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Most people don’t know a lot about their vehicle’s transmission. They know that it somehow converts engine output into tire rotation, is critical in shifting gears, and periodically requires new transmission fluid, but mainly they know that it’s a complicated, critical part of their car that costs a lot of money to fix. In fact, the mere mention of the words transmission repair evokes fear in most drivers I know. They’re afraid that there is a serious problem with their vehicle, and afraid that they may be overcharged by a mechanic because they don’t understand what’s wrong with their transmission.

Unless you’re an expert yourself, and you own the necessary equipment already, you shouldn’t ever try to fix your own transmission. Aside from the complexity of the transmission mechanism itself, fixing your transmission requires expensive specialized tools. It’s cheaper and easier just to take your car to a local, Colorado auto transmission repair expert who you feel comfortable with. However, it is helpful to be able to diagnose some of the problems yourself and understand what your mechanic is talking about (and what he might be charging you for). Knowing the basics of your transmission and transmission repair will help you have an intelligent discussion with your mechanic.

Basically, your transmission is made up of four key components: the transmission housing, the gears, the transmission filter, and the transmission fluid. The transmission housing is this bell-shaped metal casing that encloses and protects the transmission gears. You see it when you look underneath your vehicle, usually attached to the side of the engine. It typically contains a main shaft, a counter shaft, and an idler shaft. The gears are what controls the rotational speed of your tires and creates torque, even if you have an automatic transmission and don’t shift them yourself. Transmission fluid is critical to the operation of your gears and is typically red, so that you can see it when it leaks. Your transmission filter cleans your transmission fluid.

Before you take your car to a mechanic, there are a few basic things that you can do yourself, which can save you time and money. First, check and see if your transmission fluid is leaking. Typically this should be done at least twice a year, because low levels of transmission fluid can damage your transmission, and result in expensive repairs. If your transmission fluid levels are consistently low, you should check for a leak. These can most frequently be found in the following places: at the drain hole beneath the transmission, between the transmission and the engine, at the base of the filler tube, in your radiator fluid, on the selector shaft, or the speed sensor mounting point. Remember that this fluid is usually red, so it should be relative easy to find.

Second, check your transmission filter. The transmission filter is relatively cheap and easy to replace and critical to your transmission’s performance. Make sure it’s not clogged or damaged before you even consider having any work done to your transmission.

If you can’t find a problem with the fluid or the filter, you’ll need to take your car to a Colorado auto repair service. Unfortunately, your transmission may occasionally need to be repaired or rebuilt, and ignoring the problem will only make it worse: until your car literally won’t go. However, if you can screen problems with your transmission fluid and filter on your own, know the basics of transmission repair to be able to discuss the problems with your mechanic, and go to a transmission repair expert you can trust, you can save time, money, and frustration.