HOW TO TELL IF YOUR EXPERIENCING TRANSMISSION PROBLEMS:
1. THE CHECK ENGINE LIGHT
A check engine light is tied into all the computers on your vehicle. What does this mean? Any thing from the gas cap being loose to an internal transmission failure can cause the light to come on. Computer Diagnostics is the only way to properly diagnose a vehicle after 1990.
2. THE OVERDRIVE LIGHT
On some vehicles, mostly Ford, there is an Overdrive cancel light to tell you that you are out of overdrive. However, when the light starts to blink and usually accompanied by the check engine light, it means there is a transmission problem and you should take your vehicle in for diagnostics ASAP.
3. TROUBLE CODES
The first step in diagnostics is getting the codes that are stored in the on-board computer that caused the check engine light or overdrive light to blink. This is the easiest step. However, since there are usually more problems than codes stored in the computer most codes have multiple meanings and the same code can be thrown for more than one problem. Also, some codes can cause other codes to be set. This is where diagnostics gets tricky and this is where a technician is your best bet. As a transmission shop and with the experience and tools we have come to recognize some of the patterns of codes thrown as a particular problem. Some cars can take several days to diagnose and find the underlying problem that exist. Not all problems cause a code stored. For example: when Ford Manual Lever Position Sensor (MLPS) goes bad, the transmission either quits shifting or shift hunts. Sometimes they throw a code and sometimes they don't. It depends on the computer. This is why computer diagnosis is so crucial. I have seen many times people come in and say " I need a transmission overhaul because my transmission won't shift." We diagnose and repair and save these customers thousands.
4. TRANSMISSION LEAKS
The fluid is the life blood of your transmission. The fluid in an automatic transmission does 3 things: Lubricates, cools and provides hydraulic pressure. This is why the vehicle may not move when it is running low on fluid. Transmission leaks no matter how small should be taken care of immediately!!! You could damage your transmission just by running it low on fluid once! Some signs of running low are: Slipping, Dropping out of gear, Neutral at stops, no movement and Whining noise.
THE DO'S AND DONT'S :
Do... Check fluid frequently. Hot weather, heavy traffic conditions, towing, or even ordinary day-to-day driving can cause extraordinary engine heat to build up, destroying or damaging the transmission. Check the color and level of the fluid. If it is discolored promptly, take your car to a transmission expert or if low add fluid according to the manufacturers specifications .
Do... Check malfunctions immediately. Know what the warning signals are and have them analyzed at once. The longer you put off repairs, the greater the damage will be to your transmission.
Do... Install a cooler in your transmission, particularly for towing or carrying heavy loads, or if you do most of your driving in hot weather. Coolers are relatively inexpensive protection.
Do... Have your car tuned up on a regular basis, to head off the wear and gear problems that are associated with fast idling.
Don't... Play 'transmission technician.' It's too intricate and too valuable for even a gifted amateur mechanic. Trying to deal with your transmission yourself could give you big headaches - and will cost you more in the long run. Also beware of unlicensed mechanics, we have seen so many transmission come in that were taken to a fly by night mechanic and the damage and out of pocket money from these people have cost people thousands in dollars and terrible undue stress.
Don't... Stop and start suddenly. This can cause broken engine mounts which in turn could damage the transmission.
Don't... Spin the wheels in sand, snow, or on hills. Dig yourself out- or get a tow. Spinning can lead to major transmission damage and undue wear on the tires.
Don't... Leave your car in Park (P) without engaging your parking brake. Another vehicle could nudge your car, causing the parking break pawl to snap.
Don't... Shift to a lower gear at traffic lights, as a substitute for breaking. This is a poor practice that wears down the transmission and cause premature failure.
Don't... Tow another car with your vehicle if it can possibly be avoided. If you must, follow this rule for the other vehicle: If it has front-wheel drive, make sure the front wheels are off the ground; vice-versa for cars with rear-wheel drive. If towed improperly this can cause failure and significant damage to your transmission.
THE "UNLUCKY 13" WARNING SIGNS YOU SHOULD LOOK FOR:
1. Loss of transmission fluid.
2. Discoloration of fluid.
3. Fluid has a "burnt" smell.
4. Sticky dipstick, with a "varnish" buildup.
5. Leaking fluid. Spots on the ground under the car may indicate bad seals.
6. "Morning-sickness." Car won't shift during the first few minutes of operation.
7. Slipping. The engine races, but the car doesn't respond.
8. Shifting too soon.
9. Shifting too late.
10. No power when you depress the gas pedal.
11. Noise when transmission shifts gears.
12. Gears won't hold firm. Car backs up or goes forward in Park; or won't hold in Park.
13. Absence of normal braking effect of being in gear: "neutral feeling" in driving gear.
You should also be alert to the sound that may indicate a problem with the transmission:
1. Loud whine over 25 mph.
2. Low wine in all gears, including Neutral and Park.
3. Clicking, buzzing, or whistling sound.
4. A rumbling sound while in gear.
5. A 'clunking' sound when transmission is put in drive or reverse.
SOME MORE HELPFUL INFORMATION:
(1) DIFFERENT TIRE SIZES:
Automatic transmissions and transaxles are smarter than ever, the computer takes into account the tire size to not only determine vehicle speed but, shift timing and quality. In Front Wheel Drive vehicles, tire size is crucial to the operation of the transaxle. Two different size tires on the front drive wheels causes a gear ratio difference inside the transaxle. Basically one side of the differential spins faster than the other. This causes premature wear and ultimately transaxle failure. Different sizes on a vehicle include: different brand names, one tire being older than the other or the donut spare being run on the front too long. Front drive tires should always be replaced at the same time. Never mix the brands they say on the tire that they are the same size, but on most cases they are a little different, even tread height can be significant enough to cause a problem! The donut spare is intended to keep you from getting stranded!!! If you look in your owners manual it tells you to go immediately to a garage to get the tire replaced. THE DONUT SPARE IS NOT A PERMANENT FIX! 4 Wheel drives (4x4) and all wheel drives (AWD) should have the same tire size all the way around!
A vehicle should NEVER be towed with the drive wheels on the ground! When the engine is not running the internals of the transmission is not getting lubrication, basically causing the transmission to melt down. I have seen transmissions completely melted in half due to this and can also cause the vehicle it self to catch fire! 4 wheel and all wheel drives should be flat bed towed only.