Automatic Transmission Fluid
Without oil, your car’s not going anywhere. And, out of all the car parts that require oil, your transmission is probably the most important. But, when it comes to checking the oil levels in a car, most people can only manage to monitor the engine oil by checking the levels on the dipstick. And, when it comes to your transmission, topping up with regular oil can cause big problems. Your gearbox, like any other gearbox, needs automatic transmission fluid or ATF.
ATF and Motor Oil
The difference between ATF and regular motor oil is that it contains a wide variety of chemical compounds specifically engineered to suit any particular transmission. Many ATF’s contain a combination of additives to improve lubrication such as anti-wear additives, rust and corrosion inhibitors, surfactants to protect and clean metal surfaces and many more additives to protect and improve the various functions of your gearbox. There are many types of specifications for ATF’s like the DEXRON and MERCON series but each manufacturer will have different ATF requirements for their transmissions which can be found in your owner’s manual. Making a habit of checking the lubrication levels in your car can greatly improve its performance and save you the heartache of having to replace your transmission, which any mechanic can tell you, can cost a small fortune.
History of ATF’s
Throughout the 1950’s and up until the 1970’s ATF’s contained animal based lubricants like whale oil to prevent friction build up. Unfortunately, whale oil would break down at higher temperatures which caused problems due to higher engine coolant temperatures used to reduce emissions and to save on fuel. The original DEXRON formulation (type B) and its predecessor, type A, contained whale oil. In response to this General Motors began manufacturing DEXRON II type C and later type D to substitute ATF’s that contained whale oil.