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Transmission fluid offers some clues

Today is the 4th of July, a very important day for people in the United States, where the celebrations are always on a grand scale, with parades and building decorations very popular.

Published on July 4, 2007

Transmission fluid offers some clues

Celebrations, no matter what the occasion, are good, if they remain within the law. In Thailand, we also have a large number of celebrations each year, but what always follows Thai celebrations is a large number of accidents. We must admit people here love to drink alcohol when celebrating, and then many drunk people get behind the wheel to visit their hometown or go to yet another party where there are still more drinks.

Those with high alcohol content in their bloodstream usually suffer from slower reactions; some can even easily doze off while driving. Drunk drivers are often involved in accidents after dozing off or drive into obstacles and barriers, including other vehicles on the road.

We have had strong "Don't drive drunk" campaigns in Thailand over the last five years aimed at reducing the losses caused by drunk driving, but sadly they have had little effect.

Today, I have a question from Khun Vuthichai, who asks about his automatic transmission. He has driven his car for 130,000 kilometres, and now when he starts the engine in the morning and pushes the gear lever to the D position, it takes about 30 seconds before the car starts to move forward.

The car also jerks heavily when the auto gearbox shifts from first to second, but the effect becomes less when upshifting to higher gears. He said I had written in Autotalk before that this was a normal effect caused by wear in the gearbox, but when he went to the garage, the mechanic recommended the transmission be repaired - for about Bt70,000.

He wants to know if there is a cheaper way to repair the transmission.

The symptoms indicate the gearbox is wearing out more and more. The correct way to fix this is to remove the transmission and replace the worn-out parts. Most mechanics suggest the customer replace the whole gearbox by purchasing a used gearbox, which I do not recommend.

That's because you never know whether the old gearbox you purchased is also worn out. When purchasing old engines and transmissions, you can see only the exterior.

Most of the time you must rely on checking whether that engine or gearbox has been disassembled before - look at the nuts to see if there are any marks.

Nevertheless, you have a better chance inspecting a used engine by starting it and listening to the sound or checking the exhaust. For the transmission, all you can do is try shifting it to see whether it is loose, so there is a big chance for error.

Repairing the old gearbox and replacing the worn-out components is what you should do. If the cost is too high, you can initially replace the transmission fluid and clean or replace the filter.

Also, check whether the old transmission fluid has black dust or shiny metal dust in it. If these are present, you can start saving money for a big repair job soon.

Transmission fluid is replaced in two ways. First is the normal way, which is becoming less popular, since it is believed you cannot flush out all the old transmission fluid from the gearbox. This is true, but it is also the cheapest way, has the least effect on the parts and is prone to fewer mistakes.

The second, which is more popular, is to use pressurised equipment to feed in the new transmission fluid instead of the old fluid. You can get rid of all the old fluid and the residue this way, but if the pressure is too high, then the seals in the transmission may be torn apart. It is also quite expensive.

These two solutions may help you postpone the big transmission overhaul but not completely bring the gearbox back to its original condition.

The car-owner must decide whether to shell out big and solve the problem once and for all or do it little by little so that the car can be used periodically before selling it or waiting until there is enough money for an overhaul.

E-mail your motoring questions to Pattanadesh@nationgroup.com.

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