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Auto repair transmission FAQs answered by local mechanics
Auto repair and maintenance services can be confusing and difficult to understand. If you live in Boise, Garden City, or Eagle areas of Ada County, you may have auto repair transmission service questions you’d like to get answered by a local repair shop near you. Not having to get on the phone or search vast online websites to get answers could save you a lot of time. We have good news for you. You can access auto repair transmission FAQs from our website.
While our goal is to do everything we can to answer your auto repair transmission questions on the phone or in person, there are times when we can’t. For those situations, we have a FAQs page on our website with answers to many of the common repair questions we’ve been asked over the years.
These questions might be about transmission issues, clutch complaints on cars with manual transmissions, engine repair, check engine light, brake repair, or air conditioning service. It doesn’t matter if you drive a Chevrolet, Ford or Dodge, these questions and answers are generic and many apply across different manufacturers.
We’re also committed to updating and adding new FAQs from phone calls or discussions with customers in our shop. Additions are ongoing, so be sure to visit the page frequently to find new information.
At AutoTranz Transmissions and auto repair, we work hard to provide you with helpful tips and articles on our website to make your car repair experience more positive. We believe the more information we provide in advance of repairs or maintenance services, the smoother your experience will be.
An example of our commitment to a superior car repair experience is the Napa Service Assistant page you can find linked to our website. It provides valuable articles and videos that can answer questions or explain how a repair or service is completed. While this page is on a national website, we’ve already shared our goal to personalize answers for our local customers with addition of our website FAQs page.
As an independent auto repair shop, we believe our roll is to help auto owners get the best service at fair prices with honesty and integrity. We take pride in helping our Ada County communities of Boise, Eagle, and Garden City get that kind of service. Helping you maintain your car, van, or truck in the most convenient and cost effective way possible includes making sure your questions are answered. This is just one more way we support you in your quest for quality auto care.
Here at AutoTranz Transmissions, we are a Napa AutoCare Center. That means we do general auto repair work on most makes and models of cars, vans, SUV’s and pickup trucks. Whether you driving a Honda or Toyota car, or a Ford truck, we can fix it. We have specialized in transmission diagnosis, repair, and overhaul since our shop opening in 2007. Lyle McFaddan, our master transmission builder has been a transmission expert for 30 years.
Your transmission is part of your vehicles drivetrain, which includes other specialized components such as clutches, CV-axle shafts, drive shafts, transfer cases and differentials. We maintain, service, repair, and replace these drivetrain components. General repair shops can repair some of these components that don’t require as much expertise. Transfer cases and differentials, however, are very specialized and should only be diagnosed or repaired by ASE certified master drivetrain mechanics like those at AutoTranz Transmissions.
We appreciate the loyalty of our existing customers. We know you’ll continue to share your satisfaction with our services with your family and friends. And if there is anything we can do to provide answers to your auto repair transmission FAQs, please feel free to call us at (208) 853-1200 or contact us via our website.
Below, you will find our answers to frequently asked questions. Just click on the question to open it and find our answer. If you’ve noticed it, the index of questions at the top of the page allows you to click a specific question to advance down the page to that specific question.
Automatic Transmission FAQs
These automatic transmission FAQs present key information about the care and servicing of automatic transmissions in cars, trucks, vans, and SUVs. It covers preventative maintenance recommendations, transmission service, and transmission replacement or repair questions with answers for each. Also presented are answers to questions about transmission warning lights, towing trailers, transmission coolers, and transmission symptoms.
Why does my automatic transmission need maintenance services?
The transmission fluid has additives that keep the internal parts clean and lubricated. These additives break down over time and are especially susceptible to heat. Having the fluid changed when recommended replaces these additives and keeps excess wear from damaging your transmission.
Should I have my transmission serviced more frequently if I tow a heavy trailer?
Yes. When you tow a trailer or carry heavy loads, heat within the transmission is increased and the fluid should be changed more frequently. Many shops recommend a normal mileage interval for transmission servicing at 30,000 miles. With regular trailering of heavy loads, you may want to schedule the service every 15,000 miles. If you know your transmission over-heated on a specific trip, it would be reasonable to have it serviced when you return from that trip.
Why does my new vehicle not have an automatic transmission dipstick?
Many manufacturers have removed the dipstick and easy fill tube for a number of reasons. While we cannot state a single specific reason, here are some that are plausible:
1. By improving fluids and transmission component design, the service intervals have been extended so easy access to check and fill a transmission is no longer needed.
2. Without ease of access, the vehicle may be more likely to return to the dealership for this type of service.
3. This may be designed to reduce mistakes by vehicle owners or repair shops that don’t specialize in transmissions or transmission repair from over-filling or installing the wrong fluid type.
Is it best to flush transmissions with a machine? If not why?
While some manufacturers like Honda do not recommend flushing, opinions vary from shop to shop. Our belief is that machine flushing of automatic transmissions is not the best practice. Pressure flushing can disturb debris that has accumulated in a place where it is unlikely to cause a problem until it is dislodged. This debris, pieces of clutch material or metal, can become lodged in small passages that become plugged or restricted. When this happens the transmission can shift improperly or not at all.
Transmission flush services generally don’t include replacement of the transmission filter. The filter may be restricted before a flush procedure and can become more restricted after the flush loosens debris and pushes it into the filter.
Either of the above situations can result in complete failure of a transmission shortly after the flush service. These are unlikely scenarios with conventional or drain and fill types of services, which don’t pose the risks associated with flushing.
What is included in a conventional transmission service?
At AutoTranz, we perform transmission services by removing the transmission pan to drain some of the old fluid. The filter is replaced and new fluid installed. The pan gasket is also replaced if necessary.
What do you recommend if the transmission fluid is very dirty or black?
In these cases, all that can be done is to drain the fluid and replace the filter; refill and road test the vehicle; immediately drain it again and determine if the filter should be replaced again. Road testing the vehicle again will verify no warning lights come on and proper shifts occur. One important note is that black fluid indicates delayed interval between maintenance services or that there is a problem in the transmission. An exception to this would be if the vehicle recently towed excessive weight, overheated, and burned the fluid.
What happens when radiator coolant gets into the transmission fluid?
In situations where the transmission cooler in the radiator allows engine coolant to leak into the cooler, coolant mixes with the transmission fluid. The extent of damage may depend on how long the coolant has been mixed with the fluid, how far the vehicle was driven, and under what conditions.
The chemicals in the coolant damage the clutch materials in the transmission. The damage can be severe enough that replacement is required. This means a complete overhaul of the transmission. If this happens to a transmission with low miles that has been maintained, the overhaul may be considered a “minor” overhaul, meaning expensive parts in the transmission are undamaged and won’t need replacement.
Some transmission shops will initially replace the radiator with the defective transmission cooler, flush the transmission and lines to remove the contaminated fluid and allow time to tell if the clutch materials have been damaged enough to require replacement. This practice is risky because the vehicle owner has no assurance that the transmission is warrantied against further problems.
At AutoTranz Transmissions we don’t flush the fluid. We have seen too many transmissions fail after contamination with coolant. Our experience has shown that transmission overhaul provides the best outcome for the customer in the long run.
Timing Belt FAQs
Timing belts connect the engine’s crankshaft and camshaft to keep them in time with each other. A worn or loose timing belt can cause an engine to run poorly. If a belt breaks or slips on an interference engine, the valves in the cylinder head can be destroyed. Timely replacement of the belt, as recommended by the manufacture, is a critical maintenance service.
Is it necessary to replace my timing belt at the recommended mileage or time interval?
Yes, timing belt replacement on or before it is recommended is the highest priority maintenance service to have done. This is because many engines are interference engines, which means if the belt slips or breaks the valves in the cylinder head will likely be damaged. If that happens, the cylinder head must be removed to have all valves repaired or replaced.
This is one of the most expensive repairs for your vehicle, second only to engine or transmission replacement or repair. The cost of timing belt replacement is a fraction of the cost of having valves replaced.
Should the water pump be replaced when the timing belt is done?
Yes, when the water pump is driven by the timing belt. The major cost of replacing a timing belt is usually the labor. The water pump may not show signs of leaking or having a bad bearing when the belt is replaced, but if it fails after belt replacement, you will have to pay the full labor cost again.
Normally, replacing a water pump at the same time as a timing belt will only add the price of the part. In some cases, there may be a minor labor increase to replace the pump.
Why does an estimate to replace the timing belt include other parts like pulleys?
Pulleys have bearings that allow them to turn freely. The timing belt rolls on these pulleys. If a bearing in a pulley fails, the belt can get loose or slip off the pulley. The engine will die or stop running when this happens and, in the case of an interference engine, major damage will occur.
It’s more cost effective to have all pulleys or bearing replaced when the belt is replaced. These parts frequently come in a kit that includes all recommended bearings and the camshaft or crankshaft seals.
Why do camshaft and crankshaft seals need to be replaced with the timing belt?
Seals keep the engine’s oil inside the engine. A leaking cam or crankshaft seal will allow oil to get on the belt and cause the belt to soften or deteriorate, which results in slippage or breakage.
A reputable shop should always replace the water pump, all pulleys, bearings, and seals. The job should allow the owner to drive another 60k to 100k miles until the next recommended service interval without needing timing belt related repairs.
Clutch Service FAQs
Clutch service is a term usually synonymous with clutch repair or replacement. It includes repairing or replacing any parts related to the clutch on a car or truck with a manual transmission. It can also refer to repair of hydraulic leaks from a hose or clutch cylinder.
What are the parts in a clutch system?
Clutch system parts include: clutch or engine flywheel; clutch pressure plate; clutch disc; throw-out-bearing or T.O. bearing; pilot bearing or bushing; slave cylinder; master cylinder; hoses or lines.
Which parts are normally replaced in a clutch job?
Normal complete clutch replacement includes replacement of the pressure plate, clutch disc, T.O. bearing and pilot bearing or bushing. These parts usually come in a clutch kit. Repair shop quotes for clutch jobs that don’t include these items should raise a red flag. They may be quoting fewer parts to appear price competitive when the job you'll be paying for will be substandard.
What are the symptoms of a worn clutch disc?
A clutch disc is made from material similar to that used in brake pads and will normally wear over time. Worn clutch discs usually have a symptom of clutch slipping, which can be described as a sound of increasing engine speed (RPM) when the clutch pedal releases (foot off the clutch) without normal acceleration of the vehicle.
Another symptom of a worn or bad clutch disc is a shudder when letting the clutch out to accelerate. There are springs in the disc that are designed to minimize shudder.
What causes my car to shake when I let the clutch pedal out?
As described above, worn disc springs that fail to dampen the connection of the clutch to the flywheel can result in a shudder or shake. A few other things that can cause the vehicle to shake when releasing the clutch would be bad shift linkage, broken motor mounts, or a bad clutch cable.
What are the symptoms of a worn clutch pressure plate?
- Clutch slipping on acceleration
- Pedal is too easy to press
- Transmission is hard to shift into gears
- Pedal is hard to push
What are signs that my clutch is failing?
- Clutch pedal falls to the floor or is very easy to press
- Slippage on acceleration
- The transmission is hard to shift into gears
- Chatter or shudder while letting out the clutch
- Pedal is stiff or hard to push
- Squeal or chirp noise when letting out the clutch pedal
- Burning smell when letting out the clutch or during driving
How can I determine if my car’s clutch is slipping?
This can be determined by watching the engines RPM on the tachometer while downshifting to see if the RPM increases. If no RPM increase is noted, there may be clutch slippage. Another method is accelerating in too high of a gear (like 3rd or 4th) at 25 to 30 MPH to see if the tachometer rises quickly but the vehicle fails to accelerate when you step on the gas. This would also be a good time to check for the burnt odor.
Full details of this condition are beyond this FAQ. Our recommendation is to let our drivetrain mechanics test-drive the vehicle to give you an accurate diagnosis of the clutches condition.
Auto Electrical FAQs
Auto electrical repair applies to the electrical and electronic systems on cars and light trucks. Vehicles built after the year 2000 have many electronic components and computers. All of these systems are supported with wires and associated connectors. Diagnosis requires a technician to have advanced skill and knowledge of these systems along with the manufacturer’s diagnostic procedures. Instrument clusters, lighting, air conditioning controls, seat controllers, audio systems, visual accessories, and other automotive systems require extensive knowledge to diagnose and repair.
How long do car batteries usually last?
With normal use, batteries will last around 3 to 4 years. Having your auto repair shop mechanic test your vehicle’s battery as it approaches that age can help you avoid a breakdown. A test will show if the battery is beginning to weaken when under a load from the starter and other accessories.
What can cause a shortened life of a car battery?
When a battery is drained low enough to need a jump-start, also called deep cycling, its normal lifespan can be reduced. The most common cause is repeatedly leaving lights on when the car is not running. A faulty alternator or starter will shorten your battery’s life. Trying to save money by installing a less expensive battery that is too small for the vehicle will shorten the lifespan as will frequently placing the battery under heavy loads.
Brake Repair FAQs
Brake repair can include diagnosing complaints like noise, vibration, and brake pulling. It most commonly includes replacing pads and rotors, brake hoses, brake calipers, master cylinders, and wheel cylinders. Less common but still frequent is brake shoe replacement on drum brake systems. Brake fluid leaks fall under the category of master cylinder, wheel cylinder, and hose replacement. The main type of maintenance service for brake systems is flushing the brake fluid.
Why does my car shake when I apply the brakes?
Heat and wear on the rotors causes them to no longer be flat and smooth. This is usually described as warped disc brake rotors. The high spots on the uneven disc surface cause the brake pads to grab as the disc rotates producing a feeling similar to the sensation you would get when pumping the brakes.
How do repair shops fix warped rotors?
The surface of a warped rotor can be returned to a flat, smooth condition when “turned” on a lathe. This turning process spins the disc and essentially shaves away the high spots so the surface is once again flat and parallel on both sides. The down side to a repair of this type is that the disc becomes thinner as disc material is shaved away. A thinner disc will warp more quickly because there is less metal to absorb heat. Generally, turned rotors will become warped again in a shorter period of time with each turning.
Is it better to replace rotors rather than have them turned?
Yes. Rotor replacement usually ends up being better in the long run. Many shops today don’t even offer to turn rotors because the price of new replacement rotors is competitive when compared to the cost of turning. The best fix also includes installing new brake pads. A shop may reuse the old pads if they are not excessively worn, but this can result in brake squeal or other brake noise problems. Burnishing new rotors and new pads generally produces the most satisfying repair for the customer.
What do the terms brake shoe lining or brake pad lining refer to?
The brake lining is the friction material on the brake shoe (drum brakes) or brake pad (disk brakes) that is applied to the rotor or drum to slow or stop a vehicle.
A repair shop may have a variety of different brake shoe or brake pad lining types available that will fit your vehicle. They are often manufactured by different companies and will vary in quality and performance a well as price. The lining quality can determine how well the vehicle stops and whether there is brake squeal during stops.
Is the quality of brake lining used on my car important?
The quality of brake lining material is very important because the materials used to make the lining will affect the following:
- The length of time the brake lining will last - softer materials can wear out more quickly - harder materials last longer but can cause excessive rotor wear
- Brake noise when stopping - varies from no sound to squeaking or grinding - softer materials tend to make less noise - harder materials can make more noise
- Stopping distance - directly related to the brake lining material
- Soft linings can overheat under hard braking conditions which causes brake fade, or poor braking
I’ve heard that it’s important to “seat in” new brake pads. What does this mean?
If you want to get the best performance from brake pads you should follow the recommended procedure to burnish (seat) them so the pad and rotor surfaces properly “mate” together.
This “burnishing” procedure helps new brakes work better and last longer. The burnishing process accomplishes three things for rotors and pads:
- Regulating initial brake heat-cool cycles properly seats rotors and pads
- Changes the composition of the rotor and pad surfaces
- Irregularities and rough spots on mating surfaces are smoothed away
The burnishing procedure involves 8 to 10 moderate braking applications from 35 to 10 mph, followed by brake cool-down of at least 15 minutes while stopped or with minimal brake application as in during slower in-town driving speeds.
Why does the price of a brake job vary so much at different shops?
Brake job prices vary for a number of reasons. The list below covers several of the most common ones:
- Pricing from some shops includes using new rotors, while other shops quote the price to “turn” the existing rotors
- Brake lining is made of different materials which affects the cost
- Brake shoe and pad manufacturers have different prices
- Brake parts can be new or remanufactured
- Some shops discount brake pricing on the initial contact because they want you to come to their shop
- Some parts stores sell low quality brake parts that are built for DIY (Do It Yourself) customers while repair shops tend to use OEM or professional grade brake pads because they warranty the job
- Repair shops have different labor rates and profit margins which influences pricing
What causes disc brakes to make a squeal noise?
Brake squeak is caused by high-speed vibration of the brake pads in the brake caliper. The vibration can be the result of any one of the following:
- New pads that are not burnished in
- Brakes that have gotten too hot
- Installing the wrong brake pads for the car or truck
Another cause of disc brake squeak happens when the installer doesn’t install the new hardware pieces that come in the box with new brake pads. Omitting the brake lube when called for at installation can also lead to braking noise.
Why do my brakes sound like they are grinding?
If the lining on a drum brake shoe or disc brake pad is completely worn down, the metal backing will rub against the surface of the drum or rotor and cause a grinding noise or sensation. If the brake shoes or pads are not worn out, there could be grinding because the lining material installed is a harder type or when a softer lining material has been altered during an overheat situation. Grinding can also be caused by installation of the wrong brake pad part for the vehicle.
While it doesn’t happen often, short-term grinding can occur when a vehicle sits for an extended period of time and brake surfaces have become rusty. If the amount of rust is minimal, it will wear off quickly with brake usage and the grinding will stop.
How does overheating disc brakes cause them to be noisy?
Overheating can change the composition of brake lining making it harden, which leads to vibration and brake squeal. Excessive heat from extended or heavy braking will warp rotors. The uneven rotors cause brake pads to move within the caliper, creating the brake squeak.
What must be done to fix overheated disc brakes?
The best way to fix this problem is to turn or replace the brake rotors, then install new brake pads. Follow the installation with the proper burnishing procedure to insure effective and quiet braking happens.
What can cause my brakes to wear out too quickly?
Here’s a list of things or actions that can wear brakes out quicker than they are designed to wear out:
- Quick, hard-braking
- Driving conditions – salty roads, dusty, or sandy roads
- Poor quality brake lining material
- Type of vehicle – some vehicles wear out brakes out sooner because of design
- Driver habits – one foot resting on the brake pedal while driving accelerates wear
Why do I have to keep adding brake fluid to my brake master cylinder?
A low brake master cylinder fluid level means a leak has developed in the brake system. Use extreme caution with this type of problem. Having your vehicle towed to a repair shop is the safest solution.
If you choose to add fluid yourself, be sure to fill it to the proper level, and use the owner’s manual to determine the correct type of fluid.
The source of the leakage could be from one or more of the following brake parts:
- Steel lines
- Calipers or wheel cylinders
- Master cylinder
- Anti-lock brake parts
Transfer Case FAQs
These transfer case (T-case) FAQs present information about maintenance and repair of All-wheel drive (AWD) and Four-wheel drive (4WD) trucks, SUVs, cars, and vans. Any vehicle that has AWD or 4WD has a transfer case to help spread the engine’s power efficiently to all four wheels.
A T-case can be constant all-wheel drive, which means it has no shift function or method of changing gears. There is no ability to select two-wheel drive. It simply remains constantly in all-wheel drive mode.
Most transfer cases have a manual lever or electronic button controls to select two-wheel drive, four-wheel drive, or neutral in cases where the vehicle is being towed. No matter which type of T-case your vehicle has, they all need maintenance services to replace old fluids. They also need to be monitored for fluid leaks, the main cause for an expensive repair bill.
Why does the fluid in a transfer case need to be changed?
Transfer case fluid keeps the internal parts lubricated. Like all other automotive fluids, they break down over time from heat exposure. They also become dirty with abrasive metal particles worn from gear components and bearings. Having the fluid changed when recommended removes the old oil and the abrasives it carries. This extends the lift of the T-case.
How do I know when to have my transfer case fluid changed?
The best why to determine when to have the fluid replaced is to check your vehicle’s owner’s manual. It will give you mileage and time recommendations based on a number of driving conditions, such as temperature range, average trip length, road conditions, or towing load.
You can also opt to check with your trusted shop like AutoTranz Transmissions. We will look up the factory recommended service intervals for your vehicle. Be aware that many manufacture recommended intervals are longer than we advise our customers to wait. Our experience shows that driving conditions in our area, along with your driving style, should be considered to determine the appropriate service intervals.
Do I need to worry about a slight oil leak from my transfer case?
If you are getting your engine oil changed every 3000 miles and your shop’s repair professional checks the transfer case fluid levels with each service visit, you may be safe to continue driving. Be aware that the oil change intervals on many vehicles have increased to 4000 or 5000 miles. As the miles traveled between inspections increases, so does the risk of damage to your transfer case from insufficient or excessively dirty oil.
Without verifying the size of leak your vehicle has, it is impossible to answer this question. We generally recommend any leak be fixed immediately. A large leak could drain a T-case in a few weeks, or even on a single trip. Driving on low or no fluid could result in the need for an overhaul or even full replacement of the transfer case.
What should I do if my four-wheel drive dash light is on or flashing?
Warning lights that come on or flash indicate there is a problem with the transfer case or four-wheel drive systems. Usually a computer that controls the system has recognized a fault and turned the light on. Your four-wheel drive may still seem to function normally, but you should schedule an appointment with your drivetrain repair shop to have them diagnose the cause for the warning light.
Like most warning light issues, delaying diagnosis and/or repair can lead to additional damage in the drivetrain or transfer case system. Don’t delay, get it checked as soon as you can.