If your transmission unexpected pops into neutral or sometimes slips in and out of gear while you’re driving, you may have a serious risk of getting into an accident. Imagine this happening at the exact moment you accelerate to pass another car. The engine revs, but no power is being delivered to the wheels. This is a classic case of transmission slipping – when power from your car’s engine is not directly transmitted into power at the wheels.
Why Is My Transmission Slipping?
First of all, it depends on the type of transmission in your car – automatic, manual, or CVT (continuously variable transmission) It’s not an indication that you will need a new transmission but it is definitely a sign that you should check if your transmission fluid is low. If it is, bring it to the right level before your transmission locks up. If is not the fluid, you should take the vehicle to an expert transmission repair shop before you have a bigger problem or a total transmission failure.
If the car has a standard transmission (or manual) then it could be the clutch that needs repair. If it is an automatic transmission, there are a number of common causes of transmission slipping. Pinpointing the exact cause of transmission slippage can be challenging, but a transmission expert can perform diagnostic tests to locate the problem faster and more accurately.
More Signs of Transmission Slipping
- The check engine light comes on
- Engine run at a higher RPM in lower gears
- Transmission falls back into a lower gear when upshifting
- The car will not go into reverse gear
- A burning smell or noise while shifting
- The vehicle speed doesn’t increase when accelerating
- Gear changes are hard or rough
What are Some Common Causes of Transmission Slipping?
Transmission Fluid Low or Leaking – If your automatic transmission is leaking fluid, it may not have the hydraulic pressure needed to change gears without difficulty. Leaking transmission fluid can be caused by a faulty seal, a leaking pan gasket, a crack in the torque converter, or a ruptured transmission fluid line.
Worn Out Gears – An older transmission can have gears that have worn out due to normal wear and tear of high mileage or due to prolonged overheating of the transmission when fluid levels have consistently been too low. If the gears are engaging harshly and feature clunking or grinding sounds, then it is possible you have worn out gears and may need an entire transmission replacement.
Torque Converter Problems – Your car’s torque converter uses hydraulic power under pressure to transfer engine power to the transmission. If the torque converter is damaged or failing, the transmission doesn’t have enough pressure buildup to engage or change the gears. When a vehicle is slipping out of overdrive or the engine tends to stall often, then it could be a torque converter problem.
The Clutch is Bad – If your vehicle has a Manual Transmission, then it is likely that the clutch is the cause of your transmission slipping – especially if the car has high mileage. When the transmission’s gears are not able to fully engage the clutch and shift, then it is possible the friction material that separates the transmission from the engine during a gear change is worn thin.