Even if you don't know very much about cars, you're probably aware that the transmission is one of the more expensive car parts that you may end up having to replace or repair. That means that you'll probably want to make sure that you avoid doing anything that could damage your transmission or wear it out prematurely. Unfortunately, it can be hard to break some habits you may already have that could be damaging to your transmission – especially if you don't know which habits are harming your transmission. Take a look at some common car care mistakes that could land you in the transmission repair shop sooner than you think.

Stopping Abruptly

If you're in the habit of making whiplash-inducing stops, it's time to ease up a little. Give yourself plenty of time to slow down and stop gradually. When you force your car to stop on a dime, you can damage your engine and transmission mounts. Long-term, repeated damage to your mounts can cause your transmission to fail.

Of course, there may be times when you're driving that you have to stop fast. After an emergency stop, it's a good idea to have your mechanic check out your mounts, just to be on the safe side.

Shifting Instead of Braking

Do you ever throw your car into the "Park" gear before you've come to a complete stop? It' a surprisingly common habit, but it's also a very dangerous one. When you do this, you're causing the transmission to engage too abruptly. This can put excess wear and tear on the transmission mounts, the driveline components and gear sets, and other parts of the transmission.

Not only should you avoid shifting into park before breaking completely, you should also put the shift lever in drive or reverse when the engine is in fast idle, or downshift instead of brake at red lights. And speaking of braking, remember to always set your parking brake once you've shifted into park and stopped the car. Otherwise, all it would take is a small tap from someone else's car to send your car rolling through the parking lot. Aside from the risk of body damage and property damage, rolling the car around with the transmission in park is definitely not good for your transmission.

Ignoring Needed Fluid Changes

Oil changes are probably already part of your car maintenance routine, but what about the other fluids your car relies on? For many car owners, it's easy to forget that your car's other fluids need changing at times too. Transmission fluid is particularly tricky because it's not always easy to tell when it needs to be changed.

If you check your owner's manual, you may find that it suggests changing your transmission fluid every 100,000 miles, or even every 150,000 miles. However, many mechanics disagree, recommending that it be changed more frequently – around the 50,000 mile mark for an automatic transmission.

How should you handle this discrepancy? It helps to have a relationship with a mechanic that you trust not to try to sell you on unneeded fluid changes. You can also help yourself by learning what transmission fluid that needs to be changed looks like. Healthy transmission fluid is a clear red color – if it's dark, murky, or polluted with debris, then it's probably time for a change. One more thing to keep in mind is that drivers who frequently drive under difficult conditions – for example, driving for hours in stop-and-go traffic or hauling heavy loads – will need to change their transmission fluid more often.

If you can avoid bad habits like hard braking, shifting when you should be braking and parking, and forgetting to change your fluids, your transmission will last longer and you'll save money on transmission repairs. One more thing to remember: if you do suspect a transmission problem, bring your car in for a checkup right away. The earlier you catch a problem, the cheaper it will be to fix.