Maintaining and Diagnosing Your Car's Transmission

Transmission problems are among the most time consuming repairs that can be done on your car. This is because in most vehicles, the transmission is embedded deep into the engine bay, and the engine itself, some of the under-carriage and steering, and other parts would have to be overhauled before gaining access to the clutch. This is why it's important to learn how to diagnose transmission problems at the onset.

Parts. Before you can diagnose transmission problems, it would be good to have an idea what exactly goes on under the hood (or under the car). Whether you have an automatic clutch or a stick shift, your car would have these parts. The bell housing is a conical metallic housing that contains the gears and axles. The gears are what "connect" the engine with the wheels. Transmission fluid or gear oil runs through the entire contraption to lubricate, and the oil filter ensures there is no damaging debris.

Now here are a few symptoms that indicate transmission problems, and which parts may need repair or replacement. Basically, two things would indicate you are having problems with your transmission. First is that your car's engine will start and run smoothly, but your car will not move at all. Secondly, your car might be moving all right, but it will be sluggish, as if the power is not being properly transferred to the wheels.

  • Check for fluid levels. Check the gear oil's levels, and you need to replace the fluid if it's below the minimum level, and if it's no longer viscous enough or if the color has turned into brown or black.
  • Check for filter clogs. Some problems might be caused by simple clogs in the filter, which causes debris and build-up to run through the gears. You can have your transmission fluid filter replaced at low cost. In fact, a change in gear oil and filter should be the first thing to do, if you suspect transmission issues.
  • Check for leaks. You might also notice leaks on your driveway or garage. Gear oil is usually dyed red, and so if you spot reddish or brownish fluid on the spots you usually park, then it is likely you have a leaking transmission. A car's gearbox is usually sealed, and there are only a few spots where it can spring leaks. You can also check between the gearbox and the engine, at the drain hole under the gearbox, the selector shaft (which connects your stick shifter to the gearbox), and the fluid filler tube base. If you spot a leak, then you need to have the gearbox looked into by a competent mechanic soon.
  • Sticky shifters. If shifting becomes difficult (for manual transmission), or if the car is jerky whenever the automatic transmission shifts up or down, then you would have to have the transmission checked. It could be a problem with the transmission oil.
  • Grinding sounds. It's normal to have grinding sounds when you shift into reverse. But when you're running at normal speeds, and you get grinding sounds, or if your car vibrates too much when starting from a halt, then you might need to have your transmission rebuilt or repaired.

Transmission repairs and rebuilds are costly, and could take a lot of time. Therefore, if you notice any of these problems, try to address them as soon as you can to avoid more hassles.


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