Monthly Archives: April 2016

What do you Think About Automatic Transmission

This is a great question, but we must examine what “acting funny” means when referring to one’s drivetrain before recommending a course of action. Do any of the following seem familiar to you?

Slipping

When an automatic transmission seems to slip in and out of gear, or the engine revs up but the vehicle goes much slower than the engine seems to be running, it’s known as slipping. Sometimes the gears reengage harshly.

Shuddering

This is where the whole vehicle shudders and shakes while driving, as if it’s having a convulsion. It feels like you’re driving over rumble strips even if you’re on a smooth highway.

Neutral Drop-Out

A condition that feels similar to slipping, neutral drop-out is where the transmission drops into Neutral when the vehicle comes to a stop or while driving, typically at slower speeds. Sometimes when driving, the trans drops out of gear resulting in the engine racing up, and then either sliding — or banging — back into gear, or you step on the gas and the engine revs but the vehicle goes nowhere as if it’s in Neutral.

Heavy Drivetrain Vibration

This heavy vibration is felt throughout the vehicle under acceleration, especially when the drivetrain is under load, such as driving up a hill or pulling a trailer. Though many things can make a car vibrate, this type of drivetrain vibration will subside when coasting or idling.

What’s Causing This?

The potential causes behind these behaviors are many. The most common include leaking internal or external transmission seals; mechanical damage to the transmission and/or transfer case’s vital internal hard parts such as gears, drums, etc.; old, worn-out transmission fluid; improper fluid; electrical software and hardware glitches; worn drivetrain components; bad transmission and engine mounts.

What Can You Do?

Most of the causes listed above require a mechanic, certainly, but you can start by inspecting the color, consistency and smell of the vehicle’s transmission fluid. Low fluid level can cause the slipping described above.

Even if the vehicle is not doing any of the stuff above, if the fluid is brown or lightly dark, then it’s probably time for transmission service, essentially a transmission oil change. Like the engine, the transmission has a filter and oil (called fluid because it does more than lubricate) that needs to be changed at regular intervals outlined in your owner’s manual. If there’s no reference in your manual, then check with your mechanic.

If one or more of the symptoms described earlier are present and the fluid smells burned and feels rough or gritty between your fingers, then have a professional look at it, because more than simple service is required.

For the conditions above, we recommend transmission repair specialists who have access to diagnostic repair info that could lead directly to the cause of the problem, rather than muddling around in hit-and-miss fashion. They can run pressure tests, dye-leak tests and an electronic diagnostic scan of the drivetrain control module.

Diagnostic costs vary with the eventual verdict, but you can determine the likely cost of transmission fluid maintenance for your specific vehicle in your area using our fair-price estimator. After inputting your make, model and year, select the maintenance category and then the service called automatic transmission fluid/filter change.

How to Beat Your Car in the Summer Heat

Maintenance

Regular maintenance is key to helping your car survive a hot summer. Start under the hood. Look for battery corrosion, as the heat raises the internal temperature of the battery and speeds up corrosion on the terminals. According to research by Interstate Batteries, more than 30 percent of vehicles with batteries 3 years or older experience battery failure, so get older batteries tested by a technician.

Check your vehicle’s fluid levels, particularly the engine oil and coolant. You’ll also want to inspect coolant hoses for wear and tear and look for leaks, which typically develop near hose clamps, the radiator and the water pump. Other levels to check include brake, transmission and power-steering fluids. Taking care of routine maintenance before a trip is a good way to avoid becoming one of the travelers this summer who will need to have their broken-down car towed for repairs, as AAA estimated 3.5 million needed in 2013.

Tires

Driving with properly inflated tires will help reduce the risk of tire blowouts and lengthen their life. An under-inflated tire generates more heat, which adds to already-hot summer temperatures and causes them to wear out quicker.

Consumer Reports and heat transfer experts C, G, & J Inc. recommend checking your vehicle’s tire pressure in the morning or when the tires have been sitting for more than three hours, as tire pressure recommendations are based on the tires being “cold.” Tire pressure can change 1 pound per square inch for every 10-degree change in air temperature. So if the temperature rises 30 degrees during the day, the tire pressure will increase 3 psi.

Keep tires inflated to the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended level, which is located on the tire information sticker on the driver’s doorjamb or in the owner’s manual. Make sure to check the tire pressure at least monthly, if not more often, as tires tend to lose 1 psi per month.

Air Flow

It’s hard for most of us to imagine driving around in the heat without air conditioning. To keep that cold air pumping through a heatwave, make sure there is enough refrigerant in your car’s air-conditioning system. A technician will be able to tell if there’s a leak in the system.

Leaving windows cracked or vents opened will also allow hot air to escape, according to sustainable chemistry corporation BASF, and if time isn’t a factor, opening all the doors to let more heat out is recommended before entering your car.

Keep the Cabin Cool

Leather and vinyl seats can get really hot — even when parked in the shade. I recently got into my SUV dressed in shorts and quickly remembered how hot seats can get. Parking in the shade will help keep the cabin cooler, but to keep the parts of the car you come in contact with from getting too hot, BASF suggests draping towels on the seats and steering wheel.

 

It may seem obvious to park in the shade on a hot day, but this does more for your vehicle than just keep it cooler for your return. Parking in the shade helps preserve the color of the upholstery and the appearance of trim pieces, and a cooler cabin also means less work for the air-conditioning system when you’re ready to drive again.

If parking fully in the shade isn’t an option, try to position the front of the car away from the sun to keep the front seats and steering wheel cooler. Some cars have rear sunshades that can be pulled up when needed, but an accessory windshield shade can also help keep the cabin cooler when parked. A more expensive option is window tinting, but some states have laws limiting how dark tinting can be.