Automatic Transmission Repair Tips

by Don Elliott on May 23, 2012

Your car’s automatic transmission is possibly the most complicated device on your car with over 200 moving parts. Transmission technology has improved to the point where breakdowns because of transmission failure are fairly rare, but they do happen.

Diagnosing transmission problems is best left to the professionals. It is easy enough to tell there is a problem when the gears are slipping or there is a loud “clunk”, for lack of a better technical transmission term, when the car is put into gear. The cause of the problem is usually much more complicated than the symptom.

A basic knowledge of how your transmission works will help you understand the language of the automotive transmission repair shop and maybe prevent you from paying too much for transmission repairs.

There are four major components to an automatic transmission.

1. Bell Housing

This is the metal shaped housing that encases the automatic transmission parts. The bell housing is a tough shell that protects the working parts and only fails as the result of significant impact.

2. Gears

The gears are the heart of the transmission. For the non-mechanic, this is where the magic happens. Intermeshed gears and/or belts slip from one to another providing torque, or the rotating force that enables the engine to cause the wheels to turn.

3. Filter

With all of the moving parts, bits of metal and dirt are cast off. The filter removes impurities from the transmission fluid, keeping it clean to enable the lubrication of the gears.

4. Fluid

Automatic transmission fluid is specially formulated hydraulic oil tinted to differentiate it from motor oil. The transmission will not work without transmission fluid. Check the automatic transmission fluid while the car is running and sitting on level ground. The color of the fluid is an indicator of a problem.

  • Red – Normal color. FYI, some automatic transmission fluid is green.
  • Cloudy pink – Usually indicates that water has gotten into the transmission. Not good and is often associated with a fluid leak where fluid gets out and moisture gets in.
  • Brown or black – Indicates that the transmission fluid has been burnt. Burnt fluids indicate that the transmission components have gotten hot and deteriorated the transmission fluid, a sure sign of a problem.

Neglecting car maintenance issues like changing your transmission’s fluid and filter will result in a costly repair. Unfortunately, most auto shops outsource transmission repair to auto transmission specialists making it difficult to shop for the best price and diagnosis. On the other hand, your auto shop can recommend when the trip to the transmission specialist is necessary and arrange to have your car towed if needed.

At the transmission shop, you will be facing three choices; repair, replace or rebuild. Sometimes it is as simple as changing a clogged filter. More often, transmission problems mean replacing the transmission with either a used, rebuilt or new transmission. Go through all the options to determine which repair provides the best used car value for your particular car.

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