There are few things more dreaded by car owners than to hear they have a busted transmission. It is one of the most expensive parts to replace and it sometimes results in a car ending up in the junkyard. Since most of us do not have a couple thousand bucks to throw around for a new or even rebuilt transmission, here are five ways to keep it healthy. A little maintenance now can ensure you won’t be saddled with a huge car repair bill later on.

1. Check the Levels

Hey, it is a mantra that must be repeated over and over again to maintain your car. But while you’re busy checking the oil and the windshield wiper fluid make sure you give the levels in your transmission a routine glance. This helps your mechanic find any problems that might arise since leaks can be a prevalent contributor to a failing transmission. Finding those leaks is essential to preventing serious damage and costly transmission repair.

2. Warming Up

Your transmission needs time to warm up. So before you shift gears and go on your way, let the car run for a few minutes. This is good advice no matter what the weather is like, but for those really cold climates, allowing the transmission to heat up before you engage it is imperative for proper and responsible vehicle maintenance.

3. Watch Your Gear

This is critical for drivers of manual and automatic. If you’re driving stick, do not keep it in first and redline the RPM’s at increased speeds. That will tax the transmission too much and it can cause serious damage. If you have an automatic, make sure you’re in Drive and not one of the lower gears that many automatic transmissions come equipped with for certain driving conditions…unless the situation calls for it.

4. A Word about Braking

If you’re one of those drivers who like to ride the brake, stop doing it. You’re not only annoying the drivers behind you and wearing down your brakes prematurely, but you’re just asking for trouble with your transmission. Down-shifting is a much better choice for your transmission, if you’re driving manual. Automatic transmissions do not leave you many choices but to brake when you need to slow the vehicle, just be aware of how often you hit the brakes. Less is better.

5. 30,000 Miles

Most important of all, your transmission should get serviced every 30,000 miles. If you do not drive the vehicle that often, then you can measure it over time and bring it in every two years instead. Having the transmission looked at on a routine basis is just as important as having the oil changed or the tires rotated on the regular. Having the transmission serviced includes changing the fluids and filter. Not much unlike when your engine is serviced. The old transmission fluid is drained, the pan is taken out and cleaned, the filter replaced, and new fluid poured in. This will ensure the long-term health of the transmission and keep your car on the road.