How To Avoid Automotive Transmission Repair Fraud

When Your Car Requires Transmission Repair

There are lots of things car owners don’t want to hear from their mechanics, with a transmission repair topping the list. Even if it’s repairable, the fix is likely to end up costing a substantial amount. Just one mechanical failure involving the transmission can cause an engine to shut down completely, so it is imperative that you watch for the signs. If you think there’s a problem you should have your vehicle inspected immediately.

So how do you know if you really need a transmission repair? The following information will help you figure it out.

What Does the Transmission Do?

Transmissions play a crucial role in a vehicle’s ability to operate. Basically, transmissions carry the engine’s power to the drive axle by utilizing various gears, making it possible for the engine to run at various speeds.

Transmission Repair Services

There are different transmission repair services that your car may need. Here are a few of the most common:

Transmission Fluid Change

There are two options for a transmission fluid change. A full fluid exchange following the specifications the manufacturer of your vehicle recommends. Second, a transmission fluid and filter change, also following the specifications recommended by the vehicle’s manufacturer. You are likely to avoid an expensive transmission repair if you keep up with your vehicle’s recommended transmission fluid change schedule, typically due every two years or 30,000 miles.

Transmission Flush

A transmission flush is a comprehensive transmission repair that “flushes” out the sludge and grime that has accumulated in it. First, the mechanic removes the old oil. Next, new oil and cleaning solutions (if necessary) are run through the transmission, removing damaging debris. Lastly, the transmission is refilled with new oil.

Rebuild or Replacement

In some cases, if the transmission begins to fail or stops working altogether, mechanics will recommend a replacement or rebuild. If this is the case, make sure you’re working with an auto repair shop that has a great reputation.


Signs You Need Transmission Repair

When it comes to maintaining and improving the longevity of your vehicle, it helps to be able to spot when something is going wrong. Noticing a problem early can help you get it resolved before it becomes a full-blown disaster. Fortunately, with car transmissions it is usually easier to observe when issues arise because they are typically accompanied by a sound or a sensation. In other words, you intuitively can tell when it’s time to take your car to your mechanic for transmission repair. Let’s get into the specific things to take notice of.

Won’t Go Into Gear

This one is geared toward manual transmissions (no pun intended). If you press the clutch and move the stick only to find that your transmission won’t go into gear, you’ve got a problem. You’ll typically find that this happens when you’re trying to get into first from a full stop, or just moving up and down the gears. It’s not uncommon for cars with transmission issues to stall at red lights. The problem is most likely low transmission fluid, the wrong thickness of the fluid, or needed adjustment of shift cables or clutch linkage.

What’s that Smell?

If you notice a pungent, not so pleasant aroma, it could be your transmission overheating. This smell is caused by the burning transmission fluid, which could be the result of low transmission fluid caused by a leak. It is important to get this issue addressed quickly because the fluid is responsible for keeping the many parts of your transmission lubricated and moving properly. Most importantly, it also keeps your transmission from burning up.

Leaking Fluid

This is one of the easier issues to spot. If you take a look at your driveway after moving your car and notice a bright red, dark red or brown liquid on it, this could be your transmission fluid leaking out of your car. As we mentioned before, having a low transmission fluid level is really bad for your transmission, and having a leak is going to make this much more likely. Take your car to your trusted Maryland auto repair shop right away or you risk burning up your transmission.

Check Engine Light

Another obvious indicator that something is up with your car is the check engine light. If it comes on, something isn’t right. The only problem with this method of diagnosis is that the check engine light can come on for any number of reasons. The only way to know for sure is to purchase a diagnostic tool or take your car to an auto repair shop that has one. Either way, it’s best to heed this warning because something needs to be fixed.

Grinding or Shaking

Depending on the type of transmission, you will notice one of these effects if something is wrong. If you have a manual transmission, you may hear grinding as you are shifting into gear. This is likely caused by a worn clutch or a clutch in need of adjustment. It could also be a worn-out or damaged synchro or a number of other factors.


Signs That Your Car Needs a Transmission Flush

In most cases, getting a transmission flush every 30,000 miles, or every two years or so is sufficient. However, there may be times when you need to get a transmission flush sooner, in order to help protect your car’s transmission. There are some common signs that you need to perform a transmission flush on your car or truck.

Transmission Grinding or Strange Noises

A vehicle transmission that is contaminated with dirt, grease and sludge can display symptoms very similar to inadequate levels of transmission fluid. When driving your vehicle, if you notice your transmission grinding or making strange sounds, you should stop the vehicle and check the transmission fluid level while the engine is still running. Insure that the transmission fluid color is bright red and not brown or black because of grime or sludge. If the fluid level of the transmission is acceptable, your vehicle probably needs a transmission flush.

Problems Shifting Gears

Regardless if you drive an automatic or manual, your car requires clean transmission fluid that flows easily throughout your car’s transmission. A transmission that contains too much dirt or sludge will cause sluggish response in the transmission which will result in your vehicle changing gears too quickly or too late while driving. In manual transmission vehicles, you may find it very hard to change gears at all.

Slipping Gears

A dirty transmission may cause a lack of hydraulic power, much the same as not having enough transmission fluid will cause. In order to stay in the appropriate gear, the transmission must develop enough pressure. When a transmission is too dirty, contaminants may interfere with the flow of transmission fluid that helps with this. If you’re transmission has no other problems, and the fluid level of the transmission is full (or close to it), the problem is probably restricted fluid flow due to a buildup of dirt and contaminants that need to be flushed out.

Surging of the Vehicle

When your vehicle’s transmission is polluted with a lot of dirt and contaminants, and needs a transmission flush, you may notice unexplainable surging of your vehicle. Because your car’s dirty transmission does not allow for adequate transmission fluid flow, your vehicle may tend to jump or surge forward and fall backwards for no good reason. This is caused by inconsistent flow of clean transmission fluid that is needed to ensure smooth operation of the gears and other moving parts inside the transmission bell housing.

Delay in Vehicle Movement

Another sign that your vehicle may have contaminated transmission fluid is when the vehicle stalls for one or two seconds before moving after having been put in gear. If there are no other problems with the transmission, a transmission flush may help.


Automatic Transmission Maintenance

The health of an automatic transmission is less dependent on users driving style, but it’s smart to avoid taxing your transmission whenever possible. Heat is the enemy of an automatic transmission, and if you feel it struggling on a long incline in a higher gear, downshift it manually. This will bring your RPMs up, but relieve stress on your transmission. If you notice your transmission “slipping”—which means it doesn’t hold a gear, or it is continuing to search for gears—then have it serviced immediately to avoid further damage.

Learn how to check your transmission fluid level. It should be a cherry red color and have a sweet smell to it. If you notice anything different, including the fluid smelling burnt, get your transmission serviced immediately.

There is much debate on flushing versus draining an automatic transmission. Transmission issues after performing a flush are often blamed on loose particles and sediment in the transmission being spread around during the flushing process. But draining a transmission doesn’t always ensure all of the fluid is removed. To do that you may often have to remove the transmission oil pan, which is an extra step compared to just removing the plug. Re-installing the transmission oil pan requires a new gasket, so make sure you have that if you are doing this job yourself. Check out our guide for changing your automatic transmission fluid.


Tips to Help Extend the Life of Your Transmission

Although many aspects of transmission maintenance should be done by a mechanic, there are certain things you can do yourself to keep tabs on how your car is running.

Check Your Transmission Fluid

If you have a manual transmission car, this may not be an option for you – or at least may not be as simple. However, if you have an automatic transmission, you will likely have a second dipstick under the hood of your car. Most people have checked their oil level before and checking the transmission fluid level is similar. In addition to looking at the level of fluid, you’ll want to pay attention to its color, smell, and consistency.

Don’t Shift Gears Until You’re Fully Stopped

For automatic transmission cars, when you shift from reverse into drive while your car is still moving, you’re putting extra strain on your transmission. That can lead to serious problems down the road and it will shorten the lifespan of your car’s transmission, costing you a lot more money.

Don’t Ride Your Brake

When you keep your foot on the brake while also accelerating, you’re not just wearing down your brakes faster. This also makes your transmission work harder because the car is working against itself. Over time, this is going to make the parts within your transmission wear down faster, meaning sooner and costlier transmission repairs for you.

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Pay Attention to Engine Temperature

In general, heat is not good for longevity with cars. While this applies to climate and weather, it also applies to how well your cooling system is functioning. If you notice your cooling system working overtime, it may be time to get it checked out. If your engine is consistently running warmer than usual, it can cause extra wear and tear on the parts within your transmission, leading to costly transmission repairs.

Be Mindful of Using a Spare Tire

You will most likely have to use a spare tire at some point and that’s fine – but it should be limited as much as possible. That’s because driving on mismatched tires causes extra strain on your car’s transmission.

Listen to Your Car

More specifically, pay attention to how your car drives and changes gears. If you notice this becoming more difficult or erratic, there is likely an issue with your transmission. In this case, you can check your transmission fluid level but you should also make an appointment with local transmission experts to get it diagnosed.