What Your Car’s Transmission Wants You to Know
For a lot of car owners, when they hear the word transmission it automatically gets translated to expensive. But what exactly does a transmission do? How can you get the most out of the one you have? And what are your budget friendly options when your transmission is done?

What is a transmission?

A car transmission helps your car be reliable and convert combustion power from the engine into physical momentum. The power from a car engine alone is too high for driving slowly, or even starting or stopping your car. The transmission ensures the engine spins at the correct rate without going too fast or too slow. The transmission also ensures the wheels get the correct amount of power. Just as a bicycle has a gear shifter and chain system, a transmission is the gearbox of a car.

A transmission is also one of the most expensive parts of a car to repair or replace. You will want to be sure to provide proper maintenance to your transmission to get as much functional life out of it as you can.

How long does a transmission last?

Depending on how the car has been driven and maintained, a transmission may last anywhere from 10,000 miles to 300,000+ miles. On average, automatic transmissions last about 150,000 to 200,000 miles. Manual transmissions are simpler and therefore have a longer life. Manual cars will, however, most likely need the clutch replaced multiple times before the transmission has reached the end of its life.

Tips to make a transmission last longer:

You can lengthen the life of your transmission by the way you treat it. Here are some tips to help you make the most of the transmission you have:

  • Warm up your car. In cold weather, it’s ideal to idle your car until the engine goes into a lower RPM before putting the vehicle in gear. The fluid in the bottom of the transmission pan has to travel up, and in cold weather, it becomes thicker and more difficult to move. The extra time you spend warming up the car can add extra time to the life of your transmission.
  • Regularly service your car’s transmission. Every 20,000-30,000 miles, or about once every year and a half, the transmission oil and filter in your older or used car should be changed. Your newer cars should have the transmission flushed every 40,000-50,000 miles or every 2 years. Talk with a trusted mechanic to determine when is best to have your transmission serviced.
  • Stop completely to shift gears. It might be tempting in a hurry to shift from reverse to drive without waiting for the car to stop (and vice versa), but it’s in your best interest to make a complete stop first. Your gears, universal/CV joints, and clutches will thank you in the long run by lasting much longer.
  • Visit an experienced mechanic. Transmissions are complex and critical. A trusted and experienced mechanic will be able to help you service your transmission, and they also may be able to spot potential problems before they make their appearance.
  • Upgrade your car’s fluids. Synthetic fluid is much more heat resistant than ordinary automatic transmission fluid. Ordinary transmission fluid will break down the organic compounds and become less effective, which may be a problem if you regularly haul or tow loads, or drive in mountains or heavy traffic often.
  • Drive with caution. Constantly accelerating and decelerating and driving aggressively can create unnecessary heat and strain on your car’s transmission. Going easy on the gas pedal and giving yourself more time to slow will help extend the life of your transmission.

What to look for in a used transmission:

Even when cared for properly, transmissions will eventually die. Since a new transmission can be a pricey repair, some car owners will opt to replace their faulty transmission with a used one. But what do you look for in a used transmission?

  • No accidents. If the used car the transmission is coming from looks like it was in a bad accident, it may have damaged the transmission. Look at the car’s body to scout out signs of collision or major bodywork.
  • No leaks. A common problem for transmissions is leaking. If the fluid levels are low (you can even add some fluid and then check it after a while to see if any dripped out) or you can see fluid leaking from the transmission, you may want to pass on it unless you have the skills and knowledge needed to fix the leaks.
  • Mechanic approved. If you have a trusted mechanic willing to come to check out a used transmission with you before you purchase it, it would be well worth it. A mechanic will likely know much more about the condition of the transmission than you will be able to tell for yourself. They may be able to help you find a transmission from a reconstructed title car that is in good condition.
  • No red flags in history. You can tell from a seller’s history of the transmission or a CarFax report on the car if there have been transmission-related car accidents. If there have been, you’ll want to proceed with caution.
  • Warranty the transmission. A warranty may be offered from the junkyard where you buy a used transmission. Do your research on the warranty to determine if it’s a good fit for you.

If you have questions about the transmission in your vehicle, contact us at TJ Chapman Auto in the Salt Lake City, Utah, area. We sell used cars locally as well as remotely. In fact, we’ve been shipping quality used cars across the country to new owners since before it was cool! Our auto dealership is staffed with some of the best trained mechanics in the biz who can help you ensure that you’re getting a car that will serve you well for many years to come.


What Your Car’s Transmission Wants You to Know