The automatic transmission has never been a straightforward device. Even early transmissions featured complex internal workings and tiny, tightly machined parts that were often well beyond the capabilities of backyard mechanics to repair. Working on a transmission typically requires disassembling the entire unit and reassembling nearly one thousand internal pieces.
You're probably getting the picture by now: automatic transmissions are highly specialized, highly complex pieces of equipment. As a result, diagnosing problems with these components can often be challenging. If you're still not convinced, check out these three reasons why you should always rely on professionals to diagnosis any potential problems with your car's transmission.
1. Lack of User Accessible Features
Older automatic transmissions typically had a few user-serviceable features. These included a dipstick for checking fluid conditions and levels and a replaceable filter accessible by removing the pan. Routine maintenance involved periodically checking the fluid and replacing it as necessary, ensuring the transmission fluid remained clean and clear.
Modern transmissions often lack these features, and most do not even include a dipstick for checking levels. The first indication of trouble may come with a warning light on your dash. Since transmission fluid issues can lead to severe damage, it's critical to always check with a professional any time you notice a transmission-related warning light.
2. Heavy Reliance on Computer Control
Automatic transmissions use hydraulic fluid for everything from selecting gears to keeping internal parts cool and lubricated. In older models, fluid pressure controlled nearly every aspect of a transmission's operation. Many of these functions now rely on electronic components controlled by the car's computer.
In practice, this reliance on the computer means that your transmission may exhibit unusual behaviors due to seemingly unrelated components. Failures elsewhere in your car or inaccurate sensor data reported to the computer can cause strange shifting patterns or other issues. You'll need an experienced shop with specialized diagnostic equipment to get to the bottom of these problems
3. Potentially Expensive Failures
Transmission problems can spiral out of control quickly. Many issues originate with overheating, dirty transmission fluid, or low fluid pressure. A car with these issues may continue to drive reasonably well, even if it develops some noticeable driveability issues. Unfortunately, ignoring the problem can place extreme strain on sensitive internal components, quickly ruining them.
Internal transmission damage nearly always requires a rebuild or replacement, both of which can cost thousands of dollars. The best way to avoid this fate for your transmission is to get any problems diagnosed as quickly as possible, allowing you to repair them before a failed transmission blows a hole in your wallet.
For more information on when you should get your transmission checked, contact an auto service near you.