Do ATF Additives Really Work?

Posted in
Articles, Transmission Service
Published
11/10/2011

As you stroll along the isles of your local auto parts store, you’ll probably 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 extravagant 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 your local ATRA member transmission shop for information on transmission additives that really work as advertised. To find the ATRA Member shop near you, click the Shop Finder link.

If you have any questions you can e-mail them to ATRA's Technical Department through the Technical Services page or call 1-866-GO-4-ATRA (1-866-464-2872)


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