Can Cold Weather Affect Your Transmission?

Wondering if cold weather can affect your transmission? In short, cold temperatures can have a significant impact on a vehicle’s transmission system, even causing slipping in some cases. Read on to learn more about the effects of freezing temperatures on your transmission, as well as get some proper cold weather transmission care tips to prevent damage.

How does cold weather affect a transmission?

Cars don’t like the cold in general, and the transmission is just one critical system that can be harmed when exposed to freezing temperatures. Some of the main problems to look out for include:

  • Contraction: Car parts contract when they get cold, causing components to loosen up, wear faster and develop leaks when seals shrink-harden.
  • Viscosity change: Cold weather causes the viscosity of transmission fluid to change, causing it to get thicker. When a transmission reaches below-zero temperatures, the fluid gets too thick, failing to lubricate parts and causing premature wear.
  • Shifting issues: Freezing temperatures cause the transmission to shift harder. As shift points become delayed, it compounds the problem, leading to even harder shifting. As the transmission is working in overdrive, hard shifts add excess pressure on numerous components, which increases the risk of failure for the entire transmission.
  • Delayed overdrive: If the transmission isn’t at an appropriate operating temperature, the vehicle’s computer can delay overdrive engagement. Not only does this delay impact your ability to drive, but it also puts too much pressure on forward gears.
  • Water in the transmission: Water in a transmission is a recipe for disaster. If water freezes in the transmission, it expands and can crack the case and valve body. Since the transmission can’t be rebuilt at this point, the only remedy is full replacement.

Cold weather transmission care tips

Follow these simple steps to keep your transmission in great shape, no matter the temperature outside:

  • Let your car warm up: No matter how big a hurry you’re in, let your car warm up during the cold winter months before driving. Today’s transmissions receive information from sensors on the engine, and the computer will automatically assume that if your engine is cold, your transmission is, too. Since the computer modifies the performance of behavior based on temperature, let your car warm up to avoid “over-adapting” before you hit the road.
  • Use synthetic fluid: Switching to a synthetic transmission fluid is recommended if your vehicle’s exposed to cold temperatures. Synthetic fluid is often less viscous when temperatures are freezing, allowing for proper lubrication of parts.
  • Drive slowly: When you’re just hitting the road and your car is still cold, drive slowly for the first several miles. This allows all fluid and internal parts to warm up to normal temperatures, ensuring they receive adequate lubrication.

Cold weather can affect your transmission in a variety of ways. Whether you’re noticing new shifting problems, or your transmission seems to have failed entirely, Qwest Automotive Service can help. We provide honest, up-front customer service and can get your transmission back in shape in no time. Reach out today to schedule a service appointment.