• Transmission Maintenance For Beginners: A How To Guide

    Transmission maintenance is essential for proper performance and trouble-free driving. This is a fact that should be known by all car owners and undertaken according to manufacturers specification. Depending on the age and type of car, transmission service is recommended between 50,000 to 120,000 miles, and should be inspected as often as possible for old model cars. The dealer or service center should be consulted regarding this manner. Here are a few tips on proper DIY transmission maintenance that could be done in the comfort of your garage.

    Automobiles could come in manual or automatic transmission models and would differ greatly in terms of performance and maintenance procedures.

    How to Check Manual Transmission Performance

    Check Clutch Play for Smoothness

    Park your car in a level surface and allow the engine to warm up before proceeding. With the engine idling, follow these procedures:

    1. With the gear in neutral, depress the clutch pedal all the way and hold.
    2. Engage the gearshift in first and check for smooth operation. The stick should slot in first gear smoothly.
    3. With the clutch pedal still depressed, push the stick to second gear and observe smoothness.
    4. Repeat the above steps for third and fourth gear.

    This procedure will determine proper play when engaging the stick. Should any discrepancies be observed, like a loose stick or a rattling noise when engaging gears, the car should be taken to a service center as soon as possible for diagnosis and proper adjustment.

    Inspect Fluid Level

    After checking for clutch play, pop open the hood and check the level of clutch fluid in the reservoir. Add fluid when necessary. The proper amount of clutch fluid will contribute to the smoothness of your clutch when engaging gears.

    Test Drive

    Drive the car normally and be alert for any noise or unecessary movement when engaging gears. The clutch pedal should be capable of depressing smoothly and exhibit proper clutch height when doing so. If the pedal requires more pressure than usual when engaging gears, have this adjusted immediately by a trustworthy mechanic. 

    How to Check Automatic Transmission Performance

    The automatic transmission requires no clutch and relies on proper fluid level for optimum performance. Most automatic transmission problems are the result of poor maintenance and improper or low fluid level.

    Checking Fluid Level

    With the engine idling and gear engaged in P or Park, activate the hand/service brake and perform the following:

    1. Step on the brake.
    2. Press the lock on the stick (as needed) and shift the gear from P or Park to R (reverse.)
    3. Shift from R to N or Neutral.
    4. Shift from N to D or Drive.
    5. Push the stick back to N, pausing for a moment then shift to N.
    6. Pause a moment then shift to R, then push back to P. 
    7. Turn off the engine, open the hood and secure with the hood stand.
    8. Remove ATF dipstick and wipe with clean towel.
    9. Re insert the dipstick all the way and pull out again.
    10. Check for proper level by observing fluid mark on the tip of the dipstick. There should be an indication of proper transmission fluid level when engine is hot or cold.
    11. Replenish when low in fluid. Use high quality ATF (automatic transmission fluid) as recommended by the manufacturer.  

    Checking Fluid Condition

    Observe the fluid in the dipstick. Fresh fluid is red or reddish in color and has a sweet smell. The consistency should be not as thick as engine oil, but not too thin like water either. If a brownish or blackish fluid with a burnt smell is present, have the system flushed and inspected by a reputable mechanic.

    The above procedures should be done at least once a week, especially on older model cars. Remember that preventive maintenance will spare you from hundreds to thousands of dollars in repair bills, as early detection of problems will prevent any minor damage to become a major, costly affair.