Keeping Your Transmission Cool for Best Performance

Automatic transmissions run hot, anyway, but…

image of cartoon car, exhausted with tongue hanging out, overheatedAn automatic transmission works harder when towing heavy loads or driving in rough conditions, so it gets hotter than usual. Extreme heat is dangerous to your transmission, and if you frequently use your vehicle for towing or hauling loads, and/or drive in rough conditions such as hilly terrain or mountainous, unpaved roads, an aftermarket transmission cooler might be a good idea. A transmission cooler helps the transmission stay cool, even when working harder than normal, which in turn lets you get the best performance and long life out of it.

How a transmission cooler works.

Fluid heated by the transmission, engine, or power steering pump flows to the cooler. Air flowing over the fins of the cooler carries away heat and cools the fluid flowing within the fins. The cooled fluid is routed back through the transmission via the return line. Through this continuous process, cooling beyond just the standard system of the radiator is provided to the transmission.

How do you install a transmission cooler?

There are few different ways to install a transmission cooler. The most common way is to have the cooler attached with rods and fasteners. The rods, usually plastic, go through the transmission cooler and the radiator, and secured with the fasteners.

Another way to install a transmission cooler is to use a mount kit that includes flexible brackets for easy installation. This makes it easier if the cooler has mounting points designed for brackets – but your vehicle must have good mounting points, too. If you’re installing a stacked plate type cooler, then a solid mounting bracket kit is necessary. Some kits are designed for quick install and removal, which is ideal for high performance or racing applications where the cooler might have to be swapped frequently.

How do I choose which kind of transmission cooler to install?

There are three types of transmission coolers.

Though each performs the same job – cool the transmission – each type does it a little differently. Transmission fluid can’t be cooled too much, so installing the biggest cooler that fits in your engine compartment and that provides the most cooling protection for your transmission is a good idea. Your locally owned AAMCO Colorado transmission center can help you determine which one will fit and is best for your purposes.

Tube-and-Fin

The tube-and-fin type consists of a tube that carries transmission fluid through the cooling unit. It has what are called “turbulators”, which agitate the fluid, which causes it cool more thoroughly by washing up against the inside walls of the aluminum tube. The heat is absorbed by the aluminum and is transferred to aluminum fins attached to the outside of the tube, which quickly dissipate the heat. The heat is carried away by the air flowing all around the fins on the outside of the cooler. The tube-and-fin style of cooler works well, but is not the most efficient kind.

Plate-and-Fin

The plate-and-fin style of transmission cooler works on the same principle as the tube-and-fin, but is more efficient. It forces fluid through smaller plates that cause agitation of the fluid. The small, flat plates allow more fluid to contact the surface inside the cooler, which maximizes heat transfer and minimizes pressure drop.

Stacked Plate

Stacked plate coolers are the most efficient. They are designed the same as the plate-and-fin style, but they have high-capacity turbulators. The increased agitation and surface areas help dissipate heat even more quickly, which makes them ideal for heavy-duty use, such as towing, racing, or extreme driving.

Whichever transmission cooler design you choose, rest assured that it will extend the life of your transmission by preventing heat-related failures and improving shifting performance. AAMCO Colorado can help you make the right decision for your car, based on your driving habits, requirements, and transmission diagnostics. Once you know what type of cooler you need, we’ll install it an make sure it’s working properly, keeping the transmission cool and running smoothly.

A transmission cooler is not a substitute for transmission repair.

A vehicle used for towing may sometimes benefit from an additional transmission cooler. Towing increases the load and puts additional strain on a vehicle’s transmission, thereby increasing the heat that is generated and the cooling levels required to ensure the transmission doesn’t burn out. An auxiliary transmission cooler will not increase the towing or hauling capacity of a vehicle. If you overload the vehicle, no amount of cooling will make it haul or tow more than the maximum specified weight. You just need a more powerful vehicle. Also, a transmission cooler is not a solution for other transmission problems that can cause transmissions to overheat and fail. If your transmission is slipping or having other problems, you should come to your local Colorado AAMCO transmission center for a complete diagnosis by our certified technicians.

AAMCO Colorado Transmissions Can Help

AAMCO sells, installs, repairs and maintains automatic transmission coolers.

Come to your local AAMCO Colorado transmission shop for a diagnostic and the best transmission cooler installation and service around.

If you think a transmission cooler is the way to go, AAMCO Colorado can help. With our multi-point transmission diagnostics, an AAMCO technician will identify any possible issues that need to be addressed and what can be done to remedy any overheating issues – including installation of an auxiliary transmission cooler. We’ll install the transmission cooler and get you back on the road, towing and hauling, or just driving, with the peace of mind that your transmission is running cool and giving you the best performance possible. And you’re backed by the best nationwide warranty available.

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If you have any questions or need more information, feel free to submit your question to our Ask A Mechanic service.

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