There are several key components in a vehicle such as the engine, brakes and tyres which demand periodic checks to ensure they’re in good working condition. However, often forgotten is another vital element of a vehicle, the transmission and if not properly maintained, it can be considerably expensive to repair or even replace. The following tips will help you keep the gears shifting seamlessly for many years to come…

1: Check the transmission fluid level, colour and smell

One of the most important checks to be done to make sure your car’s transmission is in good health is inspecting the fluid level and its condition periodically. Checking the transmission fluid is as simple as checking the engine oil.  While the engine is idling, pull out the dipstick, wipe it with a clean rag or tissue, reinsert it and pull it out again to check the level. If the level is low, get it checked for potential leaks, but you also need to pay keen attention to the colour of the fluid and the way it smells too. Good condition fluid ought to be bright red and omit a sweet smell but if it is dark and has a burnt odor then it will need to be changed. And remember to use the right type of transmission fluid by consulting your vehicle’s owner’s manual. In general it is advisable to have your transmission fluid flushed once a year.

2: Don’t put it under unnecessary stress…

It’s nice to help stranded motorists but you need to think twice before you do so. For instance, if another vehicle needs a tow are you sure yours can handle the additional weight that it suddenly needs to pull? If not, it will damage your transmission. Leave the heroics for a heavy-duty vehicle that is designed for such utility. If you still want to help, offer to call a recovery truck – your car will thank you!

3: Use your emergency brake when parking on an incline

Ever wondered what that loud clunking noise is when you try to engage an automatic transmission while your vehicle is parked on an incline? Well, that is the sound of the parking pawl (a part of the transmission that locks up) being released. Parking on an incline and attempting to shift the gear lever can causes the pawl to have undue stress placed on it, and can cause it to snap. If you have no option but to park on a gradient then here’s what you need to do: keep your foot on the brake, set the parking brake and then put the gear lever in Park. This will take the pressure off of the transmission when you need to put it in Drive or Reverse as the parking pawl will not be under load.

4: Don’t delay repairs – get them done, fast

If your transmission is hesitating to shift gears or not shifting at all or indeed any other unusual issues get it checked by a professional immediately. For all you know it may just be a lack of fluid but if left unseen it turn into a much more serious and expensive problem.

As you can see, the transmission is a very complex component - following these tips will help to keep it in tip-top shape! Photo: Supplied

5: Tune it up

Make sure you keep on top of regular tune-ups as this will help ensure your vehicle is running in perfect condition. Even the little things will make a huge difference, for instance, tyre pressure. Under inflated tyres will cause your engine and transmission to work harder and this extra stress on the drivetrain could eventually result in severe damage. Also, you might think those larger tyres look sportier but they will affect the transmission’s ratio. Stick to tyre specs suggested by the manufacturer.

6: Know when to shift

It is imperative that the vehicle has come to a complete stop before you shift the gear lever on an automatic transmission. If the vehicle is rolling (either forwards or backwards) and you attempt to change gears from Drive to Reverse (or vice versa) you are running the risk of seriously damaging the transmission.

7: Let it warm up

It is considered good practice to allow your vehicle to warm up before you put it into gear and drive off. Let it idle for a couple of minutes before you set off on your way – especially in the colder months – as this could help prevent damage to the drivetrain.