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Why Your Petroleum ATF is Killing Your Transmission

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Why Your Petroleum ATF is Killing Your Transmission

Steve Tarini
November 12, 2009

Steve Tarini

One quick way to determine if your transmission fluid has been subjected to overheating is to simply pull your dipstick and check the color of the fluid.

Better transmission fluids are coming factory filled in a lot of today's car, but there are even better after market fluids out there. There isn't much sense in putting the exact same type of fluid back into your transmission so spend the little extra on a high quality synthetic oil.

Just reducing the temperature in your transmission by as little as 15-20 degrees could mean the difference between a smooth running transmission or a trip to the shop for a new transmission. When your fluid gets hot it will start to oxidize and you will know this when you pull the dipstick out and see the bright red transmission fluid start to turn an amber brown. This is your first indication that the fluid is running too hot.

There is a very inexpensive way to solve this problem and that is to upgrade your fluid. There are some synthetic oils on the market that guarantee drain intervals up to 100,000 miles. Group IV PAO synthetic oils have gained a solid reputation in their quest to reduce the temperatures in your transmission.

Some bottles of ATF might say they're synthetic, but in fact may very well be a cheaper version of a Group III petroleum oil that simply will not withstand the heat the way a pure synthetic oil will. Prices differ between Group III and Group IV, but then again when have you ever found a cheap product that worked. a Group IV will be fairly significant so spend the extra money and sleep better at night.

When 92% of all transmission problems are heat related it only makes sense to start with the fluid. An oil cooler isn't always the answer to reducing the heat in your transmission. This is in my opinion a complete waste of money unless you are constantly towing heavy loads. You can solve most of your heat problems with a better fluid so don't waste your money on a transmission cooler.

Nobody likes to have to change out oil all the time and that is why high quality synthetic oils have gained in popularity. In most cases you can double or triple the life up to nearly 100,000-mile service intervals for some fluids. Synthetic oils simply have way too many advantages to not take notice. The higher end synthetics on the market today are worth the extra money.

When you factor in the longer drain intervals, better fuel mileage and cooler running transmissions the actual cost of using a high quality synthetic oil are a lot less than what you anticipated. Think about it, high quality always wins out over cheap knock offs.

Author-Steve Tarini-Authorized Amsoil Dealer located in Columbus, Ohio. Check out our transmission heat chart graph, you will be surprised and what just a simple 10 degrees can do to save your transmission. 800-797-4550

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