Out of sight, out of mind, goes the old expression. Vehicle owners largely ignore the most complex and expensive component of their car or truck – the transmission. Diligent owners may check the dipstick to ensure there’s adequate transmission fluid occasionally but it’s largely ignored.

The best way to check the health of the fluid is to put the dipstick against a white background such as a paper towel. It should be a red color. The fluid over time will take on a brown color, indicating a change is due.

They’re a number of reasons why transmission problems occur: most prevalent is overheating. Under a heavy load, such as when towing a trailer, racing, rocking the vehicle to free it from snow, stop and start in traffic. Most of the transmission problems starts from overheating. Under heavy load, such as when towing a heavy trailer, rocking the vehicle from the snow, having continuous stop and go traffic in hot weather (think rush hour), racing, etc. the transmission overheats. At elevated temperatures the transmission oxidizes, lubricating qualities diminish leaving deposits inside the transmission. Check the automatic transmission fluid in an overheated transmission, it would be dirty and dark and, with a strong burning smell. Rubber seals, O-rings become brittle and hard. The metal parts warp causing valves to stick.

Changing transmission fluid normally occurs between 40,000 to 96,000 kilometers. Check the owner’s manual for recommendations.


Unless a vehicle owner is very diligent, tire rotation is often overlooked. If a motorist can’t see or experience a problem the assumption is that everything must be fine.

Not so. The inside or outside of the tread on individual tires can wear unevenly on the outside or inside. The front tires, unlike the rear, also carry the weight of the engine that also has steering duties. Think of the number of times brakes are applied when turning a corner and it’s no mystery why front tires wear faster than the rear; to that can be added the weight of the engine bearing down on the front tires that promotes faster wear.

The secret to avoiding faster wear is to rotate the tires to a different corner of the car. Using that method, each tire wears out at the same rate as the others. The exact rotation pattern depends on the tires and the vehicle. The typical pattern is to transfer the front tires straight to the rear, and re-position the rear tires to the front, but cross them over (so that the right rear ends up on the left front). The reverse pattern (rear to front, front to rear with a crossover) is also common. The exact pattern isn’t that important provided there’s consistency each time the tires are rotated. Ensure every tire for some time is at each corner of the car.


There’s a bewildering array of vehicles in the marketplace from which to choose: conventional, electric, hybrid and soon, self-driving cars and trucks. Cost and maintenance are important considerations but perhaps overlooked is the cost of insurance. Numerous hybrid cars can get discounted insurance from certain companies simply because they are in a class apart. Before opting for a hybrid, do research to find the best insurance by asking carriers about special insurance plans designed to help drivers recover the costs on their vehicles.

Also, hybrid and electric auto insurance can be defined differently if the government has made allowances for certain types of vehicles. There are insurance carriers who will offer discounts to the customer so that they can pay less. Some customers will be able to get tax write-offs on their insurance payments every year based on a government program. Remember that an insurance rate can depend on the type of engine. Cars that run entirely on battery power, an electric car, run differently compared to a hybrid, and an insurance company may offer special insurance for them since they do not have traditional engines.