Frequently Asked Questions

Please click on each question below to view the answer

How do I check the transmission fluid on my vehicle?

Checking the transmission fluid level of your vehicle is not always a simple procedure. The transmission mechanics at Hamilton's Transmission Experts know how to check the fluid on any type of vehicle and in most cases, this service is provided at no cost to our customers.

The ability to check your own transmission fluid depends on many factors such as your skill level, your access to specialized tools and equipment, and your knowledge of the specific procedure for your vehicle. Some vehicles require the removal of engine mounts, some utilize plugs which require specialized tools for their removal to access the fluid, and some vehicles have only a cap where you would expect to find a dipstick. Many of these examples would prove too complex for all but the savviest and well equipped home-based mechanics.

Some vehicles have a simple and accessible dipstick for checking the transmission fluid, similar to that seen with engine oil. However, as vehicle engineering and technology progresses, fewer vehicles have such a simple method for checking the transmission fluid level and some vehicle manufacturers advertise that their vehicles utilize sealed, no maintenance transmissions that do not require any maintenance or fluid level checks at all. All transmissions, including these sealed, no maintenance transmissions, need the benefits of regular maintenance to prolong the life of the transmission.

Almost all vehicles require the engine to be in a running state when transmission fluid is checked. Failing to ensure the vehicle is in the state required when transmission fluid is checked may lead to the interpretation that the transmission fluid is too low, too high, or absent when the actual fluid level may be fine. Even worse, if the transmission fluid is checked when the vehicle is not in the proper state, the level on the dipstick may indicate there is no issue when in fact there may be a significant issue that requires immediate attention.

If your vehicle has a transmission with an easily accessible dipstick, you can refer to your owner's manual for the exact location. Following the directions for the state of the vehicle, remove the transmission fluid dipstick, wipe the fluid from the dipstick and replace it for a moment. Remove the dipstick again and note the level of the fluid on the dipstick. Dipsticks have a scale on them which will let you know if there is an issue with too little or too much transmission fluid.

In addition to noting the level of transmission fluid on the dipstick, you should also note the quality, colour, and odour of the transmission fluid itself. Most vehicles have transmission fluid that should be clear with a reddish colour, have a light oil texture, and an oily smell. However, some vehicle manufacturers utilize transmission fluid that varies from these common characteristics. Transmission fluid that appears thick, opaque, dark in colour, foamy, or with a burnt odor indicates that the fluid needs to be changed and there may be a performance issue with the transmission that has caused the fluid to deteriorate.

Other major issues with your vehicle's performance can also be detected and confirmed with a simple inspection of the transmission fluid quality. For example, a cracked transmission cooler which is located in the radiator may allow the transmission fluid and radiator coolant to mix within the transmission and radiator just like oil and water, and this situation can be detected by careful analysis of the quality of the fluid on the transmission fluid dipstick.

A proper level of transmission fluid as well as fresh high quality synthetic fluid will prolong the life and enhance the performance of your vehicle's transmission. Transmission fluid should be checked at least twice a year, or whenever your engine oil is changed.

At Hamilton's Transmission Experts, we are committed to ensuring your transmission is performing well. Therefore, we offer free transmission fluid checks and feedback on the level and quality of the transmission fluid for most vehicles. If an issue is identified, we will explain the findings to you and provide Expert suggestions on transmission maintenance and repair.

Do I need to change my transmission fluid and filter?

Some vehicle manufacturers state that their transmissions do not require fluid and filter changes, ever. However, all vehicles will experience a deterioration in the quality and volume of transmission fluid after approximately 60,000 kilometers. Transmission fluid filters will also become clogged with fine metallic particles from the normal wear that occurs in any transmission.

Changing the fluid and filter every 60,000 kilometers will ensure that a high quality fluid is protecting your transmission and that the filter's ability to remove any particulate matter is maximized.

Changing your transmission fluid and filter is not always a simple procedure that can be done by vehicle owners. It may require the use of specialized tools and the removal of parts from the vehicle to access to the fluid and filter. In addition, some vehicles are manufactured with transmissions that have internal transmission fluid filters which cannot be accessed without dismantling the transmission. In this case, maintaining fresh high quality synthetic fluid is essential to the longevity of the internal filter and the transmission itself, and therefore preventing the need for repair and rebuilding in the future.

Hamilton's Transmission Experts can handle the routine maintenance of your vehicle's transmission, and we know all the specifics of your vehicle's transmission. We offer a selection of high quality synthetic transmission fluids and filters, as well as a free inspection, free electronic scanning, and free test drive as part of our transmission maintenance services.

If an issue is identified, you can rely on our Expert transmission mechanics to provide you with the information necessary to make a decision on further repairs that may be required.

Why is my engine revving really high, why do I have no power to accelerate?

One of the most common complaints and questions we receive regarding the performance of transmissions is related to sluggish initial acceleration with an engine that appears to be struggling to accelerate beyond certain speeds. Customers will complain that their engine is racing even though their vehicle just won't "go".

Most transmissions are designed to provide a certain level of protection to the physical mechanics of the transmission when there is an issue that requires attention. The transmission computer module will put the transmission into “limp home mode” to prevent it from becoming damaged when there is a significant performance issue with your transmission. This “limp home mode” is a safe mode that protects the transmission and prevents the transmission from switching gears as would normally be expected. The vehicle's transmission is limiting itself to one gear only, usually 2nd gear, in order to protect the transmission from further damage. However, when protecting the transmission in this way, the operation of the vehicle under normal circumstances and speeds is compromised; hence the high revs, sluggish initial performance, and limited speeds.

This safe mode allows your vehicle to literally “limp home” at low speed in order to limit further damage. The causes can be numerous ranging from a faulty speed sensor to broken and/or burnt bands or clutches requiring a complete transmission rebuild.

Operating your vehicle in this condition will cause additional damage to the transmission and may also cause significant damage to the vehicle's engine as well. Addressing this issue immediately could save you significant costs in repairs to your transmission and engine.

So when your car is telling you to “limp home,” bring it in to our Expert transmission mechanics instead and we will diagnose the issue and provide Expert recommendations for the repair of your vehicle. Our services include a free scan, free test drive, free inspection, Expert diagnostics, and free written estimate.

Why is my engine light on? Why is my O/D light flashing?

With current automotive engineering and technology, almost every action of your vehicle and its components is monitored and controlled by computer modules. If your vehicle develops any number of performance or operational issues, the computer modules will engage a variety of lights and signals. The simplest example of this is the “low fuel” alarm that sounds in many vehicles today when the fuel level reaches a certain level.

The engine light on your dash could be on for a number of reasons. Not all of these reasons are related to the engine, and a number of transmission issues will activate codes in the engine control module.

The O/D or overdrive light is always related to a transmission issue. This light may indicate issues that require simple adjustments of things like the shifter linkage, or much more complex issues requiring transmission rebuilding.

In some cases, these lights indicate that the computer module itself is faulty and requires replacement. Regardless of the reasons, continuing to operate your vehicle while these lights are on may result in further damage to your transmission and/or engine.

The only way to determine the reason for your engine light or O/D light is to determine the exact code that has initiated the light. Hamilton's Transmission Experts uses up-to-date touch screen scanning technology to scan your vehicle for these codes. This scanning, as well as a comprehensive test drive and inspection, allows our Expert transmission mechanics to identify the issue and recommend the required repairs.

My vehicle is shifting hard and banging. What is wrong?

The causes of hard shifts and/or banging noises are too numerous to list. This issue can affect both manual and automatic transmissions. The causes range from a faulty sensor to clutch slippage and more.

If your vehicle is experiencing these symptoms, there are a few things you should note. Is this issue continuous or intermittent? Is the vehicle always hot or cold? Is the vehicle always in a certain gear? Are any dash lights on? Where is the banging coming from? Continued operation of your vehicle with these symptoms can result in further damage to your vehicle's transmission, clutch, and driveline.

Our Expert transmission mechanics use up-to-date touch screen scanning technology as well as a comprehensive test drive and inspection to diagnose your transmission problems. If you cannot describe any trends for your complaint, our scanning technology permits a review of the recent operational parameters of your vehicle.

With our decades of diagnostic skills and our fine tuned rebuilding skills, you can be sure that we will correctly identify the issue and provide the repair services needed to get you shifting smoothly again.

Why does my 4-wheel drive not work?

A 4-wheel drive vehicle utilizes a transfer case as well as other components to provide power to all four wheels when the 4-wheel drive option is engaged. This transfer case is attached to the transmission externally and divides the power to the front and rear wheels. This specific issue can be extremely difficult to diagnose without a comprehensive test drive and inspection. Our Expert transmission mechanics have the knowledge and skills required to diagnose and repair all 4-wheel drive problems. The issues could require relatively simple adjustments or a major repair of a transfer case as only two examples. Like other components of vehicles today, faulty computer modules may also be the cause and therefore need to be replaced.

One of the most common causes of this issue that we see occurs when a customer changes only 2 of their 4 tires. The new tires will be slightly larger in diameter simply due to more tread depth. Most people would never equate tire replacement with the absence of 4-wheel drive in their vehicle. However, this small difference in the diameter of the tires from front to back results in a slight difference in drive shaft speeds from front to back and can severely damage the transfer case when 4-wheel drive is engaged. Customers will often report that their vehicle is “binding up” when they use the 4-wheel drive option, which may feel like the breaks are being applied when they are not. This binding sensation is the first sign that something is wrong and if the customer continues to operate the vehicle in this state, the transfer case could essentially be destroyed preventing any 4-wheel drive capability.

Even if you have refrained from using the 4-wheel drive option because of binding or intermittent problems engaging 4-wheel drive, the cause should always be investigated as soon as possible to prevent further damage to the transmission, transfer case or other components. With 4-wheel drive repairs by Hamilton's Transmission Experts, you will always be prepared to handle those Canadian winter roads or off-road trails.