Eleven Tips to Extend Automatic Transmission Life

By Benjamin Jerew

Over 90 percent of Canadian vehicles are fitted with an automatic transmission, and most drivers cringe at the words “transmission trouble,” usually complex repairs. Many transmissions last over 300,000 kilometres, some as high as 500,000 kilometres, but many have their lives cut short. Here’s how to keep your automatic transmission running longer.

Warm Up Your Car

Temperature is your transmission’s worst enemy. When transmission fluid is cold, it slows gear engagement. On cold days, warm up your car a couple of minutes, then take it easy for a few miles. Consider a transmission heater for winter.

Transmission Cooler

A transmission cooler can be even more important. Hard driving, mountain roads, towing, and hauling can overheat an automatic transmission, shortening transmission life. An auxiliary transmission cooler keeps temperatures down.

Engine Cooling System

High temperature translates directly to a short lifespan. Though separate systems, if your engine is overheating, it can overheat the transmission. When considering transmission maintenance, don’t forget engine cooling system maintenance.

External Filter

Many transmission filters are no more than a fine screen, allowing small contaminants through the system, where they can get stuck in valves, seals, or clutches. An external transmission fluid filter can eliminate these.

Parking Brake

“Park” engages the parking pawl. On a hill, taking the transmission out of “Park” will make a clunking sound, indicative of damage to the parking pawl and other transmission components. Using your parking brake on hills reduces strain on the transmission.

Take it Easy – hard accel

The harder you drive, the harder your transmission shifts, increasing the chance of slippage and wear. Even at operating temperature, hard-driving increases wear and shortens transmission life.

Use Your Brakes

Yes, you can downshift an automatic transmission, a good idea on hills to prevent dangerous brake overheating. Still, excessive downshifting can wear the transmission, a more complicated repair than replacing worn brakes.

Come to a Full Stop

Before changing directions, such as backing in or out of a parking spot, be sure to stop completely. When the vehicle is moving, changing from “Park” to “Reverse” or vice-versa causes excess wear and strain.

Regular Maintenance

You knew that was coming, even on so-called sealed transmissions, with nary a dipstick in sight. Depending on use cases, transmission fluid and transmission filter replacement should be considered every 60,000 to 100,000 kilometres.

Synthetic Upgrade

At your next transmission service, upgrade to synthetic automatic transmission fluid, if available. Synthetic fluids are more resistant to temperature extremes. Ask your NAPA AUTOPRO expert about compatibility with your vehicle and your manufacturer’s recommendations.

Transmission Conditioner

Racking up the kilometres, age and heat take their toll on rubber seals, leading to leaks, poor shifting, or slipping. Additives, like Kleen-Flo Automatic Transmission Conditioner, can revitalize rubber seals to prevent leaks and improve transmission operation. Though not a miracle solution, this can help delay your visit to the transmission shop!

No one wants to visit the transmission shop, though older vehicles will eventually find their way there. Keep your car, truck or SUV out of the transmission shop as long as possible by treating your transmission right. Check out transmission services available at any of our 600 NAPA AUTOPRO locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on automatic transmission maintenance, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTOPRO Service Centre.