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Borgman How To: Understanding Transmission Fluid

August 6th, 2018

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Borgman Recommends Checking Your Transmission Fluid Often to Extend The Life Of Your Vehicle

The Borgman Service Center in Grand Rapids is dedicated to keeping you out on the road to adventure in West Michigan. For this reason, we recommend having your transmission fluid checked or changed every 30,000 miles, despite what you may see in your owner’s manual.

We hope everyone who drives a vehicle in West Michigan understands why having your engine oil changed regularly is important. It’s the lifeblood of your engine, but we don’t often see the transmission getting the same love. The engine and transmission work as a team to keep you moving, and keeping an eye on your transmission fluid level is just as critical.

In this Borgman How To, we’re going to briefly touch on how automatic transmissions work and why having the fluid changed regularly is paramount for maintaining a healthy vehicle.

What On Earth Is Going On Inside An Automatic Transmission?

There’s a running joke that automatic transmissions are powered by magic. They’re ridiculously complicated pieces of machinery, which only underscores why it’s important to take good care of them.

Engines spin fast, and abruptly, so the automatic transmission takes all of that spinning and translates it into smooth, consistent power to the wheels. In a standard transmission, the driver would do this by slowly releasing the clutch pedal. To effectively mimic this, the first step is a device between the engine and the transmission called the torque converter.

Here’s basically what a torque converter does:
Imagine a hollow drum with two sets of fan blades (like on a desk fan) stacked neatly inside. They’re on the same axis but can spin at different speeds. The drum is filled with oil, so as the first fan starts spinning, it starts churning the oil. That oil pushes against the second fan’s blades and slowly starts to turn them. This is the basic principle of a fluid coupling.

Torque converters employ this to smooth the power output between the engine and the wheels, though there are more parts in there than what we described. This is because it plays a few different roles, and the big one is powering the transmission fluid pump – which acts as the heart of the transmission.

Ok, We Have Smooth Power. How Does It Automatically Shift?
Here are the broad strokes. Unlike in a manual transmission, all of your different gear sets are spinning at the same time when the vehicle is moving. However, only specific sets are allowed to transmit power to the wheels. Transmission fluid is pumped around through different valves and channels based on how much pressure is built up. When certain ones are filled, it clamps and releases different gears, which “shifts” the transmission to another gear ratio. The result: the faster you go, the more fluid pressure builds up. Then, different gears are “activated,” and the car shifts from 1st to 2nd to 3rd, and so on.

Why is Transmission Fluid So Important?

Transmission fluid has a few different jobs, and to do them properly it needs to have very specific chemical properties. Apart from flowing throughout the valve body and controlling the shifting, it also keeps all of these parts cool and lubricated. Your vehicle’s transmission will have been engineered to accept a specific type of fluid, and using the wrong fluid can and often will result in damage. As the fluid is used, the chemical makeup can start to degrade, and the inevitable wear of internal parts can start to contaminate it. Both of these things will shorten the life of your transmission, so it’s worth talking to your service advisor every 30,000 miles or so to have your fluid checked.

Another thing we should note is that transmission fluid is made to endure extreme temperatures and will not burn up like engine oil does. This means that if you’re losing fluid, you almost certainly have a leak somewhere. With some owner’s manuals recommending that you have your transmission fluid changed every 80,000 to 100,000 miles, irreparable damage may already have been done by the time anyone notices a slow leak. Having the transmission inspected regularly can alert you to issues before it’s too late.

Transmission Fluid Checkups at the Borgman Service Center

If you’re noticing some spots in your driveway, or your vehicle is shifting “weird,” it’s a good idea to visit the Borgman Service Center in Grand Rapids for an inspection. Our highly-trained and certified technicians will make sure that your transmission fluid is in good shape, check the seals, and replace it with the correct high-quality fluid if needed.

Thinking it’s time for a tune-up? Browse the latest Service Specials, Schedule an Appointment online, or Contact Us with any questions you may have about your transmission or any other part of your vehicle. Come see why we’re the Best in the West!


 

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