Car doesn’t drive when cold

Hi I have a 2003 ford galaxy. It's an automatic and when the engine is cold it doesn't drive. Once warmed up it drives but is very slow going through the first few gears and it revs. Iv been told it's the clutch by 1 person and another said it just needs transmission fluid and filter change. Iv been trying to find the parts for both jobs and can't find an automatic clutch. Are they the same as a manual? Or called something different?
Thanks in advance Emma.

My car has 154000 miles.
My car has an automatic transmission.

Experienced mechanics share their insights in answering this question :
Usually mechanics make the mistake in referring to things that might confuse a car owner. In an automatic transmission there is a torque converter, which is comprised of multiple components including t a turbine, an impeller, a stator, and a lock-up clutch. This is the component that they are probably referring to as needing repair or replacement.

However, if the transmission fluid and filter has never been replaced or flushed, it can display similar symptoms as you’re describing. It would be a good idea to contact one of our local ASE certified mechanics to start with servicing your transmission fluid and filter to see if that clears up your issues.

How to Identify and Fix Common car Problems ?

Our sources include academic articles, blog posts, and personal essays from experienced mechanics :

The cold weather can cause your transmission system to have a low line pressure by freezing and leaking fluid from the transmission seals. When a transmission has a low line pressure it can mean multiple things such as inadequate fluid within the system, slipping transmission, and improper function of gears.
Transmission fluid is vital to the health and performance of the torque converter (and the transmission system as a whole). Torque converter seals can be damaged easily or get worn out with time, so they are a common source of transmission fluid leaks.
Your transmission may have defective pressure and control solenoids or could have bad seals inside the transmission. Either way you will need to have a qualified transmission mechanic run a diagnostic check to see if you are having internal leakage from leaking seals.
Cold weather can wreak havoc on your vehicle`s transmission system leading to transmission slipping. In sub-temperature conditions, your vehicle`s temperature freezes, forcing it to contract, and your line fluids may begin to leak from the seals, leading to low line pressure.
So, when it`s extremely cold outside, start the engine, and let it idle for a minute or so before putting it in gear or under load. This allows engine oil and transmission fluid to circulate and lubricate. Then shift into gear and let the engine and transmission warm another 30 to 60 seconds.
The best thing to do to confirm the problem is to test the torque converter. To test the torque converter, you must step on the pedal to the floor and accelerate your engine for up to five seconds. The reading for the revolutions per minute (RPM) will max out at the stall speed.
How Do You Know If Your Torque Converter Needs To Be Repaired? If you experience your transmission slipping, overheating, or making unusual noises, you may need torque converter repair. Another sign of a possible torque converter issue is if your transmission fluid is an opaque, dark red or if it smells bad.
Fortunately, however, torque converters can be repaired. The repair of the torque converter requires quite a lot of special equipment for cutting it off, measuring, assembling, gluing clutch discs, welding, quality control, and so on.
Viscosity change: The viscosity of transmission fluid changes and gets thicker in the cold. The ideal temperature for it is 175 degrees, plus or minus 25 degrees, and when the transmission gets below zero degrees, it gets too thick.
Checking Transmission Fluid Levels

If you`re going to be checking the transmission fluid level at home, it`s a good idea to warm up the car before you do so. If the car is checked while the engine is cold, it might give an inaccurate reading when you use the dipstick.

As transmission fluid thickens in the cold, the synchronizers in manual transmissions cannot spin as quickly as they need to, which can severely impact the driver`s ability to shift until the fluid is warmed enough to provide proper flow – and protection.
Transmission fluid can actually freeze, but the temperature would need to be well below zero degrees Fahrenheit. The real problem in cold weather is that your transmission fluid becomes thicker and doesn`t flow as well.
The root cause is that gunk has built up inside the frame that holds the transmission lever in place. The gunk then freezes very solid, and will only thaw when the transmission is properly warmed up. The only permanent solution is to have that frame cleaned or replaced to permanently get rid of the gunk.
Low transmission fluid

If there isn`t enough fluid, the gears won`t have enough lubrication. This can cause them to slip or not change properly. Low fluid can also lead to overheating, which makes it harder for the transmission to work well.

Transmission won`t engage or stay in gear

If when you put your vehicle into gear and it won`t move, this may be a problem with low transmission fluid due to a leak, the shifter, shifter cable, or it could even be a problem in the valve body of your automatic transmission.

Low transmission fluid

If there isn`t enough fluid, the gears won`t have enough lubrication. This can cause them to slip or not change properly. Low fluid can also lead to overheating, which makes it harder for the transmission to work well.

A few common causes are low or dirty transmission fluid, or faulty shift solenoids. The transmission uses fluid pressure to shift the gears, and does so using electronic solenoids. If there is an issue with either of these the vehicle may experience problems shifting or transferring power to the wheels.

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ANSWER : Hi There,
It sounds like you may have a dirty or faulty mass air flow sensor. The problem this can cause may also be compounded when the engine is cold due to the change in air density in cooler weather. The mass air flow sensor monitors air intake as it is mixed with fuel prior to being injected into the motor. This sensor relays information about fuel and air temperature, air speed entering the motor and many other things to the ECM which uses this to make adjustments to fuel supply to the motor. A dirty or faulty sensor can cause an imbalanced air/fuel load to be supplied to the motor which results in an over fueling or under fueling situation depending on the conditions. This type of inconsistent fuel supply to the motor may cause a hesitation, loss of power, a jerking reaction, potentially a bit of black exhaust smoke and typically a strong smell of fuel when this sensor is malfunctioning. I would suggest having a professional from Your Mechanic come to your home to diagnose and inspect your vehicle.

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ANSWER : Hello, thank you for writing in. Due to the recent repairs that have been done, you need to have them verified. If the thermostat was installed improperly, or the system was damaged before or during, then you may have these and similar symptoms. The thermostat is typically to blame when the engine is running too cold. If the engine fans are running too much this would add to the systems defect. Not to mention it will prematurely wear out the fans and fan clutches. Your symptoms may also be related to the engine temperature sensor. This may also be the reason it is hard to restart. Further testing and inspection needs to be done. It may be wise to get a second opinion. For more diagnostic help, or for our inspection and opinion, contact our service department.

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Started Three days a go. When I drive the car it doesn’t go in to gears but shows AT.
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It’s hard to say without hearing it, but the "airplane" noise may be coming from your failed alternator. I don’t recommend running out and buying a new alternator right away, the battery needs to be fully charged or replaced so that you can have a proper tests performed.

Charging or installing a battery, or even jumping one off, is a risky business on a modern car. Connecting the cables incorrectly for even a moment can do a lot of expensive damage to the various modules in your car.

I would recommend having an expert from YourMechanic come to your home or office to confirm a diagnosis on the issue and make or suggest the necessary repairs or replacements.

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Read Full Q/A … : Car doesn’t drive when cold