When you take the steps to take care of your transmission, you will get better performance and a longer lifespan out of the sensitive components within the transmission system. It’s common for internal parts to fail and that leads to bigger issues. However, there are preventative steps you can take and driving habits you can change to help prevent problems and keep your transmission healthier over time.
Here are 10 transmission breakdown prevention tips from Ralph’s Transmission:
1. Check the Fluid Level and Quality
Just like you might check your oil, you can periodically check your own transmission fluid. Review your vehicle’s owner manual for instructions. You can make sure the fluid is filled at a proper level. Having too little or too much in the pan can both cause issues. If you are topping off the fluid yourself, make sure you are using the right type for your vehicle. There are many different types of transmission fluid out there. Using the wrong one can be problematic. Also, you want to look at the quality and consistency of the fluid itself. If it looks or smells burnt or shows signs of contaminants such as dirt, water, grease or metal shavings, then you will want to get your transmission serviced soon.
2. Get Your Transmission Serviced as Needed
Speaking of transmission services, you will want to maintain it your transmission as part of your standard maintenance schedule. You’ll want the fluid changed along with the transmission filter and pan gasket. Depending on the age, model and mileage of the vehicle—as well as how you use it—you may need a standard transmission service every 15 months (15,500 miles) or it may last upwards of 100,000 miles in between services. Your mechanic will be able to tell you when service is due for your particular vehicle. If you aren’t sure and live in the Central Valley, you can bring it into Ralph’s Transmission for a free inspection.
3. Be Mindful of How Hard You Push the Vehicle
How you use your vehicle can have a significant impact on how often you need to service your transmission. When you push it hard, you are more likely to cause internal transmission damage to key components. Use caution when towing or carrying heavy loads. Watch your use of overdrive if you have that option. You should never tow in overdrive. We understand you may need your truck for work and it has to do a lot for you. Just understand that the harder you make it work, the more likely you will have problems over time. Keep maintaining the transmission as needed to minimize the risk of major concerns.
4. Consider Installing an Auxiliary Transmission Cooler
When you really push your vehicle hard and carry/tow a lot of heavy loads regularly, you may want to consider having an auxiliary transmission cooler installed to keep the transmission from overheating and breaking down.
5. Watch Your Aggressive Driving Habits
Even if you don’t overload your vehicle with too much weight, you can still be doing a lot of damage to its transmission by having aggressive driving habits. If you like to accelerate fast and grind those gears every time you shift, you are asking for trouble. If you drive like you are always in a drag race, then you can probably expect your transmission to fail eventually.
6. Use Your Parking Brake
If you are parked on a steep incline, it’s a good idea to use your parking brake. This not only helps preserve your regular brake system, but it also helps the transmission by reducing stress on the parking pawl (pin) and linkage.
7. Let Your Vehicle Warm Up in the Morning
Especially on cold mornings, you can take a little extra time to let the vehicle warm up before you start driving. The older the vehicle, the more this will likely be needed to prevent engine and transmission damage from running too cold.
8. Monitor the Transmission Temperature
Every vehicle will have a warning light that comes on if the transmission temperature is running too hot. Like an engine, a transmission can overheat and this is the most common reason for transmission breakdowns. Monitor your transmission temperature and use some of the tips above to help prevent overheating.
9. Don’t Rock the Gears if Stuck
If you happen to find yourself stuck in mud or ice, never rock between gears. If you must rock to get free, make sure the vehicle comes to a full stop in between each shift. Otherwise, you will be putting a lot of strain on the transmission.
10. Get Your Transmission Looked at Whenever You Think Something Might Be Wrong
If you ever think you might have a transmission problem (trouble shifting, weak acceleration, leaking transmission fluid, etc.), you don’t want to take chances. At the first sign of trouble, bring your vehicle to a transmission specialist like Ralph’s Transmission for a thorough inspection, diagnostic testing and a professional diagnosis. In many cases, you can catch a minor problem early before it develops into something major. Believe us when we tell you that getting a standard transmission service will cost a lot less than having to get your transmission rebuilt or replaced!
If you have transmission issues or just need to schedule regular maintenance, call Ralph’s Transmission today at 209.526.1909 or book your appointment online.