How (not) to drive with the automat and what to pay special attention to when servicing

In modern cars, automatic transmissions are increasingly starting to displace manual transmissions. The main reason for this is the ease of use, which is especially important when moving around crowded city centers. In addition, the machines installed in modern cars are becoming more and more precise, which directly translates into improved driving dynamics and increased travel comfort.
Before you decide to buy a vehicle with an automatic transmission, you should consider whether to choose a traditional, i.e. hydraulically controlled, automatic, dual clutch transmission (e.g. DSG), automated mechanical transmission or continuously variable transmission (CVT). It is also worth learning how to properly use the opportunities and amenities that carry automatic gearboxes and what not to do to enjoy their trouble-free operation as long as possible. It is also necessary to thoroughly familiarize yourself with the conditions of their servicing, which differ from each other depending on the type of machine.


One of the most common mistakes made by drivers using vehicles with automatic transmission is setting the selector lever in the N (neutral) position while driving D (drive) or when the car stops temporarily, e.g. at traffic lights. What’s the problem? Selecting the N position does not lighten the gear, contrary to appearances, as in the case of vehicles with manual transmissions. Each change of gear ratio from D to N forces the necessity of sudden equalization of the speed of rotating elements inside the gearbox. Frequent selection of the N position results in excessive backlash. splines connecting individual elements of the automatic transmission, which significantly reduces their service life (this applies in particular to a converter with a torque converter clutch). N mode should also not be used during long downhill gradients because of the lack of adequate cooling of the transmission at that time. It is also absolutely necessary to avoid entering P (parking) mode when the vehicle is moving. Setting the lever in the P position in this case results in blockage of the previously selected gear, which can lead to serious damage or even destruction of the automatic transmission (the latest solutions use special “idiot resistant” safeguards, which make it impossible to select the parking mode while driving). However, the N or P ratios must be adjusted after driving and before switching off the engine. In the event of the drive unit ending with a different lever setting, the pressure inside the gearbox decreases (the so-called executive), which results in insufficient lubrication of the elements still working, including torque converter clutch. As a consequence, individual components of the transmission are excessively worn, leading to damage during longer operation.

automatic gearbox


Another “sin” with heavy consequences is choosing the R (reverse) gear while the vehicle is rolling forward. You must first stop the vehicle completely using the brakes, and then select position R. Failure to do so may result in a serious malfunction of the machine due to the transfer of large forces to its individual elements.


It is also one of the frequently made mistakes, in particular by young drivers who want to move dynamically. The effect of “burning gums” is obtained, but at the cost of dangerous heating of oil in the gearbox as a result of the conversion of energy from the engine into heat. In addition to high temperatures, individual transmission components are subjected to extreme stress, which leads to a reduction in the life of the automat.


A car with an automatic control cannot be started using the “push” method. Why? Due to the specificity of the torque converter operation, such tests will be ineffective. In addition, due to the loads to which the timing and drive systems are subject in such cases, there may be – in the case of timing systems driven by a toothed belt – the timing phases are changed, and in the extreme case the belt breaks. You can also destroy the catalyst: attempts to start “pushing” cause the fuel to enter the exhaust system and, as a consequence, its irreversible damage.


Generally, vehicles equipped with an automatic transmission should not be towed, as this may damage it. If there is no other way out (it is not possible to transport the car on a tow truck), it can be towed over a short distance. However, you need to be prepared for towing: first of all, the gear lever must be in N position and the oil in the box must be filled above the maximum level. You can now start towing, remembering not to exceed 30-40 km / h while taking frequent breaks. The latter are necessary due to the fact that when the engine is switched off, the gearbox oil pump does not work (the wheel-driven gear elements are not sufficiently lubricated and thus exposed to excessive wear). If, as a result of a malfunction, there is no oil in the gearbox or it cannot be refilled due to its leakage, the vehicle may only be towed after disconnecting the transmission. How to do it? It is necessary to disassemble the drive shaft for the front drive or the rear drive shaft.


The basis for reliable operation of all types of automatic transmissions is periodic oil change. Among the fairy tales you can put assurances of some mechanics that in machines it is not replaceable. In the case of traditional gearboxes equipped with a torque converter, the oil should be changed (depending on the manufacturer’s recommendations) after 30 to 60 thousand runs. km. Why these differences? Mineral oil (the so-called red) is more often exchanged, used in older boxes, assembled among others in Opel or Renault. Synthetic oil (so-called yellow), which is used to fill BMW or Mercedes gears, is twice as long. It should be remembered that along with the oil, its filter must be changed, which – apart from its basic function – is also responsible for proper oil circulation (except for this is Ford Mondeo or Honda Accord, which are older every year, in which the filter is built inside the machines and replaced only during repairs).

What is breaking? Lack of periodic oil change leads to the accumulation of impurities that block the solenoid valves and over time lead to damage to the control unit. Due to improper operation of the automatic transmission (e.g. when trying to drive the car out of the bog or snowdrift), oil and gearbox may also overheat. Then seals and friction discs as well as the torque converter clutch are damaged.


In the case of this type of crates, replacement of used oil with new ones should take place after 60,000 runs. km, although some manufacturers recommend replacing after a twice as long mileage.

What is breaking? The biggest problem, due to the extensive mechatronics of double clutch constructions, are damaged clutches and dual-mass wheels. More often, the elements that make up the double clutch transmission fail. dry clutch (7-speed) than versions with wet clutch (6-speed).


This type of machines is much less sensitive to negligence due to the lack of periodic oil change – it is enough to do it every few years. In their case, however, remember to regularly change the fluid in the hydraulic clutch control system.

What is breaking? Potential damage is directly related to the mechanism of operation of the automated mechanical transmission. The transmission itself is not responsible for the failures, but its accessories. What is going on? Electric or hydraulic cylinders are responsible for selecting the appropriate gears. In particular, the latter are sensitive to mechanical damage. As a consequence, they change individual gears at inappropriate times, which causes engine throttling or going too high.

OIL CHANGE – continuously variable transmission

Also in this type of gearbox it is required to observe the periods of periodic oil change – in most cases it is recommended after mileages of 60,000. km. Attention! CVT transmissions are particularly sensitive to oil composition, therefore they require the application of oil specially designed for them – they must not be flooded with oil intended for hydraulically operated boxes (ATF)!

What is breaking? One of the most popular continuously variable transmissions available in our country is the Multitronic mounted on Audi vehicles. Its basic disadvantage is a much shorter service life compared to e.g. traditional gearboxes. Often after just 80,000 runs km is breaking the driver. Other defects are cracking and extending metal chains, clutch assembly and oil pump defects.


However, it turns out that the fault for the malfunctioning of the automatic transmission is not solely its component parts. This is also caused by problems with the electrical equipment of the motor, e.g. malfunctioning of the spark plugs, alternator or high voltage cables. Tuning also harms automata, especially chiptuning. In particular, increasing the engine power using the latter solution can affect the accelerated wear of individual components of the automatic transmission, and even cause irreparable damage.


What do the individual letters and numbers mean (depending on the type of transmission and vehicle model)?

  • D (drive) – after selecting this position, it is possible to drive forward in all available gears in a given transmission.
  • R (reverse) – reverse.
  • P (parking) – in this position, the ignition starts and turns off, and also leaves the vehicle on parking.
  • N (neutral) – so-called play, i.e. the position in which you can change individual gears or tow the vehicle.
  • 1, 2, 3 – special positions, locking gears, e.g. first gear or using only a specific gear.
  • S (sport) – the so-called sport mode, i.e. changing individual gears at the highest possible.
  • W (winter) speed – so-called winter mode, gear ratio intended for winter driving on slippery surfaces.
  • HOLD – special button activating gear lock. TEAM

Audi maniac, owner of and big fan of Audi cars. Maps, firmware, car audio installer
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