Transmission Fluid: What You Need to Know

Transmission fluid keeps the parts in your automatic transmission moving smoothly together. Like other vital automotive fluids, it can deteriorate over time. Hard use – such as frequent stop-and-go city driving, hauling heavy loads, trailer towing – will accelerate that deterioration. That kind of driving raises the operating temperature of the transmission, and heat puts more strain on the transmission and the fluid, which helps facilitate gear shifts, cools the transmission and lubricates moving parts.

How do I know if my transmission fluid or filter has gone bad?
Automatic transmission fluid darkens as it ages; if it becomes brown or almost black that is an indication it needs to be changed. Dirt or debris in the fluid and a burned odor also are signs. Many transmissions have filters that should be replaced or cleaned periodically, and because that usually requires removing a fluid pan, it should be checked when the fluid is changed. A clogged filter can prevent enough fluid from being pumped to vital parts of the transmission and cause gear slippage, sluggish shifting or a high-pitched whine when accelerating.

How often should I replace my transmission fluid or fluid filter?
Check the maintenance schedule in your owner’s manual because the recommended intervals from vehicle manufacturers are all over the board, from as early as 40,000 miles to as long as 150,000. Some even say it never has to be changed, though many mechanics advise that it should be done every 50,000 miles to be safe. As with engine oil, it doesn’t hurt to change transmission fluid more often than is recommended, but you might be paying extra for little benefit. If your transmission has a fluid filter, it should be changed every time the fluid is changed (although some filters can be cleaned).

Why do I have to replace my transmission fluid and filter?
Transmission fluid deteriorates over time, especially from hard use. Over years and thousands of miles, the fluid loses its ability to facilitate gear shifts, cool the transmission and lubricate moving parts. In addition, it picks up dirt and debris that can damage internal parts. Many transmissions have filters to catch that debris, but the filters can clog and prevent enough fluid from being pumped to vital parts of the transmission, causing gear slippage, sluggish shifting or a high-pitched whine when accelerating.
https://www.cars.com/articles/transmission-fluid-what-you-need-to-know-1420684517407/

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What’s a Cabin Air Filter and When Should You Replace It?

The cabin air filter, a feature found on most late-model vehicles, cleans the air that comes into the interior through the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system. It catches dust, pollen and other airborne material that can make riding in a car unpleasant, particularly if you have allergies or other respiratory problems.

Recommendations on when a cabin air filter should be replaced vary by manufacturer — some say every 12,000 or 15,000 miles, others longer — and how often can depend on how much you drive and where. Check the maintenance schedule in your owner’s manual. If you drive in heavy traffic in an urban area that has poor air quality, you could need to replace the cabin air filter annually or even more often. However, that also could be true in a desert climate where there is a lot of dust to filter out.

Some signs that you need a new cabin air filter are reduced air flow through your climate control system, such as when you crank up the fan too high and get more noise than results. Another is persistent bad odors. Even if you don’t have these warnings, however, you should have the air filter checked at least once a year, and you may be able to do that yourself.

Many cabin air filters are located behind the glove box and are easily accessible by freeing the glove box from its fasteners; the instructions should be in your car’s owner’s manual. Other cabin air filters are located under the dashboard and may not be easy to reach, or under the hood where fresh air enters the climate control system. Some of these air filters are expensive — as in $50 or more at dealerships — so you could save money by buying a replacement at a parts store or at Cars.com and doing it yourself.

If a dealership service department or repair shop recommends you get a new cabin air filter, ask to see the current one. Depending on how long the air filter has been in service, you might be shocked at what you see: a filter clogged with leaves, twigs, insects, pollen, soot and grime that literally covers the entire surface that comes in contact with incoming air can all be a problem for the cabin inside your vehicle. You’ll know it’s time for a cabin air filter replacement for your car.

https://www.cars.com/articles/2013/05/whats-a-cabin-air-filter-and-when-should-you-replace-it/

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Struts and Shock Absorbers: What You Need to Know

A shock is a suspension component that controls the up-and-down motion of a vehicle’s wheels. Though the devices provide some shock absorption, the job of absorbing shocks is actually handled mostly by the springs. More accurately referred to as dampers, shocks reduce excessive motion, keeping the vehicle’s body from bouncing down the road.

A strut is a type of shock absorber that has a structural role in a vehicle’s suspension; it is mounted inside coil springs on strut-type suspensions. The strut includes a shock absorber element, but it also serves to position the wheels, a task handled by control arms in a conventional suspension design that employs dedicated shock absorbers.

How do I know it’s time to replace my struts/shock absorbers?
If your car bounces like it’s on a pogo stick or bottoms out over railroad tracks, it’s probably because of worn shock absorbers or struts. Worn shocks also can allow excessive body lean, and they can leak the fluid that helps reduce bouncing. They also can be damaged by hitting potholes or road debris. Mounting hardware and bushings also can wear, allowing excessive suspension movement, vibrations or noises.

How often should I replace my struts/shock absorbers?
Companies that make shock absorbers used to recommend they be replaced every 50,000 miles, but in most cases that’s unnecessary. Shocks and struts often last the life of a vehicle. They should be replaced if they develop leaks, become physically damaged or allow excessive bouncing on wavy surfaces and over railroad tracks. A qualified mechanic should inspect the entire suspension system when those symptoms appear, as other components might be at least partially at fault. New shocks or struts won’t cure all ride and handling issues.

Why do I need to change my struts/shock absorbers?
You might not need to: Shock absorbers and struts often last the life of a vehicle. See above for signs that you might need to get them replaced. If you have any doubts, have your mechanic investigate.

How much should I pay?
The cost of repairs can depend on where you are as much as it does on what you need fixed. To get an estimate for your repair, go to our estimator, plug in your car’s year, make and model information, add your ZIP code, and choose the repair you need. We’ll give you a range for what your repairs should cost in your area.

https://www.cars.com/articles/struts-and-shock-absorbers-what-you-need-to-know-1420684517343/

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Fuel Pump: What You Need to Know

The fuel pump sends fuel from your car’s gas tank to its engine. Fuel pumps are usually electrically powered and located directly in or on the fuel tank. The ease and cost of replacement depends on the car’s design, and the decision to replace it should be undertaken only after determining that the problems aren’t electrical or related to the fuel lines.

How do I know if my fuel pump is bad?
The most obvious sign is that your car won’t start because fuel isn’t getting to the engine, though there are many possibilities for a no-start situation. One way to tell if the fuel pump is at fault is that when you turn the ignition on you can’t hear the pump motor activate inside the gas tank. Another is intermittent loss of driving power, particularly during acceleration or while driving at highway speeds. If the pump appears to be OK, the problem might be that the fuel pickup in the tank is clogged and can’t deliver enough gas.

How often should I replace my fuel pump?
With luck, the fuel pump will last the life of your vehicle. Fuel pumps are not a regular maintenance item, so they generally are replaced only on an as-needed basis. Some owners replace them before they fail as preventive maintenance, but unless the pump is showing signs of failing, there is little reason to do so. Many vehicles have fuel filters that can clog, so the filter should be checked (and replaced if needed) when diagnosing issues with a fuel pump.

Why do I have to replace my Fuel pump?
If the pump is showing signs that it may fail it should be replaced – the vehicle won’t start or intermittently loses power – or you may find yourself stranded.

How much should I pay?
The cost of repairs can depend on where you are as much as it does on what you need fixed. To get an estimate for your repair, go to our estimator, plug in your car’s year, make and model information, add your ZIP code, and choose the repair you need. We’ll give you a range for what your repairs should cost in your area.

https://www.cars.com/articles/fuel-pump-what-you-need-to-know-1420684517279/

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Drive Belt: What You Need to Know

The drive belt is a reinforced rubber belt that allows the engine’s rotating crankshaft to drive components such as water pumps, alternators, air-conditioning compressors, power-steering pumps or superchargers. Your car may use separate belts for one or more components or hit multiple pulleys with a snaking serpentine belt. Belts are relatively inexpensive items that are best replaced when worn, damaged or simply old rather than after they fail. Serpentine belts in particular, because they power so many components, disable the car completely when they break.

How do I know if my drive belt is bad?
The accessory drive belt (also called a V, or serpentine, belt) drives the air-conditioning compressor, alternator and, on many vehicles, the power steering pump and water pump. If this belt breaks, none of those systems will work. If the belt is cracked, frayed or badly worn, it can slip on the pulleys it rides on, and the accessories it drives won’t receive all the power they need, which may trigger a warning light. A qualified mechanic can usually tell by looking if a belt needs to be replaced.

How often should I replace my drive belt?
It should be inspected at least every year on vehicles that are more than a few years old to check for wear, and it should be replaced as necessary. Most automakers call for periodic inspection of the belt, but few list a specific replacement interval. Though these belts often last several years, they can become cracked, frayed or worn on the side that is hidden from view.

Why do I have to replace my drive belt?
If this belt breaks, the battery won’t get recharged, the air conditioner won’t blow cold air and the power steering will go out. In addition, if the belt drives the water pump, the engine could overheat.

How much should I pay?
The cost of repairs can depend on where you are as much as it does on what you need fixed. To get an estimate for your repair, go to our estimator, plug in your car’s year, make and model information, add your ZIP code, and choose the repair you need. We’ll give you a range for what your repairs should cost in your area.

https://www.cars.com/articles/drive-belt-what-you-need-to-know-1420684517247/

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Head Gasket: What You Need to Know

The head gasket not only contains the pressure of controlled explosions within the cylinders, but it also isolates the cylinders, oil and cooling channels from each other. It provides a seal between the engine block and the head that caps the cylinders.

How do I know it’s time to replace my head gasket?
When it fails, coolant can leak inside the combustion chambers. A leaky head gasket can also allow coolant to seep out near the exhaust manifold, causing the engine to run hotter. That heat should trigger a warning light. A sure sign of a blown head gasket is steam – what looks like white smoke – coming out of the exhaust system, and often from under the hood. Because the engine is rapidly losing coolant, it will quickly overheat and should be immediately shut off.

How often should I replace my head gasket?
The only time it should be replaced is if it develops leaks. The head gasket isn’t a periodic maintenance item, so it should be replaced only when necessary.

Why do I need to change my head gasket?
Because if you don’t fix it, you could destroy your engine.

How much should I pay?
The cost of repairs can depend on where you are as much as it does on what you need fixed. To get an estimate for your repair, go to our estimator, plug in your car’s year, make and model information, add your ZIP code, and choose the repair you need. We’ll give you a range for what your repairs should cost in your area.

https://www.cars.com/articles/head-gasket-what-you-need-to-know-1420684516720/

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