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Automatic Transmission Rebuilders Association

Automatic Transmission Rebuilders Association

ATRA - the Automatic Transmission Rebuilders Association - is an international trade association for the professional automat...

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Cheesborough's Blog

Do you know what is the most frequently-asked question we hear? "How can I make my car last longer and still be safe?" That's why we decided to post important information on our website throughout the year. It's all about keeping you and your family safe and on the road. Be sure to check back often for new information, helpful safety tips, and great deals!


April 21, 2017
Preventing a Transmission Breakdown

The Importance of Transmission Care

Prevention is better than cure. You've probably heard that said plenty of times. The phrase is most often used to talk about health and medicine, but it is just as valid to apply it to vehicles. It's great if your problem can be sorted without much trouble, but even better not to have a problem in the first place. This is especially true when it comes to your vehicle's transmission, as this can be one of the more specialized parts to repair. Not all transmission problems require an extensive overhaul, but they will all cause at least some trouble and inconvenience. Avoiding transmission problems is clearly preferable to even the problems that are quickest and cheapest repair. This is why it is important to ensure you take good care of your transmission. This will help prevent problems and keep it working smoothly. Ideally, it will mean that it doesn't develop any faults at all. Even if it does eventually go wrong, however, it is entirely possible that good care will mean the fault is less serious and easier to repair than it would have been otherwise.

Looking After Your Transmission

Good transmission care starts with simple but important things like making sure you don't neglect to check your transmission fluid regularly. This should be done roughly every 1,000 miles. As well as checking the level, pay attention to color and smell. If the color is unusually dark or the smell resembles burning, this could indicate the start of problems. The fluid should also be changed every 15,000 miles or every other year, depending on which comes first. Theoretically, transmission fluid has a much longer life than this. In practice, however, relatively simple things such as stop-and-go traffic or short journeys can drastically shorten its lifespan. For most drivers, assuming a lifespan of 15,000 miles or two years is the safest option. Certain driving practices can also help keep your transmission well cared-for. These include such easy steps as not overloading your vehicle and allowing it to warm up thoroughly on cold mornings. It is also important avoiding rocking between gears if your vehicle becomes stuck in mud or on ice. If you must rock, do so as gently as possible and make sure the wheels have stopped moving before each gear change. This will drastically reduce the strain placed on the transmission.

What if you Still Develop a Transmission Problem?

Unfortunately, there is no foolproof way to prevent transmission problems altogether. If this does happen, it is still possible to minimize the inconvenience it will cause. One of the best ways to do this is to ensure you have adequate and appropriate breakdown cover from your insurer. Of course, for most people this is a balancing act with price. This is where insurance comparison sites are very useful. They display not only prices, but the details of what each company offers, allowing you to compare how appropriate different packages are for you. This makes it far easier to find the best balance of cost and features. Before settling on a company, it is also important to find out more about their customer service and how helpful they are in the event of a breakdown. A bad insurer, that will take forever to pay for repairs or produce other promised features such as a courtesy car, will only add stress and trouble to your breakdown experience. Search for reviews of various providers online. This will allow you to read honest and independent feedback from independent bodies, and from everyday people who have used the company in the past.

Catching Problems Early

Once again, there is no way to completely guarantee your transmission will not develop a fault. However, even when a fault does begin to develop, there is still an element of problem prevention. Catching transmission problems early can prevent them from worsening and prevent further trouble from developing. This can potentially mean a simple repair instead of a major one. As such, it is vital to get any potential trouble looked at by a professional. It is also important to play it safe. If you think a problem is developing but you aren't sure, it can be better to get it checked by an expert than to wait until the problem gets bad enough to leave you in no doubt. If you notice anything odd about your transmission or sudden changes to the way your car drives, get it looked at by professionals. If you notice any changes to the way your transmission works, such as trouble changing gears or a delay before the gear seems to shift, get it looked at promptly to avoid further inconvenience.


March 23, 2017
Do ATF Additives Really Work?

As you stroll along the isles of your local auto parts store, you'll stumble across a section dedicated to automatic transmission fluid additives. The labels on these additives offer promises that range from simply making your transmission last longer, all the way up to a rebuild in a can.

The question is: Do these additives really work?

In most cases, unfortunately, the answer is no. In general, the additives that you'll find on the shelves of a consumer-oriented parts store won't really deliver on their extravagent promises. So what do these additives do? In general, they soften and swell the seals in your transmission. Over time, the seals inside an automatic transmission can become hard and brittle; losing their sealing qualities. These additives soften the seals so they begin to work again. The problem is they continue to soften and swell the seals to where they simply fall apart.

So, you have a minor leak or a delayed engagement problem in the morning. You add a can of Super Fix and in a day or so you notice the leak is gone and the transmission works much better. In a couple of months though, your transmission begins acting up and in six-months time it fails completely.

That's not to say all transmission additives are snake oil... far from it. There are some highly effective additives on the market that can significantly extend the life of your transmission. But chances are you won't find them on the shelves of your local auto parts store.

These effective additives are usually only available through your local transmission repair center. They make more realistic claims, such as:

Neutralize acids that build up in the transmission fluid.
Provide additional resistance to the effects of heat.
Prevent or reverse fluid oxidation.
Prevent or reverse fluid sheer.
Modify friction characteristics to improve transmission performance.
Provide additional lubrication to moving parts.
Soften and remove varnish from internal components.

While not as exciting as the claims made by the additives on the consumer shelf, these additives have the advantage of being able to deliver on their promises. Because of this, they can improve transmission operation and increase transmission life.

Give Cheesborough's a call for more information on transmission additives that really work as advertised.


February 19, 2017
How Driving Conditions and Habits Affect Your Automatic Transmission

"1986 Chevrolet, 45,000 miles, only driven to the grocery store by elderly woman"

If you were in the market for a used car, this, ad might sound pretty goad. But it may not be as good a deal as it first appears. Vehicles driven occasionally or for short distances are often, subjected to unusual wear and strain. For example, cars that are consistently driven short distances never have the opportunity for the engine to warm up to normal operating temperature. This can cause excessive engine wear.

Low mileage transmissions subjected to city or stop-and-go miles usually experience far more wear than transmissions with the same number of highway miles. The mileage doesn't create as much wear as the number of times the transmission shifts up and down through its gear ranges.

Many other seemingly normal driving conditions can affect transmission life, such as extreme temperatures, mountainous terrain, snowy or icy roadways, and dirty air quality. Under normal driving conditions, vehicle manufacturers recommend servicing your transmission as seldom as every 100,000 miles. But what constitutes normal driving conditions?

If you check through the owner's manuals of the various auto manufacturers, they'll usually include most of these conditions as part of their description of normal driving conditions:

About 12,000 15,000 miles per year.
Engine. and transmission operating at normal operating temperature most of the time.
A mix of about-1/3 city driving, 2/3 highway.
Outside temperature usually moderate; not too hot or too cold.
Road surfaces dry and clear.
Relatively straight and level roadways; occasional, moderate hills or valleys.
Air quality moderate and clean.
No excessive speeds, jackrabbit starts, or hard braking.
Light to moderate loads; one or two passengers.: with very little weight added to the trunk or cargo space.
Tire pressures set properly and all at correct levels and condition.

As you can see, very few cars actually operate under normal driving conditions... which makes the term normal something of a misnomer. And variations in either direction tend to increase wear and damage to the vehicle.

If you operate your vehicle under more extreme conditions -- as most people do -- you'll want to reduce the time and mileage between maintenance services. Having your transmission serviced once a year, or at very least every other year, seems to be the consensus among transmission repair professionals.

Under the most extreme conditions, even more often may be advisable and you may want to install an external transmission filter and cooler for additional protection.