Sergeant Clutch Certified Engine & Transmission Shop

6557 Walzem Road San Antonio, Texas 78239 Call 210-239-1600
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What Winter Hazards Affect My Automatic Transmission?

FAQs Automatic Transmission, Transmission Problems, Automatic Transaxle, San Antonio Transmission Repair Shop


Winter conditions vary geographically, but there are a few conditions that are common to most of the United States during the winter months. How you deal with those winter conditions can have a dramatic effect on your automatic transmission. Cold temperatures means cold weather and as temperatures drop, automatic transmission fluid thickens reducing their ability to lubricate. In most of the United States you can deal with this simply by warm up your car or truck for 5 to 10 minutes depending how cold it is. Also driving slowly for the first few miles until the engine and transmission reach normal operating temperature. Automatic transmission fluid doesn’t start flowing through the transmission cooler lines until you put the transmission shifter into drive.

If the temperature tends to get really cold in your area, invest in an engine heater that plugs into a wall outlet and warms the engine before you come out in the morning. A timer will allow you to start the engine warming a few hours before you’re ready to leave and saving you money. For much of the country driving on snow and ice is part of a normal winter.

But there are specific hazards to your automatic transmission on those roadways. One that you may not be familiar with is what can happen if you get stuck. Too often drivers spin their wheels in the hopes of freeing themselves from a snow drift or icy patch. This can cause major damage to the transmission. Today’s automobile uses a computer to control automatic transmission operation. When you spin the wheels the computer sees the vehicle speed rising; in many cases it has no way of knowing that you aren’t really moving. When the speedometer registers 40-or-so MPH, the computer sees the speed, and identifies driving conditions as being right to engage the converter clutch. Now the engine is locked directly to the drive wheels. If the wheels regain traction, their speed will drop suddenly. The result can be catastrophic to the automatic transmission. The best way to get out of a drift or icy patch is to rock the car back and forth, forward and reverse until you can get moving again. Or, better yet, get someone to push or pull you out of the snow. Avoid spinning the wheels, or you could end up damaging the automatic transmission.

No major component of your vehicle can survive indefinitely with water in its internal components. But no other component can be damaged as quickly as your automatic transmission can by water. Even a small amount of water in an automatic transmission almost always results in serious failure and major repair bills. The reason is the band and clutch linings are hygroscopic; that is, they absorb water, even if they have to push transmission fluid out of the linings to do it. This water quickly finds its way down to the metal backings, causing them to rust and lift the linings off of the clutches and bands. The result is metal to metal contact, which always means serious damage to the transmission. To avoid this type of trouble, steer clear of deep puddles. Should you find your automobile submerged, don’t start the engine. Your only chance of avoiding a big repair bill is to have your automobile towed into a transmission repair shop and have all the transmission drained out or flushed out immediately. If you're lucky, draining and servicing the transmission fluid and filter may be all that’s necessary to save it. If not, your auto insurance may cover part or all of the damage. Sergeant Clutch Discount Transmission Repair Shop in San Antonio will be happy to supply the necessary technical information to your insurance company.

So whether it’s snow and ice, water, or just plain cold out, winter delivers a whole new set of conditions just waiting to damage your automatic transmission.