Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!
Susie writes: On the way home from work the other day in my 2010 Crown Victoria I began to notice what feels like a slipping clutch (I used to drive a car with a manual transmission) but my car has an automatic. When I pushed on the gas the engine would rev but the car felt like it wasn’t accelerating normally. This happened near home, luckily, and I got there ok and parked the car. I have not tried to drive it since and wanted to get your thoughts before I try to.
My reply: The first thing to do is not to drive it; your instincts were spot on. When an automatic begins to slip, it is sometimes just because of low fluid – if you’re lucky, because the fix is as easy as pouring in the correct amount of new fluid, which will only cost you a few bucks and takes no tools other than a funnel.
Automatic transmissions are hydraulic transmissions. They work of off fluid pressure. If the fluid is too low, the hydraulics don’t work – and the car doesn’t move. In general, if you lose more than two quarts or so, the transmission will begin to feel soggy and – as it loses more fluid – eventually it will “disconnect” entirely.
Fluid loss usually occurs via a leaky pan gasket, failed cooler line or a blown seal (usually at the front of the transmission, near the torque converter). All of these are relatively easy and relatively inexpensive fixes.
If you catch them in time.
The expensive fix comes from trying to drive the car with low transmission fluid. This can burn up the transmission in short order, something no amount of fresh fluid will fix.
So, the first thing to do is to check the fluid level. The dipstick is under the hood. If it is low, the next thing to do is fill the transmission to the correct level. The next thing after that is to see whether the transmission responds normally. If it does, the most important thing is to figure out where and why it is losing fluid – and correct that – before driving it again.
Hope this helps!
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