6 Causes of Transmission Overheating & How To Prevent It

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transmission overheating

It was the middle of summer, and the transmission in my car was overheating. I had been driving for hours on the freeway, and there was no way to get off it. The heat was unbearable, and I could feel the engine struggling.

Finally, I saw an exit up ahead. I prayed that the car would make it to the off-ramp. It did, but only barely. The transmission seized up completely, and I had to abandon the car on the side of the road. That day I realized that if your car’s transmission is overheating, it can cause some severe damage.

This article will discuss the causes and symptoms of transmission overheating in cars. We will also explain why it is important to prevent this from happening and how you can do so.

Why is it Important To Avoid Transmission Overheating?

90% of all automatic transmission failures are caused by overheating. Transmission fluid helps keep the gears cool, and if it isn’t replaced regularly, the transmission can overheat. This can cause the gears to wear down and eventually break.

You can increase the life expectancy of your car by 30,000 to 60,000 miles by decreasing the average transmission temperature by 20 degrees.

It is important to avoid transmission overheating because it can lead to expensive repairs or even a complete replacement of the transmission. To prevent this from happening, be sure to replace the transmission fluid regularly and monitor the temperature of the transmission. If you see any signs of overheating, take your car to a mechanic right away.

How Does Automatic Transmission Fluid Work?

An automatic transmission fluid (ATF) is a type of hydraulic fluid used in vehicles with automatic transmissions. The fluid circulates through the transmission, providing lubrication and cooling. It also helps to transfer power from the engine to the transmission.

The type of ATF used in a vehicle depends on the vehicle’s make and the type of transmission. ATF is a vital component of the automatic transmission system and must be kept in good condition to ensure proper operation. When the fluid becomes dirty or contaminated, it can cause problems with the transmission. It is vital to have the fluid inspected and replaced as needed.

Causes of Overheating Transmission

Several things can cause a transmission to overheat, including:

  1. Burnt Transmission Fluid
  2. Low Transmission Fluid
  3. Heavy Towing
  4. Defective Solenoid
  5. Hot Climate
  6. Bad Driving Habits

Let us take a closer look at these causes:

1. Burnt Transmission Fluid

Burnt transmission fluid can cause a transmission to overheat. If the fluid has been burnt, it will have lost its ability to dissipate heat, leading to an overheated transmission.

In severe cases, this may even result in a total transmission failure. If you suspect that your transmission is overheating due to a burnt fluid, have it inspected by a qualified mechanic as soon as possible.

2. Low Transmission Fluid

There are a few reasons why low transmission fluid can cause transmission overheating. When the transmission doesn’t have enough fluid, the heat produced by the gears will not be able to dissipate properly.

This can cause the gears to overheat and eventually fail. Additionally, if there is too much friction in the transmission due to a lack of lubrication, that can also lead to overheating. So it’s important to make sure your transmission has enough fluid and that the fluid is in good condition to help prevent transmission overheating.

3. Heavy Towing

Heavy towing can be one of the main reasons why a transmission overheats. When you tow heavy loads, the extra stress on the transmission can cause it to overheat. This is because the transmission has to work harder than usual to power the car and the trailer. If you frequently tow large loads, your transmission may not be able to handle the extra heat, which can lead to overheating and damage.

Another reason why heavy towing can cause a transmission to overheat is that it can reduce the amount of airflow that reaches the radiator. When you are towing a trailer, the added weight can block the air from flowing through the radiator, making the engine run too hot. This can cause the transmission fluid to overheat and potentially damage the transmission.

If you are planning to tow a large load, consult your owner’s manual to find out what type of transmission fluid is recommended. Also, make sure that your cooling system is in good condition and that the radiator is properly cleared of debris. You can help prevent your transmission from overheating while towing a heavy load by following these tips.

4. Defective Solenoid

A defective solenoid can cause the transmission to overheat. The solenoid is responsible for controlling fluid flow into and out of the transmission. When it is defective, it can allow too much fluid to flow in or out, which can cause the transmission to overheat.

One possible reason for a defective solenoid valve causing transmission overheating is that the valve may not be opening or closing properly, restricting the flow of transmission fluid and preventing it from cooling the internals of the transmission.

Additionally, a solenoid valve that is not working correctly can cause the pressure within the transmission to build up, leading to overheating.

5. Hot Climate

The effects of hot climates on transmission overheating will vary depending on the make and model of the vehicle. However, it is generally accepted that transmissions can overheat more quickly in a hot climate, so it is important to take extra care when driving in these conditions.

Some tips for avoiding transmission overheating in a hot climate include using a lower gear when traveling uphill, avoiding prolonged idling, and not leaving the car parked in direct sunlight.

6. Bad Driving Habits

A few bad driving habits can cause your transmission to overheat. These habits include hard acceleration, braking, and speeding. If you’re frequently putting strain on your transmission, it can overheat and eventually fail. It’s important to be mindful of your driving habits to help keep your transmission in good condition.

Signs of An Overheating Transmission

If your transmission is overheating, there are a few symptoms you can look for.

1. Check Engine Light

The check engine light can come on if the transmission is overheating. This is because the check engine light is a general warning light that can come on for various reasons. If you are experiencing problems with your transmission, it is crucial to have them checked out as soon as possible to avoid further damage.

2. Wear & Tear

If you’re noticing excessive wear and tear on your transmission, it may be a sign that the transmission is overheating.

When a transmission overheats, it can cause excessive wear and tear on the gears and other internal components. This can lead to expensive repairs or even a total replacement of the transmission.

3. Transmission Slipping

If the transmission fluid heats up to a high enough temperature, it can cause the transmission to slip. This is because the transmission fluid becomes less viscous (thicker) as it gets hotter, which can affect how smoothly the gears in the transmission are able to mesh together.

If the transmission slips often, it can cause damage to the gears and other internal components. Therefore, it is important to keep a close eye on your transmission’s temperature and make sure that the fluid is properly cooled and lubricated.

4. Transmission Problems

Transmission overheating can cause transmission problems. If your transmission fluid gets too hot, it can start to boil and produce vapors. These vapors can then get into the electrical system and cause all sorts of problems. Additionally, if your transmission fluid is too hot, it can start to break down and can cause damage to the internal parts of the transmission.

5. Dirty Fluid

It’s possible that transmission overheating can cause transmission fluid to become dirty. When the transmission fluid becomes too hot, it can start to break down and form sludge.

This sludge can then circulate through the system and cause problems with the operation of the transmission. If you’re experiencing any problems with your transmission, it’s good to have it checked out by a mechanic to see if the overheating is the cause.

6. Burning Smell

Transmission overheating can cause a burning smell. When the transmission fluid reaches a high enough temperature, it will start to break down and give off a nasty smell. If you notice a burning smell coming from your car, take it in for service right away to prevent further damage.

7. Strange Noises

There are many potential causes of strange noises coming from a car, and overheating transmission is one of them. If the transmission fluid gets too hot, it can start to make strange noises.

This could be a sign that there is something wrong with the transmission, and it needs to be fixed. Ignoring the problem could lead to further damage and even a total transmission failure.

8. Fluid Leaks

The most common fluid leaks from an overheated transmission are from the seals and gaskets. If the transmission fluid is not replaced regularly, it can cause the seals to deteriorate and eventually leak.

Transmission fluid also acts as a coolant for the transmission, so if it is not replaced when needed, the transmission’s internal parts can overheat and cause damage.

How To Prevent Transmission Overheating?

There are several things that you can do to prevent your transmission from overheating:

1. Check Transmission Fluid Level

The first thing you should do to prevent your transmission from overheating is to check the fluid level using a transmission dipstick. Make sure that the fluid is at the correct level and that it is not too low. If there is not enough fluid, add more fluid to bring it up to the correct level.

If you’re not sure how to check the transmission fluid level, consult your car’s owner’s manual or take it to a mechanic. There are many different types of transmission fluid, and not all of them are the same. It’s important to use the correct fluid type in your car’s transmission.

2. Change Transmission Fluid Frequently

Make sure that the transmission fluid is replaced when needed. The recommended replacement interval for most transmissions is every 30,000 miles. However, if you’re driving in a high-performance car or towing a trailer, the fluid may need to be replaced more often.

3. Add Transmission Cooling system

A transmission cooler is a device that helps to keep your transmission cool by reducing the fluid temperature. When installed between the radiator and the transmission, it can help to significantly lower the overall operating temperature of your transmission, preventing overheating.

4. Use A Deep Pan

If you’re going to be driving in a hot climate, it’s a good idea to use a deep pan for your transmission. This will help to keep the fluid cooler and prevent it from overheating.

5. Drive Sensibly

The way you drive your car has a significant impact on the temperature of your transmission. Driving at high speeds or in stop-and-go traffic can cause the fluid to heat up and overheat the transmission. Try to drive to minimize stress on the transmission, and you may be able to avoid this issue.

6. Avoid Towing Heavy Loads

Avoid towing a trailer or driving in stop-and-go traffic when possible. These types of driving can cause the transmission to overheat. Keep an eye on the temperature gauge and make sure that the transmission fluid is properly cooled. If the temperature starts to climb, pull over and let the car cool down before continuing on your way.


It is important to avoid transmission overheating because it can lead to transmission failure and transmission repair is a costly affair. Transmission overheating can be caused by various factors, including a lack of transmission fluid, overuse of the vehicle, or a malfunctioning cooling system.

If your vehicle’s transmission starts to overheat, you should take it to a mechanic as soon as possible. Continuing to drive an overheating transmission can cause extensive damage and may even lead to complete failure. Prevention is the best cure, so keep your vehicle’s transmission cool by using the correct amount of fluid and avoiding overuse.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the normal working temperature of the transmission?

The normal working temperature of the transmission is about 190 degrees Fahrenheit. However, it is important to keep in mind that this can vary depending on the make and model of your vehicle.

If you are unsure what the normal operating temperature is for your transmission, be sure to consult your owner’s manual. By knowing the correct temperature range for your transmission, you can help avoid any damage caused by excessive heat.

How much fluid should be present in the transmission?

Generally speaking, most transmissions require between four and eight quarts of fluid. There is no definitive answer to this question. The amount of fluid present in transmission can vary depending on the make and model of the vehicle and the age and condition of the transmission.

How do you cool down a transmission immediately?

If you are experiencing transmission problems, it is important to take steps to cool down the unit as soon as possible. One way to do this is by using a transmission cooler. This device attaches to the radiator and helps cool the fluid that is flowing through the system.

If you do not have a transmission cooler, you can also try pouring cold water over the transmission. This will help lower the temperature and improve the unit’s performance. Be sure to check the fluid levels regularly and add more fluid if necessary.

When to install a transmission cooler?

A transmission cooler should be installed when the vehicle is used for towing or carrying a heavy load. The cooler helps keep the transmission fluid from overheating, which can cause damage to the internal workings of the transmission. The cooler should also be installed if the vehicle is driven in hot weather conditions.

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