Today's transmissions are lighter, smaller and more expensive. Which means, says Craig Lelis, people should be more aware of the care it needs.

For example, notes Lelis, president of Lelis Transmissions, fluids should be checked periodically and changed every 15,000 miles. This becomes especially important in the winter when temperatures can be extreme - hot and cold. Many car manufactuers recommend 30,000, but Lelis said Utah driving conditions are tougher on a car and recommends a shorter time."Some people also think that a transmission will run cooler in the winter, but there are times when it can run hotter," he adds.

One of those times, he pointed out, can be when cars are stuck in the snow.

"The thing you don't want to do is rock the car back and forth too much. Maybe 30 to 60 seconds, but no more. If you're not out by then, get help," he says.

He also warned drivers not to spin their wheels when pulling onto dry ground, especially on cars with front wheel drive. Transmissions will crack and break.

He also had these suggestions for transmission care:

- Never idle an engine for long periods.

- Never drive a car when the engine light shows hot. The heat can damange a transmission.

- After engine work, have the transmission adjusted also.

- Avoid fast starts and stops.

- Check motor mounts frequently.

- When towing anything over 1,000 pounds, add a transmission cooler.

- Always come to a complete stop before shifting.

- When towing, never leave the drive wheels on the ground.

When it becomes necessary to get transmission work done, Lelis suggested that people ask one important question of a business: "Are you certified?"

"As complex as today's transmission are, I wouldn't let anyone that isn't certified do the work. Certification means that that person has been properly trained.

"One of the biggest problems we face in the business is mis-diagnosis. That's why you want someone who is trained to look at your transmission. This will greatly reduce chances of a mis-diagnosis," he said. Certifications through the Automatic Transmission Rebuilders Association are offered in three areas: service, rebuilding and diagnosis.

He also suggested that people looking for a reputable business to do the work that they check with agencies such as the Better Business Bureau. Also, he said, they should look at how long a company has been in business. There are booklets available through the BBB offering tips on selecting a transmission shop.