Cars are built to withstand winter driving conditions but can also suffer serious damage from heavy snow.

Close up on car tire during winter roadtrip

The extreme winter temperatures can make cars more prone to issues that can lead to costly repairs when winter is over. If you think your transmission has problems find a transmission shop near you immediately. One of the most problematic and expensive issues involves a car’s drivetrain and transmission. 

Read on to learn about common transmission issues that can occur during freezing temperatures and how to protect your transmission from harsh winter weather.

Possible Transmission Issues in the Winter

A car transmission moves the power of the engine to the wheels. It’s an essential piece of machinery that helps cars accelerate and decelerate smoothly, moving it down the road. It also helps disconnect the engine from the wheels when the vehicle stops and the wheels are not in motion.

The transmission is a complicated piece of machinery consisting of over 800 individual parts like hydraulics, gears, and fluids working in tandem to allow you to switch gears and control the vehicle’s speed. Most car transmissions are either automatic or manual. 

Driving a car with manual transmission requires extra steps from the driver to operate the vehicle and change gears. While for an automatic transmission, the power to change gears comes from the transmission itself, relying on the torque converter. 

When the transmission begins to wear, the car will experience a host of symptoms such as difficulty shifting gears, failing to transmit power to accelerate or decelerate into the appropriate gear, and slipping gears between speeds. More serious issues include malfunctioning and complete transmission failure, which can be dangerous.

Here are some common transmission issues that are unique to the winter season: 

Viscosity Changes in Transmission Fluid 

The main job of the transmission fluid is to create a fluid film between transmission gears and clutch packs to prevent contact between the different components and reduce friction. It delivers the proper frictional requirements for the gears and functions as a hydraulic fluid, protecting the engine from wear and tear and the damaging effects of extreme heat. 

Forgetting to add transmission fluids will rapidly wear out and overheat your vehicle leading to a shorter lifespan for your transmission and a big repair expense. 

In the winter, when the temperature drops, the viscosity of transmission oil will thicken and won’t be able to properly lubricate the internal gears when the car is not warmed up. 

Shifting Problems

Over the snowy winter months, moisture can build up on the gears and freeze over, making it harder to shift gears. This can lead to shift point delays, the lag time between the driver shifting the gear and the transmission responding to the change. 

Hard shifting combined with shift point delays can increase the pressure on multiple parts damaging the transmission and eventually leading to transmission failure. 

Contractions of Transmission Parts

The cold weather naturally leads to the contraction and expansion of various transmission parts. For rubber seals and gaskets, this causes them to tighten and crack, wearing them down faster and possibly leading to transmission fluid leaks.

Additional issues caused by contractions include gears slipping within the transmission system and parts loosening, potentially allowing dirt, debris, and water to get into the transmission. 

If snow or runoff finds its way into the transmission, it can begin to cause severe damage like rust, build-up, and dissolution of adhesives in components which can be a big future expense.

Close up woman driving winter season

How to Keep Your Vehicle Healthy During Winter

Leaving your vehicle in the garage under cold temperatures and harsh conditions can still cause long-term damage to your transmission, even if you’re not driving it. 

You can be proactive about caring for your transmission and protecting it from winter conditions by doing a few things.

Tip #1 – Routine Check-Ups

Scheduling routine check-ups with a certified technician is one of the most important steps in preventing transmission issues. The transmission is the most important and hardest-working system in a vehicle. You should do routine check-ups while it’s working properly to avoid costly repairs in the future.

Getting your vehicle serviced every 30,000 miles or every two years is recommended, whichever comes first. If you plan to drive in extreme conditions, it’s better to get a check-up more often. A certified technician can help prepare your transmission for winter weather and check the different components for signs of wear and tear, any leaks, and the condition of the transmission fluids.

Tip #2 – Check and Change Transmission Fluids and Gaskets

Get your transmission fluid checked and, if necessary, replaced and topped off. A transmission technician can recommend fluid changes specific to your vehicle’s make and model to adequately lubricate your transmission. You can also replace your oil with synthetic oil, which is superior for cold weather protection. 

Get your gasket and seals inspected by a trusted technician. An inspection goes a long way in preventing the loss of transmission fluids which can cause damage quickly and lead to transmission failures. Cold weather causes rubber seals to contract and expand, leaving them cracked or worn, exposing your transmission to dirt, debris, and even water. 

Tip #3 – Avoid Hard Stops and Quick Starts

Hard stops and quick starts can cause your transmission to wear out faster and break down sooner because it puts unnecessary strain on your vehicle. When it gets cold, it takes your vehicle longer to warm up, and fluids tend to thicken, making your transmission system slower to respond than usual. 

Give yourself more time to get from point A to point B, allowing for smoother starts and stops. This helps to keep your transmission healthy, extend its life and avoid unnecessary wear and tear. 

The Bottom Line 

When properly caring for your transmission during the snowy season, you can avoid unnecessary wear and tear repairs on your vehicle and extend its life. Trucking services also need to pay close attention to these issues. Mobile fleet maintenance is extremely helpful in getting you back on the road. 

Get the transmission condition checked by a certified technician to ensure that your vehicle is always in top condition so that you can relax knowing it’s ready for the upcoming winter ahead. 

Drivetrain Issues, How Snow Can Cause Transmission and Drivetrain Issues, Days of a Domestic Dad