Keeping this in mind, have you ever thought about how your car really works? Sure, you open the door, get in, put in the key (for those of us with old-school cars), turn it on, put it in gear and go. It’s simple…no, make that magic.
I won’t get into it here, but what drives your car is much more complex than what I’ve described above. One of the key parts, though, is the transmission. The "magic” fluid that keeps it operating, automatic transmission fluid, might be nearly as important as the transmission itself.
Automatic transmission fluid—you might hear it called ATF—is a lot like motor oil. It lubricates the metal-on-metal contact inside your car’s transmission. It also cleans your transmission and holds the contaminants in suspension until they can be filtered or drained out when the ATF is replaced.
But ATF also has some pretty magical properties. It can flow at extreme temperatures, meaning your vehicle will move whether it is below 0º F or hotter than 100º F outside. ATF can also withstand extraordinarily high temperatures inside the transmission, as parts of your transmission can reach up to 800º F. At that temperature, the fluid can actually turn to vapor, and if the fluid isn’t robust, it can turn to sludge and varnish that will reside in your transmission and negatively affects its performance.
This sludge and varnish can be very harmful to your transmission, causing sluggish operation and improper shifting, or it might even starve your transmission of the ATF it needs to operate. These conditions could cause your transmission to start banging through gears instead of shifting smoothly or, worse, the transmission may begin to slip, generating even more heat until the entire transmission eventually fails.
If you enjoy a smooth ride in your vehicle, and don’t want to feel like you’ve driven through a pothole each time your car shifts gears, consider replacing ATF at your vehicle manufacturer’s recommended intervals.
A transmission flush is a fairly quick process in which a flushing solution is added to the transmission prior to the fluid change. The flushing solution helps remove sludge, varnish and other deposits that may be inside your transmission. Then, new ATF is added to the transmission, which is "magically” clean once again.
"Removing deposits and buildup in the transmission allows for more efficient shifting and performance,” said Molly Brown, technical product manager at Amsoil. "Also, improved operating efficiency can lead to restored fuel economy.”
Proper transmission maintenance, such as ATF replacement, also ensures the longevity of your transmission, which will help your vehicle on its way to running forever.