How to Extend the Life of Your Automatic Transmission

Woman making sure her cars automatic transmission is being maintained while driving.

Proper maintenance of your car’s automatic transmission is the best way to get the most stress-free miles from it you possibly can. We’ve put together our best pro tips for maintaining your automatic gearbox to help you avoid costly breakdowns and keep the road humming smoothly beneath your wheels.

7 Auto Transmission Longevity Tips

1. Check the Fluid

Just like petrol and oil, without transmission fluid, you’re in trouble. Transmission fluid lubricates bearings and other metal parts so shifting is smooth and doesn’t strain the gearbox. For newer cars, once a year should suffice unless you see any of these signs of low fluid:

• Dark puddles or drip spots under your car

• Warning light on the dashboard

• Slight gear slippage or hesitation

• Burning oil smell

Check your levels immediately if you experience any of these issues. If you’re topping it off, check the owner’s manual for the correct type of fluid for your car. To find the root cause of the problem, schedule a transmission checkup immediately.

2. Stop Completely Before Reversing

Before you shift into or out of reverse, bring your car to a full stop. When you’re in a hurry or distracted, you might shift prematurely. Changing gears while your car is moving is jarring and puts unnecessary strain and wear on your transmission.

3. Know Your Towing Limit

Some vehicles are rated to tow very heavy loads, but most are not. Transmissions send power to your wheels, so when you’re towing, your gearbox is working overtime. Towing more than your engine and transmission can handle can cause it to overheat and lead to early system failure.

Check your owner’s manual for your car’s tow limit and never exceed it. Slow down when towing uphill and rest it if you feel engine or transmission strain.

4. Warm It Up

Let your car warm up for a few minutes before you take off. This allows time for all the fluids to warm up properly so they can sufficiently disperse and lubricate the transmission.

If you zoom off while everything is still cold, a control unit tries to warm up the transmission by delaying shifting so the gearbox revs higher and longer to generate its own heat. Morning after morning, this can cause damage from compounded wear and tear.

5. Drive on Matching Tires

If you get a flat tire and need to use a spare, get a new tire as soon as you can. Not only can driving on a spare ruin your wheel alignment, but it also stresses your automatic gearbox. When tires are mismatched, your transmission must rotate the wheels at different speeds, causing strain on the system.

6. Use the Hand Brake

Shifting into park engages the parking pawl, which is a pin that restricts the transmission and prevents the wheels from turning. Relying solely on the “park” position strains the pawl and could lead to premature failure.

On steep inclines, always engage the hand brake first and then put your car in park. This takes the pressure off your transmission and parking pawl.

7. Get Regular Transmission Maintenance

Getting regular, professional maintenance is the most important step to extending automatic transmission life. Your transmission is responsible for making your wheels move at the right speed with the right amount of power. Don’t put off maintenance; it could lead to an immensely expensive breakdown.

Schedule an Appointment

If you’re having issues with your transmission or need a checkup and are in the Perth area, reach out to Automatic Transmissions R Us for an appointment. We’ve been helping car owners just like you extend the life of their vehicles by keeping their transmissions in excellent working condition.