Ford Motor Company is one of the most recognized auto brands in the country and around the world. Well-known for its rugged F-Series truck line and SUVs like the Escape and Explorer, as well as the iconic Mustang and a range of passenger cars, Ford vehicles continue to be popular everywhere they're sold. Whether you have a Ford vehicle with a manual or automatic transmission, this important system in your car keeps your vehicle performing like it should. Find out more about how your transmission works and how to maintain it below.
Transmission Parts and How They Work
There are two main types of transmissions: manual and automatic. Within the automatic category, there are some other types as well, such as CVT (continuously variable transmission) or semi-automatic. The basic difference between a manual and automatic transmission is that the driver operates the clutch and shifting mechanism in the former type. In automatics, the shifting mechanism is only minimally operated by the driver. A typical setup is usually a reverse gear, a neutral gear, first and second gear and a drive gear. For manuals, first through four, five or even six is common. Some types of automatics allow manual shifting depending on driver preference. The main transmission parts are as follows:
- Bell housing
- Universal joint
- Clutch assembly
- Gears and gearbox
- Drive shaft
A transmission's basic job is to transmit engine power to the wheels and allow the driver to control it. The transmission converts the high power generated by the engine into a rotational force called torque. This force goes to the axles and the axles then rotate the wheels. Without a transmission, the engine, and thus the car, would be useless. This is because the wheels rotate at a much slower speed than the engine. The engine's high power couldn't be controlled without a transmission to control the speed and keep both the wheels and engine RPMs at an optimal rate.
Transmissions use toothed gears in the form of an input and output gear. These two gears interact with each other to generate torque. For example, if you have 20 toothed input gear and a 10 toothed output gear, the 10 toothed gear has to spin twice to rotate the input gear. This is called gear ratio. It illustrates how many times the output gear needs to rotate in order to cause the input gear to rotate once. This is only applicable to the drive gears, or forward gears.
In neutral, the engine is completely disconnected from the drive, which means the car can't move forward or backwards, unless it's on an incline. In reverse, the drive wheels go the opposite direction. In an automatic transmission's park gear, a latch is engaged to keep the wheels from turning.
In a manual transmission, the driver pushes the clutch in and selects the gear they want from the gear shift. The transmission should be shifted in order, so no going from first gear to third gear, for example. You typically shift when the engine winds up to a certain RPM level. This is usually somewhere between 3,000 and 5,000 RPMs. Shifting any lower could result in stalling. In an automatic transmission, the shifting happens through hydraulic pressure, which is why automatic transmissions have fluid and the quality of that fluid is extremely important to the transmission working properly.
Transmission Problems and Maintenance
Manual transmissions are far simpler than automatic transmissions and maintenance is usually also simple. The main part that may need replacement at some point is the clutch, and a lot of that depends on how you drive with it. Automatic transmissions, however, do need regular maintenance to keep them in good shape, as they are complex systems with a lot of moving parts. The biggest factor in the longevity of an automatic transmission lies more with the vehicle owner than the automaker. Here are five ways you can keep your automatic transmission in great shape.
1.Service your transmission regularly. Transmissions have fluid just like engine oil or brake fluid, and like these other fluids, contaminants build up over time and can damage the internal parts. A transmission should be serviced every 30,000 to 60,000 miles, which can be every two to five years, depending on how much you drive.
2.Don't drive on low transmission fluid. You wouldn't drive with low engine oil or brake fluid, so you shouldn't drive with low transmission fluid either. Avoid this by checking the transmission fluid regularly. Check the level and check how clean it is. Clean fluid is usually bright red, while dirty fluid will be dark and may even look burnt.
3.Use the right transmission fluid. Not all transmission fluid is the same and using the wrong type can affect hydraulic pressure as well as cooling.
4.Don't ignore problems with your transmission. One thing to understand about transmission problems and car problems in general, is that they don't get better or self-correct. In fact, the opposite is true. Not only do they get worse, but they are likely to affect other parts, thus setting up a bigger failure down the road and more expensive repair. Don't ignore transmission leaks, shifting problems or unusual noises from your transmission, but get them checked right away.
5.Don't let your transmission overheat. High temperatures are the bane of transmissions and keeping them at the correct operating temperature means paying attention the fluid. Low fluid or dirty fluid can cause transmissions to overheat, especially in stressful driving conditions such as towing.
These mostly apply to automatic transmissions as manuals need very little maintenance.
Q: How do I make my transmission last longer?
A: Get it serviced regularly, check the fluid regularly and pay attention to any odd noises or issues with shifting and get them checked out right away.
Q: What can damage my transmission?
A: Not letting your engine warm up before driving, especially during colder months. It typically takes only a few minutes for transmission fluid to warm up to operating temperature. It's also important to come to a full stop before putting your vehicle into reverse on an automatic transmission. Reversing while your vehicle is still moving can damage the gears. This obviously isn't an issue in manual transmissions.
Q: What are some signs of transmission problems?
A: The top sign is shifting problems such as a delay in shifting, an unexpected shift or a rough shift where it "clunks" into gear. You may also experience slipping out of gear while driving, transmission fluid leaks or sounds like humming, whining, grinding or chattering. In extreme cases, the vehicle may not go into gear at all.
Q: Why is automatic transmission repair so expensive?
A: Automatic transmissions are extremely complex systems, with modern ones having as many as 3,000 parts. Simply pulling the transmission to find the damaged parts is an all-day job. Avoid expensive transmission repairs by having it service regularly and keeping up with maintenance.
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