7 Warning Signs Of A Bad Transmission

As with any part of your car, early detection of transmission issues can save you hundreds of dollars, as well as prevent further, more serious damage to your vehicle. This is why it is important to learn to recognize the warning signs of transmission trouble and what to do when you start to experience any sign of transmission failure.

What Is A Car’s Transmission?

Your transmission is a part of the vehicle that transfers power from your engine to the rest of the drivetrain. Torque is a force that can rotate an object—like a wheel—around an axis or axle.

Your transmission turns all the motion in your engine into something that gets and keeps your car moving. Without a functioning transmission, your car won’t drive. To avoid your vehicle becoming an expensive lawn ornament, look for these signs of transmission trouble.

Signs Of A Bad Transmission

Here are seven signs to look for if you suspect your transmission has a problem.

#1. Trouble Switching Gears.

As noted earlier, you know your vehicle better than anyone else. You drive it every day. You know how it feels when you drive it. So if your car, truck or SUV struggles to change gears, or doesn’t change gears at all, this is a problem that must be addressed immediately.

It could be that you feel a hesitation when the vehicle is supposed to change gears, or a longer period of time than normal to make that shift. This is a symptom of a transmission issue. It could be as simple as a problem with low transmission fluid, or even the wrong fluid.

But it could also be signs of the decline of your transmission, and eventual failure, which is a greater repair and greater expense for you. Failure to act, however, will definitely cost you more in the long run.

#2. Transmission Won’t Engage or Stay in Gear.

If 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.

Newer vehicles depend on the computer to tell the transmission when to go into gear based on your selection and you may need to have the computer system checked for trouble codes.

#3. transmission slipping or engine is revving high.

Another sign to be on the look for when you are driving your vehicle that your transmission could be having problems is if you feel gears slip. This is an obvious sign of transmission troubles, and you will feel the vehicle automatically slipping into a lower gear or jerking slightly even though your vehicle is not supposed to be changing gears. This can be frightening as you are driving, and it can be extremely dangerous.

Take your vehicle to the dealership immediately to have this issue investigated. When your vehicle is slipping gears, this is a crucial sign that you are having transmission problems, and perhaps one of the most dangerous signs you’ll experience.

#4. Transmission fluid is leaking.

You park your car after driving and it sits for a bit. Then when you go to drive again, you notice a puddle of liquid has formed under your car.

If you’ve been running your AC, that liquid might not be a big deal. However, if you suspect that it is something more serious then it’s time to investigate.

The transmission system is a closed system. Meaning that when it is running properly, there is no leaking.

Start by placing a piece of cardboard under your car to collect the liquid. Then you can look at the cardboard to determine what and where the liquid is coming from.

A clear liquid that looks like water will be from your AC system. But if the liquid is red or brown, there is a reason for concern.

This information will be helpful to your mechanic as he narrows down the problem. 

#5. If there’s a burning smell

When you notice any burning smells coming from your car, you should visit an auto shop right away. This odor can be an indication that your transmission is overheating, or the transmission fluid is old and burnt.

#6. Noises When in Neutral

Weird noises coming from your vehicle when in neutral are a sure sign that something may be wrong with your transmission. If you are lucky, the noises may indicate that your car is ready for new transmission fluid, which would be flushed and replaced by a professional.

On the other hand, it could also mean that your car requires a replacement or further service by a professional auto mechanic.

#7. The car has no power.

If the vehicle has no or little power and the engine is running correctly, this could be from internal transmission problems, brakes that are dragging due to a faulty caliper or brake hose, or your computer in the vehicle is limiting power because of a problem it has detected in order to protect the engine. Have the vehicle checked for trouble codes to isolate the problem.

#8. Gears Are Grinding.

This symptom is going to mean different things depending on whether or not you have a manual or automatic vehicle. If you drive a manual, you may just need to replace your clutch.

As you shift the clutch experiences wear. Over time that wear causes the clutch to “slip”. You will know this is happening by a grinding sound or feeling when you are shifting.

It also means that while you are driving in one gear, then transmission “slips” and suddenly you are in another. There’s no warning other than your engine suddenly whining or sounding bogged down.

If you drive an automatic, this rough shifting could mean any number of things. Your mechanic will start by looking to make sure that the transmission’s synchronizers are calibrated properly.

#9. Dragging Clutch.

A dragging clutch fails to disengage the clutch disk from the flywheel in your vehicle when you press the clutch pedal. This issue causes the gears to clash and the car to move when shifting gears. A dragging clutch is commonly caused due to a mechanical failure or misplacement of the clutch.

#10. Check Engine Light

If your engine service light is on then this is the easiest clue that you need to get your vehicle checked out. This light being on may not exactly mean that there is something wrong with your transmission.

What it does mean is that there is something wrong with your car. Get the light checked out so you don’t cause more damage to your car.

A mechanic will be able to hook your car up to software and read the output code. Once they have the problem code, they can determine what needs fixing.

What Can Mimic Transmission Problems?

When you bring your car to your Greater Vancouver mechanic to diagnose transmission problems, they may look at these other issues based on the careful description you give. The more detailed you can be about what’s happening, the better your mechanic can hone in on your transmission…or perhaps one of these culprits that often masquerade as a transmission failure.

  • Oil Leaks.
  • Faulty Spark Plugs.
  • Engine Misfire.
  • Fuel Delivery Problems.
  • Clogged Catalytic Converter.
  • Faulty Speed Sensor.
  • Broken Temperature Sensor.
  • Malfunctioning Interlock Switch.
  • Dirty Or Corroded Shift Elements.

An experienced mechanic can help you sort out whether you have a true transmission issue or one of these other problems disguised as a transmission failure. Be sure to give the shop a detailed overview of what’s going on so they can eliminate unlikely causes and hone in on the real trouble to get it fixed quickly for you.