Radiator and Transmission Maintenance

Transmission Troubleshooting: How to Tell What's Wrong


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Most car enthusiasts frown at the mere mention of transmission troubleshooting, because an array of factors could come into play to properly diagnose the fault at hand. Transmission problems are most often caused by neglect on part of the owner. This vital component should not be overlooked when it comes to proper care and maintenance. Depending on the make or model of the car, the transmission assembly may vary according to design and function, but the principle will always remain the same: the proper amount of ATF or automatic transmission fluid is vital to the service life and operation of your car's transmission. Here's a look at the symptoms to watch for when doing transmission troubleshooting:

1. Fluid Leakage

Leaks could be caused by a variety of factors such as a loose filler tube, defective pan gasket or a converter housing area leakage. Check your garage for red oil leaks to confirm the presence of a leak. It would be advisable to bring the car to a mechanic that specializes in transmission repair to have the system checked and repaired. Fluid leakage could be remedied by replacing the gasket, internal/external oil filters, tube nuts and tightening the oil pan bolts to stop the leak. Remember to check fluid levels regularly, especially when a leak is evident, to prevent further damage to the transmission.

2. Transmission Noise

A buzzing or whirring noise when in operation is a common problem that occurs due to insufficient fluid levels, scored or broken gears or a defective torque converter. Any transmission noise that occurs while driving should be given attention immediately. Again, it would be wise to check the level of automatic transmission fluid before consulting an expert mechanic. Replenish the fluid when necessary to check if the noises heard are due to insufficient fluid levels in the crankcase.

3. Slippage or Absence of Forward and Reverse Gears

This problem may need specialized diagnostic equipment to accurately detect. The presence of erratic or delayed shifts, transmission slippage and the absence of forward gears may be caused by low fluid levels, failure of the internal clutch or band, and broken vacuum lines. It would again be necessary to check for proper fluid levels before having an expert diagnose the problem. Repairs should be immediately undertaken to prevent additional damage to other parts of the transmission.

4. Burnt Fluid

If an unusual burnt smell is noticed upon checking the condition of the fluid, this could be caused by clogged fluid cooler lines, faulty or defective oil pump and yes, low fluid level. Be wary that the presence of brownish fluid accompanied by a burnt smell could hint at serious transmission damage when left untreated. It would be best to replenish the level of fluid or have the system drained and flushed to correct the problem. The internal/external oil filter may be clogged as well, and will need replacement. Consult a professional transmission repair specialist for proper procedures regarding the repair and replacement of damaged or faulty parts.

Remember that transmission problems are most often caused by insufficient fluid levels. Check the level of ATF in the crankcase at least every six months. This is cheap insurance against costly repairs and will help extend the life of your transmission.

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