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May 16, 2016
How Frequently Should you change wiper blades?

 Ever wonder how often the wiper blades on your windshield should be changed? Although some wiper blade manufacturers recommend 6 months to one year, the truth is that it all depends on the conditions your car faces.
If you spend the majority of your time on the Monterey Peninsula, where it’s cooler throughout the year and there’s not a lot of rain, your windshield wiper blades could last up to two years. If, however, you use your wiper blades frequently, drive and park in areas with high temperatures, or park your vehicle outside of the protection of a garage, your wiper blades may need to be replaced sooner.
Also, do you have wiper blades attached to the front and to the rear of your vehicle? Many may consider replacing the front windshield wiper blades more frequently than the back since they are used more often. However, the back window wiper blades may get more direct sun and heat, depending on where you park your car on a daily basis. If you have front and rear wiper blades on your vehicle, consider replacing them at the same time.
The best way to figure out if you need to change your wiper blades, is to test them. If your visibility is affected, you don’t want to risk having worn out blades. When your wiper blades no longer make proper contact with the windshield surfaces of your vehicle -- either front or back -- they can begin to squeak, chatter, skip, smear or streak. Worn out wiper blades reduce driving visibility, and that can be inconvenient at best, or dangerous at worst.


April 20, 2016
The Main Enemy of your Transmission? Summer Heat!

Summer is starting up in the area but as we continue on this streak of warmer temperatures, you've got to watch out for your car. Did you know that an overwhelming amount of transmission problems and failures are caused by the car getting too hot? Overheating your car could cost you thousands of dollars in a transmission rebuild. As your car expels heat the hot air travels up from your engine to your transmission and transmission cooler. This also heats up the fluid in your transmission lines. Heated fluid can lead to malfunction of the clutch, burning of the seals, and formation of varnish.

How do you avoid unnecessary heating of the transmission? Below are a few tips:

1) Avoid stop and go traffic during hot temperatures. Continuous stopping can generate extreme heat and also causes your transmission to work harder.

2) Do not do any heavy towing during hot climate times. The extra weight from towing will have your transmission working harder in addition to already dealing with the hot weather.

3) Check fluid levels monthly. Leaks, or low fluid can contribute to the overheating of a car. Transmission fluid is critical to cooling and lubricating your vehicle’s transmission. When checking look for lack of fluid, burnt or dirty fluid.

4) Have your fluids changed regularly. Dirty, burnt fluids will not properly cool your car. Around every 30 thousand miles you will want to have your fluid changed out and replaced.

5) Make sure your solenoid is working. The solenoid regulates the amount of fluid that is distributed to the transmission. When the solenoid is defective not enough fluid will be pumped to the transmission.

6) Provide regular maintenance to your car’s radiator. The radiator’s job is to cool down the transmission- if it is not working then your transmission can quickly overheat.

Ideally the transmission fluid temperatures should be under 175 degrees to ensure that the transmission is being properly cooled. If your car is heating up even a small drop in temperature can save your transmission from breaking down. If it is time to get your fluids changed or checked- or if you are having any issues with your transmission give Brownies Independent Transmission a call today and we will work with you to check it out.


March 30, 2016
Troubleshooting Problems With Steering and Suspension

 Your car's suspension system is an intricate network of cooperating (usually, anyway) components designed to give you a smooth, even, stable ride. Since the suspension is ground zero when it comes to road abuse, the parts wear out, and even break. If your car doesn't seem to ride like it used to, you may have a problem down below.

It may seem daunting to try to diagnose steering or suspension problems, but if you attack it systematically, you have a fighting chance.

Just find the symptom that sounds like you and see what the probable causes are.

Money Saver: Before you start replacing parts, it's a good idea to check all of the mounting nuts and bolts to be sure the problem isn't being caused by simple looseness!

Symptom: Pulling to One Side While Driving

Low or uneven tire pressure - check tire inflation.
Uneven tire wear - check front tires for even wear and replace both front tires.
Alignment bad - check and adjust wheel alignment.
Steering components bad - inspect tie rods and steering rack.
Sticking brake caliper - inspect brakes for uneven wear or excessive heat. Repair as needed.
Symptom: Flip-flop wheel shimmy. Wheels seem to wander and wiggle rapidly back and forth.

Low or uneven tire pressure - check tire inflation.
One or more wheels out of balance - have wheels balanced.
Uneven or excessive tire wear - inspect tires and replace in pairs.
Vehicle out of alignment - check and adjust wheel alignment.
Worn steering components - inspect tie rods and steering rack for excessive play and repair if needed.
Symptom: Porpoising over bumps or uneven roads. Porpoising, aka bouncing, dipping, diving. Car keeps going up and down after you go over a bump.

Worn shocks or struts - replace shocks and/or struts.
Broken or slipped leaf spring - inspect leaf springs and repair or replace as needed.
Symptom: Steering seems to be slipping.As you turn the wheel or hold it in a turned position, it feels like its slipping slightly back and forth.

Low power steering fluid - add fluid as needed.
Loose or worn power steering belt - tighten or replace belt.
Bad power steering pump - have checked for pressure and replace if needed.
Leaking power steering rack - inspect steering rack for leaks and replace rack if needed.
Broken steering rack mounts - inspect mounts for excessive play and repair as needed
Symptom: Hard to steer. Wheel is hard to turn, especially while moving at slow speed.

Low power steering fluid - add fluid as needed.
Loose or worn power steering belt - tighten or replace belt.
Bad power steering pump - have checked for pressure and replace if needed.
Leaking power steering rack - inspect steering rack for leaks and replace rack if needed.

February 9, 2016
The Basics of Automatic Transmission Troubleshooting

To perform automatic transmission troubleshooting as accurately and cost-effectively as possible, you should follow these steps in order before you decide to bring your car to the shop. If the problem is too advanced to fix yourself, pin-pointing the exact cause can still help to make repairs easier on you as well as the shop.

Step 1. Try to determine the problem first
Since you understand how your vehicle should feel and operate more than any other person, try to determine what the problem is firsthand. For example, look under your car for any leaks, shift between gears for any issues, or determine whether gears are slipping. Here’s a useful chart of common problems and what causes them:

Step 2. Check the transmission fluid
Checking the transmission fluid will be the next thing you’ll want to do, since the majority of transmission problems are caused by either low fluid levels or ineffective fluid. So, with that in mind, make sure you check both the levels and the fluid condition. If you don’t know how to check transmission fluid yet, here’s our useful tutorial on the process. Low fluid levels will mean that you’ll have to add more of the transmission fluid that is specified in the owner’s manual, while fluid that is contaminated, black, or burnt will require a complete fluid and filter change.

Step 3. Check on-board diagnostic codes
If the transmission fluid looks okay, or adding or changing the fluid hasn’t helped to solve the problem(s), the next step in automatic transmission troubleshooting is to check your car’s on-board computer for any OBD codes. There are a few places that offers free scans such as AutoZone and Advance Auto Parts (you could even try repair shops around your area), although they will only provide you with the OBD codes that come up. You can also purchase your own OBD scanner if you are going to use it frequently, and a few good, reasonably priced ones include the Autel MaxiScan MS300 and the Actron PocketScan. There are even apps that you can use with an Android phone (e.g. Torque Pro). If you are looking to find out what a specific OBD code is including repair advice, offers lots of information on this topic.

Step 4. Refer to a repair manual or website
If no OBD codes pop up or you can’t find any solutions to it, what you’ll want to do next is refer to a repair manual or website for your particular vehicle’s make and model. Repair manuals often go much more in-depth although you’ll have to pay for them, and popular options include Haynes and All Data DIY. There are auto repair help websites online as well, which either offers free information (e.g. AutoMD, AutoZone) or consists of a question and answer forum (e.g. 10w40, RepairPal).

Step 5. Have a professional look at it
The last thing to do if all other transmission troubleshooting methods have failed is to have a professional transmission specialist look at your car. There are just some things that someone with more experience can help solve, and this is also recommended if a problem is too complicated to fix yourself. For a convenient service, we highly recommend YourMechanic, which not only provides you a free online repair quote instantly but also provides diagnostics and services right at your home or office. You can learn more about them here.


January 7, 2016
Best Cars For Snowy Conditions

When white stuff hits the ground, having four-wheel or all-wheel drive is an unmitigated blessing, right? Wrong.

When snowstorms hit, if you have an all-wheel drive vehicle, you may become overconfident. People drive faster than they otherwise would. Yet all-wheel drive doesn’t help you stop quicker. An all-wheel drive system is designed to keep you from getting stuck.

In addition to all-wheel or four-wheel drive, experts urge buyers to look for cars with these extras: electronic stability control (ESC), good ground clearance and a low center of gravity.

Winter Tires

There is another way, say experts, to improve the traction, performance and safety of any vehicle traveling in snow: winter tires. The need for winter tires is greater than before because the tires commonly installed on new vehicles have been getting wider. The wider the tread, the more difficult it is to dig down through the snow.

Snow tires are especially important for anyone who lives in the Ohio, the snow belt, because they provide roughly one-third better traction than all-season tires. The best ones use a softer compound and a molded-in sipe–a strategically placed groove in addition to the normal tire tread to help carry the water out. Rubber actually sticks to ice if you can get rid of the water.

Vehicles that most need winter tires are those that come with low-profile performance tires or “all-season” tires that carry V or W speed ratings. Both sacrifice performance on slippery roads.

Top Shopping Tips

Make sure there are snow tires available for your vehicle before you buy it since there are a few high-performance sport sedans and sports cars for which no winter tires are made.

Shoppers should also check with their insurance agent prior to purchasing a particular vehicle, since cars with snow tires may be eligible for vehicle safety discounts, which in many cases are established on the basis of winter accident and claims rates.

You should also consider specifically how much driving you plan to do in deep snow before deciding whether you need all-wheel drive. If you’ll be frequently encountering 10 inches of snow and still need to get to work, then all-wheel drive is the way to go. For four inches or less, your best option is a front-wheel-drive vehicle with snow tires, which will offer better fuel economy on milder days.

And while some people believe a heavy vehicle is better for snowy or slippery roads, lighter definitely is better.

If you have more weight, you have a better contact patch to get moving, but then you have that much more weight to stop. It’s actually harder to regain control.

In other words, while a heavier vehicle can get a deeper grip, more mass is going to be more difficult to stop and to steer.

To help address such problems, 87% of all new SUVs now come standard with ESC systems. These can reduce rollover risk by 80% or more.

And when whiteout conditions make spotting other motorists a challenge, visibility–both seeing and being seen–is crucial. According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data, 2.7% of all driver fatalities occur in situations where vision is obscured.

Winter drivers must remain relaxed but focused and alert. To that end, some new vehicles come with features that add comfort and relieve stress, including heated mirrors, heated steering wheels, headlight washers, heated washer nozzles and heated windshields. Most of these conveniences tend to help, especially the heated windshields, which speed up the defogging process and eliminate some of the need to scrape; the headlight washers, which help keep away grime and dirt for bright beams; and heated washer nozzles, to help keep the windshield clear.

If you need a vehicle for extensive driving in deep snow, the more car-like SUVs, called crossovers are recommended. Some of the crossovers have good ground clearance and also a low center of gravity, which makes them better choices than truck-based SUVs.

Overall, if driven responsibly, a vehicle with all-wheel drive, decent ground clearance and a relatively low center of mass is best.

Vigilance is the key word here. Staying out of trouble on winter roads is determined more by attitude and driving style than by the car you drive. Good, safe winter driving requires careful changes in direction and smooth braking, respecting and maintaining precious traction. Once you lose it, you may not get it back.


October 22, 2015
Some Transmission Problems Can Be Expensive

If you drive a car with an automatic transmission you may have thought about what you would experience if the transmission started to fail. Here are 5 signs of transmission problems you shouldn't ignore:

1.     Transmission Slipping
      If you're experiencing automatic transmission slipping, it can feel like you’re driving in a certain gear and then it changes for no apparent reason. The noise from the engine may change in pitch or start to sound like whining. Your car may also seem like it’s struggling, is suddenly underpowered, or isn’t accelerating like it should.
2.     Rough Shifts
      Your car may feel like it’s refusing to change gears as it normally does, or the gear shifts aren’t very smooth. Sometimes you can feel or hear a noticeable “clunk” or “thud” when the car shifts gears. You may also notice the car has difficultly getting up to speed.
3.     Delayed Engagement
      If this symptom occurs, you’ll notice a delay before the car actually engages into drive and starts moving forward. When you shift out of “P” and into “D,” there may be a long pause where the car revs the engine as you give it gas, but it’s not moving forward as it should.
4.     Fluid Leak
      Transmissions are generally sealed units that should never leak fluid. If you’ve noticed leak spots on your driveway or garage floor, lay down cardboard under your car in the front and middle to determine if they’re active leaks. If your transmission is leaking - fluid is bright red, but can also be a dark red or brown - visit your auto service shop. Before refilling any transmission fluid; factory specifications should be followed because overfilling can create a bigger transmission issue.
5.     Transmission Warning Light
      A warning light alone, like the “check engine” light, typically doesn’t mean you have a transmission problem, but if any of the above symptoms are occurring in conjunction with an illuminated warning, have it diagnosed by a professional. A warning light typically means the computer is generating an error code that can be checked with a shop’s diagnostic equipment. For transmissions specifically, “P0700” is a code that can indicate a general transmission problem.


September 9, 2015
Save on Your Automobile Repair Bill by Paying Attention to Your Car

From experienced automotive professionals to the average driver, we’ve all heard mysterious sounds coming from our cars, but should we worry? The simple answer is yes. Automobiles are becoming increasingly complex, so it’s important to listen to your vehicle, and to have a qualified and trusted mechanic diagnose and resolve any issues. That said, when you hear a recurring sound that causes you concern, understanding how to explain that sound and any symptoms can provide an automotive technician with valuable information that can assist them in reaching a diagnosis more quickly. When these mystery sounds occur, pay attention to your engine speed, vehicle speed, engine load, and transmission range, as these are key indicators that a technician will want to know. And, equipped with a bit of knowledge, you the consumer can also stand to save a lot of time and money on repairs. Trust the ASE Certified Technicians at Brownies Independent Transmission the next time your car is trying to tell you something.

August 24, 2015
5 of the Most Common Transmission Problems

Lack of Response
Ever notice that while driving that the car hesitates or refuses to go into gear? If you have, then there is definitely something wrong. The moment a driver shifts from park to drive the car should immediately go into the proper gear. For automatic transmissions, you might notice that when shifting into drive or park that there is a delay before you feel the gear engage. This is usually a transmission-based concern. Manual transmissions can have the same lacking response issue, but after shifting into gear the engine’s RPMs will surge, but the car won’t move as fast as the engine sounds like it’s going. This is usually caused by a clutch that needs to be replaced, but may sometimes point to a more severe problem.

Whining, Clunking and Humming
It’s impossible to say exactly what your car will sound like when there is trouble with your transmission, but one thing is for sure, you’ll get a “I haven’t heard that sound before” feeling when you notice it. The sounds that are produced vary widely between different makes and models, but the best way to describe them is that you’ll probably hear a humming, buzzing or whining noise. Manual transmissions will emit sounds that can be described as being slightly more mechanical, louder and abrupt sounding. A clunking sounds when you shift gears almost always lies within a transmission, while constant velocity joins or the differential may be the source if the clunking is coming from the underside of your car. As mentioned already, it is always best to get the problem diagnosed and repaired as soon as possible and not wait until later when you “find the time” or “have the money”. If you wait until later what would have been a relatively inexpensive repair can easily become a much more costly one.

Leaking/Low Fluid
A leak is probably the most recognizable symptom and should be repaired as soon as possible. Letting the fluid leak is one of the most common causes transmission break down. Automatic transmission fluid (ATF) is the life-blood of a transmission as it lubricates, cleans and conditions the seals and acts as hydraulic fluid. Without it (or even if it gets too low), the engine will seize up and stop working completely. ATF is bright red in color, clear and smells somewhat sweet if everything is working correctly. If this is what you find on your driveway, then all that needs to be fixed is the hole. If the fluid is dark and/or has a burnt smell then it’s time to get the fluid changed or flushed and repairs might be required. To check if you’re running low on fluid, take your car for a short drive to warm it up and then lift the hood and read the dipstick (be sure the vehicle is on level ground). Unlike motor oil, transmission fluid is not burned off or consumed by a car so if the level is low then there is a leak somewhere that must be patched. It is recommended to top up the fluid anyway even if the leak still exists to make sure there is enough fluid for the transmission to function properly until you get it fixed. To check the fluid level for a manual transmission, you must check at the transmission case (usually through the fill plug) – not with a dipstick under the hood.

Grinding or Shaking
A car is supposed to run smoothly and without any shaking, or jerking, and there is not supposed to be any grinding sounds. These all suggest that there is a problem with the gears. Manual transmissions commonly indicate problems by making a grinding noise or feeling when you shift into a gear. If the grinding occurs after engaging the clutch and shifting, this can be sign that the clutch may need to be replaced or adjusted. That said, it can also point towards several other issues including damaged or worn out gear synchronizes. Automatic transmissions act a little differently. Instead of making a grinding noise, you will likely feel it take some time to wiggle into gear at first instead of the typical smooth transitions. As the problem gets worse, the transitions into the next gear become more jarring and involve more shaking. There are a few other reasons for grinding or shaking, but the appropriate course of action is still to have it inspected and serviced.

Burning Smell
Any burning smell coming from your car is a cause for concern. Overheating transmission fluid is one of the causes of a burning smell. Transmission fluid helps keep the parts lubricated and cooled so that they don’t get worn out and damaged. If the fluid breaks down, the system runs too hot which it results in increased friction and corrosive activity as well as the build up of additional sludge and debris. If this is not taken care of, the transmission will eventually damage itself enough to break down completely. The end result is an expensive replacement. Common causes include low fluid level or using the incorrect brand/type of fluid. To check for these, see the instructions in the section on Low/Leaking Fluid above. 


July 23, 2015
Transmission Problems Caused by Battery Terminal Corrosion

Every so often you notice it: The transmission shifts a little late, or maybe it seems to miss a gear entirely. Then it’s okay again… for a little while. Worst of all, there’s no rhyme or reason behind the condition. One minute it’s fine, the next it’s not.

So you pop the hood to check the transmission fluid level. Then you notice it: A big mountain of corrosion on the battery terminals. You’ll have to take care of that, but it can’t have anything to do with the transmission, right?

Wrong. In fact, there’s a good chance you just found your transmission problem. That’s because nearly every shift on today’s transmissions is operated electrically through a computer system. And that computer system gets its power from — you guessed it! — the battery.

So an intermittent voltage drop from the battery can cause all sorts of interesting problems with transmission operation. But wait; if the battery connections are bad, why does the engine start okay when you turn the key? Starting the engine should require a lot more current than the transmission, right?

That’s an interesting thing about electricity. Sometimes bad connections make contact okay when you apply a big load to the circuit; the extra current seems to push its way through the resistance, just like extra pressure might push through a kink in a garden hose. But the small amount of current required for the transmission solenoids isn’t enough to push through, so the transmission won’t operate properly.

The good news is the fix for this is easy… and relatively cheap. A good battery service, including cleaning the terminal ends, will usually be all that’s necessary to correct the problem permanently. If the connections are too bad, you may need to have the terminals or cables replaced. But either way, once it’s done, you’re back in business.

Don’t Try This at Home! Cleaning the battery terminals is easy; you can do it yourself, right? Careful, now. You could be opening a can of worms.

First off, those computer systems have memories. Disconnecting the battery could wipe those memories, causing you all sorts of driveability problems while the systems relearn their behaviors.

And on some cars, the radio could have a theft deterrent system. Disconnecting the battery could disable the radio until you enter the theft code. If you don’t know the code, the radio will have to go back to the manufacturer to be reset. That’s why most shops use a memory saver when disconnecting the battery. The memory saver applies a low voltage to the system to keep the memories alive while you have the battery disconnected. If you aren’t equipped to save the memories, your best bet is to leave servicing the battery to the professionals.

Your local Brownies Independent Transmission shop is equipped to service your car’s battery, including cleaning and repairing any issues with the terminal ends. And they’ll be able to check your transmission afterward, to make sure it’s working properly.


June 23, 2015
Why pick an ATRA member shop?

Brownies Independent Transmission is proud to be an active member of the Automatic Transmission Rebuilders Association (ATAR). With members across the US and Canada, ATRA’s network of automatic transmission repair professionals can offer you repair and warranty coverage anywhere you’re likely to drive. Because, wherever you go there’s always an ATRA member nearby.

With over 1,900 Member shop across the USA and Canada, ATRA is the largest automatic transmission repair network in the world… more than twice the size of the largest chain in theUS. This means that no chain can provide better warranty coverage than ATRA’s network of professional service centers.

Every ATRA Rebuilder Member must adhere to ATRA’s Code of Ethics…ATRA’s standards for providing honest, professional service. So, when you take your car to an ATRA Rebuilder Member, you’re assured of polite, professional service, at an honest price.

And not just automatic transmission repair: Brownies Independent Transmission also provide diagnostic and repair service for manual transmissions, clutches, differentials, driveshafts, drive axles, and transfer cases.

As members of ATRA, we practice the pledges of the Association code of Ethics:  that we will adhere to the Service and Repair definitions which are part of the ATRA By-Laws; that we will subscribe to the Guarantee Standards which are shown herein; and that we will practice the Advertising standards of the association as per the following:

For Rebuilder Members of the Automatic Transmission Rebuilders Association

As members of ATRA, we pledge to ourselves and to each other to diagnose transmission problems for customers and for each other in an expert and honest manner, and to state that the removal of a transmission from a vehicle in correction of its problems is necessary, only when this is the case.

We further pledge to provide prompt and courteous in-car diagnosis on behalf of customers of other member shops free of charge (Members may assess a charge up to one (1) hour of diagnostic time for electronic testing and scanning based on the current Golden Rule rate provided the charge is agreed to in advance by the warranting Member).
We further pledge to act with integrity, and to speak at all times in a responsible manner, and in all ways to adhere to the concept of the Golden Rule in our dealings with the motoring public and with our competitors of industry.
We further pledge ourselves to the promotion and improvement of the automatic transmission service and repair industry through maintaining the highest standards for parts and workmanship quality at our places of business.
We further pledge ourselves to the continual training and retraining of ourselves and our employees, in order to keep abreast of the constant changes in the state of the art of our industry.
We pledge to have ourselves and our employees tested and certified on a continuing basis in such a manner as will demonstrate the ATRA member shops are staffed with capable personnel.
We pledge to have ourselves and our employees tested and certified on a continuing basis in such a manner as will demonstrate the ATRA member shops are staffed with capable personnel.

May 18, 2015
Why is my Check Engine Light on?

On some cars it’s called a Check Engine light; others use a Service Engine Soon light. Still others just have a light with a picture of an engine on it. The industry calls it a MIL — Malfunction Indicator Lamp. All scary names for the same thing… something that isn’t scary at all. Basically the light means that the car’s computer has identified a problem in the system that needs attention.

What kind of attention? Professional attention, from a professional technician. It needs to have the computer system scanned and checked to identify any areas that have shifted outside of the normal operating range. Sounds confusing, but in reality that light is just the computer’s way of telling you to have your car checked. It found a problem — often one that you wouldn’t even notice during normal driving — and it needs to be checked before it becomes serious.

Why does the system need a Check Engine light? Because the more complex the system is, the more it has to help you monitor its performance and diagnose problems. And the computer system on today’s cars is highly-complex. So the system is designed to monitor operation and set codes when it identifies a problem.

Most of the time a Check Engine light indicates a problem that’ll increase emissions. And those emissions don’t have to increase much to turn the light on: Today’s cars are designed to run a lot cleaner than those of just a decade ago.
But even if you don’t really care all that much about your car’s environmental impact, a Check Engine light Is still something you’ll want to have checked. Keep in mind, anything that increases emissions probably also burns more gas. And at the price of gas today, that’s not something you want to ignore.

What’s more… pumping additional fuel through the engine can force the catalytic converter to work overtime to burn off the excess carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons. That can overheat the catalytic converter and burn it out in just a few miles. And replacing the catalytic converter can be an expensive repair you’ll have to take care of before you’ll be able to pass your next emissions test or smog test.

Your local Brownie’s Independent Transmission shop is equipped with the latest test equipment for diagnosing today’s computer systems. We’ll be happy to scan your car’s computer system and check for any codes stored in memory. And our technicians can examine the circuits and systems to track down any problems, and bring those systems back into proper operating condition.


April 13, 2015
The Heat is On… Ways to avoid having your car ovderheat

Vacations are right around the corner. It’s the time of year where families and old friend get together and slowdown from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. The last thing you want though is to spend your vacation week at an auto-repair shop in the middle of nowhere because your car is overheating. Regular maintenance will help extend the life of your car but there are a few items you want to pay extra attention to before heading out on a long trip.

Many times, a long trip includes a stretch through a desert or area of the country that’s reaches higher temperatures so you’ll want to check your cooling system. Most cars today use a single, serpentine belt to operate the water pump, alternator, power steering pump and air conditioning compressor rather than a combination of two or three fan belts. These serpentine belts generally have a service life of about 100,000 miles. If you have 100,000 or more miles on your car consider replacing it. A failing belt will give you no warning before it breaks but it will leave you stranded if it does. While you’re having the belt replaced your mechanic can check the condition of the water pump and other devices that you otherwise couldn’t with the belt on.

Also, if you’ve reached or exceeded that 100,000 mile mark have your radiator coolant replaced. Old coolant loses its lubricating ability and is a common cause of water pump bearing failure. In addition, as the coolant ages it becomes more acidic and begins to attack freeze plugs as well as the radiator and other metal areas it contact. Over time it can eat right through the radiator core or heater core and without any notice.

And don’t forget your automatic transmission. If you haven’t done so in a while (or ever) have your transmission serviced before the trip. Old transmission fluid loses its lubricating and cooling properties. It also gives your transmission specialist an opportunity to make sure it’s working properly.

Your local Brownie’s Independent Transmission can help you with the transmission service. We also work on other areas of the car and would be more than happy to check and service those cooling-systems items too.


March 16, 2015
Transmission Fluid Additives That Cause Your Transmission To Fail

Sooner or later your automatic transmission will fail; just like any other mechanical device. They can simply war out or… they suffer from other problems like hard internal seals. An automatic transmission operates by applying friction components like clutches and bands that operate a series of gear sets. These clutches and bands are applied by hydraulic pistons. These pistons have rubber seals on them to contain the oil pressure.

Over time, these seals may become hard and brittle. In this condition they're unable to contain the hydraulic pressure so the clutches and bands develop delayed engagements or may apply at all. Generally, this condition is worse when the transmission is cold. After the transmission warms up the seals will soften enough to operate properly.

This condition requires replacement of the seals in order to fix it properly. This is part of the rebuilding process. However, there are products on the market designed to soften these seals. You can find several brands of "transmission fix" at your local parts store.

Beware though, while these products do restore the sealing properties of the seals they will, over time, soften the seals to the point that they will fail. The fix, if you want to call it that, is a short-term remedy and withing a few months you can expect the transmission to fail completely.

Here's the danger: if you're in the market for a used car you bay unknowingly find one that's had an additive used to fix leaks or shifting problems. Detecting these additives is pretty simple; they have a distinct "sweet" smell to them. If you've ever smelled automatic transmission fluid you will definitely recognize the difference with an additive. Just remove the dipstick and take a whiff. If you're unfamiliar to the odor of transmission fluid or feel uncertain about it then take the car to your local Brownies Independent Transmission shop and we'll be happy to check it for you.

Finally, not all transmission fluid additives cause these kinds of problems. Some are actually beneficial to the operation of your automatic transmission. Here again, you can talk to your local Brownies Independent Transmission for more information regarding transmission fluid additives.


February 18, 2015
The Real Cost of Transmission Repair

You see it all over the internet: "Rebuilt Transmission, $799 for most cars", or articles that talk about the high cost of transmission repair. In the articles you'll read that a reasonable price for rebuilding an automatic transmission might be as high as $1,500. The reality is much different but might lead you to believe you're getting ripped off if a shop quotes a price much higher than that.

As with any purchase you want to get the best value for your dollar. If you have an older vehicle you might have to consider whether it's worth investing in the cost of a rebuilt transmission. Perhaps a repair might be a better choice. But if you're thinking about investing in a quality transmission repair understand that a $1,500 rebuild would be like buying a 50" flat-screen TV for $99; it's not realistic and the quality just won't be there

OK, you like the car you have and you'd like to keep it for awhile but the transmission went out. Brownies can help you understand the cost of rebuilding your transmission. If you're thinking of trading in your car make sure you check out our Fix or Trade Calculator. It'll help determine whether keeping your car and getting it fixed might be a better choice than replacing it with a new or used car.

You have a lot of choices when it comes to transmission repair. Take a few moments to learn more about the cost before you spend the money.


January 13, 2015
What is a Transmission?

Your car's transmission is the most complicated and least understood major component in your car or truck. In today's cars, the transmission is a combination of sophisticated hydraulics and computer-controlled electronic components.'

The transmission is a mechanical component designed to transmit power from a vehicle's engine to drive the axle, which makes the wheels drive the vehicle.

By varying the gear ratio, the transmission alters the levels of power and speed to the wheels. For example, in low ranges, the transmission provides more power and less speed; in high ranges, just the opposite is true. This reduces the load on the engine, while increasing the vehicle's speed and fuel economy.

Some vehicles a use clutch to connect and disconnect the transmission to the engine, controlled through a foot pedal next to the brake pedal. These vehicles have a manual transmission. If your car doesn't have a clutch pedal, it has an automatic transmission.

Automatic transmissions depend on a special fluid – called ATF – to cool and lubricate the moving parts inside. But theflfuid does more than that: In fact, it's no exaggeration to say that the fluid actually drives the vehicle. So there's little doubt that the fluid is very important to the transmission's operation. This is why it's important to check the transmission fluid level and condition regularly (check your owner's manual) and to have your transmission serviced at least every couple years.

Later model front wheel drive cars also incorporate another major component into the body of the transmission itself: the differential or final drive. These types of transmission are know as transaxles.

Front wheel drive configuration improves fuel economy and handling, and reduces manufacturing costs. But because of the additional components in the transaxle, it's generally more expensive to repair than a transmission when it fails.


December 22, 2014
Extend Transmission Life by Reducing Heat

The most common cause of automatic transmission failure is heat. You can get more miles out of your transmission by reducing the heat heat builds up during normal operation. Here are a few things you can do to help reduce heat, and keep your transmission working longer:

1. Avoid Jackrabbit Starts - Hard accelerations create a lot of friction and heat in the transmission. Take it easy on the gas, and your transmission will live longer.
2. Help the Shift - Most of the friction and wear in the transmission takes place during the shifts. Get to know when your transmission shifts normally. Then, just before the shift, back off on the gas just a bit. That'll reduce the load on the clutches, and eliminate much of the friction during the shift.
3. Keep the Cooling System in Good Shape - Your car's radiator also provides cooling for your transmission. And heat damage will take place in the transmission long before the engine appears to overheat. So regular cooling system service can help your transmission run cooler... and last longer.
4. Add a Transmission Cooler - If you travel a lot in extremely high temperatures or carry a lot of weight in your car, an auxiliary transmission cooler is a great way to reduce heat and add years to your transmission's life.

November 21, 2014
How can I Avoid Scams and Ripoffs when Purchasing Transmission Repair?

Automatic transmission repairs are expensive; some can easily cost $2000 or more. So it's more important than ever to find a shop that will provide quality repairs at a fair price. Here are few ways you can avoid getting cheated when searching for a transmission repair shop:

1. Get recommendations - Ask friends and family to recommend a shop where they were treated well and were happy with their work.
2. Look for a Professional Appearance - A clean, organized shop indicates a professional attitude. And that usually carries over into all phases of business… including their repairs and job pricing.
3. Avoid Phone Estimates - Today it's virtually impossible to give an accurate estimate over the phone. Any shop that will give you a price before they see the car is probably low-balling you. Expect the price to go up considerably before the job is finished.
4. Ask for a Detailed, Written Estimate - After checking your car thoroughly, the repair center should have a fairly good idea of what's wrong with your car. They should be able to provide a written estimate that specifies what's wrong, and what it'll cost to repair it.
5. Look for Membership in Consumer Organizations - All 5 of the Brownies IT! shops are members of the Better Business Bureau and ATRA (Automatic Transmission Rebuilders Association), a nationwide service organization as well as having ASE Certified technicians working on vehicles.


October 16, 2014
Manual or Automatic? Which Transmission Saves More?

As consumers face rising prices at the gas pumps, more and more people are looking into buying a car equipped with a manual transmission instead of an automatic. But that change may not provide the desired effect for most drivers.

That's because today's automatics are lighter and more efficient than those of just a few years ago. So much so that only a highly motivated driver will have any hope of wringing substantially higher gas mileage our of a manual transmission.

What's more, the back-end costs of a manual will quickly eat away at any savings you might receive at the pump. Most drivers can expect to have the clutch replaced as often as every 30,000 miles or so. And when it comes time to sell or trade the car, they can expect a dramatic drop in value with a manual transmission.

For most people, an automatic transmission is a far better choice when buying a new car. They're more efficient, easier to drive, and last longer than those of just a few years ago.


September 17, 2014
How do I know if I need a New Transmission

Your transmission suddenly isn't shifting right. So what's wrong with it? Do you need your transmission rebuilt? Good questions. Unfortunately, the answer is: No one knows. At least, not yet.

To find out what's causing your transmission problem, a technician is going to have to perform a series of tests. Basically, these tests are designed to answer the simple question: "Is it inside or outside?" That is, is the problem inside the transmission, or in one of the many control systems that operates the transmission?

That's because there's a lot more to transmission operation than the transmission itself. Nearly every transmission on the road today is controlled by a computer system. That system is integrated into the rest of the vehicle. So a problem in the engine - or for that matter, even the brakes - could have a dramatic effect on transmission operation.

In fact, today's transmissions are so integrated with the rest of the vehicle that many technicians with years of auto repair experience can have a difficult time determining whether a problem is inside the transmission or not. Until a properly trained and experienced transmission technician examines the vehicle and performs the necessary tests, there's no way anyone can tell you for sure what's wrong with your car's transmission. Once those tests are performed, a qualified technician should be able to tell you precisely whether you're dealing with a transmission problem or not. And he (or she) will be able to let you know what it'll take to fix your car and put it back into proper running condition.

The really great news is the vast majority of customers who bring their cars in with transmission problems don't actually need their transmissions rebuilt. In most cases the problem turns out to be external, which usually costs far less than a transmission rebuild. But the only way you can be sure you're only paying for the work you need is by bringing your car to a qualified transmission repair shop, such as one of the nearly 2000 ATRA Member shops all across the US and Canada.

Call one of the 5 locally owned Brownies iT! Shops today for a free external diagnosis and to find out what codes are set (if any) in your cars computer!


August 15, 2014
Preventing a Transmission Breakdown

The Importance of Transmission Care

Prevention is better than cure. You've probably heard that said plenty of times. The phrase is most often used to talk about health and medicine, but it is just as valid to apply it to vehicles. It's great if your problem can be sorted without much trouble, but even better not to have a problem in the first place. This is especially true when it comes to your vehicle's transmission, as this can be one of the more specialized parts to repair. Not all transmission problems require an extensive overhaul, but they will all cause at least some trouble and inconvenience. Avoiding transmission problems is clearly preferable to even the problems that are quickest and cheapest repair. This is why it is important to ensure you take good care of your transmission. This will help prevent problems and keep it working smoothly. Ideally, it will mean that it doesn't develop any faults at all. Even if it does eventually go wrong, however, it is entirely possible that good care will mean the fault is less serious and easier to repair than it would have been otherwise.

Looking After Your Transmission

Good transmission care starts with simple but important things like making sure you don't neglect to check your transmission fluid regularly. This should be done roughly every 1,000 miles. As well as checking the level, pay attention to color and smell. If the color is unusually dark or the smell resembles burning, this could indicate the start of problems. The fluid should also be changed every 15,000 miles or every other year, depending on which comes first. Theoretically, transmission fluid has a much longer life than this. In practice, however, relatively simple things such as stop-and-go traffic or short journeys can drastically shorten its lifespan. For most drivers, assuming a lifespan of 15,000 miles or two years is the safest option. Certain driving practices can also help keep your transmission well cared-for. These include such easy steps as not overloading your vehicle and allowing it to warm up thoroughly on cold mornings. It is also important avoiding rocking between gears if your vehicle becomes stuck in mud or on ice. If you must rock, do so as gently as possible and make sure the wheels have stopped moving before each gear change. This will drastically reduce the strain placed on the transmission.

What if you Still Develop a Transmission Problem?

Unfortunately, there is no foolproof way to prevent transmission problems altogether. If this does happen, it is still possible to minimize the inconvenience it will cause. One of the best ways to do this is to ensure you have adequate and appropriate breakdown cover from your insurer. Of course, for most people this is a balancing act with price. This is where insurance comparison sites are very useful. They display not only prices, but the details of what each company offers, allowing you to compare how appropriate different packages are for you. This makes it far easier to find the best balance of cost and features. Before settling on a company, it is also important to find out more about their customer service and how helpful they are in the event of a breakdown. A bad insurer, that will take forever to pay for repairs or produce other promised features such as a courtesy car, will only add stress and trouble to your breakdown experience. Search for reviews of various providers online. This will allow you to read honest and independent feedback from independent bodies, and from everyday people who have used the company in the past.

Catching Problems Early

Once again, there is no way to completely guarantee your transmission will not develop a fault. However, even when a fault does begin to develop, there is still an element of problem prevention. Catching transmission problems early can prevent them from worsening and prevent further trouble from developing. This can potentially mean a simple repair instead of a major one. As such, it is vital to get any potential trouble looked at by a professional. It is also important to play it safe. If you think a problem is developing but you aren't sure, it can be better to get it checked by an expert than to wait until the problem gets bad enough to leave you in no doubt. If you notice anything odd about your transmission or sudden changes to the way your car drives, get it looked at by professionals. If you notice any changes to the way your transmission works, such as trouble changing gears or a delay before the gear seems to shift, get it looked at promptly to avoid further inconvenience.


July 17, 2014
Do ATF Additives Really Work?

As you stroll along the isles of your local auto parts store, you'll stumble across a section dedicated to automatic transmission fluid additives. The labels on these additives offer promises that range from simply making your transmission last longer, all the way up to a rebuild in a can.

The question is: Do these additives really work?

In most cases, unfortunately, the answer is no. In general, the additives that you'll find on the shelves of a consumer-oriented parts store won't really deliver on their extravagent promises. So what do these additives do? In general, they soften and swell the seals in your transmission. Over time, the seals inside an automatic transmission can become hard and brittle; losing their sealing qualities. These additives soften the seals so they begin to work again. The problem is they continue to soften and swell the seals to where they simply fall apart.

So, you have a minor leak or a delayed engagement problem in the morning. You add a can of Super Fix and in a day or so you notice the leak is gone and the transmission works much better. In a couple of months though, your transmission begins acting up and in six-months time it fails completely.

That's not to say all transmission additives are snake oil... far from it. There are some highly effective additives on the market that can significantly extend the life of your transmission. But chances are you won't find them on the shelves of your local auto parts store.

These effective additives are usually only available through your local transmission repair center. They make more realistic claims, such as:

Neutralize acids that build up in the transmission fluid.
Provide additional resistance to the effects of heat.
Prevent or reverse fluid oxidation.
Prevent or reverse fluid sheer.
Modify friction characteristics to improve transmission performance.
Provide additional lubrication to moving parts.
Soften and remove varnish from internal components.

While not as exciting as the claims made by the additives on the consumer shelf, these additives have the advantage of being able to deliver on their promises. Because of this, they can improve transmission operation and increase transmission life.

Check with a Brownies Independent Transmission Shop near you for more information on transmission additives that really work as advertised.

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