Most car owners are understandably distressed to learn that their transmission is failing. When an automatic transmission begins to go out, often the only options are to replace it entirely or to repair it by removing and rebuilding the entire unit. Both of these jobs cost well over a thousand dollars, and depending on the particular make and model of vehicle, can exceed several thousand dollars. Fortunately, not all shifting problems mean that your transmission is on death's door. Problems with shifting can sometimes be the result of a faulty solenoid, and in many cases, technicians can replace these components without the need for a full rebuild.
The Role of the Humble Solenoid
Like most people, you probably aren't familiar with the term "solenoid." In engineering, a solenoid is a device that uses electricity to generate magnetic force. Electromagnets such as this are useful because they allow the conversion of electrical energy into mechanical energy. The solenoids in your transmission are electromechanical valves. When a solenoid receives an electrical signal from your car's computer, the magnetic force opens or closes a valve. Since automatic transmissions shift between gears through the use of fluid pressure, your solenoids are what control the fluid and allow your transmission to shift between gears.
Automatic transmission designs vary a great deal, so the symptoms of a failing solenoid can vary as well. Your transmission may use a single solenoid per gear, or it may use one solenoid to control multiple gears. Whatever the case, failing solenoids will result in a transmission that isn't shifting correctly and that may be unable to shift at all. Depending on the mode of failure, a bad solenoid may cause your car to skip gears, shift too early or too late, or fail to shift at all. Many drivers first notice problems with solenoids, for example, when their car refuses to downshift when pressing on the accelerator to pass. Stuck solenoids will sometimes break free and allow the vehicle to shift, only for the problem to show up again a few minutes later.
Fixing a Bad Solenoid
Luckily, a failed solenoid is usually repairable without complete disassembly of the transmission. Depending on the design of your vehicle's transmission, your solenoids may be accessible by dropping the oil pan on the bottom of the unit. If this is the case, then technicians should be able to reach the problem part without removing the transmission from your car. Along with replacing the failed part, technicians will also flush and replace your fluid and replace the filter. Not only is this proper maintenance, but it may also prevent further solenoid issues in the future.
For more information, contact transmission repair services in your area.