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What is the normal operating temperature of the automatic transmission?

Drivers often monitor the temperature of the car’s engine, making sure everything is working properly, but the normal operating temperature of the automatic transmission is rarely taken into account. Despite the importance of transmission, it is easy to neglect basic care.

To ensure that your vehicle continues to get you from point A to point B, you want to have an engine and transmission that work well. That’s why we’re going to look at the temperatures inside the transmission and determine the symptoms of an overheated transmission. We’ll also provide you with some steps you can take to prevent transmission wear.

What is the normal temperature of the automatic transmission?

Ideally, the fluid temperature in the automatic transmission would be between 170 and 225 degrees Fahrenheit. If the transmission slips or the vehicle is pushed hard, the temperature could exceed 240 degrees. However, with every 20-degree drop, your transmission remains better protected.

The temperature inside the torque converter is the highest. Temperatures can sometimes reach over 350 degrees Fahrenheit when pulling heavier loads.

It can be difficult to monitor transmission fluid temperature because most modern cars are not equipped with gauges. Instead, cars use a check Engine Light or other warning light to let you know if the transmission is overheating.

Symptoms of overheating transmission

1. Burning smell

The transmission uses gears to generate power. This hydraulic system relies on fluid to properly transfer force. Automatic transmission fluid keeps the system well-lubricated and running at its best. The fluid is also necessary to regulate the internal temperature.

However, the liquid degrades as it ages. As it oxidizes, the internal composition begins to degrade. When this happens, the fluid is less able to reduce heat and friction. It also makes it easier for the transmission to overheat.

When the transmission fluid is no longer red, you will notice unusual odors under the hood. This darker liquid begins to burn, resulting in a strong odor that you won’t be able to deny.

2. Slower response time

When fluid levels drop, the temperature goes out of control and the gears don’t work as they should. Due to this lack of fluid, the gears cannot react as quickly as usual.

You will notice a delay when the transmission shifts because there is not enough fluid to transmit the pressure. However, a slower transmission can also be a sign of a mechanical fault that needs to be diagnosed quickly.

3. Slippery transmission

When the fluid loses its ability to lubricate internal components, gears can slip. The same is true if contaminants enter the fluid.

However, a slipping transmission is also a sign of worn gears, a faulty clutch, or faulty drive belts. To make sure it’s not a major mechanical issue, you’ll want to have the transmission evaluated.

4. Lame mode

Sometimes you don’t notice any symptoms of transmission overheating until the car goes into limp mode. This rescue mode is activated whenever the onboard computer detects a problem that could cause serious damage to the transmission or engine.

Limp mode reduces power to ensure there is less load on those vital parts. It gives you the option to drive home or drive to the nearest service center.

Prevent the transmission from overheating

Transmission temperature warning light
Transmission temperature warning light

Once the transmission overheats, permanent damage can occur. That’s why it’s so important to prevent the transmission from overheating in the first place. Ideally, you’ll want to install an aftermarket transmission fluid temperature gauge to track what’s happening internally. By knowing when the fluid temperature rises, you can take quick action to prevent damage.

Additionally, it is important to check the transmission fluid level frequently. It must always be completed and must appear in red. If it starts to darken, you’ll want to change the fluid. In general, most manufacturers recommend changing the transmission fluid every 30,000 to 60,000 miles, unless you have a sealed unit. You can find the recommended program in the owner’s manual. If you tow or haul cargo regularly, you’re probably pushing your transmission harder, and you may want to change the fluid more frequently.

To increase transmission efficiency, you can install a deeper outer pan. This improved system allows the transmission to use more fluid, which can be helpful if the climate you are driving in is hot or if you are taking your vehicle to extremes. Look for an aluminum pan, as it dissipates heat better than steel.

On top of that, you need to properly maintain your vehicle’s cooling system, as it is vital to the well-being of the transmission. Coolant levels should always be topped up and checked periodically for leaks or wear.

More importantly, if you notice the car’s engine or transmission starting to overheat, stop and let it cool. This simple step can save you from more expensive repairs in the future.


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