Boise Auto Blog

Updates on cars, transportation and related subjects in Boise and Ada County.

Transmissions need love too

The heat is on this summer and that puts your car under a lot of stress. While the engine gets most of the attention when it comes to overheating, your transmission also gets very hot and has fewer ways to cool itself.

boise transmission maintenance
Too much heat, too much weight and too little maintenance will overheat your transmission!

Hot weather is bad enough, but if you tow anything or go driving in the mountains, that will really heat up your transmission. Stop-and-go traffic, rapid acceleration and just having a large, heavy car will heat the transmission too. You’ll know your transmission is in trouble when it starts slipping gears. You’ll be driving along and feel a slight jerk; the car will slow down a bit, then resume its correct gear and accelerate. If that’s happening, you need to fix it right away.

Usually, the problem is low transmission oil level. Also, transmission fluid needs to be replaced occasionally because it naturally breaks down. These are inexpensive maintenance procedures that you should be doing anyway. Another issue might be the solenoid, an electrical device that regulates how much fluid goes through the transmission. Other factors include heavy towing and lots of stop and go traffic. When your transmission overheats, it literally roasts the oil, breaking it down and destroying the oil’s ability to lubricate your transmission – which makes it even hotter and starts a cycle that will destroy your transmission. Given that a transmission can cost $3,000 – $4,000 to replace, taking care of your transmission is a must.

The good news is, the transmission doesn’t ask for much, at least compared to the engine. Changing the transmission oil is recommended every 30,000 miles and costs $175 to $250. The transmission is very picky about its fluid and we use only factory-approved transmission oil.

Since it’s summer and really hot, we recommend you bring your car in to have us inspect the transmission oil. We can tell you if it’s low, if it needs replaced, if the transmission oil filter needs replaced, if you have a transmission leak, and other problems. We check the transmission as part of our 27-point vehicle inspection with every engine oil change.

install transmission oil cooler
A transmission oil cooler, purchased as a kit, is relatively simple and easy to install.

One option – especially if you tow or carry heavy loads in hot weather – is a transmission oil cooler. This is a “mini-radiator” that’s installed in front of your engine radiator. Transmission oil flows through the oil cooler, cooling it off. Cars and trucks with optional towing packages usually come from the factory with a transmission oil cooler, but most cars don’t have them. A transmission oil cooler is a relatively inexpensive and easy thing to install. Even if you don’t do any towing in hot weather, keeping your transmission oil cooler will prolong the transmission‘s life. With every 20 degree drop in fluid temperature, your transmission’s lifespan can approximately double! This blog has more good information about transmission overheating.


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