The Importance Of Transmission Inspections

Did you know that by the time the Check Engine light has come on damage may already have been done to your car's transmission?

With the exception of manual transmissions, almost all failures, defects, or malfunctions in modern transmissions will set fault codes. This in turn will cause the Check Engine or other warning lights to illuminate on the dashboard. However, by the time this happens, the damage to the transmission may already have been done. In cases of severe damage having occurred in automatic or DSG transmissions, the vehicle may be forced into a limp mode that will persist until the fault is corrected, which can be a major inconvenience, to say the least. 

However, there are several things you can do to reduce, if not eliminate the chances of premature or unexpected transmission failures, regardless of the type of transmission in your vehicle. 

Don’t ignore symptoms

Any strange sound, smell, or behaviour such as odd vibrations on any transmission should be investigated without delay, since timely action could prevent a catastrophic failure. Transmissions are designed to be noiseless and not to behave strangely, which means that when you hear or smell something strange coming from the transmission, there is already a problem, so don’t make it worse by ignoring the signs.

Have the transmission fluid changed regularly

Bear in mind that transmission fluid/ lubricant replacement intervals are based on ideal operating conditions, which very rarely match everyday vehicle use. For instance, regular towing or driving in stop-start traffic every day over prolonged periods place extreme demands on transmissions and their lubricants.

While it is critically important to stick to the recommended fluid replacement intervals, this may not be enough to protect the transmissions on vehicles that are used in extreme or demanding conditions. In fact, all transmissions can benefit from more regular fluid/lubricant replacements than the log book service schedule prescribes. While this may add slightly to the vehicle’s maintenance cost over its useful life, this should always be weighed against the sometimes ruinously high cost of replacing a damaged transmission.

Don’t exceed a transmission’s rated towing capacity

All transmissions are designed to cope only with loads that are calculated not to cause damage to any transmission components. For instance, if a given transmission is designed to cope with a maximum towing load of say, 750 kg, don’t tow a heavy boat or trailer that weighs 1000 kg. While doing this may not damage the transmission immediately, keep in mind that damage to gears, clutches, chains, bearings, and other components that occurs over time is cumulative. This means that once something in a transmission is damaged, the damage will get progressively worse as more damage is inflicted on the affected component until secondary damage to adjacent or related components occurs, at which point it is often too late to save the damaged transmission.      

If it's been a while since your transmission has been serviced or checked, see your local Repco Authorised Service centre.

Click here for more about automatic transmission servicing.