Now, I know not everyone is out there racing every weekend, but I’m going to bet that many of you drive cars with an automatic transmission, and you would love to make sure that you don’t blow it up. Why do say that? Because you can!
So, this is the article for you. I’m coming at you with 7 things you should never do if you want your automatic to last. And I know you’re guilty of number 4! So, buckle up and let’s go!
Don’t Launch From Neutral – From Neutral to Boom
When you go, do it in a sane way. Unless your car has real launch control, don’t just drop from Neutral to Drive. It might seem like a cool way to launch: you put it in Neutral, build the revs, and shove it into Drive right as the light changes. Then, boom! Your torque converter explodes and you get to call AAA. You do have AAA, right?
So, most people don’t really know how transmissions work, which is fine. They’re scary and complicated, like my love life. But it’s important to know that an automatic transmission is not like a robot that just shifts a manual transmission for you. They are totally different and have valve bodies and planetary gears instead of normal gears and a standard clutch.
If you suddenly “slam it into gear,” you aren’t just releasing the clutch, you’re suddenly engaging a bunch of components and putting a ton of stress on them, and then they go snappy-snappy.
Speaking of snapping parts, don’t just go from drive to reverse while moving.
Never Change Direction Without Stopping – The “R” Means “Ruined”
And don’t go from Reverse straight to Drive. Always come to a stop first. Why? Well, go find something spinning, like a ceiling fan, and imagine grabbing a blade and trying to throw it in the other direction. Sounds awful, right? So why would you do that to your poor transmission?
You got all this stuff spinning around and that spinning mass has inertia. And, if you try to suddenly alter the direction of the spin, things will break. So, come to a stop first, let all that inertia settle down, then change direction.
Also, don’t put it in Park unless you’ve stopped.
Don’t Park While Moving – The Noise Means It’s Working
This is more of the same. Rotating mass can’t change direction easily. Things break. It’s just like me when I get in the zone and nothing can take me out of it. My girlfriend will be like, “Dinner’s ready,” and I can’t hear her because I’m in the zone. Then, I’m on the couch.
Anyway, “Park” on an automatic transmission is just a little pin that holds the driveshaft still. It’s not actually, like, a real brake. So, imagine trying to shove a peg into a moving hole and that isn’t going to work. Things will break.
Moving on, quit coasting in Neutral unless you want to overheat and get arrested.
Stop Coasting in Neutral – You’ll Coast Into the Repair Shop
You heard right, in some states, not only is it bad for your transmission to coast downhill in neutral, it’s straight-up illegal. Check out our video here if you’re guilty of that and you’ve seen the red-and-blues in your mirror. I’m honestly not sure how they would enforce that. I mean, I certainly can’t tell if you’re in Neutral or not.
But there are other reasons not to do this. First, you don’t get to take advantage of engine braking. But, mainly, you lose one of the ways you can control your car. While you’re in Neutral, you can’t accelerate, meaning you can’t get out of dodge if you need to.
And that is also the reason you shouldn’t drop it into Neutral while at a stoplight.
Don’t Go Into Neutral at a Stop – Neutral Just Isn’t Neutral Anymore
Yeah, it might seem like it’s better on the transmission to be disengaged when you’re at a stoplight. But, the truth is that it’s worse. Again, automatics don’t work like manuals. When you “shift” into Neutral, you aren’t really fully disengaging the engine, but you might be stopping all-important fluid from circulating. Your car’s automatic transmission is literally designed to disengage when you’re at a stop. You don’t have to do anything except stay on the brakes and, again, when the light goes from red to green, you need to be able to move. And you can’t do that if you’re in Neutral for some reason.
Trust me, you don’t want to be the person in front of me at a stoplight that causes me to miss the light since you’re messing around with the transmission that doesn’t need to be messed with. Believe it or not, I’ve been known to think very unkind thoughts about people that sit too long at lights.
This is all, of course, assuming that your transmission is working correctly, which it won’t do if you don’t maintain the fluid.
Never Run Out of Fluid – No, Not Blinker Fluid
Your automatic car has special oil just for the transmission, conveniently called “Automatic Transmission Fluid” or “ATF,” and it prevents your transmission from becoming a grenade! I mean, more or less, it lubes the gears and keeps everything cool.
The thing is that lots of people are pretty good at checking the engine oil, but forget to also make sure “Mr. Transmission” is happy. Usually, you check the ATF while the car is running, check your manual, and just make sure the reservoir is topped up and it’s in good condition.
Look, if you just follow the maintenance schedule for your ride, you should be good. It’s just something to be aware of. Enough of all this stuff you shouldn’t do, how about something you should do, which is to use your parking brake.
Use Your Parking Brake – Brakes Are Easier to Replace
As I said before, the Park setting on your automatic transmission, well, is not the strongest thing in the world. It’s just a little peg that keeps the gears from moving and, therefore, your car from moving. You know what’s way better at keeping your car parked? Your brakes. Not only do they hold better, but they’re way easier to replace when they wear out.
Seriously, think about it. Would you rather remove the transmission from your car or tighten a single cable? I might not be an engineer, but one of those things sounds a lot cheaper. So, I know which one I’d choose.
Got it? Alright, back to things you should never do. But, this time, it’s something you should never do when you’re not in the car, and that’s tow an automatic with the drive wheels on the pavement.
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