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Tranny Fluid Rap
By Ed Newman
This article appeared in
National Oil & Lube News, October 2004
My first car was a 1961 Mercury
Meteor. (I'm not bragging, just stating a fact.) I think it's
fairly common for guys to remember their first cars with a
special fondness, not unlike their first girl friends.
I remember a lot about that white
Merc. My dad, frugal and wise as he is, picked it up on the
cheap because the front right end was crunched in. It had hit a
wall, he was told, but the frame and radiator were sound.
The first thing we did was drive
up to the end of Roger Avenue, chain it to a telephone pole, and
pull her out. A replacement headlight and blinker, a little
hammering out the metal, and she was good to go.
Having your first car leads to a
lot of other firsts, such as learning how to change a hose, how
to check the oil, and all that jazz. Each problem became a
learning experience and in those days engines were not all that
complicated. There was lots of space under the hood to work in,
and with a little guidance you could pretty much figure things
My first tranny problem happened
like this. I was driving through nearby Pluckemin, NJ and found
that although the engine was running and gears were whirring,
the car simply didn't go. Well, as luck would have it, I was
walking distance from a gas station. I asked the attendant if he
could tell me what was wrong and he said it sounded like the
transmission. "Have you checked the fluid level?" (This was back
in the days when gas stations had employees who were also
I had not, of course, but a quart
of transmission fluid soon had me on my way. Within a week or
two the same thing happened again and I fixed it with another
quart of fluid. I then bought a half dozen quarts, threw them in
the trunk and thought my problem was fixed. (Don't laugh. You've
probably done something similar.)
Unfortunately the interval
between refills started shortening. Fifty miles, forty miles,
twenty miles.... We put in a quart at the grocery store and
drove into the hills near Basking Ridge only to have the car
lose its power between two hills a few miles later. This time,
when I poured the ATF into the car it ran straight out onto the
asphalt. It turned out to be a hole in front of the trans. Cost
to repair: six dollars.
"Why didn't you get it fixed
right away?' someone might ask. Well, I'd been led to believe
that when the transmission goes, it's time to get a new car.
I share this story for three
reasons. First, because not every tranny problem requires an
expensive overhaul. Second, because it says something about how
essential transmission fluid is to the operation of the trans.
And third, because it ties into a couple key ideas I wanted to
share about today's transmissions.
SOME THINGS CHANGE
Today's transmission pretty much serves the same function as
before, but now there are more components. In addition to clutch
packs, plates, gears, valves, and bearings, we have solenoids
and sensors, and a lot more orifices where contaminants can
cause blockages that interfere with performance. One thing that
has not changed is that transmission fluid remains a necessary
"component" of the transmission. And fluid quality is more
important than ever before.
This differs from fluid levels in
the radiator. If your water is low you may not have use of the
heater, but the car will run. Even if your rad fluid is absent
the car will still actually run a few minutes. True, without
water in the radiator the heat will cause the engine to seize or
warp the heads and even blow the engine, but initially the car
will start and will run.
Transmission fluid is different.
If you remove the ATF (automatic transmission fluid) from the
transmission, it will not operate. The fluid is essential. ATF
not only cools working parts and reduces wear, it also serves as
a hydraulic fluid to actuate valves used for shifting. An
argument can be made that no other component is as important as
WHAT ELSE IS NEW?
The requirements placed on that fluid have changed in other ways
as well. Because of the aerodynamics in many of today's
vehicles, the overall drivetrain is simply not getting cooled
off the way it used to. For this reason, transmissions run
hotter, so hot in fact that interior carpets have caught fire
during some tests where SUVs were pulling heavy loads.
Furthermore, because of the
sensors and solenoids, fluid cleanliness has become an absolute
requirement. Debris and gunk in the transmission fluid will
cause interference and literally do damage in ways that less
sophisticated transmissions never experienced before.
The biggest change in today's
transmissions comes from the fact that the shifting is no longer
driven by mechanical action, but rather is controlled by
electromechanical hydraulic solenoids (valves). The result is
that the smallest amount of debris can clog or restrict
solenoids causing them to not work properly or even burn out. In
the past it was the clutches themselves that physically wore
out, but now the tranny can fail prematurely while everything
else is fine because clutches aren't getting the correct
pressure to keep from slipping. Or even worse, the computer
brain signals instructions for two competing gears to engage at
the same time. For this reason you need a high quality synthetic
ATF that has a better additive package to hold material in
suspension. And by reducing friction this synthetic fluid
reduces wear so that less wear material is left floating around
Add to this the fact that the
cost to repair transmissions these days is at least 40% more.
One thing that has not changed is that the need for a
transmission overhaul often leads to getting rid of a vehicle,
as in days gone by. And according to friends who work in the
business, they are seeing more transmission failures than ever
because fluids need to be changed more often to operate
THE SYNTHETIC SOLUTION
As with the engine, so with the transmission.... synthetic
automatic transmission fluids offer superior protection, as well
as cleaner and cooler operation. The heat issue cited above is a
very real problem. Synthetics reduce friction and keep
With regard to cleanliness,
synthetic fluids are less vulnerable to oxidation and breakdown.
They keep orifices clean, and the tranny experiences smoother
operation. This is something I have heard over and over again,
that you can actually feel the difference in shifting.
As for the cost, my mechanic
brother-in-law has indicated that in his 30 years experience,
eight out of ten transmission failures can actually be fixed
simply by switching to a premium synthetic ATF.
If your lube operation is involved with transmission fluid
changes, be sure you consider synthetics as the way to go. A
premium synthetic ATF will go double the lifespan of
conventional, and will make a huge difference in the performance
of your customers vehicles.
This is an oft neglected area
where it really pays to get educated. Most motorists do not
realize how vital these drivetrain fluids are for keeping their
vehicles on the road. Especially SUVs and light trucks that are
used to haul all manner of recreational and powersports
As in most areas of life we either pay now or pay later.
Synthetic ATF is a small price to pay when you can gain 100,000
extra miles at the other end of the service life of your car or
Ed Newman is Marketing &
Advertising Manager for AMSOIL INC.
is the undisputed leader in synthetics......
Since 1972, AMSOIL Synthetics have proven to be
the BEST. AMSOIL also engineers and
manufactures Super Duty Oil filters which have a 25,000 mile service life as
well as specialized filtration systems for commercial and fleet applications in
cars and light, medium and heavy trucks which can filter particles down to less
than one micron (a standard full flow oil filter can only filter to 20-25
microns with any degree of efficiency) making oil changes virtually
unnecessary and virtually eliminating engine wear. These filters have been
proven by millions of miles of over-the road trucks, construction equipment and
AMSOIL saves you time and money.
The only 25,000 mile/one- year and
35,000/one- year motor oil in the world.
Exceeds the most stringent performance
specifications of all major U.S. and foreign automotive and truck manufacturers.
Provides up to two-times the wear protection
of other motor oils.
Increases the life of your vehicle.
Improves performance, fuel economy and
Diesel oil and filtration products designed
to deliver 1,000,000 miles for over-the-road trucks before engine overhaul.
Used by many national racing teams, fleets,
police departments, construction firms and trucking companies.
Enhanced Synthetic Oil is comprised of a group of
highly skilled team of Engineers and Lubrication and Filtration Specialists.
You too, can join our group when you become an AMSOIL Dealer and take advantage
of all that we offer as you use products in your own vehicles or begin your own
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Dealers anywhere which is very important when you need support as you build your
In addition, as a Dealer in our group you will
receive exclusive unlimited product, technical and business support from the
only group of Truck and Automotive Engineers and Lubrication Specialists on the
We do not only run our business on the internet. We
also have numerous commercial, industrial, trucking, excavating, construction,
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will use this knowledge and experience to help you get started so you too can
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We possess the skills, desire and knowledge
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Read what our
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We offer several options to receive information on AMSOIL. We welcome the
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Please, email us at
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If you are serious about AMSOIL products and the
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