The reasons for automatic transmission breakdown

Driving a car with automatic transmission (AT) is different than the one with manual. Although it is easier to learn AT, standard gearbox is safer because rough situations influence on an automatic one and especially its fluid damaging the main and most expensive part of a car.

Almost 90 percent of all automatic transmission failures happen due to the fluid or ATF. Although it does not require regular often change as engine oil does, the ATF still needs owner’s attention, especially if the vehicle runs on sandy or dusty roads, or in the times when the air is filled with pollen. As for the usual driving, the transmission fluid still has to be watched. Although many nowadays cars have special filters, not all of them do a good job. For example, most of the Asian autos have plastic or metal strainer which can only catch the larger pieces, but the rest of the debris and dust go straight to the fluid. The only way to clear it out is to change the liquid.

The other main problem with ATF is overheating. Automatic transmission parts make a lot of friction while at work, which produces heat. High speeds are the primary reason for overheating: if the vehicle constantly runs over 120 mph, overheating happens quickly and automatic gearbox will have to be replaced if the fluid is not watched carefully enough.

In order to reduce overheating problem automakers connect automatic transmissions to the air conditioning system. If there is damage in it, or the main radiator is polluted, which prevents air from coming, the automatic transmission fluid might overheat. Car owners should also be more careful when they drive in hot weather on a hard road (sand, gravel or stiff uphill) with the air conditioner turned on.

Automatic transmission fluid has the ingredients which improve its oxidation stability, reduce foaming and inhibit corrosion. After some times these ingredients lose their quality and the fluid stops working as it should. This is why auto manufacturers advise to change transmission fluid every 2 or 3 years or after 24,000 to 36,000 miles. If the vehicle is used for towing, the ATF should be changed every year or after 15,000 miles.

Another reason for automatic transmission breakdown is aggressive driving. Quick speed changes, constant upshifts and downshifts wear out the gears and screws. One should keep in mind that quick and rude driving does not only influence on the gearbox. The whole vehicle suffers from it and might let down the driver in the most improper moment when its perfect work is mostly expected.

Towing another vehicle puts pressure on all gears of the AT. If the situation like this occurs, it is all right to tow, but only on a very low speed and without any sudden jerks. It is also important to remember the rules of towing automatic transmission might be severely damaged if the car is shifted from reverse to neutral and then towed with the drive wheels on the ground.

Automatic gearbox is connected to car computer and the problems with it might result in the AT breakdown. In some cases the computer has to be “retrained” in order to eliminate the problem. However, this type of trouble arises very rarely and can be fixed in any auto service.

Electrical fault might occur if the car computer detects an open or a short in a shift solenoid – the piece that connects AT parts to the computer. Certain light on the dashboard will indicate that the solenoids have to be checked and fixed.

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