Transmissions are one area of automotive repair that many technicians, shops, and drivers fear. To many, the inner workings of a transmission involve nothing short of wizardry and magic inside an aluminum housing that transmits engine power to the wheels. The truth is, although today’s automatic transmissions are quite advanced and complex, they are not harnessed black magic and sorcery. However, properly maintaining and repairing an automatic transmission does require some expertise many general repair facilities don’t have. Let us clue you in a little bit on what we do, and why it is important to see a Transmission Specialist.
Here at Cincinnati Transmission Specialists, Inc. we take pride in providing expert service for all areas of automotive repair, but our specialty is automatic transmissions. Our technicians and management team have over 25 years of experience in the transmission industry, and we keep our entire staff trained on all the latest methods, and we keep our shops up to date with the latest in technology. Nobody knows transmissions better than we do, but here is a little information to help you learn a little more about that mythological part of your car.
Inside your automatic transmission are really three distinct systems that all work together in harmony to keep your car rolling down the road. These three systems are mechanical, components, hydraulic components, and electrical components. If any one of these three systems isn’t working properly, you may experience transmission issues. Many times, these can be repaired with minor fixes and don’t always require a complete overhaul.
The main difference between driving an automatic transmission and a manual transmission is the lack of a clutch. An important part of the transmission called the torque converter makes this possible. The torque converter spins with your engine, and the speed it spins moves fluid and applies in internal clutch to get the vehicle moving. The torque converter is what allows the engine’s power to transmit to the transmission, and eventually on to the wheels.
The mechanical portion of your transmission is the set of gears and clutches that make your car move and change gears. This system is what does the physical work inside the transmission and keeps you moving. Inside your transmission are one or more planetary gear sets. These, often referred to as planets, are assemblies of gears consisting of a central sun gear, several planet gears that revolve around the sun, and an outer shell that contains everything. Each of these gear sets is able to provide up to two forward, and one reverse speed, depending on which portion is connected to the engine, and which is connected to the wheels. These components are known as hard parts, and are not as common to fail as some of the other components, however, dirty or low fluid can cause excessive wear or heat damage to these components, so routine service is critical. Usually when we provide an estimate with a range of prices, it is dependent on how much, or if any damage is done to the hard parts.
When we refer to soft parts in a transmission, we are referring to a set of components that are not made of metal. These include gaskets and seals that keep fluid inside the transmission, but it also includes important wear components including clutches. Inside your transmission are up to 150 clutch linings which are a plate, similar to a hardened fiberboard with friction material in them. These interlock with the steel component to couple the engine and wheels with the various parts of the planetary gear sets. Because these operate based on friction, they do eventually wear out. When these wear out you will experience slipping or other shift problems. These soft parts are one of the biggest reasons we rebuild, or overhaul, transmissions. Dirty or low fluid can accelerate the wear of these components, so be sure to have your transmission serviced regularly.
Hydraulic components serve as the control system for your transmission. At the front of the transmission is a pump that provides fluid pressure to apply the various clutches in the transmission. The pressurized transmission fluid is routed through a part known as the valve body. The valve body serves as a gateway or a command center to route pressure to the various internal components and activate shifts by applying hydraulic pressure to the clutches.
Inside the valve body are mechanical valves as well as electronic solenoid valves that control the flow of the pressurized fluid. When the valve body, or any of its valves and solenoids fail, the fluid is not directed properly which can cause various symptoms in the transmission. Imagine driving through a busy city and there is a traffic light malfunction at one intersection, or an accident. Suddenly the entire traffic system doesn’t work. This is similar to a valve body or hydraulic problem. As you can imagine, dirty or low fluid, as well as any foreign debris in the transmission can cause problems for these small, precise valves and solenoids in the hydraulic system. This is one of the most critical systems that is helped by routine maintenance of your transmission. Having your transmission serviced regularly can really prolong life and prevent problems in the hydraulic system.
The last major system involved in the transmission is the electrical system. This is a system of electrical components that include a control computer, sometimes housed inside the transmission, electronic switches, and solenoids. Sensors and switches communicate information about what is happening inside the transmission to the computer. Some cars have a separate computer just for the transmission, and others use the same computer for the engine and transmission. Based on the information provided by sensors on the transmission and the engine, it determines how to shift. The computer then sends electronic signals to the solenoid valves which interface with the hydraulic system and activate the transmission. Something such a bad sensor or a broken wire can keep the electronics from operating the transmission properly, and should be checked for proper operation periodically. As well, a malfunction in this system may illuminate your “Check Engine” or “Service Engine Soon” light. You want to have this addressed quickly to avoid any further problems, and should see a transmission specialist to help determine the cause quickly and effectively.
As you can see, automatic transmissions are quite complex, but they are not magic. We here at Cincinnati Transmission Specialists, Inc. are not magicians, but our technicians have spent a significant amount of time studying and learning the intricacies of the transmission so we can best serve you. Many general repair shops, and even dealerships, are not equipped or trained to properly diagnose or repair transmission concerns. They often will replace and entire transmission costing thousands, when a transmission specialist such as ourselves might be able to identify a specific problem and make a minor repair saving you a fortune.
As well, you might notice how critical routine services are to maintaining proper function of your transmission to prevent issues. Our team of experts will keep you properly maintained and help prevent problems Do yourself a favor, and call Cincinnati Transmission Specialists, Inc. today to schedule your next service and inspection, or to fix that small issue before it becomes a big one.
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