Automatic Transmission Rebuilders Australasia
A division of IAME

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some of our most frequent queries from car owners who are looking to obtain a reputable repairer or diagnose their automatic transmission problems. If you need further information please call or contact us via our online form.

Can you do your own transmission diagnosis?

Check your Transmission fluid level: (Many faults are caused by low fluid level) Refer to your car owners manual for specific instructions. Most transmissions are checked with the engine idling in park.
Mitsubishi & Hyundai front wheel drive: Engine idling, in neutral only.
Some Ford Falcon models are checked whilst in park within 10 seconds after the engine is switched off. Chrysler Torqueflite & Ford FMX: Engine idling, in neutral or park.

Important: Don't forget to apply the handbrake!

Is the fluid level low? If so, then you may have a leak, (Very bad for our environment). Top up with the correct type of fluid, which is generally filled through the dipstick tube. Check your owners manual for the correct type of fluid. Be careful not to overfill.

Can't find a dipstick for your transmission?
You may have a sealed transmission. If so, go to our Contact Us page & we will help you with the information that you need to check the fluid level.

Check your transmission fluid condition: Pull out the transmission dipstick & allow the fluid to drop onto a white rag or white paper. The fluid colour should be bright red, if not, then service is due. Call an ATRA Member to make your appointment.

Does your transmission still have a driving fault? Slipping? Drawn out gear shifts? Delayed gear engagements? Wrong gear starts? Unusual sounds?
If so, go to our Contact Us page, tell us what's wrong & we will contact you, or call an ATRA Member to make your appointment.

Most automatic transmissions built after 1989 have electronic controls, therefore symptoms such as wrong gear starts, no kickdown, bumpy shifts & no overdrive can appear to be major problems, but in fact may well be caused by minor electronic faults. Take notice of any other faults such as no speedometer operation, gear lever position lights not operating, overdrive light not operating & hold/power lights flashing, these all can be signs of electronic faults. If these symptoms are apparent, go to our Contact Us page, tell us what's wrong & we will contact you, or call an ATRA Member to make an appointment.

Why does it cost so much to have my automatic transmission repaired?

It doesn't, at least it doesn't when you understand what we need to do to repair your automatic transmission. You see, repairing an automatic transmission is not as simple as changing the spark plugs or adjusting the carburettor. Today's automatic transmission - particularly those with front wheel drive technology or computerised overdrive systems are extremely complicated units. There are over one thousand parts in some of todays hi-tech automatic transmissions and the parts for some can cost 10 times as much as automatic transmission parts for older types of automatic transmissions. Just getting to the parts you need to see to find out what's wrong often calls for major surgery - especially in smaller cars where the manufacturer has tightly packed different mechanical systems on top of and around each other. With such complex units, preventative maintenance is the key to keeping repair costs down.

Why can't you tell me what it's going to cost to fix my automatic transmission without taking it apart first?

You'd be amazed at how many people expect us to diagnose their automatic transmission problems over the telephone!! Aside from the fact that a Customer might easily miss a symptom a trained transmission specialist would see or hear when the vehicle is brought into the workshop. Can you tell the difference between a rattle - buzz - whine and slip?? And, do you mean the same thing by those words, as we do?? The plain truth is, we simply can't be sure of what's wrong with your automatic transmission until we take a look inside... NOBODY CAN!! Symptoms which can be observed externally, like noises, leaks or vibrations can signal a wide range of possible problems, not necessarily a single malfunction. We have to give your transmission a thorough multi-inspection to really determine what's causing the symptom.

How do I know I'm getting a fair deal?

There are several things you can do to protect yourself from dishonest automatic transmission repairers. Ask your regular mechanic to recommend an Automatic Transmission Specialist workshop, or ask your friends or neighbours who may have had the need for automatic transmission repairs in the past. Book your vehicle in for a transmission multi-inspection and ensure the repairs are warranted against faulty workmanship and parts. Ask for an itemized account.

How do you take care of your automatic transmission?

The automatic transmission should be serviced at regular intervals if maximum operational economy is to be realised. Every year or 20,000 kms - whichever comes first. Automatic Transmission Fluid should be checked every 1,000 kms and its level, colour and smell noted. Fluid is normally crimson red in colour. Black or dark brown oil usually means a problem exists.

Low Fluid will literally always indicate a leak or a malfunction in the automatic transmission or its other related components. Leaking Fluid is often "your automatic transmissions way of 'yelling for help'". If leaks are detected, then your transmission should be diagnosed immediately for economy and safety. If Leaks are detected, then you should consult an ATRA Member.

Be aware of changes in driving characteristics of your car. Late or early shifting, slipping or noises of any kind should be diagnosed immediately for economy and safety. Virtually always, the "quiet vehicle" which "operates properly", is a safe vehicle.

Excessive Heat is a major cause of premature automatic transmission failure. The Vehicles Cooling System should be checked regularly and repairs made without delay if necessary. Rocking a Vehicle back and forth when stuck in snow or sand will often have the automatic transmission operating in excess of 400 degrees Fahrenheit or 185 degrees celsius. Should this occur, you are most certainly in for an immediate automatic transmission failure or problem. Heavy Loads will cause overheating and reduce automatic transmission life tremendously. Care should be taken not to exceed the vehicle manufacturers recommendations for weight limits - Loading or towing. Where vehicles are used for towing or carrying heavy loads additional transmission oil cooling is recommended.

Proper Engine Tune Up is extremely important to the life of the automatic transmission. Some automatic transmissions use Engine Vacuum to control shift quality and hydraulic pressure, with these, "engine tune-up" becomes even more critical.

Early Diagnosis and Repair - are without a doubt your "best bet" when searching for minimised vehicle operating costs. Left unattended, small malfunctions can and usually will lead to serious major repairs. WOULD YOU BELIEVE...??? That automatic transmissions are safer to drive than manual transmissions? (Two feet, three feet pedals have never worked our right). That most car owners ignore their automatic transmissions completely - until a complete overhaul becomes more expedient.

My vehicle won’t move when I put it into Drive or reverse, what should I do?

When this happens you should immediately contact your closest ATRA member. Make sure to tell them when the problem first started happening and if there are any strange noises coming from the transmission. It is best not to try to drive the vehicle until you have spoken to one of our members who will advise you on the best course of action

My Transmission overheat light comes on, what should I do?

The first thing is to not continue to drive the vehicle. Pull up safely on the side of the road, place the transmission in Park with the handbrake on and keep the engine running until the Overheat light goes out. Then use our website to find your closest ATRA member, call them and they will advise you on the best course of action. Definitely do not continue driving the vehicle with the overheat light on as you may cause major damage to the vehicle and powertrain resulting in costly repairs.

My vehicle drives but does not change gears, is it ok to keep driving it this way?

The short answer is no, you may be doing further damage by continually driving the vehicle in this state. Find your nearest ATRA member to arrange a diagnosis of your vehicle. It could be as simple as a fuse but could also be much worse, if you continue to drive the vehicle you may cause major damage to the vehicle and powertrain resulting in costly repairs so arrange to see your ATRA member ASAP

My Transmission is making strange noises, what should I do?

When this happens you should immediately contact your closest ATRA member. Make sure to tell them when the problem first started happening and under what conditions the strange noises are coming from the transmission. It is best not to try to drive the vehicle until you have spoken to one of our members who will advise you on the best course of action.

I have oil on the ground under my transmission, is this serious?

Firstly engine oil is generally brown or black, transmission oil can be clear or red. There are many reasons for an oil leak, some are simple, some require a little more attention. If the vehicle is still driving ok, take it to your nearest ATRA member who will investigate the cause of the leak and advise of any corrective actions required. Many modern transmission do not have a dipstick, so without the proper tools it is not possible to check the transmission oil level, that is why an ATRA member is best equipped to look after your vehicle for you.

My transmission has failed. What do I do now?

Transmission failure is an infrequent occurrence and can be a very inconvenient event. By choosing an ATRA Member workshop you are in the hands of skilled and experienced technicians who will guide you through the repair process and return your car to you with a transmission that has been rebuilt to a high standard and often better than the original.

How can a reconditioned transmission be better than new?

Over a number of years, transmissions develop faults. The original manufacturers of these transmissions are always developing changes and fixes to make their product better. As transmission rebuilders we become very familiar with what goes wrong or what can potentially go wrong in the future with your transmission. Using this knowledge we can rebuild your transmission using the most up to date parts, latest fixes and latest modifications.

What types of problems are common with Automatic Transmissions?

Modern transmissions are a very complex and sophisticated piece of machinery consisting of hundreds and hundreds of parts and ancillary equipment. Sometimes the problem may seem like a transmission problem but could be something else in the vehicle. Sometimes the repair may be of little consequence (such as low battery voltage or a bad connector) or a major problem where a complete overhaul may be required. Rest assured that ATRA Members will give you the best diagnosis and advise in the automotive repair industry.

Can I trust an ATRA Member?

Chances are that you have been referred to us by your own mechanic, a friend, a neighbor or a state motoring association who have dealt with an ATRA shop previously and been satisfied with the work performed. Or if you have selected us from the phone book, internet or just drove in off the street, rest assured that you are dealing with a repairer, who has, on average, years of industry experience. We are dedicated and enthusiastic about our trade and can deliver to you a transmission repair that will give you peace of mind and true value for the complexity of the work involved in getting your car back on the road. Not only that, ATRA Members back up the quality of their repairs with warranties designed to make you secure in the fact that a professional job was carried out on your vehicle. ATRA is a network that has been helping motorists since the late 1970’s and is continuously evolving to meet the technological advances in modern vehicles.

What happens when I take my vehicle to an ATRA member with a problem?

Your car will be test driven (if it is drivable) and a number of mechanical checks, fluid checks and electronic scans will be conducted. Some transmissions will require the transmission sump to be removed and inspected for debris. From this we may be able to determine the nature of the transmission failure, and will advise you accordingly. However certain transmissions may have to be removed from the vehicle and dismantled to perform a correct diagnosis and method of repair. In some cases we may carry reconditioned exchange transmissions that have already been overhauled to exacting standards, for popular vehicles. This may be a cost effective and expedient way to have your vehicle on the road much quicker. Other transmissions may require longer repair and parts acquisition times and once again due to their complexity, may result in a longer repair process. You will be advised step by step by your ATRA Repairer.

How can I prevent this problem happening again?

Routine servicing is key. Talk to us. We will suggest many methods including regular servicing and periodic checks of your transmission. We will also advise on driving techniques and should you tow or carry heavy loads we may suggest auxiliary transmission oil coolers and explain why they should be fitted.

Today’s transmissions really are an amazing, intricate piece of sophisticated machinery. By dealing with an ATRA Member you are dealing with an industry trained professional and you are in the best hands!

Why choose an ATRA Member?

Started in Sydney in the early 1980’s ATRA has grown into a member network of independent automatic transmission professionals that cover every state in Australia and both islands of New Zealand. Its members are like minded, dedicated and enthusiastic automatic transmission experts. Each ATRA member workshop is independently owned and constantly stays abreast of technological changes and advances in automotive science by attending seminars, trade nights and training forums.

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