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Summary
  • Shrunken rubber seals and gaskets, thicker transmission fluid, and water entering the system are some of the possible effects of cold weather on your transmission.
  • Drive slowly, park indoors, and invest in an engine heater to protect your vehicle from the cold.
  • To check your transmission temperature, you can use a transmission temperature gauge, a diagnostic scan tool, or a handheld infrared thermometer.

Most vehicles are designed to make it through the winter, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need a little TLC when the snow starts to melt. With icy cold nights now behind you, it’s time to check on several vehicle systems, including your transmission.

How Does Cold Weather Affect Your Transmission?

No vehicle is immune to the cold, especially when it’s exposed to long winter nights. Here are some ways extreme cold weather can damage your ride:

Shrunken Rubber Seals and Gaskets

Low temperatures can cause your transmission’s rubber seals and gaskets to shrink, leading to cracked or worn rubber. Not only can this lead to transmission fluid leaks, it also opens your transmission to water, dirt, and other contaminants.

Dirty transmission fluid compromises its cooling abilities, which means it’s very likely for your transmission to overheat. An overheating transmission can damage other parts of your vehicle, including the engine.

Fixing Shrunken Rubber Seals and Gaskets:

Replace worn rubber seals and gaskets right away. If you aren’t sure how to replace your transmission seal or gasket by yourself, don’t hesitate to ask a mechanic for help.

Thick Transmission Fluid

The winter can mess with your transmission fluid’s viscosity, making it much thicker than it should be. Thick transmission fluid has a hard time lubricating the gears and other parts of your transmission. This can damage your gearbox and cause its parts to wear faster.

Fixing Thick Transmission Fluid:

If you live somewhere cold, check your transmission fluid level regularly. This way, you can make sure that your transmission is always good to go. The process of checking your transmission fluid can vary depending on your vehicle’s year, make, and model, but it usually involves checking your transmission dipstick.

Water in Your Transmission

Water and transmission are two things that should never meet. When water enters the gearbox, it can cause several parts to wear and eventually lead to a malfunctioning transmission. The good thing is that transmission systems are designed to make sure water can’t just get in. Unfortunately, they aren’t invincible.

Worn seals and cracked gaskets can allow water to enter the transmission and cause corrosion. During extremely cold days, all that water can freeze and cause your gearbox to crack.

Getting Rid of Water in Your Transmission:

Try warming up your vehicle before driving. This can help prevent water from freezing in your transmission, but it isn’t a long-term solution. As soon as you notice puddles of transmission fluid or water under your vehicle, bring your car to a mechanic.

Shifting Problems for Automatic Transmissions

If you drive an automatic vehicle, then you might’ve noticed your gears shifting slower than usual. This is likely due to thick transmission fluid and low fluid pressure, which can both be caused by cold weather.

Slipping gears is also a common issue during the winter. A low transmission temperature can cause several parts to contract, causing gears to slip more often.

Fixing Shifting Issues for Automatic Transmissions:

In most cases, shifting issues should go away once the transmission fluid’s temperature goes up. You can do this by warming up your vehicle while idling before you drive away.

If the weather has warmed up and your transmission is still shifting slowly, then it’s probably time to visit your mechanic.

Taking Care of Your Transmission When It’s Cold

You don’t have to wait until winter’s over before taking care of your transmission. Here are a few ways you can protect your transmission when it’s cold:

Driving Slowly

As much as possible, avoid driving too fast when it’s cold. Let your transmission fluid and internal parts warm up during the first few miles to avoid damaging your transmission.

Parking Your Vehicle Indoors

Parking your vehicle indoors is a great way of protecting your car from the harsh cold weather. If you don’t have a garage, try parking at a covered parking spot. Even if it isn’t completely enclosed, it’s much better than leaving your car out in the open.

Investing in an Engine Heater

Using an engine heater is a great way to keep your vehicle warm. Most engine heaters are easy to use. All you have to do is plug one into an outlet, and a timer should go off, letting you know when it’s reached its optimal temperature.

Using Synthetic Transmission Fluid

You can find synthetic transmission fluids that are better suited for cold weather. However, not every vehicle can handle synthetic fluid, so be sure to check if it’s compatible with your car’s specific year, make, and model before you use it.

What Is the Normal Transmission Temperature?

The optimal temperature for the transmission will vary depending on your vehicle’s year, make, and model. However, the average transmission temperature ranges from 175°F to 200°F.

How To Check Your Transmission’s Temp

There are several ways to check your transmission’s temperature. Here are a few examples:

Using a Transmission Temperature Gauge

Nowadays, most vehicles come with built-in dashboard gauges that display the transmission’s temperature in real time. This is a great way to monitor your transmission during the cold winter days.

Using a Scan Tool

If you have a scan tool, you can also use it to check your transmission temperature. It’s usually easy to use and shows accurate results.

Using a Handheld Infrared Thermometer

You can also use a handheld infrared thermometer to check your transmission temperature. Point the thermometer at the transmission oil pan to see your transmission’s temperature.

However, the environment can also influence the temperature reading, so this method might not always be accurate.

About The Authors
Written By Automotive and Tech Writers

The CarParts.com Research Team is composed of experienced automotive and tech writers working with (ASE)-certified automobile technicians and automotive journalists to bring up-to-date, helpful information to car owners in the US. Guided by CarParts.com's thorough editorial process, our team strives to produce guides and resources DIYers and casual car owners can trust.

Reviewed By Technical Reviewer at CarParts.com

Richard McCuistian has worked for nearly 50 years in the automotive field as a professional technician, an instructor, and a freelance automotive writer for Motor Age, ACtion magazine, Power Stroke Registry, and others. Richard is ASE certified for more than 30 years in 10 categories, including L1 Advanced Engine Performance and Light Vehicle Diesel.

Any information provided on this Website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace consultation with a professional mechanic. The accuracy and timeliness of the information may change from the time of publication.

File Under : Transmission , DIY
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