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Keep your vehicles’ gears shifting smoothly with the right fluid

The transmission is one of the most important – and complex – systems in a vehicle. It is responsible for literally making a car move by receiving the power from the engine, converting it into torque, and transmitting this rotational power to the wheels.

Transmission repairs are notoriously one of the most expensive and complicated repairs a vehicle owner can face. Therefore, keeping the transmission in good shape and using the right transmission fluid is critical to the safe and efficient operation of any modern vehicle.

How does a transmission work?

The transmission uses a series of gear ratios to keep a vehicle’s engine spinning at an optimal rate (neither too slow nor too fast), while simultaneously providing the wheels with the right amount of power they need to start, move, and stop the car.

The transmission acts like a power switchboard for the car: It increases torque to accelerate away from a stop, prevents the engine from working too hard at highway speeds, and disconnects the engine power from the drivetrain to allow a car to idle without moving.

There are 4 types of transmissions

Manual Transmission

The simplest and oldest type of transmission is the trusty manual. The driver controls the gearbox by using a foot-controlled clutch to engage and disengage the engine from the wheels and a manual gear shifter to change the gears.

Automatic Transmission

While manual transmissions are mechanically simpler, automatic transmission are easier to use. Instead of the driver changing gears with a clutch and gear shifter, an automatic transmission uses a highly complex torque converter and a series of computer-controlled gear sets, clutches, and brakes to automatically shift gears up and down. The complexity, number of moving parts, and computer system needed for automatic transmissions can lead to expensive repairs, if not maintained properly.

Automated Manual Transmission

Like a manual transmission, an automated manual also employs a mechanical clutch. However, the clutch is automated using electronic, pneumatic, or hydraulic controls. Sometimes referred to as a “Direct Shift Gearbox” (“DSG”) or a “Sequential Manual Gearbox” (“SMG”), this transmission allows for either fully automatic forward gear shifts or manual shifts through the gear selector or through buttons or paddles on the steering wheel. A Dual Clutch transmission is an example of this type of transmission.

Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT)

The CVT is similar to an automatic transmission, but it operates using a completely different mechanism. The CVT doesn’t have gears at all — instead, it uses a system of belts and pulleys to produce an infinite range of ratios. The car’s computer decides how to adjust the pulleys to create the optimal ratio for the particular driving situation.

What does transmission fluid do?

In order for your transmission to work properly, it can’t have any of its metal parts grinding against one another. Similar to motor oil, transmission fluid acts as a lubricant between the transmission’s moving parts to facilitate smooth operation and to keep the transmission lubricated, clean, cool, sealed, and most importantly, transferring power.

Typically, transmission fluid needs to be changed every 30k-100k miles, depending on manufacturer recommendations. It will need to be changed more often on cars driven in high-stress conditions, such as frequent stop-and-go city driving, towing heavy loads, or driving up and down hills regularly.

How to choose the right transmission fluid

Since the transmission is one of the most complex systems in a vehicle, choosing the correct fluid is critical to preventing damage and ensuring the best performance and fuel economy. Today’s modern transmission fluids are typically blended with synthetic base oils to offer better performance, with improved resistance to heat, cold, oxidation, friction, and shearing. Here are the most common types of transmission fluids and what makes them different:

GM DEXRON®/ MERCON® V (Ford) / ATF+4® (Chrysler)

  • These automatic transmission fluids are the most common on the market and were designed and licensed exclusively by GM, Ford, and Chrysler. These fluids are formulated for the newest transmission technologies in today’s modern cars. They also can be used in many imported vehicles, according to manufacturer recommendations. All three include friction modifiers, which reduce the friction in lubricated parts.
  • Our full-synthetic, low-viscosity transmission fluid is approved for use in passenger car and light truck automatic transmissions that require a Ford MERCON LV or GM DEXRON-VI fluid. It also is recommended for use in Toyota vehicles where a Type WS fluid is specified, and in many newer import vehicles.
  • Our high-quality transmission fluid is recommended for use in all domestic and import vehicles no longer under warranty where the OEM previously specified a GM DEXRON®-III H or Ford MERCON® fluid.

Multi-Vehicle Synthetic Transmission Fluid

Multi-vehicle transmission fluids are becoming more and more popular. They were designed for a wide range of automatic transmission types. While not licensed by any specific auto manufacturer, they are designed to provide superior performance and protection. They are formulated with the latest additive technologies and typically use synthetic base oils.

  • This premium quality, part-synthetic transmission fluid is specially designed for use in automatic transmissions in most passenger cars and light trucks. It has been extensively field-tested for use in most North American vehicles and in a wide variety of European and Japanese vehicles.

Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) Fluid

More manufacturers are using CVT transmissions in new cars due to their exceptional fuel economy. CVT transmissions require specialized fluids that are formulated with the correct frictional requirements to ensure the belt or chain remains in contact with the pulleys without slipping. Because of this, CVTs require specialized CVT transmissions fluids, and not traditional automatic or manual transmission fluids.

  • Our premium quality, full-synthetic transmission fluid is specifically designed for use in passenger cars and trucks with belt- and chain-driven continuously variable transmissions as well as step-type automatic transmissions. It’s engineered with unique frictional properties required for protection and performance across all three types of transmissions. With more than 1 million miles of on-road testing, it delivers proven performance in CVT and step-type automatic transmissions.
  • Our premium quality, full-synthetic transmission fluid is specifically designed for use in passenger cars with belt-driven continuously variable transmissions. It has been engineered to have the unique frictional properties required for use in this type of transmission.
    Our automatic transmission fluid engineers have been working to redefine the term smooth-shifting. As a result, our ATF products are all specifically formulated to ensure long service life and provide consistently smooth shifting performance. Plus, every product is extremely shear stable, and holds excellent oxidation resistance. Use Kendall for maximum anti-shudder performance, excellent low-temperature properties, and easier shifting in cold weather.