Old Car with Gear shift on the column - Manual Transmissions, Automatic Transmissions

Automatic or Manual Transmission?

Automatic transmission vehicles are becoming the most common to drive, while manual transmissions are going more out of style. First we’ll look at the main differences then some common myths surrounding the debate of automatic vs. manual transmissions.  This will help you decide what’s best for you.

Manual Transmission

A manual transmission is controlled via the stick shift and clutch. You change gears by pushing in the clutch and moving the stick shift to the appropriate gear. In the 1940s vehicles typically had only 3 gears, but now they commonly have 6, or even 7 for many sports cars. Learning to drive a manual transmission is a bit more tricky, but once you do you can drive almost any vehicle in the world.  This is particularly useful for countries where manual transmissions are the primary type of car. Also, most people find manuals more engaging to drive.

Automatic Transmission

Automatics used to only be available in luxury model cars.  Now they’re more common than manuals and are available at a similar price point. There are two types of automatic transmission, hydraulic and dual-clutch. Both change gears without requiring anything from the driver, although now many automatics now allow you to choose gears as well. It is more difficult to stall an engine with an automatic transmission and it tends to make for smoother driving, particularly in stop-and-go traffic.
Manual Transmissions - Automatic Transmissions

  1. Manuals get better fuel mileage. This used to be the case, but with advancing technology some automatics are now even surpassing manuals in fuel efficiency.
  2. Manual vehicles cost less. While this still holds true for most models, it isn’t always the case. Some vehicle models cost the same whether they have automatic or manual transmission. And today over 50% are not even produced with manual transmissions.
  3. Automatic transmission is always an option. There are a small group of specialized vehicles that are only produced with manual transmissions, such as the Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 or Ford Focus RS. Your dream car may not have an automatic option.

Which should you choose?

If you have the choice, the type of transmission you should drive depends mostly on your driving style and commute, but let’s face it, what you enjoy driving plays a huge part in your decision. If you have to go through a lot of stop-and-go traffic, an automatic is probably a better choice since you don’t have to constantly step on the clutch and shift. If you’re looking for a more dynamic experience, a manual transmission is the most interesting and fun to drive, which makes it good for longer distances. Maintenance costs are similar on both types. Although it’s typical for automatic transmissions to be easier to maintain, it really depends on the vehicle.

Do your research, check the cost of the car & maintenance; and, ultimately, choose the car that fits your lifestyle and that you will enjoy driving!

black car red barn at farm - Transmission Repair Salem Oregon

Transmission Repair – Fluid Leak

Transmission Repair

A transmission leak is one of those minor repairs that should be done immediately. There are severe consequences for neglecting to set up immediate transmission repair for a leak.  Once you notice the leak, keep in mind that a smaller leak is easier to fix than a larger leak.  And the leak will continue to get larger if left alone.


There are many causes of transmission leaks.  A mechanic would need to determine if there is a gap somewhere in the transmission, a leak in the pan, a nick or crack in the fluid line due to road debris or heat, loose or broken seals, etc.

Signs, Symptoms

The most common sign of a transmission fluid leak is a red oil stain on the pavement where your vehicle was parked. If the transmission fluid gets too low you will notice bucking, slipping out of gear, or high RPMs without accelerating. There are multiple causes of a leak, from the oil pan to the torque converter, and it can be difficult to find out where exactly it’s coming from.

Inspection & Repair

If your vehicle exhibits these symptoms, repair the transmission immediately, do not drive any further. If left unattended a transmission leak can leave you stranded.

This is our specialty so give us a call and schedule your transmission check, maintenance, or repair!

Duramax Transmissions: 503.363.6888

Car Shift Console - Transmission

Common Transmission Problems

There are a few transmission problems you should be on the lookout for to avoid costly repair, and Duramax offers all of the maintenance services that will keep your vehicle’s transmission in top shape. Different problems can have similar symptoms, so it is important to undertake regular transmission maintenance. Here are some of the most common issues and their symptoms.


Low Fluid or Leak

One of the most common problems are fluid leaks. Fluid leaks occur when the seals around the transmission or driveshaft become defective, causing wear on the transmission. Be on the lookout for bright to dark red or brown fluid leaking from your vehicle. Other symptoms include slipping gears or slow shifting. A fluid leak requires a complete flush and refill, as well as any necessary seal replacements.


Torque Converter

The torque converter is responsible for transmitting power from the engine to the transmission. It has a couple components that can become damaged, the needle bearings and the solenoid. Needle bearings help prevent the gears from wearing down. The bearings can become damaged, causing a grinding or brushing sound while the vehicle is in motion and the transmission to overheat. The solenoid assists the torque converter in the flow of fluid through the transmission. A solenoid malfunction has symptoms similar to a fluid leak, with an overheating transmission or slipping gears. If you suspect a leak and there is none, the solenoid is the next thing to check.



The clutch can be a perpetrator of a locked solenoid and torque converter malfunction, and is caused either by human or mechanical error. You’ll notice a clutch problem if it causes violent shaking in the undercarriage and overheating in the transmission. You may also notice a drop in horsepower in the engine. This can require a total clutch replacement.


Having this knowledge and promptly repairing the issues will save you money in the long run.  Make sure your repair shop is reputable and ASE certified.




Transmission Fluid

Regular Transmission Fluid Checks

Transmission Fluid Checks & Maintenance

Checking your transmission is an important part of vehicle maintenance, so you should develop a routine of checking your transmission fluid regularly to detect any problems.  This will also help you avoid leaks and low fluid levels. Follow these easy steps to check the transmission yourself:

  1. Prepare a clean white cloth
  2. Park the vehicle on a level surface. If your car sits on an incline, you’ll get an inaccurate reading on the dipstick.
  3. Start the vehicle and allow it to warm up, unless the owner’s manual states otherwise.   (Note:  Some vehicles gain an accurate reading differently).
  4. Pop the hood and locate the transmission fluid dipstick (check your owner’s manual).
  5. Caution, fluid may be hot! Carefully pull out the dipstick, wipe clean, and re-insert. Pull out the dipstick again and note the markings. There should two marks, an upper and lower fluid limit. The fluid line should be between the two markings. If the fluid is below the lower mark, you’ll need to add more fluid to avoid problems.
    • Refilling fluid: Carefully add your fluid to the transmission reservoir, using a funnel will make it easier. Continually recheck the dipstick to ensure it does not overfill.
  6. Check Color, Smell, and Consistency
    • Color: Transmission fluid needs to be bright to dark red or light brown in color. The newer the fluid, the brighter red it will be. Fluid that is a dark brown color indicates you should get a fluid change, and a black color can be a sign of transmission problems.
    • Smell: New transmission fluid is odorless or clean smelling. You or your mechanic needs to check out any burning smell immediately.
    • Consistency:  You will notice signs of car trouble in the consistency of transmission fluid so look for visible shavings or large particles. You can also tell that the wrong fluid was used if it appears foamy. If your transmission fluid is a thick consistency, don’t worry, that is sign of healthy fluid.

When you’re done, reinsert the dipstick and close the hood. Now you know how to check your transmission fluid for better car maintenance and prevention.

Call Duramax Transmissions for an expert opinion:  503.363.6888.  Visit us @ www.duramaxtransmissionsautorepair.com.

Do you need a transmission specialist for truck transmission work?

truck transmission

Truck Transmission Repair Specialist

Trucks are built for tough terrain and heavy loads, which makes a truck transmission more complex and trucks more expensive.  To protect your investment, when it comes to truck transmissions, you want an expert to do your transmission repair.   Choosing the right specialist will generally provide you a better warranty, faster service, and a more highly trained and certified mechanic.  Ask your service center or Transmission shop if they have Truck Transmission Repair Specialists available for your make and model when you set up your appointment.  A specialist will be trained by the manufacturer and have the tools, knowledge, and expertise to keep you on the road.

When is it okay to use a general service center?

For transmission service such as flushes, fluid replacement or transmission gasket replacement, a general service center will be more cost effective.  However, if you need a repair, call on the experts to ensure the longest life for your truck transmission.

Automatic Transmission - transmission flush or fluid exchange

Do I need a Transmission Flush or Transmission Fluid Exchange?

Automatic TransmissionThere are two main automotive services for transmissions, but which is the most effective?  Which one will increase the life of your vehicle?

For a Transmission Fluid Exchange, referred to as a “Transmission Service”, the pan is drained and the filter is replaced.  This is recommended every 2 years or 30,000 miles.  It’s an improvement that will help the car run better.  Since part of the old contaminated fluid remains in the cooler lines and torque converter, eventually, it will cause the vehicle to overheat and work harder.  This will decrease performance and over time, can lead to transmission failure.   This is why a Transmission Flush will still need to be performed at recommended intervals.

A Transmission Flush is the “full meal deal” and will include removing the dirty fluid from the pan, cooler lines, and torque converter, removing contaminates that have built up over time, replacing the transmission filter, and dropping and inspecting the pan for issues.   This is recommended every 3 years or 45,000 miles.  Replacing all of the fluid through a cooler line or pump inlet flush machine will increase the performance and life span of your vehicle.  This service is well worth the extra investment.   You can always do a Transmission Flush in place of a Fluid Exchange every 2 years or 30,000 miles.  It’s up to you.

It’s important to note that a Transmission Flush will not “fix” the problems you are experiencing if your transmission is failing.  A transmission that has not been well maintained can fail directly after a flush, so it’s important to ensure that your transmission is being regularly maintained by a reputable automotive repair shop.  If you have any questions, bring it in for a diagnostic.  The diagnostic is free if repairs are done at our shop!


transmission repairs

Time for Transmission Repair?

Replacing your transmission is one of the most expensive automotive repairs.  Fortunately, if you recognize them early, there are some signs to watch for that will lead to easier, less expensive transmission repairs.  Some signs & symptoms will alert you to the need for a simple transmission maintenance such as adding fluid or flushing the transmission system.

What is the transmission?

Without your transmission, your car would never move. The transmission’s job is to transfer power from the engine to the driveshaft, which controls the wheels and moves the car forward. Heat and friction causes more wear on the transmission than any other part of the vehicle which over time, can cause it to fail. Listed below are several signs that can alert you to the need for a transmission repair, hopefully before major repairs are needed.


Lack of Response

If you notice hesitation when switching into gear or if your vehicle refuses to go in to gear at all, you have a transmission issue. In this case automatic and manual transmissions have different responses. An automatic transmission will have a delay before the gear engages. After shifting into gear a manual will have an RPM surge, but the car won’t go as fast as the engine sounds. Both are usually caused by a clutch that needs replaced, or it could be a more serious problem.


Transmission Noise

 It can be hard to know if your vehicle is making a sound that means trouble or not. But when it comes to the transmission it’ll be a sound you’ve never heard before. Manual transmissions will sound “slightly more mechanical, louder, and abrupt” when they have an issue. If your vehicle makes a “bump” sound while in neutral, it can be as simple as adding more transmission fluid or changing it. If the sound doesn’t go away, you may need to replace worn out parts.


Leaking Fluid

 One of the most recognizable symptoms is leaking transmission fluid. If it is a simple leak, the fluid will appear bright red, clear, and smell sweet. However, if the fluid is dark or has a burnt smell, then the transmission fluid needs to be changed or flushed. Additional repairs may also be required. You can also check the level of your transmission fluid before it leaks for signs that it needs to be changed.


Grinding and Shaking

In a manual transmission, if you notice a grinding noise or feeling after engaging the clutch and shifting into gear, this can be a sign that the clutch needs repair. Automatic transmissions will delay moving into gear and as the problem worsens, the transition into gear becomes more jarring and involves more shaking.


More signs

Additional signs of transmission failure include a burning smell, check engine light, vehicle slipping n and out of gear on its own, or the a dragging clutch.  If you notice any of these or the above signs, call your mechanic or auto shop to discuss options. Duramax Transmissions is available in your Salem, Oregon area and specializes in both manual and automatic transmission. You may reach us at 503- 363-6888.