If your car has an automatic transmission, you can expect to pay more for repairs than if you had a manual transmission. This is because the systems can be complex, and the mechanic may have to open the gear box. Parts for automatic transmissions are also pricier, so expect to pay more if the issue is a collapsed filter, damaged torque converter, or similar problem.
Automatic transmissions need to have their fluid replaced every 60,000 to 100,000 miles to avoid damaging the system. This type of transmission generates heat while it is operating, so the fluid degrades over time. If your transmission overheats, which is characterized by a strong “burnt” smell, then the fluid needs to be changed immediately. When the fluid degrades, the transmission will wear out more quickly and eventually may need to be replaced – this is an expensive repair. The best way to avoid this problem is replace your transmission fluid on schedule.
The most common automatic transmission problem is leakage. Most cars’ fluid is red, so if you see a red puddle when you move your car, it’s almost certainly the transmission fluid. If you have to replace your transmission fluid very frequently, that is also a sign of a leak. Leaks in automatic transmission cars tend to develop in a few places.
One place that a leak can develop is the speed sensor pointing mount, which is found on the transmission’s housing. The drain hole beneath the transmission box and the filler tube base are also common leak locations. If you find transmission fluid in your car’s radiator fluid (look for the characteristic pink or red), then there is a leak. A leak can also occur if the fluid level was topped off too much. If that’s the case, you’ll need to remove the excess fluid until it comes under the full line on a dipstick test.
Another problem that can develop with automatic transmissions is a clogged filter. A filter will help keep your transmission fluid free of debris for a period of time, but eventually it will need to be replaced. Replacing clogged filters should be your next step after changing transmission fluid and checking for leaks. This step by itself will fix a lot of transmission problems.
Some transmission problems are characterized by unusual sounds while your car is in motion. Whining or buzzing might indicate a low fluid level, which can be fixed easily. However, it also might stem from a warped torque converter, which requires professional attention.
If your car slips too easily into other gears while you are driving it, there may be an issue of wear on the transmission, which needs to be corrected with a transmission overhaul. However, if the weather is very cold, it could also be caused by the way the chill is affecting the flow of transmission fluid.
Noises or strange vibrations when you speed up or slow down can be signs of many different problems, including a filter clog or collapse, as well as debris in the transmission fluid. These types of warning signs should prompt an immediate trip to a transmission repair shop.