How to prolong a service life of an automatic transmission?

Among motorists, there is a misconception that an automatic transmission is less reliable and durable than manual. This is not true. Well, at least not exactly. An automatic gearbox is simply more demanding in terms of servicing quality and operating conditions. If you properly and timely service it, and to use it correctly, an automatic transmission is able to last as long as a manual or even longer.

automatic transmission

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Therefore, here are a few important nuances that car owners with an automatic transmission should understand and remember:

The ‘kickdown’ acceleration in an automatic transmission should only be used in extreme situations! You are not driving a sports car, are you? You are probably driving something like a Fiat 500, a car which isn‘t designed for extreme accelerations but for a comfortable and safe ride. If deep down, you are a street racer, an automatic gearbox is clearly not your choice. At high revs, the oil temperature in the gearbox rises and friction clutch coupling wears out more quickly. Additionally, in terms of safety, one should not make any sudden movements while driving.

Changing oil in the gearbox should be done timely! That is right, if it says so in the service book that every 60 thousand kilometers or two years (whichever comes first) you need to change oil, then it is necessary to do so. An automatic gearbox is extremely sensitive to the quality of oil, and with time or mileage, it significantly loses its operational properties. Whereas, if you want to repair an automatic transmission, it is going to be quite expensive.


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When at the traffic lights or in traffic jams, you should not switch the transmission into the “parking” or “neutral” mode. The fact that you idle for several minutes in the “drive” mode will not cause pretty much any harm or wear in comparison if you switch the drive mode back and forth.

You should always pull up a handbrake! Regardless of whether your car is on the slope or not. You need to start and to turn off the engine in accordance with the following algorithm:

  • Turning off the engine: the car should come to a complete stop, then without releasing the foot from the brake pedal, you need to switch to the parking mode while still keeping your foot on the brake. Having done that, you need to pull up a handbrake and switch off the engine.
  • Starting the engine: press the brake pedal and then start the engine without releasing the brake pedal and then switch to the “drive” or “reverse” mode and release the handbrake along with the brake pedal.
  • One more tip: in the winter, you should always warp up the gearbox! Regardless of type of transmission oil, brand or model even if it is an extremely reliable one like a Nissan Altima. When it is cold, you should start the engine, switch to drive for a few minutes without releasing the brake pedal and then switch to “reverse” for another few minutes. Overall, it will take you no longer than 3-5 minutes to completely warm up the transmission.

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