How To Tell When Your Automatic Transmission Needs Service

Cars and trucks with auto transmissions offer the driver convenience because the transmission manages the shifting for you as you drive. If there is a problem with the transmission, it can quickly make it hard to drive the vehicle safely. 

Basic Maintenance

The best way to keep your auto transmission from acting up, it to keep it maintained properly. The transmission is one of the most overlooked parts of the car, and neglecting it can result in serious problems with the system. 

Most vehicles with auto transmissions do not require a lot of maintenance, but it is essential to check the oil level in the transmission regularly. You can also check the condition of the oil with a few simple tricks while you are checking the oil level. 

When you pull the dipstick to check the oil level, be sure that the oil on the dipstick falls between the full and low marks near the center. Overfull transmission oil can be just as bad as low oil, so do not add any to the system unless the level is indicated as low or below. 

While you have the dipstick out, feel the oil with your fingers to see if there is a lot of grit in the oil and smell the oil. If the transmission oil smells burnt, you probably need a service that includes an oil and filter change at a minimum. The grit you feel is clutch band material and is normal, but if there is a lot of it in the oil, it means the filter is clogged and not removing grit from the oil.

Drivability Issues

Many times the first sign that there is something wrong with the auto transmission in your car is some drivability problem. Sometimes this is a slipping transmission when you are accelerating from a stop, indicating low pump pressure in the system. 

Other issues may be a transmission that is not shifting when it should or is banging suddenly into gears instead of shifting smoothly. In any of these situations, the transmission needs servicing and should be checked out by a technician at a transmission shop. Hard shifting can damage internal parts of the transmission, and it can cause damage to the universal joints in the driveline if it is not corrected. 

Often these issues do not indicate an auto transmission that needs replacement, but flushing the system and changing the oil, filter, and valve body may be necessary to restore the transmission to proper working order.