Bad Habits That Can Destroy An Automatic Transmission

Posted by on Thursday, September 19th, 2013

The automatic transmission is a very important module of your vehicle. It allows your vehicle to cruise at highway speed without blowing up the motor. It multiplies the torque of your engine to aid in propelling the weight of your vehicle. It makes driving in traffic less stressful as it eliminates the clutch and shifts itself. While vital to the proper operation of your vehicle, many people take their automatic transmission for granted. Even worse, they contribute to its failure via bad habits. Let’s take a look at some of the bad habits that can destroy your transmission.

Bad habits can destroy your automatic transmission


Towing over the factory recommended tow limit: Every vehicle comes from the factory with a recommended maximum towing limit. Unfortunately, few owners obey it. When you tow over the limit, a couple of things can occur. First, the bands and clutches can start slipping. This causes them to wear out very quickly. It also results in the transmission getting pumped full of debris as they start failing.

Overheating an automatic transmission is a sure way to quickly destroy it


Second, the transmission can overheat. Most automatic transmissions are designed to operate at a maximum temperature of 200 degrees. For every 20 degrees you go above this limit, you risk cutting the expected lifespan of the transmission by a factor of two. To put that in a better perspective, by the time your transmission reaches 300 degrees its life span will be reduced to 1/32nd of what is considered normal. You should also note that at temperature as low as 240 degrees your organic oil based transmission fluid can turn to varnish, leaving it unable to properly lubricate the moving parts inside your transmission.

Throwing the transmission into park or a gear going the opposite direction before the vehicle has come to a full rest: Your vehicle needs to come to a complete stop before going into park or an opposing gear. A complete stop is not the same as the vehicle moving at a slow 2 – 3 mph, which may seem like a stop to some drivers. When you throw a car into park before in comes to a complete stop you risk bending or breaking the parking pawl. That can lead to the car rolling away when left unattended. When you throw the car into an opposing gear (such as reverse to drive) before the car comes to a complete stop, you risk causing the bands or clutches to slip. You can also damage the planetary gear set or the output shaft on the transmission.

Throwing a moving car into park can break the parking pawl


Drag racing from light to light:  Drag racing from light to light causes the torque converter to produce a lot of heat. If you don’t give the transmission a chance to cool down between jack-rabbit starts, it will overheat quickly. As described above, we know what happens to a transmission when it overheats.

Eventually you will be faced with a decision to replace your automatic transmission. I highly recommend doing so with a re-manufactured transmission over one that was simply rebuilt, or a used one. A re-manufactured transmission will include major internal modifications and upgrades designed to make it both stronger and more durable. A rebuilt transmission will not include this feature. A re-manufactured transmission also comes with a much better warranty; three years compared to an average 90 days for a rebuilt transmission. In the rare event that you need to contact the company that re-manufactures transmissions, they are just a quick  phone call or email away!

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.