The transmission system within an average family car is subject to a tremendous amount of wear and tear on a daily basis. Manufacturers understand this and tend to "over-engineer" all of these components so that they do not break. While you may expect the automatic transmission to outlast your ownership of the vehicle, it's nevertheless important for you to look out for certain warning signs and be as efficient a caretaker, as possible. What do you need to be aware of?
To begin with, have a look in the owner's manual to see where the fluid dipstick is located. While this is usually fairly obvious when it comes to the engine oil dipstick, it's not always as intuitive for an automatic transmission. Next, get ready to check the quality of the fluid for any warning signs.
How to Check the Fluid
Make sure that you have driven the vehicle for a couple of miles before attempting to check the fluid, as this will give you a better reading. Pull out the dipstick and see if the fluid level is in between the two lines indicated on the stick and if so, look closely at the fluid itself. Don't be surprised if you can see some very small, black dots floating within the fluid as these are traces of the friction material contained within the clutch pack. However, if you can see "metallic" specks instead, or if the fluid appears to be less consistent and black in nature, this could indicate other issues. Sometimes, you may also notice a very distinctive, burning smell when you first pull the dipstick out of its holder.
What to Do Next
The presence of tiny metallic specks indicates excessive wear and tear within the system and that some components are rubbing against each other when they should not be. While it may be possible that a bearing is on its way out, the presence of these tiny specks will nevertheless compromise the efficiency of the lubricant and put other parts at risk, as well.
In this situation, your first reaction may be to flush out the old liquid and replace it, but experts suggest that this may not be the best course of action. Instead, simply add some new liquid if the level is low and get in touch with a mechanic. Sometimes, the entire transmission system can fail if the fluid is flushed but a full internal inspection is postponed. It's much better to have a detailed look at what may be wrong first, before fixing that and then injecting the new fluid.
It should be fairly easy for the average motorist to check the transmission fluid in this way and it may help to uncover a potentially serious problem before a catastrophic failure results in a big bill.
For more information, contact auto mechanics.