Changing Gears with an Automatic Transmission

gear selector Key Transmission & Gear DenverHave you ever wondered about changing gears with an automatic transmission? Key Transmission and Gears in Englewood, Colorado has the answers for you. Even though you don’t change all the gears like in a manual vehicle, you still have some control over the gears. Knowing when to shift will help improve the power and efficiency of your car, truck or SUV’s engine. 

Use the RPMs

The computer in your car understands how to shift the transmission according to the revolutions per minute or RPM. If the RPM goes up too high, the computer upshifts. Conversely, if the RPM drops too low, the computer sends the signal to downshift.

If you want to get your transmission to upshift, simply stomp down on the gas pedal until the RPM goes high enough to shift. Then ease off the pedal, so you don’t go rocketing down the highway. You may have already unintentionally used this tactic when you wanted a burst of speed to pass someone.

You can also do the opposite. If you want your transmission to downshift, let off the gas pedal. Once the RPM drops low enough, the transmission will shift down.

Use the Lever

Depending on your vehicle, you may have noticed that the transmission lever has more settings than the ones you typically use. You probably use park, reverse, and drive all the time and neutral on occasion. But have you ever noticed that there are a couple more after drive? These are usually labeled with numbers or simply an L. These are your extra low, strong gears.

Here’s when you might need to use them.

Towing

The computer on your vehicle’s engine is calibrated to the weight of your car and makes the gears shift based on that number. When you add extra weight to your vehicle, the computer doesn’t know that and often ends up choosing a gear that is too high for your current load. If you’re towing a trailer, boat or other toys, you’ll want to force it to drop down by changing gears with an automatic transmission.

Going Uphill

Even though you don’t actually add extra weight, when you go up a steep hill gravity essentially makes your vehicle heavier. This puts added torque on your engine that you can balance by using a lower gear.

Going Downhill

You might be wondering why you would use these lower gears to go downhill. Obviously, the load on your engine has been lessened quite a bit. You don’t need extra torque from the transmission, what you need are good brakes, right? Not so fast.

Instead of riding your brakes down a steep hill, which can be dangerous if they overheat, downshift. Changing gears with an automatic transmission (to a lower gear) helps to brake your engine, which slows you down without having to use the actual brakes. Knowing how to use this feature can really save your brakes in mountain driving.

We hope these tips from Key Transmission and Gears have been helpful. Now that you understand more about changing gears with an automatic transmission you may actually put those extra gears to use if you decide to head up into the mountains or tow a sweet teardrop trailer for your summer road trip. While driving a car with an automatic transmission is not as complicated as a manual, knowing these little tricks can help your engine run more efficiently and cause less wear and tear on your vehicle.

How to Damage a Transmission

transmission Key Transmission & Gear DenverYou’ve probably never wondered how to damage a transmission. So, Key Transmission and Gears in Englewood, Colorado has the information you need to prevent inadvertently running up costly repairs. All you have to do is avoid making a few of these common driving mistakes to keep your transmission in great shape. It will save you from headaches and expenses that are entirely avoidable.

Take a look below to see how to damage a transmission so you can do the exact opposite and give your vehicle the proper care it needs.

Let Your Transmission Overheat

A great way to damage this vital component is to let your transmission overheat. Better yet, do it a few times. Transmissions are designed to withstand up to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Excessive heat does so much damage to a transmission that for every 20 degrees over 200 your transmission goes up, it can cut its life expectancy by a factor of 2.

Don’t Maintain or Top Off Transmission Fluid

A big part of the transmission fluid’s job is to keep your transmission cool and lubricated. Without sufficient fluid, the components inside the transmission begin to grind against each other. This can cause both damage and overheating. If you want your transmission to die quick, let the fluid run low.

Your transmission also needs clean fluid. Dirty transmission fluid can eventually cause failure at the seals and gaskets. Using the wrong fluid can cause just as many problems.

Gun Your Engine When Starting Out

Abrupt starts cause your engine to work extra hard, and therefore produce a lot of excess heat. This is going to cause your transmission to overheat quicker.

Use Your Shift Lever Incorrectly

To put some excess strain on your transmission, use your shift lever for actions it is not designed for. For example, braking or stopping the transmission.

You can also use the parking designation on the shift lever to keep your vehicle stopped and not engage the parking brake. That way if something bumps your car (even gently) you can break the parking pawl in the transmission.

You’re supposed to stop your car before changing directions. But using the shift lever to switch from drive to reverse is a great way to damage the internal workings of the transmission.

Tow Your Car with Drive Wheels on the Ground

If you ever need to tow your car, you have an excellent opportunity to damage the transmission, clutch, and bands. Simply tow it with the drive wheels on the ground. For example, if your car is front wheel drive, put the front wheels on the ground. If your vehicle is rear-wheel drive, do the opposite. If your car is all wheel drive, it doesn’t matter. Put some or all of the wheels on the ground, and you’re sure to do some damage.

We hope you have enjoyed our take on how to damage a transmission. Many of these habits are easy to avoid, as long as you know what to avoid. With good driving habits, you can help your transmission work properly for many, many miles. If you have damaged your transmission, we won’t judge. Just bring your car to Key Transmission and Gears in Englewood, Colorado for honest, expert repairs.

Different Types of Transmissions

Different Types of Transmissions Key Transmission & Gear DenverDid you know that there are 3 different types of transmissions? Today, our experts at Key Transmission and Gears in Englewood, Colorado, will tell you all about them. Most people at least know that there are 2 basic types, manual and automatic. The third is called a continuously variable transmission or CVT. Let’s talk about what a transmission does, and then we’ll give a quick description of all three types.

Transmissions

A transmission is your car’s method of channeling power from the engine to the wheels. In other words, torque comes from the engine through an input shaft into the transmission. It passes through the gears of the transmission and is then transferred to the wheels by way of an output shaft.

Different gears control your car at different speeds. Each gear has its own specific ratio that turns your wheels at just the right speed, even in relation to each other. And as we said, there are 3 different types of transmissions.

Manual Transmissions

In a vehicle with a manual transmission, the driver is responsible for changing the gears. We disengage the gears by pressing the clutch pedal and then shift between them with a stick on the console. Back in the day, the stick was sometimes on the steering wheel but in modern cars, you’ll find it on the console.

Many people like the control that this gives them over a vehicle. They can control the exact point when their vehicle shifts gears. In most cases, this design offers better gas mileage which is another plus.

Automatic Transmissions

The automatic transmission does all the work for you. The transmission still has various gears, but you don’t have to switch between them. Multiple sensors in the vehicle monitor specific parameters and change gears accordingly.

Automatic transmissions tend to be more comfortable to drive, particularly if you spend a lot of time in stop and go traffic. They also usually require less maintenance than manuals which is a nice bonus.

Continuously Variable Transmissions

This transmission is steadily gaining popularity in the US, but you may not have run into it yet. Instead of gears, the CVT uses belts and pulleys that give the ability to have an infinite number of ratios.

In short, the transmission never has to shift. Some people find this disconcerting if they are familiar driving one of the other two types of transmissions. Always test drive a car before you buy. Some people just can’t get used to a CVT.

Needless to say, the ride is generally smoother, and the vehicle gets better gas mileage. This type of transmission is already commonly seen in scooters, motorcycles, and snowmobiles. Because of the smoothness, they’re also being seen more and more in hybrid cars.

Want upkeep or repair on any of the different types of transmissions? That’s what Key Transmission and Gears in Englewood is here for. With over 20 years of experience with all things transmissions, we’re certainly qualified to provide our expertise. Give us a call to schedule an appointment or stop by the shop.

Driving with Transmission Issues

Driving with Transmission Issues Key Transmission & Gear DenverHow much do you know about driving with transmission issues? Our staff here at Key Transmission and Gears in Englewood, Colorado have put together a bit of information for you.

How do you know that something might be wrong with your transmission? Is it safe to keep driving your car if you feel the automatic transmission slipping? Let’s take a look at a few signs that your transmission is not in great shape and what could be happening with this crucial component.

It Changes Gears When It Shouldn’t

When an automatic transmission changes gears, you can usually hear a noise or change in pitch. If you start hearing that noise when your transmission shouldn’t be changing gears, such as driving on a flat road at a steady speed, that’s an indication that you’re driving with transmission issues.

Rough Gear Changes

While it is normal to hear a change in pitch when an automatic transmission switches gears, clunking or thudding is not. Also, notice if you feel unusual or more pronounced vibrations. These are indications that the gears are not changing smoothly. You also may find that the vehicle doesn’t accelerate well due to difficulty with the gear changes. These should be fluid, and the vehicle shouldn’t jerk or shake.

Vehicle is Less Responsive

When you shift from park to drive, a car should respond and begin moving right away. If you experience a significant delay, that’s an indication your transmission isn’t functioning correctly. Your engine may rev up and sound like it’s doing something, but your car won’t go anywhere for a time. This is unacceptable.

Low Fluid Level

The first thing to do if you notice that the transmission is slipping is to check your transmission fluid. Put the vehicle in park and leave it idling while checking the fluid level. The transmission has a dipstick to see the fluid level. If you find that it is low, give us a call immediately to service the transmission fluid.

Fluid Leak

Sometimes the fluid level is just low. But sometimes there is a reason, such as a leak. You can often tell if you have a leak by simply checking your garage floor. Transmission fluid is red, and a significant leak will leave marks under where your car is usually parked. If you notice these spots and transmission slipping symptoms, you can be very sure there is a leak. In that case, have an expert take a look.

So, should you continue driving with any of these transmission issues? It’s not recommended. If it’s bad enough, your vehicle could be quite unsafe. You don’t want your vehicle unexpectedly changing gears at random moments. It’s dangerous and could end up causing extensive damage to your engine.

Be sure to have your transmission checked out by the experts. We here at Key Transmission and Gears have over 20 years of experience working on transmissions. We have the knowledge necessary to get you safely back on the road again. Give us a call today and don’t risk driving with transmission issues.

Signs You Need a Car Alignment

Signs You Need a Car Alignment Key Transmission & Gear DenverWhat are the signs you need a car alignment? At Key Transmission and Gears in Englewood, Colorado we have put together this handy list since it’s a question we hear often. Car alignment is an easy process, and you’ll save yourself a big headache down the road by addressing it sooner than later. For example, you may have to buy all new tires if you drive for too long with your car out of alignment because they will wear unevenly.

So let’s get to it. Here are 5 signs you need a car alignment:

  1. Steering Wheel Not Centered

When driving on a straight, flat surface, your steering wheel should be perfectly centered. Or close to it at least. The vehicle’s emblem that is usually in the center of the steering wheel should be level. If your steering wheel has to be turned to go straight down a straight road, that’s an indication that your car is not aligned correctly.

  1. The Car Pulls One Way or the Other

Some people still check their alignment by letting go of the steering wheel on a straight road and seeing if the car continues straight. The truth is that not only is this dangerous as you should never let go of the steering wheel entirely but also road conditions may make the car pull a little.

A better way to check is to see if the vehicle will drive straight but with very minimal effort on your part, to keep the steering wheel from turning. You can do this at a slower speed, perhaps in a parking lot or on a quiet street.

  1. Tire Wear

Remember that we mentioned driving a car out of alignment causes wear on the tires? It can cause all sorts of different wear patterns. If you notice that your tires are not wearing evenly, be sure to check the alignment of your car. Being out of alignment is not the only problem that can cause tire wear. A knowledgeable mechanic can make a good guess as to what the issue is just by examining the wear pattern.

  1. Loose Handling

Some vehicles naturally have more play in the steering wheel than others. However, if your vehicle has unusually loose handling, especially around corners and such, the alignment may be to blame. Be sure to have it checked quickly to ensure maximum safety on the road.

  1. Steering Wheel Doesn’t Return to Center

After completing a turn, the steering wheel in a properly aligned vehicle will seek to go back to center. Of course, you should never let go and let the car straighten itself on its own. But if the steering wheel doesn’t even attempt to seek center, that’s an indication that your vehicle is out of alignment.

As soon as you notice one or more of these signs you need a car alignment, bring your car in. Driving a vehicle out of alignment for an extended period will eventually cause a host of other problems, not just with your tires. If you need help or further advice related to your vehicle, don’t hesitate to give us a call here at Key Transmission and Gears. We’re here to serve you!

Manual Versus Automatic Transmissions

Manual Versus Automatic Transmissions Key Transmission and Gears EnglewoodToday, the experts at Key Transmissions and Gears in Englewood give you a quick primer on manual versus automatic transmissions. While most cars seem to come as automatics these days, there are still manuals available. Even if you don’t know how to drive one, you may be inclined to learn how so that you can enjoy some of the fun that comes with it. Then again, an automatics do have their own advantages, so let’s take a look at a few of the differences.

Ease of Use

As we said, when it comes to manual versus automatic transmissions, the most prominent issue is that a lot of people simply don’t know how to drive them. Manuals are more complicated to learn than automatics, and you have to be relatively coordinated to learn how to do it well.

Gas Mileage

Manuals typically win out over automatics in this department. Vehicles equipped with a manual transmission almost always get better gas mileage than vehicles equipped with an automatic. Of course, it can depend on how you drive it – speed being a major factor.

Other people driving your car

Fewer and fewer people know how to drive vehicles with manual transmissions these days so if you have one, that lowers the pool of people that can drive your car. This can either be a good thing or a bad thing. For example, if you’re injured (or had a little too much to drink at a party) the friend you would like to drive your car, may not know how to. On the flip side, your vehicle is less likely to be stolen as not all thieves know how to drive a manual.

Traffic

If you spend a lot of time in stop and go traffic, an automatic transmission will make your life so much easier. Instead of having to go through all the steps (clutch in, shift gears, clutch out) every time you crawl forward 10 feet you can simply take your foot off the brake.

Cost

Automatic transmissions are more complicated than their manual counterparts. Because of this, they tend to cost more at the outset. They require more transmission maintenance due to a more complex design. Add that to the reduced gas mileage, and you find that you can be paying quite a bit for the extra comfort that driving an automatic provides.

Fun

Because you have more control over a vehicle with a manual transmission, they are more fun to drive. In general, it can make you feel like a star in The Fast and the Furious to be picking up speed on the freeway and shifting gears. Just don’t have too much fun or you might end up with a speeding ticket.

Safety

A vehicle with an automatic transmission is a little bit safer to drive than one with a manual. The reason for this is that you can keep both hands on the wheel and more attention on the road because you don’t have to worry about the gears. However, once you become fluent in manual driving, this becomes less of a factor.

If you have questions about manual versus automatic transmissions, feel free to talk to our staff here at Key Transmission and Gears. And no matter what you drive, trust that our certified technicians know your transmission inside and out. We offer expert maintenance and repair right here at our shop in Englewood, Colorado.

5 Easy Ways to Damage Your Transmission

5 Easy Ways to Damage Your Transmission Key Transmission & Gear DenverToday, Key Transmission and Gears in Englewood, Colorado offers these 5 easy ways to damage your transmission. It may surprise you to know this, but the life of a transmission is far more dependent on the care and maintenance it receives then how it was manufactured. The good thing about this is that by simply avoiding the few mistakes we’ve listed below, you can help your transmission perform its best and last longer.

  1. Not servicing your transmission

The fluid running through your transmission is constantly cleaning the system. That means that eventually, the fluid will accumulate a buildup of dirt and other contaminants. Having your transmission serviced is both easy and important. If it isn’t cleaned out in a timely manner, the transmission will begin to run sluggish and eventually fail altogether.

To avoid transmission failure, simply change the fluid or flush the system at the appropriate interval. Transmissions should be serviced once every 30,000-60,000 miles. Depending on use and driving conditions, this translates to approximately every 2-5 years for most vehicles.

  1. Not using the correct fluid

Transmission fluid is available in different viscosities and with various additives. Ensure that you put the right kind in your transmission or it will not function properly. Check the manual to find out which kind of transmission fluid your transmission requires.

  1. Not keeping the fluid level up

Transmission fluid has several important functions, lubricating the moving parts, providing hydraulic pressure and keeping the system cool. If you don’t have a high enough level of fluid, there won’t be enough to perform all its functions successfully. Run it long enough like this and you’ll make the list of 5 easy ways to damage your transmission.

  1. Not fixing problems

Sometimes people think if they just ignore problems with their engines, those problems will go away. That is generally not the case. If you’re having trouble changing gears, the gears are slipping or grinding, or you see dark red stains on your driveway–don’t ignore these signs. Sure, it’s an inconvenience to get your transmission fixed but if you keep driving your vehicle in that state, more issues can occur, costing you more time and money in the long run.

  1. Not keeping it cool

About 90% of all transmission failures are caused by the transmission overheating. On average a 20-degree increase in fluid temperature can reduce the lifespan of your transmission by up to half. Therefore, if you keep the transmission fluid temperature down you’ll be adding years to the life of your transmission.

We hope that you’ll take our advice and avoid these 5 easy ways to damage your transmission! As always if you have any questions or doubts, you can speak to one of the knowledgeable experts here at Key Transmission and Gears in Englewood, Colorado. Also, if you’re noticing one of the problems mentioned here, we recommend bringing your vehicle in immediately before anything worse happens. We’ll be happy to take a look and get you back driving again as quickly as possible!

Get to Know Your Car’s Suspension System

get to know your car’s suspension systemWith this helpful article from Key Transmission and Gears in Englewood, Colorado, you can get to know your car’s suspension system. You don’t have to be an expert but it is interesting to at least learn a little bit about how the different systems in your vehicle function. Have you ever stopped to think about what the suspension system does, or why it is important? Well, you’re about to find out.

There is no doubt that the various engine systems are invaluable and, of course, your car wouldn’t function well or at all without them. But the suspension system plays a critical role as well, and you wouldn’t be able to drive your car without it safely.

The purpose of a vehicle’s suspension system is to increase the friction between the tires of your car and the road. In so doing, the tires better grip the road, lessening the chance of your tires slipping and providing safer handling and significantly improved stability.

Suspension systems would be unnecessary if the roads here in Englewood and Sheridan were perfectly flat, but we all know that is not true. Even freshly laid asphalt has a certain amount of irregularity to it.

To get to know your car’s suspension system, let’s think back to high school science for a moment. Newton’s laws of motion state that all forces have magnitude and direction. This means that when your tires hit a bump in the road the force created has a magnitude (higher magnitudes at greater speeds or for bigger bumps and lower for the opposite) and a direction (perpendicular to the road).

If the magnitude is sufficient, the tire could even leave the road and come slamming back down onto the pavement, uncomfortable, jostling the occupants of your vehicle. Therefore, your car needs some system that allows the wheels to bounce and absorb the shock and while still creating a smooth ride for the vehicle’s occupants. That’s your suspension system.

The vehicle is also subject to forward and backward forces during acceleration and deceleration and side-to-side forces when taking turns. The suspension system is responsible for redistributing the weight so that the vehicle better handles those forces.

For example, when accelerating, the weight of the vehicle will naturally squat back putting more weight on the back tires and leaving the front tires lighter and with worse contact to the road. The suspension system actively works to pull the weight of the car forward and minimize the weight transfer during acceleration as much as possible. The same applies to stopping and side-to-side forces in turning.

All of this is referred to as the car’s handling. The better a car handles, the safer it is to drive, the more stable it is at higher speeds (i.e. the car is less likely to flip over during turns) and the smoother ride the occupants of the vehicle will enjoy. Nobody is going to complain about that!

There is a whole lot more to explain if you want to get to know your car’s suspension system, but this overview from our experts at Key Transmission and Gears will at least help you understand the basics.

Top 10 Transmission Problems

Top 10 Transmission ProblemsTo help our customers get better acquainted with their vehicles, Key Transmission and Gears offers this list of the top 10 transmission problems. Of course, we’re always on hand to diagnose and address any issues you come across. But being aware of some of these transmission symptoms can help you avoid serious problems and more expensive repairs.

  1. Lack of Response

Cars with automatic transmissions should immediately engage when you shift into park or drive. A hesitation is an indication of something wrong. In manual transmissions, you may notice that the engine’s RPM’s rev up but the vehicle isn’t moving at the rate that the engine sounds like it’s going. Usually, this points to a clutch needing replacement.

  1. Unusual Noises

Sounds are difficult to diagnose, but if the transmission causes the noises, you will hear something you’ve never noticed before. A telltale indication that the sound is coming from or caused by the transmission is if it happens during shifting.

  1. Leaking or Low Fluid

If your transmission is low on fluid and you don’t do anything about it, there will most certainly be problems. If you notice red liquid pooling under your vehicle when parked, there is probably a leak.

  1. Grinding or Shaking

Gear changes should be smooth. If you notice that the gears in a manual transmission are grinding into place when you shift, or the gears in an automatic one are shaking into place, there is probably something amiss.

  1. Burning Smell

A burning smell coming from your engine is never a good sign. In some cases, it can be the transmission fluid burning off. If you let it go too long, the transmission can get seriously damaged.

  1. Won’t Go into Gear

Sometimes it won’t go into gear at all. This could be a lack of fluid, or the computer system is malfunctioning. Check the fluid level, and you can try resetting the computer system to see if that fixes the problem.

  1. Check Engine Light

While the check engine light comes on for many issues, it deserves a spot on our top 10 transmission problems list. Yes, that light can point to transmission troubles, so you should never ignore it.

  1. Noisy in Neutral

If you notice that your transmission is noisy in neutral, it could just be that it is low on fluid. If not, get it to a mechanic soon. 

  1. Slipping Gears

Gears should not ever slip out on their own. If that is happening, have your vehicle checked immediately as this is a severe safety issue.

  1. Clutch Drags

Sometimes in manual transmissions, the clutch is too loose, and the flywheel doesn’t disengage as it should when the clutch is pressed. You’ll notice this by grinding noises when you try to shift and in some cases, you may not be able to shift at all.

This is just a quick overview of the top 10 transmission problems that you can run into. If you notice any of these, or that something is out of whack with your vehicle, be sure to give us a call here at Key Transmission and Gears. Our experts can check it out and hopefully prevent a small problem from becoming a serious one.

Comparing Front and Rear Wheel Drive, AWD & 4WD, Part 2

Comparing Front and Rear Wheel Drive, AWD & 4WD, Part 2In today’s article from Key Transmission and Gears, we’re comparing front and rear wheel drive, AWD & 4WD, Part 2. Last time we talked about front wheel and rear wheel drive to help our customers understand the differences between these two types. This article will now explain the difference between all-wheel drive and four-wheel drive.

From just the names of these two types of drives, you may be wondering what the difference is. Logically, since most vehicles consist of four wheels, all-wheel drive and 4-wheel drive kind of sound like the same thing. However, they do function differently, and each serves a slightly different purpose.

Four Wheel Drive

In the last article, we explained the purpose of a differential. If you didn’t catch it, here’s what you need to know. Any time that your wheels are not going in a totally straight line (a turn) one wheel must travel farther than the other. Therefore, the wheels should have the ability to turn at a different speed from each other. The same is also true when all 4 wheels are providing driving force. Front and back, as well as side to side, needs the capability to turn at just the right speed to move the vehicle without breaking anything on the drivetrain.

So, now that we’ve got that explanation out of the way, let’s talk about the typical four-wheel drive system. Most of the time the vehicle operates in two-wheel drive (usually the rear wheels) and the front wheels are only engaged when the four-wheel drive system is locked in.

Four-wheel drive systems are designed for use on low-traction surfaces (snow, ice, loose rock, etc.). The slippage provided by these surfaces allow for the wheels to rotate at the right speeds without breaking anything on the drivetrain. This means that if you try to use four-wheel drive on a good surface, you could possibly damage or break something on either the tires or the drive train and have to bring it to our shop for immediate car repairs. 

All Wheel Drive

And that’s where all wheel drive comes in. There are a variety of all-wheel drive systems available, but the basic premise of each is to allow power to be sent to all four wheels and give each wheel the ability to rotate at the exact speed necessary to provide the driving force to the wheel without harming the tire or the drivetrain.

The benefit of these types of systems is that it is on all the time and the driver doesn’t have to worry about locking anything in to be in four-wheel drive. However, if your purpose is for heavy duty off-roading and you need rugged four-wheel drive, you should opt for an actual four-wheel drive system.

We hope this article comparing front and rear wheel drive, AWD & 4WD, part 2 has been helpful to you. For the front and rear wheel comparison, be sure to check out the first article we posted. We here at Key Transmission and Gears, simply want for our customers to have the best driving experience possible and sometimes a little extra car knowledge comes in handy.