While you rarely see them, except for the occasional leak; and rarely have any interaction with them at all, if you have your car serviced by a mechanic, your system fluids are crucial to the smooth operation and longevity of your vehicle. Because your fluids do their job in a harsh, hot environment, they deteriorate with time and gradually lose their effectiveness. Any system that runs for too long on deteriorated fluid – be it your transmission, cooling system, brakes or power steering – is vulnerable to damage.
Fortunately, you can keep this from happening, and all it takes is a good old periodic system FLUSH. While the general idea is the same for many car systems, we’ll take a look at your Transmission as an example of how a system flush protects your vehicle and keeps your car running smooth.
Most automatic transmission fluids (ATFs) are designed to work effectively at the temperature associated with ‘Normal’ driving, which is 175 degrees F. Unfortunately, not everyone can stay within ‘normal’ driving parameters. Anything from towing a trailer to driving in the mountains, sustained stop-and-go city driving, or high speed driving during hot weather, can send fluid temperatures well above 175 degrees.
Once the temperature gets beyond this level, ATF begins to oxidize, and with repeated high temperature operation, the fluid turns brown and begin to smell like burnt toast. As you can guess, brown, smelly fluid does not work so well, having lost most of its lubricating and frictional qualities.
Your transmission simply does not function as well in this environment, and with time, system damage can occur. Also, with extremely high temperatures, the system’s rubber seals can begin to harden, causing leaks and pressure losses, exacerbating the situation.
A full 90% of transmission system failures are due to overheating, and in most of these cases, the culprit is deteriorated fluid that should have been changed.
Your best bet to avoid learning first hand the ins and outs of transmission system damage, is to simply obtain regular system flushes, along with placement of a new filter, at the intervals recommended by your mechanic or maintenance manual. Some new ATFs are designed to last 100,000 miles, although many are more in the 30,000 range.
**Remember, however, the interval suggested in your manual is based on ‘Normal’ driving, which you may or may not do. When bringing your car in for regular service, such as periodic oil changes, your mechanic should check all of your fluids – both for the fluid level and the state of the fluid itself – to determine any systems that may need flushing, regardless of mileage and whether or not you are ‘due’ for a flush.