Nasty Things You Should Never Do To Your Automatic Transmission

Posted by on Thursday, March 7th, 2013

Most vehicle owners never even give their transmission a second though, at least until they stop working. Shoot, most owners probably don’t even know where their transmission is located, let alone what causes damage to them. Here is a list of common (and dumb) mistakes owners make that are sure to shorten the life span of their transmission.

typical automatic transmission


Towing limit: Vehicles come with a maximum towing limit and a maximum payload limit. One of the quickest ways to destroy a transmission is by towing over the maximum limit. This puts tremendous stress on the internal parts of the transmission, especially the clutches and bands.  When put under severe stress, the friction materials can slip. This creates a lot of heat and wears the clutches down very quickly. It not uncommon to see a transmission destroyed in a few short miles when put under the stress of towing over the recommended limits.

Keeping your foot into the gas on inclines: What do I mean by this? I mean you floor the vehicle for long periods of time while going up steep hills. You never lift your foot from the gas pedal. This can build excessive heat very quickly, which in turn can destroy the transmission very quickly.  As you feel the vehicle straining while trying to maintain speed, slowly lift your foot off the gas. This will take some of the pressure off your transmission and give it a better chance to survive.

Don't tow over the maximum limit


Putting off factory recommended maintenance too long:  All vehicles come from the factory with an owner’s manual. Inside this manual you will find the recommend intervals to service the transmission. Some recommend changing the filter every time you change the fluid, others don’t. My recommendation is to change the filter every time you change the fluid. Don’t skimp on the quality of the filter either.  It will never hurt to change your fluid sooner than recommended, which is what I do with my vehicles.

Throwing your car into drive from reverse without stopping:  You’re in a rush. You back out of your parking spot quickly and without coming to a complete stop you throw it into drive. This is another sure way to shorten the life of your transmission. You are, in reality, using the bands, clutches, shafts and planetary gears as brakes. This is a big no-no!

Using the wrong fluid: Ok, so you’re a cheapskate. You decide to fill your transmission with whatever fluid is on sale. You pay no attention to the oil specs. In some case you can probably get away with that, but in most cases you can’t. Make sure the replacement fluid meets all OEM specs.

Don't use the wrong fluid


Power braking: What is power braking? It’s what kids do when trying to spin the wheels in mom and dad’s station wagon. Here is how you do it. Put the car in drive. Push down as hard as you can on the brakes, while doing the same thing to the gas pedal at the same time.  This is a sure way to ruin a transmission very quickly. And if you’re really unlucky you will balloon the torque convert, too, which may or may not expand and push your crank in the opposing direction. This will in turn destroy the thrust bearing in your motor. Now you have destroyed the transmission, the torque converter and the engine. Nice job. You may have to take another job to pay for all the repairs, either that, or ditch the car and file for bankruptcy. We’re talking about some serious money to fix something that took seconds to create.

Pay attention to my advice. Do any of the above and expect your transmission to fail pretty quickly.

A transmission will not last forever, regardless of how well you take care of it. If a decision has to be made to replace the transmission, I highly recommend you consider a re-manufactured transmission as your first choice. They differ from a rebuilt transmission in the fact that they are as good as a new transmission at a greatly reduced price and often include modifications and upgrades that make them much more durable. A re-manufactured transmission also comes with a much better warranty: three years compared to 90 days for a rebuilt transmission.


Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.