaced. Transmission fluid should be bright red in color, which you can check by wiping a small amount on a cotton ball or a piece of white paper, and should smell slightly sweet. While you can usually check the transmission fluid yourself, the draining and changing of it should be handled by a professional, especially with an automatic transmission. If you do want to change it yourself, check your owner’s manual and follow its instructions carefully, including using the recommended type of transmission fluid.  Be careful not to overfill with fluid, as this can cause it to foam and lead to damage to your transmission.

Heat Damage

Heat causes the majority of damage to transmissions and can be caused by old transmission fluid, excessive braking and accelerating in hot weather, towing trailers, and damage to other parts of your car’s system. Experts recommend that with severe use of your car – defined as using your car in heavy city traffic and at temperatures over 90 F more than 50% of your driving time – you should have the filter and fluid changed every 15,000 miles. If you use your car less than that, or in cooler weather, the recommended maintenance is usually between 25,000 and 60,000 miles. Your car manual or your dealership will be able to tell you the optimum number for your vehicle.

Regular fluid and filter maintenance will help prevent fluid oxidization, which can lead to hardened rubber seals and gaskets, which will then start to leak. By catching this problem before it really starts, and by using preventative measures, you will save yourself a lot of money.

Transmission Slip

 

Regular transmission maintenance is important to prevent a problem known as transmission slip. Your transmission may be slipping if you notice the following problems:

  •     Sudden changes in engine RPM (revolutions per minute)
  •     Sluggish acceleration
  •     The car continues to glide forward when you’ve taken your foot off the gas
  •     Slow response to changing gears

As with all transmission maintenance, keeping your transmission fluid clean and topped-up will help prevent transmission slip, but you can also prevent it by taking care when shifting gears. You should be at a full stop before switching to Reverse or Park, and if possible, shifting to Park or Neutral when stationary will help reduce the strain on your transmission.

Overdrive and Towing

Automatic transmissions have a neat feature called overdrive. The overdrive essentially reduces the stress on your engine and gear system. You won’t need to turn on the overdrive – in the majority of automatic cars it’s already turned on – but you may have to turn it off every now and then when you’re towing something. Turning the overdrive off will increase your torque and your engine’s RPM, but having it off constantly will put excess strain on your transmission, causing it to break down faster. Turning the overdrive off when towing something, however, will help to decrease the excess heat the transmission develops due to the added weight. If you tow frequently, especially heavy loads, you may want to look into installing an extra transmission fluid cooler into your car.

Conclusion

Like our health, there is no foolproof way to prevent transmission problems altogether. However, when a fault does begin to develop, there is still an element of problem prevention. Catching transmission problems early can prevent them from worsening and prevent further trouble from developing. This can potentially mean a simple repair instead of a major one. Following these simple practices can help keep your transmission well cared-for.

Want to know more?
Visit one of our locations

image-reviews image-reviews
Customer Reviews
excellent service and quality
Dave Simpson
excellent service and quality
Date: May 26, 2022
Website: Google
Al is the most gracious...
Tamare White-Wolf
Al is the most gracious n helpful person EVER honestly kind, knowledgeable n someone deserving of your trust!
Date: May 26, 2022
Website: Google
Super proffesional, problem solved and...
Angus Murray
Super proffesional, problem solved and the bill was as quoted. What else is there!
Date: May 25, 2022
Website: Google
Amazing. Had another place fix...
Rob Jackson
Amazing. Had another place fix my manual transmission and it fell apart in under two weeks. So I went to the pros and that they are. Pulled it apart and had me back together in no time. The only place to get your transmission issues fixed properly and fast. Thanks guys
Date: May 25, 2022
Website: Google
They were great on the...
Sandy Shropshire
They were great on the phone and in person when we needed to get our vehicle towed in. Thanks Chris and Christine
Date: May 25, 2022
Website: Google
Matt and his team are...
LovelaceBreh
Matt and his team are a breathe of fresh air to work with after years of headaches with untrustworthy mechanics & shops. I drive a lifted truck and had my transmission replaced here a few months ago and I've had nothing but great, honest service since my very first phone call with Matt. I usually do all my own maintenance but I felt so confident, I've taken my truck here 4/5 times since (unrelated issues) even sometimes for little things that I could fix myself, just because I trust them to do a thorough job and give me all the details step by step. ALSO, As someone whos had issues with mechanics "Joy Riding" their vehicles before I was ecstatic to see that Matt & his team take extreme care when test driving vehicles (hidden dashcam, so its not because they noticed they were being watched)This is the first ever review I've written for anything, ever. So rest assured the service at Mr. Transmission on Bath Road had to have been pretty awesome for me to leave this.Thanks guys hopefully I don't ever see you again LOL
Date: May 24, 2022
Website: Google
Wonderful staff very friendly, there...
Tristan W
Wonderful staff very friendly, there there for you and not like many shops that’s there staffs attitude when you walk in the door, very helpful and honest! Great place
Date: May 24, 2022
Website: Google
Matt and his team are...
LovelaceBreh
Matt and his team are a breathe of fresh air to work with after years of headaches with untrustworthy mechanics & shops. I drive a lifted truck and had my transmission replaced here a few months ago and I've had nothing but great, honest service since my very first phone call with Matt. I usually do all my own maintenance but I felt so confident, I've taken my truck here 4/5 times since (unrelated issues) even sometimes for little things that I could fix myself, just because I trust them to do a thorough job and give me all the details step by step. ALSO, As someone whos had issues with mechanics "Joy Riding" their vehicles before I was ecstatic to see that Matt & his team take extreme care when test driving vehicles (hidden dashcam, so its not because they noticed they were being watched)This is the first ever review I've written for anything, ever. So rest assured the service at Mr. Transmission on Bath Road had to have been pretty awesome for me to leave this.Thanks guys hopefully I don't ever see you again LOL
Date: May 24, 2022
Website: Google
Matt and his team are...
LovelaceBreh
Matt and his team are a breathe of fresh air to work with after years of headaches with untrustworthy mechanics & shops. I drive a lifted truck and had my transmission replaced here a few months ago and I've had nothing but great, honest service since my very first phone call with Matt. I usually do all my own maintenance but I felt so confident, I've taken my truck here 4/5 times since (unrelated issues) even sometimes for little things that I could fix myself, just because I trust them to do a thorough job and give me all the details step by step. ALSO, As someone whos had issues with mechanics "Joy Riding" their vehicles before I was ecstatic to see that Matt & his team take extreme care when test driving vehicles (hidden dashcam, so its not because they noticed they were being watched)This is the first ever review I've written for anything, ever. So rest assured the service at Mr. Transmission on Bath Road had to have been pretty awesome for me to leave this.Thanks guys hopefully I don't ever see you again LOL
Date: May 24, 2022
Website: Google
great work done there
Ljm M
great work done there
Date: May 23, 2022
Website: Google
Featured Services
Transmission Repair

The evolution of transmissions has made these machines and systems increasingly complex. When transmission repairs are required, determining the cause and cure for what ails can be tricky.

Read More
Transmission Technology

At Mister Transmission we have access to leading-edge diagnostic equipment, enabling us to offer you the fastest and most accurate findings about what’s going on inside your vehicle’s transmission.

Read More
Transmission Maintenance & Service

Just as you have other parts of your car serviced, your transmission needs maintenance to ensure a long life and avoid transmission problems.

Read More
Recent Blogs
Mister Transmission: Your Transmission T...
Everything seems to be computerized these days and automobiles are no different,
Read More
May 18, 2022
3 Common Transmission Repairs
Transmissions are complex pieces of machinery and there’s a lot that can go wrong
Read More
May 11, 2022
When Do You Need Transmission Service?
Transmissions need to be serviced, maintained, and repaired from time to time, but
Read More
May 4, 2022
How Is Transmission Repair Different Fro...
Mister Transmission specializes in servicing transmissions because they’re so
Read More
April 27, 2022
What Are Vehicle Diagnostics?
Discover what vehicle diagnostics are all about, how this practice helps transmission
Read More
April 7, 2022
What Are Some Common Automatic Transmiss...
If you drive a vehicle with an automatic transmission, what are some common automatic
Read More
March 31, 2022
CVTs Vs. Automatic Transmissions
Looking at buying or leasing a vehicle and want to know if you should opt for one
Read More
March 28, 2022
What Is Transmission Oil And Do You Need...
You’ve probably heard of a transmission fluid change, and you’ve probably heard
Read More
March 24, 2022
What Causes Transmission Slipping?
Has your transmission been slipping? It’s important to get it looked at right away.
Read More
February 22, 2022
When Is A Transmission Rebuild Necessary...
If you can avoid ever having to rebuild your transmission, you’ll be better off for
Read More
February 15, 2022