How long does a replaced transmission last?
Without service and maintenance, some transmissions can fail in as little as 100,000 miles. If you drive around 10-15,000 miles a year, your transmission could be down for the count in seven years!
With care and service, transmissions can last 300,000 miles or more. Scheduled fluid changes, transmission inspections, and band adjustments can save you thousands of dollars down the line from a premature transmission failure.
Transmission Warning Signs
Though there may not be a transmission warning light on your dash, the check engine light can often spell transmission trouble. A mechanic can diagnose your car by reading the error code generated by your onboard computer.
Transmission fluid leaks should be a red flag. Look for dark brown stains under where you park regularly, and check the transmission fluid dipstick for fluid levels.
If you notice the car skips gears or is sluggish to accelerate, your transmission may be slipping. A clunking sound during shifting is another warning sign to be wary of that needs service right away. Pay attention to any unusual sounds such as squealing, rattling, or humming.
Repair Versus Replacement
Small issues such as a leak are worth paying to have repaired. If most of the transmission is in good condition, but seals or bearings need to be replaced, you may find it more economical to have a mechanic repair the damage.
A transmission with more extensive issues from situations such as prolonged heat exposure or low fluid levels may end up being more costly. If a transmission has a shimmy or shake, smells burnt, or can’t shift properly, there may be more damage than is worth fixing.
If you find yourself repeatedly taking your car in for transmission repairs, a replacement may be more cost-effective. You may opt to have your current model rebuilt, or replace it all together. You can save money and time in the long run by getting a replacement, rather than going through diagnosis and repair of multiple failing parts over and over again.
The last thing you want to do is delay until your transmission fails. Your transmission may lock up entirely, which can cause you to lose control of your car and crash.
How to increase the lifetime of a rebuilt transmission
Perhaps the best way to ensure a rebuilt transmission will last is to pay attention to the quality of the replacement parts you’re installing during the service. Cutting corners when it comes to quality or completeness will certainly affect the results of your job. The quality you put into a rebuild will affect its performance on the road, so be sure you’re using only quality parts that are all intended for the specific application you’re working with (and be sure your techs are up to date on the latest transmission innnovations).
Additionally, educating your customers on proper transmission maintenance can also keep them satisfied with your work while also saving them money in the long run. By ensuring your rebuild customers are aware that regular services including fluid, oil, and filter changes, band adjustments, transmission cooler installations can extend the life of their rebuilt transmission, they’re able to take smarter care of their vehicles. You should also discourage aggressive driving that causes more wear and tear on the transmission. In summary, a rebuilt transmission can perform in the long run with the right combination of preventative measures and deliberate upkeep.
Manual vs. Automatic
While manual transmissions generally require less maintenance and attention than automatic ones do, they’re both still subject to the same issues and physical laws. Both require the proper type and grade of lubricants — some manual transmissions now use automatic transmission fluid for lubrication — in the proper amounts. Both are subject to the physical stresses of abuse, and both can suffer mechanical failure, too.
The primary differences between the two are in how the transmissions are shifted and how that shift is accomplished.
Automatic transmissions shift automatically, as the name implies, with the aid of a complex hydraulic circuit that uses fluid and pressure to apply and release clutches based on mechanical, hydraulic and electronic inputs. Manual transmissions accomplish the same goal, but the gears are changed manually using shift forks and synchros to smooth out the transitions. The clutch, which is engaged and disengaged to move through the gears, is also a manual input. Regardless of the type, maintenance plays a key role in transmission longevity.
Tips to Extending its Lifespan – Transmission Maintenance Checklist
Most car owners have their engine serviced regularly, but many completely ignore their transmission until it breaks.
Let’s look at how you can ensure they keep working properly:
1) Check Your Transmission Fluid Regularly
The fluid’s job is to absorb heat and carry it away from the moving parts. If the fluid level gets low, the internal components of your transmission can overheat and cause irreversible damage.
Check your ATF every 2-4 weeks (depending on how much you drive) with the engine running, and check your owner’s manual to be sure that you’re using the correct type of fluid.
If you drive a manual, check the clutch fluid reservoir every 2-4 weeks (if so equipped), and the transmission / differential oil every 6-12 months.
2) Have Your Transmission Serviced Regularly
Like an engine, a transmission has oil and a filter that needs to be changed every 20,000-30,000 miles, or once every 18 months. For newer cars, you should also have the transmission flushed every 40,000-50,000 miles or every 2 years, to remove all of the sediment and debris from the torque converter and cooler lines.
Vehicles with manual transmissions should have the clutch fluid and gearbox oil changed every 30,000-40,000 miles.
3) Upgrade to Synthetic Fluid
Over time, heat breaks down the organic compounds in ordinary automatic transmission fluid, rendering it much less effective. Synthetic fluid on the other hand, is much more heat resistant, making it the ideal heat removal agent if you regularly tow/haul heavy loads, or drive in environments that cause strain on the transmission (like the mountains or heavy traffic).
4) Buy a Transmission Cooler
The number one transmission killer is heat. As all of those parts move around, the friction creates heat, which causes long term damage to the seals, friction materials, metal surfaces and electronic components.
When the operating temperature climbs above 200-degrees, every 20-degree interval reduces the service life by 2. A good quality transmission cooler can significantly lower the gearbox operating temperature, which can prevent it from wearing out 2-3 times as fast.
5) Consider Your Driving Style
Driving aggressively from a stop causes intense heat buildup, as does constantly accelerating and decelerating. So if you want to extend the life of your transmission, go easy on the gas pedal, and plan your moves. This will reduce the strain on the transmission, and you’ll still arrive at your destination in about the same amount of time.
Here are 4 practices to get the most life out of your automatic transmission:
1. Regularly Service Your Transmission
Either on your own, if you have automotive maintenance experience, or by hiring a mechanic, have your transmissionâ€™s oil and filter changed. As with an oil change, refer to the manufacturerâ€™s specifications for exact service intervals. In general, change the oil and filter every 20,000 to 30,000 miles or every 18 months. Newer cars will also want to have their automatic transmission flushed of sediment and debris every 40,000 to 50,000 miles or every 2 years.
2. Regularly Check Your Transmission Fluid
Transmission fluid is designed to remove heat from the internal components of the transmission and take it away from moving parts. Low fluid levels can cause the transmission to overheat and cause irreversible damage. Depending on how much you drive, the automatic transmission should be checked every 2 to 4 weeks with the engine running.
3. Use Synthetic Transmission Fluid
Before switching, you should be using the type of transmission fluid recommended by your ownerâ€™s manual. However, heat eventually breaks down the organic compounds in regular automatic transmission fluid and makes it less effective. More heat-resistant, synthetic fluid will benefit your aging automatic transmission over time. Itâ€™s especially helpful to those who frequently drive with heavy loads, in heavy traffic, or through the mountains.
4. Invest in a Transmission Cooler
Heat is the enemy of the transmission. Damage builds up over time from extended heat exposure to seals, metal surfaces, and electronic parts. Whenever the temperature in the transmission goes over 200-degrees, each 20-degree notch decreases the service life by half. A transmission cooler can lower the operating temperature significantly and can more than double the time it takes to wear out.