Clutch and Transmission Checks and Maintenance

English: Toyota Tercel's 3-speed automatic tra...

English: Toyota Tercel’s 3-speed automatic transmission from below. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Clutch and transmission checks are not one of the more common things you normally think of when it comes to car services. The clutch and  transmission system  for a car or vehicle comes in two basic varieties – automatic and manual. The manual transmission system is probably the most common though automatic transmission systems have become popular in the last 10 years.

The basic function is still the same except that with automatic transmissions, the driver does not operate the gears, the automatic clutch and transmission system takes care of that during acceleration of your car. Put simply this means your gear changes are made by the transmission system or “gearbox”.  With a manual transmission or gearbox you are required to operate the gear shift yourself.

Your automatic transmission system contains transmission fluid (also known as the ATF) and the manual gearbox contains gear oil. According to those in the  industry you should check these regularly, some say every month. However we all know this is not the case but if you feel the automatic transmission system  is not shifting gears smoothly or you feel vibration in the gear stick while changing gears, then it’s time you do a check  on your car’s transmission lubricant. This is performed as part of regular Clutch and Transmission checks.

The video below shows the operation of a manual gearbox and you can see why lubrication is so important as you watch the many moving parts.  Friction would cause the parts to overheat if not for the action of gear oil and ATF.

You can check these yourself if you follow these simple steps. To check the ATF level, you  first need to park on a level surface and make sure to note the position of the dipstick. Start your engine and allow it to reach operating temperature. Leave the car in neutral park. Be patient as your engine comes up to temperature. If you have an automatic all the better but once the engine warms up you should hear it start to run smoothly.  A few minutes should be all it takes.

When ready, pull the ATF dipstick out. Usually found near the rear of the motor. The auto transmission dipstick is much shorter than the engine oil dipstick. Now, wipe it clean with a rag. Place it back in the motor making sure it goes all the way in. Now take it back out and note the level on the dipstick.

There are two indication marks on the dipstick– one is for cold readings while the other is for warm readings. Check your level against the one marked ‘warm’. Your ATF level should ideally reach that line.  If not, then automatic transmission fluid needs to be added.  You have successfully performed one of the clutch and transmission checks.

In the case of a manual gearbox things can be a little more difficult. Gear oil dipsticks can be found in hard to reach areas of an engine and accessible only while on a hoist or from beneath the vehicle. Although the process is the same, you can check levels while the engine is cold. Consult a workshop manual for more information on where to locate your gear oil dipstick.

If you are noticing rough gear changes in your automatic transmission or feeling “grinding” vibrations through the gear changes on your manual gearbox then seek advice from a professional such as those at John Dale Motors. In either case if you can book in for one of our clutch and transmission checks and we can assess your fluid or oil levels in our workshop.

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