How to make an automatic transmission last longer?2021/01/24
„Auto” is a dream of many drivers. Vast majority of them prevent themselves from buying it, worried about durability of an automatic transmission. That’s why we’re going to give you some tips on how to take care of an automatic transmission. Durability of an automatic transmission vs. its type
Durability of an automatic transmission depends on its type and whether we have used it properly. So, let’s start with a brief overview of the 4 basic types of „autos”. Overall, the rules for using them are similar, but they might differ in significant nuances, which is why it’s a good idea to know what type of an automatic transmission is in our car or a vehicle that we’re planning to buy:
- Traditional automatic transmission – AT (Automatic Transmission) – is especially popular in the top-class cars and is often combined with a selector of different driving modes.
- Dual-clutch automatic transmission – DCT (dual-clutch transmission) – can be found, among others, in Audi (as S Tronic), Volkswagen (DSG), BMW (DCT, SMG,DKG), Porsche (PDK), Ford (PowerShift), Renault (EDC), Alfa Romeo (DDCT). This type of transmission has two automatically controlled clutches (separate for odd and even gears) and a dual-mass wheel. It is controlled automatically, but the driver can also shift gears on their own.
- Automated manual transmission – AMT (Automated Manual Transmission) – it is present, among others, in Fiat (Sportshift), Audi (R Tronic), Citroen (Sensodrive), Mitsubishi (Allshift), Opel (Easytronic), Renault (Quickshift), BMW (SMG). With this type of transmission, the driver can still shift gears on their own by using a traditional stick or button on the steering wheel, but they don’t use a clutch pedal.
- Stepless automatic transmission – CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) – can be found, among others, in Audi (Multitronic), Honda, Nissan, Mitsubishi, Suzuki. The functioning of this type of transmission is often compared to the way derailleur gears in bicycles work.
Durability of an automatic transmission can be extended by using modes properly
To make an automatic transmission last longer, one has to properly use its different modes:
- P (park) – we select it when we have stopped the vehicle and want to turn off the engine. The proper sequence of operations is as follows: we stop the car completely, pick the P mode, turn off the engine.
- R (reverse) – we use it when we want to drive backwards. Before selecting the R mode, we have to stop the car completely.
- N (neutral) – we only use it when towing or pushing the car. We don’t use the N mode when driving.
- D (drive) – the D mode is for driving forward. We only select it when the car is stopped, too.
- L (low) or 1 – that’s the mode the first gear is locked in. This mode is used when starting with a burden i.e., hauling a trailer or uphill and to drive very slow i.e. around a parking lot or in heavy traffic.
- S (snow) or 2 – we use it to start on slippery surfaces or when going downhill. It means the 2nd gear lock or using the 1st and 2nd gear automatically.
When it comes to the most important recommendations about using different modes, here they are:
- Let’s not pick the N or P modes when driving or parked with the engine running. The N mode is used when being towed while the P mode is for turning the engine off right after selecting it.
- Let’s not pick the D or R modes when the car keeps rolling ahead. We only pick those modes when the car is halted.
- Let’s not turn the engine off in any mode other than P.
- Let’s not leave the car on an incline without pulling the hand brake. The proper sequence of operations here is as follows: we park the car in a selected spot, we pull the manual brake, we pick the P mode, we turn the car off.
- If we have no choice but to have our car towed, we should always select the N mode for that and if possible, we should leave the engine running. We should also ask the towing driver to stay below 40 km/h and make a stop every 15 km. As a rule of thumb, the best way to transport an immobile car with „auto” is a flatbed tow truck.
Other recommendations that make an automatic transmission last longer
We should avoid towing trailers. For many vehicles with CVT type transmissions it’s actually forbidden. The most can be expected here by the owners of DCT type transmissions. Detailed guidelines on trailer towing capabilities should be provided by the vehicle’s manufacturer. Of course, every car with an „auto” can tow a trailer, but this type of ride will significantly lower the durability of an automatic transmission, which is why we suggest to strictly follow the car manufacturer’s recommendations.
Another recommendation is not to start while holding a foot on the brake, unless we have a launch control system. Even then, though, we should avoid putting our car in motion that way. We should also try not to drive too rapidly. Stepping on the gas pedal dynamically doesn’t help the automatic transmission live long. It especially applies to the CVT type transmissions.
We should also remember that it is not recommended for any type of automatic transmission to drive in deep water. They have plenty of electronics, which never reacts well to being exposed to high moisture.
One of the most important matters that will help keep an automatic transmission around for a long time is regular servicing. Gearbox oil should be changed every 30-60 thousand km. The exception is when we buy a new car. Then we can afford not having our first oil change until reaching the mileage of 100 thousand km.
We should have our oil changed by a professional repair shop where it will be properly selected. That’s because it has to perfectly match the type of automatic transmission and comply with the manufacturer’s requirements. With a professional repair shop we are also more likely to have our oil changed the dynamic way, not the gravitational way (which means simply draining the old oil). A dynamic change guarantees getting rid of all the used oil and cleaning the system with professional solutions. Good oil plus changing it dynamically certainly aren’t very cheap. We should keep in mind, though, that it’s better to pay a little more during a regular servicing than spending a lot on repairs or replacing the entire gearbox.