If you're having trouble with your car's transmission in cold weather, you're not alone — freezing weather is very hard on your car's transmission. Valves and seals harden, gears contract, and your transmission fluid becomes more viscous. Until your transmission warms up, your transmission may be unable to shift gears, may begin slipping, or may shift harder than normal.
While you can temporarily alleviate the problem by running your engine for several minutes before you begin driving, that simply masks the underlying issue — cold weather causes slight problems in your transmission to become more noticeable, and you'll need to have your transmission inspected at a transmission shop to determine the cause behind your faulty transmission. To help you understand more about why cars experience transmission problems in cold weather and why your car needs to be serviced, here's some information about what goes on in your transmission during freezing weather.
Why Does Your Car Exhibit Transmission Problems in Cold Weather?
Cold transmission fluid is more viscous, preventing it from flowing freely through your transmission until it comes to the right temperature. Without transmission fluid, your car will not shift at all. For example, when you first start your car on a cold morning, you may be completely unable to shift into reverse — your car will remain in drive no matter how many times you try to shift gears. Once the engine has been running for a while, the transmission fluid will warm up to its optimal operating temperature and your transmission will begin to function.
Valves and seals will harden in cold weather, which prevents them from creating a complete seal and allows transmission fluid to leak from their edges. When your transmission's seals can't seal completely, it prevents your transmission fluid from maintaining pressure. A transmission that isn't pressurized will slip while you're driving. A slipping transmission will either fail to shift or will skip gears while shifting (resulting in a noticeable jolt you'll feel in the steering wheel.)
How Can You Stop Cold Weather From Affecting Your Transmission?
When you first get into your car in the morning or after it has been sitting idle for a long period of time, engage the parking brake and shift the transmission from park to neutral. This gives the engine some time to warm up the transmission fluid, making the seals and valves more pliable and allowing the transmission to come to pressure. You may have to sit in your car for several minutes before driving it.
Unfortunately, transmission problems that occur in cold weather are often a sign of a deteriorating transmission. The cold weather simply exacerbates existing transmission problems. You may wish to schedule an appointment at a local transmission shop to have your transmission inspected — if you have your transmission rebuilt or replaced, you can restore its function and avoid the hassle of sitting in your car for several minutes waiting for your transmission to warm up. While your transmission may return to normal function once the weather warms up, it doesn't mean that the underlying problem has been fixed — you'll need professional service from a transmission shop in order to address your transmission's issues.
Contact a local transmission shop for more information.