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Transmission Flush: Is It Worth It?

What is a Transmission Flush-?

A transmission flush is a shop service that flushes out all the old transmission fluid and replaces it with fresh fluid. The special government authorized equipment is needed for this service. In some cases, the filter, cooler lines, and pan gasket are also replaced. Because this service can prolong the life of your transmission in the same manner as an oil change, trans. flush service may be recommended every 30,000 miles, depending on the manufacturer.

 

Average Cost of a Transmission Flush

The average cost of flushing your transmission is $150. But, you can expect to pay double this price if you have a high-end model or have the service done at the dealership. A number of factors are weighed to determine the costs of service to your vehicle because they all have different hourly flat rate labor guidelines. These guidelines provide a benchmark of how much time the repair should take in the ideal situation.

 

Price Assessment Factors

  • Location: The cost of living and services in some areas is naturally higher. NYC compared to Delaware where there are no taxes will naturally see a large variation in total prices.
  • Year, Make, and Model of the Vehicle: An older domestic vehicle like a Ford that has a small engine and easy access to the transmission and oil lines will likely be cheaper to service than a vehicle with a high-end Audi with a turbocharged engine and difficult-to-access transaxle.
  • Shop Type: A quick lube shop that exclusively works on flushes will likely have better rates than a dealership or independent mechanic.
  • Fluid Type: There is a wide range in the quality and price of fluids used. The options can be either expensive fluid that is only sold by the dealership, universal synthetics, synthetic blends, or conventional fluids like Dextron III or Mercon V.
  • Flush Machine Type: The machines flush the fluid at the pump inlet or cooler lines. Some use additional pressure and are called power flush machines.
  • Number of Quarts Required: A vehicle may need more liquid than those required to fill a new transmission when the fluid is flushed because some services gradually dilute the fluid in the transmission and don’t fully remove it all at once.
  • Extras: If you want new oil cooler lines, a pan gasket, a new filter or need anything else related to the trans. flush completed at the same time, this will cost extra.

 

Effectiveness of a Transmission Flush

There are mixed opinions on whether a flush is good for transmission. This mainly comes down to the quality of the service and the type of service used on a particular model. Many transmissions today come as sealed units that are supposedly filled with a lifetime transmission fluid that is designed to last the life of the vehicle.

Audi, Volkswagen, BMW, Mazda, Kia, Hyundai, Cadillac, Subaru, Chrysler, Chevy, Lincoln, Saturn, Toyota, and many more are making models with sealed transmissions. The theory is that by the time that the transmission fluid degrades enough to be noticeable, the life expectancy of many other parts of the vehicle are likely worn out also.

Most of the time that a sealed transmission unit has new fluid added, it is because there is some inadvertent event that caused other components to degrade prematurely. These can be broken connections to the valve body or other electrical sensor problems that require repair and the addition of fresh fluid at the same time.

The Germans are very refined about engineering the highest quality synthetic lubricants like Elf motor oil that is required as mandatory maintenance to retain the factory warranty in many of their turbo diesel vehicles. It is not hard to believe that they would engineer a superior synthetic oil that would never need to be flushed for the life of the transmission.

At a certain point, the clutch packs and seals inside of the transmission will degrade from heat over time. Heat is the number cause of premature failures in transmissions as evidenced by the transmission developed by Ford for late 90’s Ford and Mazda models that did not have an oil cooler and was prone to overheating without this feature. Even the dealerships had no way of fixing them and could only warranty them for a year before they’d burn out again.

The reason why a lifetime synthetic fluid is possible to use in sealed transmission boils down to temperature. If the vehicles have an adequate heat exchanger, an oil cooler that will regulate the internal temperature, the heat should not have such a harsh effect.

Because synthetic fluids lack the paraffin waxes of conventional transmission fluids, they are more heterogeneous at a molecular level. They, therefore, remain at a stable temperature and are less prone to the effect of burning up in volatilization.

Although it would be beneficial if every transmission were filled with this type of high-grade premium synthetic transmission fluid, not every transmission is calibrated to operate on synthetic fluids.

The pressure and temperature setting for an ideal range of operation, as well as the tolerances between the various check valves and passages, may not function very well using a full synthetic in a transmission engineered for paraffin-laden dino oils.

The paraffin waxes create hotspots, burn up under heavy duty cycles, and degrade much faster over time.

 

Transmission Flush- Vs -Change

Although there are a few methods of flushing out the fluid in your transmission, it is different from simply draining and refilling the transmission with new fluid by dropping the pan. This is because most of the fluid is lodged in the deep internal parts of the transmission and may need to be tilted at a heavy angle to really get the majority of it out. Even then, you will not get all the contaminants out and less than half the fluid.

Flushing the fluid removes all the fluid or dilutes the fluid with many quarts of new fluid being pumped through the transmission to the point where residual traces of old fluid are negligible.

 

Transmission Flush-Process

There are different methods for flushing. The two most popular, hook up a machine to either the pump inlet or the oil cooler lines. When you use the oil cooler line method, the technician is simply hooking up a machine to the lines to feed in fresh transmission fluid and receive the old fluid through the other line. This is the most stress-free method because it does not change the pressures of the transmission or add anything too foreign that might damage its natural rhythm.

The pump inlet method involves removal of the oil pan and filter to pump all the fluid out of the transmission and to sometimes add a power flush of a cleaning solution. The machine is connected to the pump inlet directly and then drops into a collector from the bottom of the transmission. While this may be a more thorough cleaning, it also can risk damage to the delicate seals and stir up debris that jams up valves. A new filter and gasket are added at the end of the service.

 

Fluids

As explained above, the fluids available may be highly specialized factory fluids, universal synthetics, universal synthetic blends, or conventional fluids like Dextron III and Mercon V.

 

How Often

As explained above, although a conventional oil flush may be recommended for every 30,000 miles, it all depends on the manufacturer and the quality of the transmission fluid.

 

Finding a Service Provider

When you are looking for someone to flush your fluid, you should always be sure that you find someone who knows exactly what your specific model needs. They should always change the filter after the service and pan gasket. Avoid power flushes and cleaning solutions that may cause more harm than good.

The oil cooler line method is probably the safest for any vehicle. Ensure that shop that you go to specializes in the procedure and that they are fully insured and experienced enough to work on your vehicle. For more information, you can contact us or call 318-742-7754.

 

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Transmission Spotlight: Powerglide Transmission

 

Throughout the history of automobiles, manufacturers have tried to improve on transmission operations. In 1940, General Motors implemented the first version of the automatic transmission. Named Hydramatic, it was initially placed in that year’s model Oldsmobile.

 

A Transmission Shift

After World War II, car manufacturers took the knowledge they gained and put it to use in their commercials vehicles. At the start of the 1950s, General Motors put it to use in the next generation of an automatic transmission. This was one called the Powerglide transmission.

 

Two-Speed Transmission

The Powerglide was a two-speed transmission used for the low-end passenger cars and trucks under the Chevrolet brand. When the Hydramatic plant was damaged by fire in 1953, the Powerglide was placed in the company’s Pontiac and Oldsmobile models.

 

A Transmission for a Generation

The Powerglide transmission was the go-to for General Motors vehicles from 1950 to 1973. Though the company advertised this new version of the automatic as shiftless, it actually wasn’t. In the earliest models, drivers had to shift up one gear to gain maximum acceleration. In turn, the transmissions were quickly damaged as they were run too long before a gear shift.

In the 1960s, General Motors worked out the kinks. Soon enough, the Powerglide transmission became a truly shiftless operation. Thus, drivers no longer needed to worry when to properly move up a gear. In addition, when paired with V-8 engines, the shift between low and high gear felt seamless.

 

From Low-End to Muscle

With the transmission’s improvement, it became General Motors’ standard automatic until the three-speed TH350 was implemented in 1973. Some of the Chevrolet models to utilize the transmission included the Corvairs, Camaros, Corvettes, and Malibus.

The transmission wasn’t relegated to simply Chevrolet models. It was commonly seen in cars made by AMC and Fords. Over two decades, GM produced 17 million of this two-speed model.

 

Powerglides for Today’s Vehicles

Automatic transmissions have come very far since the invention of the Powerglide. Yet, that second-generation transmission is still used today. That’s due to its simplicity and lightweight construction. In addition, it allows for a variety of horsepower options.

Today, in combination with a low rear gear, this transmission is an option for quarter-mile vehicles used in drag races. In addition, because it’s less than 100 pounds due to its aluminum construction, the transmission is used in racing with high-performance engines.

This is due to the way the transmission is coupled. Instead of a mechanical coupling used in a clutch-driven gearbox, it uses a fluid coupling. This eliminates the bump or pop felt as transmissions are shifted into gear from neutral. In turn, this allows for an increased speed capacity. In fact, using this transmission with current turbo engines has resulted in speeds up to 260 mph.

 

Finding Powerglides

It’s not hard to find Powerglides today. An internet search provides numerous locations where these are sold or custom built. How much they cost depends on the amount of horsepower required and if installation is needed.

 

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Transmission Spotlight: 6L80E/6L90E

 

Here is a six-speed automatic transmission that has been developed by General Motors. Both the 6L80E and 6L90E models are designed for all-wheel-drive vehicles that are rear biased and have a longitudinal powertrain orientation. Both transmissions are meant to conserve fuel, and each is controlled via a six-speed automatic transmission that is a quality successor to the SL family of transmissions.

 

6L80E/6L90E Transmission Overview

The Hydra-Matic transmission has a modular design, and it shares some components that allow it to accommodate varying torque levels, engines, and applications. Each of the versions that have been developed has a unique gear set that is configured to allow for a wide range of ratios when compared to a more conventional type of gear set inherent with many automatic transmissions today. This enables the transmission itself to allow for great fuel savings, while at the same time permitting the vehicle to accelerate nicely.

General Motors decided on a modular concept for these transmissions in order to allow for common components to be able to be used interchangeably, thereby allowing for tools to be used during the manufacturing stage that allows for four variants within the six-speed family of transmissions. All of the versions on the market today use three gear sets. This includes one gear set that is a simple input planetary design, while two are output gear sets.

Some of the applications do allow for Performance Algorithm Shifting. This type of shifting can sense how assertively a driver is using the output of the engine in order to make a determination as to whether or not an upshift or downshift is necessary based on the engine speed. There is also a Driver Shift Control that will permit the driver to actually shift the transmission, similar to that of a gearbox that is clutches and manual. There are electronic safeguards built into to keep the driver from over-revving the engine in the event that the incorrect gear is selected by accident.

One other interesting component with these transmissions is the Advanced Control System. This is what allows the temperature to stay constant in comparison to a module that is mounted on the body. Since the transmission and the module are actually assembled at the same time and together, there are not any additional steps required during the assembly process for the vehicle.

 

6L80E vs. 6L90E

When comparing the two transmissions, it is important to keep in mind that the 6L90 is more heavy duty than the 6L80, even though both are six-speed automatic versions. The former also comes with a stronger input gear set. This has two more pinion gears, which gives it six in total. The output gear set on the 6L90 is also wider than the 6L80, giving it more flexibility. The 6L90 also has one more clutch plate that can match up with the requirements of certain applications when necessary.

It is interesting to note that the 6L90E transmission does share roughly 75 percent of the same parts as that of the 6L80E transmission. The case on the 6L90 is a bit longer, and it can make use of more fasteners for the transmission and the corresponding transfer case. This tends to lead to better drive performance and less noise and vibration.

Which transmission you end up choosing depends on your vehicle and your unique needs. If you need a bit more power, you might look at going with the 6L90E transmission. If that is not something you are after, the 6L80E transmission will likely suit you just fine. Both are built for performance, and they will each give the driver the power they need to excel on both long and short journeys.

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Signs of a Bad Torque Converter

If you drive a vehicle with an automatic transmission, then chances are you have a torque converter and don’t even know about it. Of course, you probably wonder just what a torque converter actually is, simply because it’s not really a topic of a dinner conversation.

The best analogy for a torque conversion part would be that it is basically doing the same work that a clutch does in a manual transmission. This part will essentially keep the engine running when the wheels come to a stop. If this torque part does its job, you won’t even notice it. However, if it is going bad, then you will have some serious problems. Luckily, there are plenty of signs that will help you tell if your torque is going bad.

 

Signs of Torque Converter Problems

There are many signs that your torque converter is starting to have problems. One major concern would be engine overheating. If you are noticing that the temperature gauge is exhibiting strange fluid pressure, it could be a symptom of bad torque.

Another sign that this part is going downhill would probably be slipping. If you are driving along and you occasionally notice your acceleration dropping considerably, it could be a sign of this part going out on you.

If your vehicle appears to shudder when you are driving between 30 to 45 miles per hour, this could be another sign. If you have checked the engine fluid and there are large amounts of black materials present, that too could also be a sign your torque is faltering.

Finally, if it appears that it is taking the transmission longer to engage the engine and if you are hearing a number of strange clicking or revving sounds, then it might be time to replace a bad torque converter.

 

How to Test for Torque Converter Problems

In some older vehicles, you could do what is called a stall-speed test. In this procedure, you simply rev up the engine for no more than five seconds while you also have the brake pedal fully pressed down to the floor. Make sure not to do this for more than five seconds, and be sure to avoid this type of test with vehicles that have traction control or anti-lock braking system.

Another procedure would be to first let the engine warm up for about five minutes, then gently press on the accelerator while the vehicle is in the park position. Let the engine go back to idle and then immediately shift it into drive and listen for any abnormal sounds. Finally, take the vehicle for a quick test drive and see if there is any unusual sounds or lurching movements.

 

Causes of Torque Converter System Problems

Different parts can play a role in causing a torque converter system to break down.

First of all, one item to consider would be the needle bearings. If these bearings fail, it could cause some metal to metal contact and might make the whole entire system fail. A damaged torque system seal will usually mean that fluid will leak from the casing. If this happens, you can rest assured that your torque system will either overheat, slip or have irregular gear shifting.

If you have a damaged clutch, it can overheat the gears and make them stay in gear at all times, even when you don’t want them to be in gear.

Finally, if the solenoid malfunctions, it can cause an uneven pressure rotation in your torque system.

 

Torque Converter System Replacement

One of the trickiest things about repairing a torque converter system would probably have to be the fact that replacing it is often quite a bit less expensive than replacing it. Talk to your mechanic to discuss your options, but realize that a total replacement can often lead to a smoother ride in your vehicle and a system that is more durable overall.

 

Tips on Picking a Torque Converter

Finally, picking a torque conversion should be considered as well. In short, go for one that will have a maximum of 500-750 RPM’s. Finally, realize that most compact cars will do best with a 2400 RPM conversion system.

 

Keep this information in mind and you are sure to be wholly prepared if you ever have a bad torque converter issue with your vehicle.