Repairing or rebuilding your transmission is one of the most costly vehicle repairs, often costing thousands of dollars. Taking care of your transmission and having regular maintenance done can help extend the life of your transmission and help you spot problems early before they turn into a more costly repair.
Check Your Fluid
You should already be checking your oil periodically, and it's a good practice to check your transmission fluid at the same time. Most vehicles have a dipstick, very similar to the oil dipstick, that allows you to easily check your transmission fluid level. Turn your vehicle on and let the engine idle before removing the dipstick, wiping it off and putting it back in again to check the level. If your transmission fluid seems low, take your vehicle to a repair shop to have it looked at, as this can be a sign of a leak. Examine the fluid itself as well. If it looks cloudy, dark or smells like rotten fish, your transmission may need to be repaired. The fluid should be clear, red and sweet smelling.
Have Your Transmission Flushed
Transmission fluid doesn't last forever. It's important to have your transmission flushed and the fluid changed regularly. For most vehicles, flushing the transmission every other year or every 15,000 miles is sufficient, but some vehicles may need it more often. Aim for taking your car in for a flush at least once a year if you have a working vehicle that you tow or plow with or do anything else that's hard on your transmission. If you have an older vehicle that has a transmission filter, the technician should change it every time you have the fluid changed.
Watch Your Shifting and Braking
One of the best things you can do to protect your transmission is to make sure you come to a complete stop before changing gears if you're driving a vehicle with an automatic transmission. This means waiting until you're fully stopped when you're backing up before putting your car into drive. Your transmission works much harder when you ride with the brake pedal depressed, even a little bit. Pay attention to how often you're braking and try to ease up a little if you find you're riding the brakes often.
Warm Up Your Engine
Allowing your engine to warm up before shifting your car into drive makes for an easier transition for your transmission. It's best to allow your vehicle's engine to idle for at least 4 or 5 minutes before driving it, even in warm weather. It's even more important to start your car before you need to take off when winter weather and freezing temperatures set in.
Not all vehicles are exactly the same, especially when it comes to transmission maintenance. Consult your vehicle's owner's manual or a transmission technician for maintenance tips specific to your car. Also keep in mind that not all mechanics work on transmissions, so if you suspect something is wrong with your transmission, take your vehicle to a reputable shop that handles transmission repairs.