What Should You Do About An Aging Transmission?

Transmissions, like all mechanical components, will wear out over time. The good news is that modern automatic transmissions are sealed and often maintenance-free, helping to protect their internal components and allow them to last for as long as possible. In many cases, a well-made transmission may outlive many other vehicle components.

Unfortunately, quality can vary between manufacturers, and many transmissions will begin to fail while the rest of the car is still in relatively good shape. It's also possible to simply get unlucky and experience premature failures on a typically reliable transmission. Either situation will usually occur as your car ages, and understanding what you should do can help you maximize your car's life and save money.

Why Do Transmissions Fail?

As with any automotive problem, explaining why and how transmissions fail can be tricky. In most cases, the immediate problem is one of the many small and sensitive components inside the transmission housing. These include bearings, sealing rings, and other tiny (and surprisingly cheap) items that can wear out, break, and ultimately cause slippage, noise, and other issues.

When explaining why these parts fail in the first place, things get more complicated. In some cases, it may be due to manufacturer defects or, in very high mileage transmissions, regular wear and tear. On the other hand, failures can also occur to owner neglect. Overworking your transmission or ignoring low or burnt-out fluid can rapidly damage these delicate internal components.

Will Your Transmission Get Worse With Age?

It's easy to write off problems with an aging car as "normal" wear and tear, but this approach can be costly when dealing with transmissions. While your transmission will wear like any other part in your car, you should expect it to continue functioning well even as you rack up the miles. It's never normal for a transmission to slip, grind, produce noticeable burning odors, or make loud noises.

If you notice these symptoms in your transmission, it's crucial to take your car to a qualified shop for evaluation as soon as possible. Transmission problems can sometimes start small, especially in older cars. For example, your fluid may be old or contaminated, or you may have a small fluid leak that's gone unnoticed.

Not only will these problems affect how your transmission behaves, but they'll rapidly increase the potential for wear on internal parts. Locating and repairing the problem can minimize the damage and extend your transmission's life, while ignoring it may cause damage that you'll only be able to repair with a full transmission rebuild or replacement.

The moral of the story is simple: treat problems in an aging transmission as you would problems in a newer car. By addressing issues quickly instead of justifying them by saying, "well, it's an old car…" you may be able to extend the life of your vehicle by many thousands of miles.

For more information on transmission repair, contact a professional near you.