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21 Mar 2011 | Text by Richie Setiawan | Category: Car Maintenance Advice

Automatic transmission is really enjoyable especially when it comes to traffic jams. However, there are things you need to know to keep your gearbox in good shape.


The automatic transmission is one of the most complicated and thus one of the less reliable parts of the vehicle. The repair of an automatic transmission is complex and tends to be quite expensive. More than that, automatic transmission problem can make your car unsafe - some transmission defects may cause your car to roll even with the shifter in Park or drive forward with shifter in Neutral. On the other hand, your transmission can last really long with no significant problems if it's taken good care of.

But let's face it. It's a pity people are choosing automatic transmission over manual. It's not about being lazy or impractical. We reckon it's more about the convenience. And it's due to this convenience that's causing drivers to perceive that automatic transmission gearboxes need little attention and care. So what do we need to know exactly?

What often damages automatic transmission

In this case, overheating seems to be sitting in the top rank. Yes, it is common. Yet, there are many car owners who are ignorant about it.

While there are other cases of overheating due to drivers giving their automatic transmission car heavy load such as towing a trailer or having continuous stop and go traffic in hot weather, the cause of overheating here in Singapore can be due to a couple of things - insufficient coolant in the system, defective water pump or dirty and restricted radiator grille to name a few. And with the extreme weather in Singapore, often slamming on the accelerator pedal isn't going to help. Revving up your engine rpm is something you should try and avoid as often as possible as it generates excessive amounts of heat.


So how does overheating damage your car's automatic transmission? At higher temperatures the transmission fluid burns, losing its lubricating qualities and becomes oxidized, leaving deposits all over inside the transmission. When exposed to the heat, the rubber seals and gaskets inside the transmission hardens, which will cause leaks. The metal parts warp and lose their strength. All this, sooner or later, results in transmission failure.

Is overheating the one and only reason for damage?

No, it's not. There are times damage to transmission is caused by poor manufacturer design, lack of care, or repairs performed by untrained or inexperienced technicians.
So what should you do to avoid the damage?

1. Watch out for leakage

Checking for any possible leakage under the car may be required. Even though it is not necessarily leakage of the transmission fluid, you should consult the professionally trained technicians if you happen to experience any. You should always keep in your mind that any leakage could be critical and may endanger your life as well as your occupants'.

2. Consider changing transmission fluid

It is wise to check the condition and the level of the transmission fluid in a periodic manner. This way, you will know when it is time for a change.

Fluids need to be more of a red color than dirty brown. See your car's owner manual on how often to change the transmission fluid. Use only the same type of the transmission fluid as specified in the owner's manual or on the dipstick.The cleaner the transmission, the smoother it will operate.

3. Remember that overdrive is not provided for nothing

When it comes to automatic transmission, there is always overdrive - which is the highest gear - in place. Under normal circumstances of driving, this is automatically selected by the car.

However, different cars offer different features. For certain car makes and models, you will have to manually turn this overdrive feature on or off. But why should we use overdrive?

The reason is to obtain lower engine revolutions per minute (rpm) while driving at high speed. In turn, this also leads to more economical gas mileage.


4. Shift properly

Treatment of shifting is an important part of maintaining a transmission. There is a right way and a wrong way to shift gears with an automatic transmission. Never shift to the Reverse or Parking until the car comes to a complete stop. Plus, always ensure that your brake pedal is fully depressed when shifting from park to another gear.


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