Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Auto Bravado's Transmission Oil Cooler Story

The gear shifter twanged and the words in my head spoke volumes of fear, “The transmission and the oil it’s soaked in is just cooler than it should be, right?”

The ice had been so bad on the streets that I hoped between all of the traffic on the freeway and the heat of the all the engines barreling along the road would have cleared off the ice here. The lightly darkened cement appeared mostly clear of not just ice but cars. There was just that certain feeling of expectation in the air, like something was going to go wrong. Fearing a mistake like something was about to happen, I merged with the almost non-existent traffic. Oh, was it cold. It was like death had fallen on to this freeway like a Ghost town that’s haunted. The ice was mostly clear, but I figured there was black ice where the road merely appeared wet. So, I thought I’d take it slow on these highway lanes, which were so cold they were more reminiscent of Chicago, then Salt Lake.

I was going from 3rd to 4th gear as I got up to what I thought was a safe speed when I, and my 89 Nissan Pulsar had not only merged on the freeway, but it had merged with the deathly cold and still freeway. The shifter made a sound like a twanging southern instrument. It felt like a rubber band snapping. A sound that was all too familiar from the twang of snapping rubber bands as I delivered the cities news on the biggest paper days. Except this cold transmission’s twang reverberated in your bones on such a larger scale than I could have expected in those long cold newspaper mornings. I am brought back to memories where the cooler mornings would randomly snap one rubber band, and sometimes a quick second and third rubber band that was stretched too taut around a Sunday paper.

I feared that the metal itself in my transmission had snapped in the cold, if only I’d known, I would have installed a transmission oil cooler too prevent all of it! Wait, it is winter, which makes no sense. Maybe if I’d protected my transmission with an oil cooler in the summer and shut if off in the winter I would have protected it! My mind was racing, thinking the right thought, thinking the opposite thought; I wasn’t being sure of what was right. It had been just last week that a used truck customer was looking for the Chevy truck with the biggest transmission oil cooler package available. “What if I’d had that tonight? It would have kept it from breaking!” I thought. I knew this thought was entirely contrary to reality, and that my some inane thoughts were on repeat; it was sub zero temperature and a transmission oil cooler wouldn’t have helped at all! But, what if I had installed it in the summer to prevent wear and tear and what if I had warmed up my engine this late winter, freezing night! What if. . . what if, terrible words I had just used. What if. I leaves the mind hanging and had left me nearly bereft of what to do.

Well, with or without a transmission oil cooler to help me I had to snap to, as the military says, and focus on what was at hand. I knew a lot about conserving inertia from wild maneuvers in my Indy Car computer games. I took the shortest path possible to keep moving in a straighter line, using my blinker and hoping the road stayed clear to just get to the off ramp. 55, 45, 37 miles per hour and I’d made it to the off ramp. I wondered for a moment, if I had to stop on this ramp where would it be best, then the best solution occurred to me. If the light is green I could make it to a big hill and coast miles closer to home! Could I have had any worse car trouble? I really should warm up my car, not just for the engine but for the transmission when it was cooler? Sub-zero temperatures!

With these useless thoughts of how the transmission oil overtaking me could have helped me, I coasted down the ramp, where I found my light green! Luckily, I was making it thru a six way intersection of Salt Lake’s spaghetti bowl freeway area, looked at the odometer and thought, “Despite this cooler night, and gummed up transmission oil, how far can I coast towards home before I’m stopped!” With thoughts of momentum or police stopping if I drove too wildly, I kept the engine running for optimal power steering and brake control. The transmission and it’s oil being in such a cooler and broken state, I had to keep the clutch depressed or the engine would trundle to a stop. I was still hoping against logic, that maybe if my transmission just warmed up enough it would work again!

6.2 miles later, a long hill, and car honking its horn and passing me for going 25 mph in a 40 mph zone, the car had stopped for doing its best up a long, but gentle hill. A cell phone call that pride made me take 15 minutes longer than necessary to call and 20 minutes later, I was home, my car was abandoned and I was safely warming up, wanting some nice hot chocolate.

Later, after a local Police Warning
And my car had been towed by my other car, a 4 cylinder car
– scary -
. . .

The mechanic said he had never seen the type of metallic breaks in the relationship between a gear box, the transmission, and the shifter happen like that. He really wanted to know what I’d done to it! I explained the cold and not warming up my car, and said, “Ooooohhhhh, you don’t want to do that!” in his sing-song Korean accent – wow he was good with import cars! I asked about a transmission cooler being installed along with everything else and he said that with my manual transaxle and how little fluid there was in there that it was just important to warm up the car and then, no worries.

Despite this vehicle not being designed for it, I’ve ever since wondered about transmission oil coolers, and what kind of cars or trucks should have them. The answer? Any larger vehicle whether it is a manual or an automatic could use one, but for it to work on smaller vehicles it tends to require it to be an automatic for the design to be compatible with a transmission oil cooler. I had an amazing mentor for finding these and other solutions for the best car’s miles-per-gallon possible. He was a nut like myself for this stuff. For an analysis, benefits, and some how to see the: Transmission Cooler Upgrade.

Between those Indy Car games and being I self proclaimed athletic driver I had learned a lot about conserving my forward momentum. This experience taught me how to have a few more wild adventures on purpose with the car off taking my 1994 Ford Escort to a record of 39.97 miles per gallon, which required me to turn off my car whenever I was waiting at an intersection, *stopping the engine in stop and go traffic where there was truly no flow of traffic, and mostly driving on the highway for the whole take of gas. These days, with just a little application of the knowledge above and many more modifications and a superior Toyota Celica engine design to work off of, I’ve in September only, gotten 55 miles per gallon in 2006 and 56 in 2007. In 2007 my little 1999 Chevy Prism even had a heavy load to transport unlike the light load in 2006, meaning I may have been able to do even better with my further modifications.

I still look forward to a high flow catalytic converter, I’m just waiting for just the right one, that and a transmission oil cooler are the next modifications for my little car, which comes standard with a Toyota Corolla Engine, but since it’s the LSI model, it is the same engine with such advances as having no spark plug wires, having a coil on every plug, just like the Toyota Celica

* Starters don’t wear out like people think they do if they take care of all of their electrical equipment with extra grounds, as explained in my website on the history of The Great American Jalopy page, and the specifics on the 12 gauge speaker wire page. You can also assist your ignition, and prevent your starter from working as long or as hard by looking into the best Spark Plug Wires page, or by looking out for the most endurable spark plug: the NGK spark plug, or an alternatively great spark plug, the Bosch spark plug page that is still coming, and install them with the lessons of the spark plug gap page in mind. All of these pages and more can be found on

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