When it comes to automatic transmissions, fluid leaks and low fluid levels are probably the most common problems owners experience, especially as a vehicle gets older and parts wear out.
If you don’t notice a puddle of transmission fluid (often red, but sometimes other colors or clear) on your garage floor or driveway, you might observe that the transmission is slow to engage a drive gear or shifts sluggishly into higher gears while you’re underway. Both are signs that the transmission fluid is low, which usually can be traced to a leak, though other issues could be at fault. Transmission fluid also can wear out over time and may need to be replaced.
Other warning signs include unusual noises, such as a whine or a buzz, shifting harshly into the next gear instead of engaging smoothly, or slipping out of a gear while driving. If you hear a grinding noise from the transmission, that could be because bearings have failed, allowing metal-to-metal contact between parts that aren’t supposed to rub against each other.
Some vehicles have transmission-warning lights that illuminate when computers sense a problem, but on many cars, the transmission is linked to the same computer that controls the engine, which is the powertrain control module. That could result in the check engine light coming on when you have a transmission issue.
Using your car or truck for towing or hauling heavy loads makes the transmission work harder and can cause it to overheat. Often that will trigger a warning light; if you smell something burning, that could be an overheated transmission. Cars, trucks and SUVs that do a lot of towing or heavy hauling may need what’s called auxiliary transmission fluid cooler.
Because modern transmissions are electronically controlled, if the software or even a sensor fails, the transmission won’t be getting the signals it needs. That could cause a transmission to shift into a “limp home” mode that allows you to drive at reduced speed until it can be repaired. In some cases, a transmission will just shut down to prevent further damage.
You accidentally scratched your car door with your keys while you had your hands full and now you have an awful mark staring back at you every time you get into your car. Do you have to go to a professional who will charge you for labor? Or can you do it yourself for a fairly cheap price? Well, the answer is, an undersized scuff is something you can most likely fix at home by yourself. However, if you’re small scratch looks more like a tree branch than a stick; it’s time to consult the professionals.
Car scratch repair requires a couple of research steps before you can proceed on the actual scratch repairing. First you have to determine if your car has an enameled based paint, because some of the paint jobs on newer model vehicles won’t blend well with lacquer-based primer paint. Before you get started on the actual work, you can consult your local auto parts store to help you determine the exact color of your car. Take your VIN number so that you can match up the cover-up paint with the car’s original coat. You may be able to find the paint color code listed on the edging of the doorframe or in the glove compartment. A dealership would also be able to tell you the exact color paint you’ll need to repair the car scratch.
Next, buy primer paint labeled for automobile use in a lighter color and body compound that will go on easily in one coat. Then, wash the scuffed area with a laundry detergent to remove any wax or grit that might affect your recover paint. After that, take some fine-grained sandpaper and sand along the scratch, polishing away any rust you find. When sanding the scratched area, you may find that it is easier to buff out enamel with 1500-grit or 2000-grit sandpaper to avoid sanding marks. Be sure to blow or brush away any dust that accumulates and then use masking tape and newspaper to separate the scrape. Leave half an inch of room around the car scratch to work.
As you continue, you’ll need to use a plastic putty knife to apply body compound to any deep scratches; a metal one will cause more damage. Make sure to read the instructions on the label and follow them closely. After the body compound hardens, you can sand the spot flat and blow away all the dust again. Then, spray the primer onto the scratch and let it dry overnight. In the morning, use the brush from the touchup paint to paint the area, and then let it dry overnight. You may find that a finish polish is less abrasive than a regular compound.
It’s time to consult the professionals if the scratch on your car is stretched across a door or the hood, because you’ll find a better finished-product by having a body repair shop repaint the entire panel. If a scratch or scrape is left alone for a long time without repair, the area could start to rust, which is nearly impossible to stop once it has started. A small scratch, though, should be easy to tackle with the car scratch repair instructions given here.
If steam is pouring from under your hood, a temperature warning light is glowing bright red on your dashboard or the needle in the temperature gauge is cozying up to the High mark, it’s time to pull off the road and shut down the engine before it fries from overheating.
Any indication of overheating is a serious matter, so the best course of action is to shut down the engine to prevent further damage. Driving a car with an overheated engine can warp cylinder heads and damage internal engine parts such as valves, camshafts and pistons.
Even letting the engine cool for an hour and topping off the radiator with a 50-50 mix of antifreeze and water may not fix what’s wrong. Here are some reasons an engine will overheat:
- The coolant level could be extremely low, because of long-term neglect or because a leak has developed in the radiator or radiator hoses. Coolant circulates inside the engine block to cool it, and the leak might be in the block, or from the water pump or heater hoses. Old coolant loses its corrosion-inhibiting properties, allowing rust to form and ultimately causing damage.
- The thermostat that allows coolant to circulate may be stuck in the closed position or a clog may have developed, perhaps from debris in the cooling system.
- The engine cooling fan has stopped working or the radiator’s cooling fins are clogged with debris so that the air flow that reduces the coolant temperature is restricted.
- The radiator cap has gone bad and no longer maintains enough pressure in the cooling system, allowing coolant to boil over (engines normally operate at about 210 to 220 degrees Fahrenheit).
- The head gasket that seals the gap between the cylinder head and engine block may have failed, allowing coolant to leak inside the combustion chambers. The steam should be visible coming out of the exhaust system.
- The water pump has stopped working or the belt that drives it broke or is slipping and not pumping enough coolant.
- You’ve been towing a 5,000-pound trailer with a vehicle equipped to tow only 2,000 pounds, exceeding the vehicle’s cooling capacity. (You probably also strained the transmission.)
Checking your engine coolant level in the overflow tank on a regular basis can help avoid disasters. If you have to keep topping off the coolant, that’s an indication of a small leak that should be taken care of before it becomes a major one. Having your coolant tested and the entire system inspected by a mechanic every couple of years is an even better way to prevent cooling system disasters.