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Automotive Maintenance

There's more to automotive maintenance than changing your oil—there are other fluids, too. Learn how to keep your transmission cool with automatic transmission fluids.

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There's More to
Automotive Maintenance than Changing Your Oil

There Are Other Fluids, Too

by Kara Bishop—NOLN Staff Writer

The ABCs of ATF

We hardly notice our vehicle shifting gears while we're driving anymore (that is if your vehicle has an automatic transmission), but it still works hard to shift smoothly for you—and no matter how quiet and comfortable it feels, if service is neglected, the shifting won't be as smooth.We hardly notice our vehcles shifting gears while we're driving

ATF, or automatic transmission fluid, is similar to motor oil: it lubricates, cleans and holds contaminates in suspension until they can be filtered out when the ATF is replaced. It's also designed to flow at extreme temperatures, meaning your car will start moving regardless of whether it's 120° F or minus -15° F outside.

However, there are also big differences. For starters, ATF needs to be able to handle heat-extreme heat. While certain parts of your car's engine may hit temperatures as high as 400° F to 600° F-there's no wonder why these areas are called "hot spots"—the hot spots inside today's automatic transmissions can reach temperatures as high as 800° F. At that temperature the fluid can actually turn into vapor, and if the fluid isn't robust it can, over time, coat the transmission with a layer of varnish or sludge. This will change the frictional characteristics of the transmission—you'll be able to notice some shifting translating into quite the bumpy ride!

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