What Is A Transmission Cooler?
Put simply, transmission coolers keep your transmission fluid cool and prevent your transmission from overheating. Transmission coolers can help extend the life of your car's transmission and help prevent expensive repairs on your transmission in the future.
Why do you need a transmission cooler?
Like most mechanical components in a vehicle, an automatic transmission generates a lot of heat, despite using sophisticated lubricating fluid to reduce friction. But even the best transmission fluid can’t prevent overheating in extreme driving conditions. Inadequately cooled fluid can break down and lose the viscosity that helps it do its job, so a transmission cooler is integral to the long-term reliability of your transmission.
Your automatic car or truck probably came with a transmission cooler from the factory. However, if you use your vehicle to tow a trailer, you should upgrade it for more effective cooling. Towing is harder on an automatic transmission than almost any other kind of driving because of the load it places on the transmission and the extra heat that generates.
However, installing an aftermarket transmission cooler can help extend the service life of any transmission, regardless of what you use your vehicle for.
How does a transmission cooler work?
A transmission cooler works like the radiator that draws heat out of your engine’s coolant. Transmission fluid is pumped from the transmission to the cooler. As the fluid flows through the cooler, outside air draws away excess heat, and the cooled fluid goes back into the transmission to absorb more heat. That cycle repeats as long as your vehicle is running.
Most transmission coolers do their job thanks to air moving past the car as you drive it. However, you can get coolers that have built-in fans to make them more effective at low speeds. That can be a useful thing if you do off-road driving, which can put stress on a transmission, but rarely produces effective airflow through a regular transmission cooler.
What should you look for in a transmission cooler?
For optimum cooling capacity, choose a stacked-plate design, which provides the most efficient performance. These coolers tend to be more expensive than the more traditional tube-and-fin type, but you get what you pay for in terms of transmission protection.
However, a tube-and-fine cooler is still an effective choice, especially if you’re on a tighter budget. Keep in mind that if you want better cooling than you’re getting right now, you’ll have to install a larger cooler—or at least one with a larger capacity—than what your vehicle came with from the factory. Before you order an aftermarket unit, make sure it will fit without having to modify your vehicle.
Can you install a transmission cooler yourself?
You certainly can, as long as you have some experience working on your vehicle. The process involves draining at least some of the transmission fluid; disconnecting the hoses that connect your transmission to the existing transmission cooler (if your vehicle has one); figuring out where you will locate the new cooler; installing it and the hoses that connect it to the transmission; and, finally, refilling the transmission with the proper amount of fresh fluid.
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