While most automobiles today have automatic transmissions, there are still some cars and pick-up trucks that have a manual transmission. No matter which type of transmission your vehicle has, both require periodic transmission maintenance services to function as designed.
Why Service Your Transmission?
Transmission maintenance service consists primarily of removing and replacing the fluid, also called oil, that becomes dirty from metal fragments and other fibers which impregnate it as it circulates throughout the transmission system thousands upon thousands of times in a given year. These fragments and fibers are natural byproduct of the tremendous friction and heat a working transmission generates. As the transmission fluid gathers more of this dirt, it loses more of its lubricating qualities and becomes less efficient at providing protection to the moving parts it surrounds.
In addition to the accumulated dirt, there is an almost constant exposure to the heat generated from the movement and friction of a transmission’s working parts. This heat also works to degrade the lubricating properties of the fluid making it less and less able to do what it needs to do. The fluid change that happens with transmission maintenance service is essential to preserve the life of your vehicle’s transmission.
Automatic Transmissions Need More Frequent Service
Since many more vehicles on the road have an automatic transmission, it is important to know that automatics build up much more heat than a manual transmission. This makes them much more sensitive to the degrading of fluid. And this additional heat can become extreme, spiraling out of control if a component within the system fails. Whenever failure happens and a warning light or message is turned on, time is critical. Having it checked out by a transmission repair shop as soon as possible can mean the difference between a minor repair and a major overhaul to your transmission.
Now that you know why you need this service, lets discuss how often you need a transmission maintenance service done and what this service usually includes. As with many maintenance type services, frequency will vary depending on how and where you are using your automatic or manual transmission. If you drive in hot summers, mountains, or cold winter climates you should follow manufacturer recommendations for “severe” usage category, generally a lower mileage. This category also fits if your vehicle is used for towing.
For example, a 2005 Chevrolet Suburban being driven in light use and moderate temperatures would have a manufacture recommended automatic transmission maintenance services interval of 100 thousand miles. Under severe conditions, the recommended interval drops to 50 thousand miles.
While all manufacturers vary to some degree in the intervals they recommend, at Wayne’s Transmissions we routinely encourage automatic transmission service every 30 thousand miles. This is the result of over 30 years of experience working on and maintaining transmissions for maximum life expectancy. If you regularly tow heavy loads or operate in high temperature situations, a more frequent service interval is advised. Owners who have followed our regimen routinely enjoy many more years of problem free transmission operation than is common among those who service less often.
Two Methods of Transmission Fluid Service
There are primarily two methods used to provide fluid services. The first is a “drain and fill” method where the old fluid is drained out and replaced with new fluid. This is the method used for virtually all manual transmissions. If a drain plug is present, it is removed to drain the old fluid, and replaced before installing clean fluid. Some automatic transmissions are serviced with this method when a drain plug is present. During this procedure, there is no access to a filter if one is present.
A second method applies only to automatic transmissions and involves dropping the transmission pan to allow dirty fluid to drain. When the pan is removed, a technician is able to inspect the bottom of the pan for excessive amounts of metal or fiber material, which can indicate the transmission is failing. If inspection shows normal amounts of material in the pan, it is reassuring that no major problems are present.
Many automatic transmissions have a replaceable filter or screen through which the fluid circulates whenever the transmission is operating. Designed to collect debris and keep it from circulating, many are removable for cleaning or replacement. At Wayne’s Transmissions, our goal is to provide excellent service, and while some repair shops simply exchange dirty fluid for clean, we go a step farther and inspect the filter for signs of excessive debris. This means we always either clean and replace the filter or install a new one since there is risk that a restricted filter can starve parts of the transmission for oil.
It is important to note that with automatic transmissions, around half of the total fluid volume remains in the torque converter during transmission maintenance service. That dirty fluid then mixes with the newly installed fluid partially contaminating it. In a poorly maintained transmission with extremely dirty fluid, it may be necessary to do a second “drain and fill” after a short drive to remove a larger percentage of the dirty fluid. While it costs a little more, in the end it is well worth the additional expense to ensure your transmission fluid will lubricate to provide the protection your transmission needs.
Transmission maintenance services are essential, whether you drive a manual or automatic transmission. Neglecting this maintenance item will end up costing you many times more than you saved by putting it off. At Wayne’s Transmissions we remind you when service is due and provide you with honest and fair pricing for the service and repair you need.
With over 46 years serving the Boise community, our transmission repair shop specializes in transmission maintenance services as well as differential and transfer case maintenance services.
Call today to speak with our ASE certified master transmission builder or request an appointment online and we’ll call you back to schedule your service or repair appointment.