Heat: Car Transmissions’ Worst Enemy

Mechanic fixing a car in the shop

A vehicle’s transmission is one of its most important parts. Also known as the gearbox, it receives power from the engine and transmits or sends it to the wheels. Despite this, most people’s understanding of transmissions only extends to knowing whether their car has a manual or automatic transmission.

Understanding your vehicle is necessary for optimal car health and your safety. It allows you to know what issues to check for, and when to take your vehicle to a trustworthy Salt Lake City-based car mechanic.

Ideal Transmission Temperature

Vehicles should have transmission temperatures of around 175 to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Take note: higher temperatures are the worst enemy of car transmissions.

Each 20 degree Fahrenheit drop in temperature helps double the lifespan of your transmission. Conversely, a temperature of 220 degrees halves your gearbox’s normal lifespan. At this temperature, varnish begins forming on the metal surfaces. Transmissions running at 240 degrees result in hardened seals. Clutches and transmission bands begin slipping at 260 degrees.

Many transmission issues and failures stem from heat-related problems. Common heat-related transmission problems include cracked gears, ruptured seals, and delays in gear shift or engagement.

Mind the Transmission Temperature Warning Light

When the transmission temperature warning symbol on your dashboard lights up, don’t ignore it. It means your vehicle’s transmission is overheating. If this happens, have your transmission fluid and engine coolant levels checked immediately.

Fluid leaks and low fluid levels are common causes of overheating. Regularly servicing or changing your car’s transmission fluid to ensure the fluid effectively reduces heat.

Apart from the warning light, the color of your car’s transmission fluid may signal overheating issues, as well. Be sure to check this out as well. Better be safe than sorry, after all.

Keep a Lookout for Physical Signs

Fresh transmission fluids have a near transparent red shade. It changes to a darker red, brown or near-black color over time due to heat. It isn’t supposed to burn up, unlike engine oil. Dark transmission fluid should be changed right away.

Overheating transmissions give off a distinct smell. If you notice a sweet odor, it’s likely a sign of an overheated transmission and that you need to pull over to let it cool down.

It’s best to contact your auto mechanic for professional help. Always remember that proper maintenance and prompt repairs are necessary for long-term car health.