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Burning Your Hands Instead of the Transmission

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Amclaussen
User Rank
Platinum
Re: What a pain (literally!)
Amclaussen   1/29/2013 4:29:47 PM
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Pardon me, but I respectfully disagree with the idea of "lifetime", "everlasting", "long duration", or "permanent" fluids. A given car "designer" can of course, decide a newer fluid could have an "extended" life... but another one with higher worries about warranty claims will include some kind of exceptions to the owner's manual... that usually take the form of:  "In severe conditions..." or "in fleet service...", or "In hot and dusty conditions..." or anything similar phrase to cover himself and conserve his employment.

I kindly invite you to get your hands dirty and do a transmission service yourself.  Independently of what says the ATF bottle sticker, the shop manual or the owner's manual, what you will see is more or less the same picture of the image I'm attaching: the magnet inside the pan will have a "Sea Orchid" appearance.  Those 'spines'are metallic dust or very fine "shavings" suspended in thick mud, aligned like spines by the magnetic field.  This photo was taken after 50,000 miles of driving, well before any transmission symtoms appear, and the metallic contents (3/4 teaspoon) are considered "normal" for a properly working transmission with this much use.  Wear particles come from clutch packs, sliding bands and a very little part, from actual gear wear. Now, NO known transmission filter has a 100% efficiency in filtering small size particles, as size and pressure loss constraints product of the limited available space effectively limit the area/volume of the replaceable filter inside the pan.  After such mileage, ATF appearance has changed from light Cherry-Red transparent looks, to very dark reddish brown opaque color.  Smell is quite different.  Now, viscosity is appreciably changed, but Viscosity Index is way down, surface tension is up, solid contents are way-way up. The ATF has lost its "light ends", and has much more heavier hydrocarbons, hard carbon and long chain residues. It simply DOES NOT lubricate as well as new fluid, its heat transfer properties limit this task and the fluid is no longer able to remove and transfer the heat load anymore, so that the operating temperature goes up in a vicious cycle.  If you believe that "modern" ATF's can take the abuse and still perform like new after 40,000 miles or so, be forewarned your transmission is prone to fail and needing a complete rebuild.  Fine if you want to trash the vehycle after 4-5 years or so.  It only takes one severe overheating episode to start the degradation, and it wouldn't need to be when hauling a heavy trailer, as a very hot day in stalled traffic for longer than a couple of hours will get the ATF very hot, owing to ever reducing frontal air intake openings, heavier cars that still have a transmission designed years ago for lighter vehicles.  I very much prefer the tried and true dipstick than any optimistic claim that the new marvelous fluid is permanent. (I just remembered the thousands of damaged engines because of too optimistic "DEXCOOL" claimed advantages!). AND while newer "synthetic formulations" of ATF's can have better hi-temp properties, they have their limits too, and cannot perform well after an additional 20-30% more miles, because they will become contaminated by metallic wear products (clutch pack wear IS an unavoidable fact of life, independently of what overly confident product advertisers wish to convey). I have two old MOPAR vehicles that are the envy of the local dealer (where I only go to buy the original ATF and/or Coolant, as I have done some tests at my workplace and found them to be high-quality when compared to commercial aftermarket offerings). I believe that the statements in several places on typical Owner's Manuals are deliberately written to prevent overly worried novice owners from becoming too concerned and taking too much time from dealers with over exaggerated concerns.  In reality, ATF color and smell is still very valuable and a practical means to quickly distinguish if an ATF is too degraded without having to run expensive specialized laboratory tests.  The fast rule is: New ATF shoud be transparent, light Cherry Red color, and has a characteristic odor (you can open a bottle to get an idea). Still good but used ATF will appear as brick-red to light brown or reddish brown color when not accompanied by a foul strong-burnt odor. Overheated and degraded ATF will not have any of the reddish tinge, being totally dark brown to black color.  Amclaussen.

Larry M
User Rank
Platinum
Re: What a pain (literally!)
Larry M   1/29/2013 4:58:51 PM
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AMClaussen wrote: "I kindly invite you to get your hands dirty and do a transmission service yourself.  Independently of what says the ATF bottle sticker, the shop manual or the owner's manual, what you will see is more or less the same picture of the image I'm attaching: the magnet inside the pan will have a "Sea Orchid" appearance."

AM, I have done this several time. In fact. my son had the same Pontiac referred to in the original post, with a side plug and no dipstick or filler tube, and I helped him with that.

I sold the 1969 Dodge Custom Sportvan at 21 years, in 1990. The transmission never needed service. I got rid of the Chevy Lumina APV with 185,000 miles. The transmission never needed service. I have had a couple of other high mileage cars but they were manual transmission units.

I don't see how to access the image you referred to.

Larry M
User Rank
Platinum
Re: Cars not designed for maintenance
Larry M   1/29/2013 5:06:41 PM
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I can vouch for that. A divorced friend who calls from time to time called--quite worried--one day after a long hard drive. Colored fluid was running from beneath her car. I asked whether it was coolant or transmission fluid. She didn't know. I asked whether it was green or red. She couldn't tell. I told her to put a tiny dab on her finger and report whether it smelled/tasted sweet or oily. She replied "oily."

"Aha," I said. "You had an oil change yesterday, just before you left on your trip, didn't you? And you used that filling station near your house, right?"

"How did you know?" she asked.

I explained about expansion of transmission fluid and how to check it. Her car was still warm and she checked it on the spot. The level was right on. It had blown off the excess on the highway.

She asked how the transmission could have gotten overfilled and I explained the facts of life--expensive mechanics don't change oil or fix flats; high school dropouts do. She was stunned to learm about the "highly-qualified technicians" working on her car. Don't you hate to disillusion someone like this?

Amclaussen
User Rank
Platinum
Re: What a pain (literally!)
Amclaussen   1/29/2013 5:17:38 PM
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Sorry, I can't figure how to upload the image tof the pan taken with my cellphone and stored in my PC...  I'll try to send it attached to an email message, but then I would need to show your email address, and that is not a good idea cause anybody would have it... sorry, I've never put an image here!

Amclaussen
User Rank
Platinum
Re: Cars not designed for maintenance
Amclaussen   1/29/2013 5:34:20 PM
Well, my dipstick clearly shows both the COLD and HOT zones, aided by small holes that help a lot in showing where is the edge of the wetted zone in low light...  Also the Owner's manual shows a drawing of the dipstick end which is so clear I can hardly imagine a dumb enough person unable to understand it (pardon me, I was forgetting the Monkey-type of individual!

Now, on the "fill for life" recommendation, it is as vague as to be useless, as how hard is hard use? Some hill climbing is as hard or harder than towing, but most people I know feel that any car would perfectly climb those. (The typical 'sunday ride' where every one on board is completely distracted and not paying the least bit of attention on the temp dash indicator... if the car ever had it!!!)

My guess is more toward the classic recently graduated "genius engineer" that dreams of receiving a company congratulation for proposing a reduction of the fabrication cost a couple of cents, multiplied by the many thousands of vehicles... as so on.

fire-iron.biz
User Rank
Gold
Re: Cars not designed for maintenance
fire-iron.biz   1/30/2013 7:24:30 PM
I trust the "lifetime" tranny fluid as much as the "lifetime" tie rod ends that never seem to last more than a year or two ... unless one is smart enough to put a zerk in them just like the old ones that lasted a long, long time as long as they got a little grease every so often.  Problem is, the automotive industry consistently gets away with nonsense that no other industry could ever survive.

fire-iron.biz
User Rank
Gold
Re: Cars not designed for maintenance
fire-iron.biz   1/30/2013 7:42:57 PM
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Larry M. said, "I explained the facts of life--expensive mechanics don't change oil or fix flats; high school dropouts do."


Please clarify that statement being applied only to the quickie lube & service places.  Professional shops and fleet service specialists do a lot of oil changes and tire patching - only a fool turns down easy money and any company not willing to pay for professional level "service" usually isn't in business very long and at best they're not very profitable.

Larry M
User Rank
Platinum
Re: Cars not designed for maintenance
Larry M   1/30/2013 8:17:35 PM
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Clarify? Sure.  I was referring to filling stations with a lube bay or two on the side, but I will concede that my statement also applies to quickie oil change places.

fire-iron.biz
User Rank
Gold
Re: Cars not designed for maintenance
fire-iron.biz   1/30/2013 9:08:15 PM
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Larry,  That works for me.  Hard to see in the avatar but note the boss doing a QC check...

 

 

 

 

Tool_maker
User Rank
Platinum
Re: Cars not designed for maintenance
Tool_maker   1/31/2013 1:01:18 PM
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  I get just as angry as anyone about stupid designs that prevent, or at the very least, make normal maintenance more difficult, but I do not think it is a conspiracy by the various car companies. Sometimes "GOOD IDEAS" are fraught with unintended or unforeseen consequences. I would be willing to wager that not one engineer/designer reading these posts has not had a mistake or two the someone down the line has blasted as stupid. Early in my career, my first foreman told me, " The only guy who never makes a mistake, is the guy who never does anything, but if you keep making the same mistakes, you will be looking for a new job."

  In short, all I know is that with very few exceptions, my new cars/trucks are better than the ones they replaced. I get better mileage and more consistant service. I have never had any vehicle that could accelerate like my 71 Buick Skylark, nor ride as smooth on the highway as my 67 Olds Delmont 88, but both of those vehcles were finished well before 100,000 miles, but I have not had a vehicle since that hasn't crossed that threshold.

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