In this edition, we shall look into an often neglected but very vital part of the engine drivetrain system, and that is the transmission, or the gearbox – which is a very delicate unit as it does not tolerate abuse like the car engine. All vehicles either comes in the manual or the automatic system. The manual gearbox is known to be very rugged than the automatic gearbox, but the latter has a better application and convenience than the former. However, for the purpose of the discourse, the automatic transmission will be briefly looked into, as well as it’s maintenance.
The auto gearbox works with the aid of wheel sensors(output and input), switch selectors, range selectors. These communicates with the vehicle ECU and other actuators to propel the vehicle with smooth shifts in between. That is the electrical part. The mechanical parts entails the hydraulics and this primarily used a special fluid called the automatic transmission fluid (ATF). In some cars it’s called the CVT fluid. Look into your owner’s manual to know which particular fluid your car uses.
1. Fluid Inspection: One of the best ways to know if you are in need of a transmission service is to take time to check the fluid. This gives an idea of the transmission overall health. Unlike the engine oil that is gauged when engine is cool, the transmission is gauged quite differently. Most vehicle owners often miss this. With the engine idling in park, remove and wipe the dipstick clean. Insert the dipstick again and take another reading in order to get the most accurate reading possible. A lower fluid level than normal indicates a leak that could be dangerous.
Also the appearance/color of the fluid should be looked at. If it looks a bit dark, there is likely a problem. Remember that a good transmission fluid should be a transparent bright color, and not milky in appearance. The most common is reddish or pinkish in color.
The smell of the fluid also matter. If you notice that the fluid smells a bit burnt, take it to a professional workshop with scan tools to run a scan for the transmission system. The transmission fluid should not be toyed with. Check your manual for intervals in fluid change.
2. Take care of your cooling system: The auto gearbox is connected to the engine radiator with the aid of special hoses called the cooler lines. The most important danger you can subject your gearbox to is for it to overheat. The radiator has a separate cooling chamber for the transmission fluid. As the vehicle moves, fluid is pumped and as it passes through the cooling chamber in the radiator, it returns to the gearbox and cools vital moving parts.
3. Being mindful of the brakes: Sudden braking puts stress on the engine and gearbox. This wears off the torque converter in a matter of time.
4. Shifting gears gently, using the recommended oil for your gearbox, avoid towing and changing fluid as at when due are the common factors to note when handling an automatic transmission system.
A very common issue to notice when a transmission begins to fail is overheating.
The gear overheats when the fluid is low, or when it’s darkish in color/long due for a change or flush. With this, it looses it’s properties to efficiently cool the moving parts of the gearbox. Transmission slips, car loosing power, sharp jerks or delay in shifting are what will be expected.
Written by Adeniyi Balogun