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Be Prepared for Winter Driving

Prepare Your Car for Winter

Besides checking the weather, it’s important to have O’Neill Auto & Transmission Service check the condition of the following vehicle systems before heading out on the road:

  • Ignition
  • Brakes
  • Wiring
  • Hoses and fan belts
  • Spark plugs
  • Air, fuel and emissions filters, and PCV valve
  • Distributor
  • Battery
  • Tire wear and air pressure
  • Antifreeze level and freeze line

Don’t Leave Home Without These

In an emergency situation, in addition to a full tank of gas and fresh antifreeze, the National Safety Council recommends having these with you at all times:

  • Properly inflated spare tire, wheel wrench, and tripod jack
  • Shovel
  • Jumper cables
  • Tow and tire chains
  • Bag of salt or cat litter for better tire traction or to melt snow
  • Toolkit
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • Reflective triangles or flares
  • Compass
  • First aid kit
  • Windshield cleaner
  • Ice scraper and snow brush
  • Matches in a waterproof container
  • Scissors and string or cord
  • Nonperishable, high-energy foods like unsalted, canned nuts, dried fruits, and hard candy
  • Blankets, mittens, socks, and hats

Winter road trips – even short ones – are a great way to celebrate with family and friends. Being prepared can ensure a safe and happy time is had by all.

What To Know About Your Car’s Transmission

Taking care of your car or truck’s transmission is important for its long-term health. But all too often, car owners misunderstand the basic maintenance that’s needed to keep a gearbox running smoothly.

Do You Need to Have the Transmission Fluid Changed?

The simple answer is yes. But service intervals for new vehicles can exceed 100,000 miles before this needs to be done. Getting the fluid replaced is certainly going to cost you less than replacing a transmission that has been left in the lurch by skimping on service requirements. Failing to properly maintain your car’s transmission could leave you stranded and with a big repair bill.

Other than regular service, your transmission might be due for some important repairs—or have an extended warranty—because of a past recall.

How Often Do You Need to Have the Transmission Fluid Changed?

The best advice is to know your car and the manufacturer’s recommended service intervals. It’s worth noting that intervals for changing transmission fluid vary widely. For some cars and trucks, it can range from as little as 30,000 miles to more than 100,000 miles. Some new vehicles, especially those fitted with automatic gearboxes, have transmissions that are almost sealed shut, with fluid that’s meant to last the lifetime of the car. It is worth noting that even on these units though, a drain plug is provided for servicing.

Most CVTs (continuously variable transmissions) need inspections and/or fluid changes. We advise owners to refer to the owner’s manual for specific guidance and to keep records of related services. You can always give us a call at O’Neill auto & Transmission Service, we would be happy to advise you.

Remember that unlike engine oil, transmission fluid should never burn off. And a tell-tale sign of a transmission leak is a puddle of red liquid on the ground, usually under the middle or front of the car.

Should Your Mechanic Flush the Transmission Fluid?

First, it’s helpful to understand the role transmission fluid plays in a car’s operation. Transmission fluid helps keep mechanical components cool and lubricated, whether the gearbox is automatic or manual. Over time, the transmission’s interior components wear down, and tiny particles contaminate the fluid. This could potentially lead to damage.

Getting rid of this dirty fluid makes sense, right? If it’s called for in the service manual, go ahead and let your mechanic do the job. There is also a distinction between simply draining and refilling a transmission vs. power-flushing the system.

Does a Manual Transmission Need Fluid, Too?

Yes, even a manual needs transmission fluid. The type of fluid can vary from car to car, however. Some manuals require conventional engine oil, and others function best with automatic transmission fluid. So make sure you’re putting in the fluid that’s specified for your car.

How Do You Know Whether the Transmission Fluid Needs to Be Changed?

Checking transmission fluid isn’t always easy. In many cases, it’s necessary to have a mechanic put your car on a lift for examination. Some cars have a transmission dipstick or reservoir in the engine bay, so check under the hood first. Even though fluid levels might look fine, it could be more difficult to discern whether there are pollutants or small metal particles in the fluid.

Separating transmission maintenance from breakdowns is trickier. In a malfunctioning automatic, gearshifts might become more abrupt and occur at awkward intervals. For a car with a manual gearbox, the feel and action of the gear lever could become stiffer and balkier in regular daily operation. These types of problems probably indicate an issue with the gearbox itself. If you experience any of them, let your mechanic know right away.

Is Changing the Transmission Fluid an Easy DIY Job?

It can be a complicated and messy task for the average car owner. Accessing the transmission can require ramps, jack stands, or a lift. Many modern cars have transmissions that are basically sealed tight or require a dealer’s service computer to read temperature or other parameters, making them all but impossible to work on for the average do-it-yourselfer. Trust our transmission professionals, we’ve been handling transmission issues since 1960!

In part by Consumer Reports


There are several options when it comes to automatic transmission repair. Each has an advantage and disadvantage. Your choice depends on factors like cost, quality and how long it takes you to get your car back.
Here are the options:

New transmissions are not available from the dealer or any other source; they are only used in the production of new cars and trucks. When you purchase a transmission from the dealer you are getting one that is remanufactured. This is an important consideration when looking at the cost of the transmission.

A rebuilt transmission is one where the transmission is disassembled and inspected, worn or damaged parts are replaced (generally referred to as “hard parts”) and then reassembled to factory specifications. Along with aftermarket companies such as Transgo and Sonnax, we fix “hereditary” or problematic issues that are part of the auto models as they arrive in the market. Just about every make and model out there has some inherent issues that can be rectified while rebuilding the transmission. The term “rebuilt” is generally used in a shop setting where the customer’s transmission is removed from the car, rebuilt and then reinstalled. It is a custom process performed by a specialist. Other terms you may hear that have the same meaning are “refurbished, reconditioned or overhauled”, they have the same meaning.

ATRA’s Golden Rule warranty helps to ensure that our customers receive the best product possible when purchasing
a rebuilt transmission from O’Neill Auto & Transmission Service.

A remanufactured transmission (commonly referred to as a “reman”) is the same as a rebuilt transmission except that the work is done in a factory setting. There are two common practices used in remanufacturing. One uses a team of workers skilled in a specific area of the repair. One person does the teardown and inspection, one person does the cleaning, several people will assemble and restore certain components and a final person will assemble the transmission.
The other uses a single person skilled at rebuilding a specific transmission or family of transmissions. There’ll be a Ford specialist, a GM specialist, a Chrysler specialist and so on. In this instance, they’ll rebuild an entire transmission from start to finish. In both instances, the transmission is then tested on a dynamometer and then shipped to a retail outlet for sale (include dealerships).

A repaired transmission is one where a specific component is replaced or fixed. For example, if an input shaft broke or a solenoid failed those parts can be replaced without rebuilding the entire transmission. This includes instances were a transmission may have a leak. During the inspection, it’s learned that the internal components still have a lot of mileage left in them. In this case, just the external seals would be replaced in order to resolve the leaking problem. Generally speaking, with a repair, only the component that is replaced would be warranted. This can be problematic in that you may spend a significant amount of money on a repair and later have something in the transmission fail that is unrelated to the repair. It’s cost effective but does have an element of risk.

Another possibility today is to have a used transmission installed. Used transmissions have become a viable option because insurance companies will often total a car simply because the airbags deployed from a relatively minor accident. The rest of the car may be in terrific condition, with very low mileage.

A used transmission may cost hundreds less than a rebuild but in most cases, they come with a lesser warranty, so there is a trade-off.
Keep in mind that not every option may be practical for you. A lot depends on the type of car you have, the mileage, the type of failure, and more. Your technician will be happy to diagnose your car’s problem and discuss the transmission repair options that are available to you.

by Jody Wierenga, Corporate VP
in cooperation with ATRA

Transmission Problems? Maybe. Maybe not.

Once upon a time cars were simple: If the transmission didn’t shift right, you probably had a transmission problem. You took your car to the transmission shop and they fixed it. Simple, right?

As with most stories that begin this way, times have changed. Today, when your car’s transmission isn’t shifting right, well, it could be the transmission, but there’s just as good a chance that it’s something else… something seemingly unrelated to the transmission.

For example, You’re driving down the highway. The converter clutch locks up, right on time. Then, suddenly, the car begins to lurch and buck. Bad converter clutch, right?

Maybe. Maybe not. It could also be a problem in the converter clutch solenoid or the solenoid control circuit, opening and closing erratically. Then again, you could have a bad spark plug.

Wait, a bad spark plug? How would that cause the car to buck when the converter clutch comes on?

Actually, the situation is more common than you’d think. When the computer applies the converter clutch, it also leans out the air/fuel mixture, because it thinks you’re approaching cruise levels. And, with the transmission locked to the engine, the converter clutch increases the load on the engine, while eliminating any cushion between the two.

So, if a spark plug is worn, the extra load, combined with the leaner mixture can degrade the spark, causing an intermittent misfire. And since there’s no cushion between the engine and transmission, you feel every misfire through the entire car. Replacing the spark plugs eliminates the misfire, and improves the car’s performance.

This is just one example of how a seemingly unrelated condition can appear to be a transmission problem.

How can you identify the actual cause of the problem? You can’t. Not yourself, anyway. This is where an experienced technician comes in. The technician knows where to look for problems of this nature, and is equipped to isolate and pinpoint the root cause of those problems.

It’s also why you need to expect to pay for diagnosing those problems. Because very often, finding the source of that buck or slip is the most demanding part of the job. And in the case of the faulty spark plug, the diagnosis is what takes the most time. It just doesn’t make sense to expect the technician to supply his knowledge and experience without getting paid.

It’s also another reason why it’s so important to let our shop know exactly what you’re experiencing, without trying to diagnose the problem yourself. If you brought that car into the shop and asked for a transmission repair, you might have found yourself paying for work you didn’t really need. Because if the technician doesn’t know there’s a problem, he won’t be able to diagnose it for you.

As your local ATRA Member shop, O’Neill Auto & Transmission Service is equipped with all of the tools, training, and technical support necessary to identify the root cause of your car’s problems, and will be happy to help identify and correct those problems as quickly and inexpensively as possible. You just want to meet us halfway, by explaining the condition instead of trying to diagnose it yourself.


Is My Kids Car Safe?

We are getting calls from parents wanting to make sure their kids’ car is dependable and safe.

Watching your kids drive off in their first vehicle can be emotional for any parent. Add to that, the worry that their car might break down and watch your stress level hit the roof. While we cannot take the emotion away, we can certainly alleviate your worry and stress by ensuring the vehicle is sound and in good condition with a DVI (detailed vehicle inspection).

Unlike other states, Michigan does not have state-mandated vehicle inspections. Without the mandate, it can be easy to overlook regular inspections as proactive auto care. It can also be tough finding an auto shop who’s technicians know how to do a DVI like we do at O’Neill Auto & Transmission Service.

We offer a DVI, including a scan of all modules, steering linkage and battery & charging. You will have accurate knowledge of the mechanical state of your vehicle. We will tell you what items need immediate attention and if others can be safely put off for a while. Cost can range from $90-$225, depending on how detailed you wish us to get.

Having this information helps to budget you auto repair/maintenance cost and will give you peace of mind when your young driver is away from home.

Why isn’t my car shifting??

Customers with complaints of not shifting, wrong gear starts, late or early shifts are considered to have shift timings issues.

For an automatic transmission to shift, there are two things that need to be known: 1) How fast the vehicle is moving. 2) How hard the operator is depressing the accelerator.

Sorting out the source of the issue can be complex.  The first step in finding the truth is to separate the command to function from the transmission ability to function.  The “Command” observation centers on the vehicle speed vs throttle position state. The simplest way to do this is with a scanner that reads, codes, and provides observable data. We observe the Power Train Control Module command a shift while watching the transmission’s ability to make the shift.

If a command to shift isn’t occurring we diagnose it as a problem outside of the transmission.  If the command to shift occurs but the transmission doesn’t change speeds, we conclude that the problem is with the transmission.

Whether the problem is inside or outside the transmission, there are possibly minor or serious problems.

This writing is not intended to accurately diagnose a problem. Rather, it is to give the reader some insight into the complexity of diagnosing modern vehicles and instill some confidence that our processes will serve people needing this type of service.


November 2018
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What To Know About Your Car’s Transmission