As a machine with hundreds of moving parts and separate systems, figuring out the source of that strange knocking sound your car recently started to make may feel like an episode of CSI.
Do you need transmission repair?
Is the engine in need of servicing?
Don’t worry, it’s not impossible to diagnose your vehicle’s problems as long as you have some basic information about the systems in your car.
What Does the Transmission Do?
The transmission is one of the hardest-working devices in your car. The transmission sends power from the engine to the wheels through something called a driveshaft, and the machinery is often under great pressure and heat.
Transmission repair cost is usually more expensive than just about any other repair your vehicle might require. Therefore, keeping an eye on potential transmission problems may save you money in the long run as long as you catch the problem early.
A Sluggish Transmission
Imagine you turn on your car in the parking lot and shift the car into reverse. You feel this pause before the car lurches into gear. Your transmission should put the car into reverse immediately, and if there’s a delay before your car responds you could need auto transmission repair.
If you experience shifting delays with an automatic or manual transmission, you could have a bad clutch that needs to be replaced. The clutch can wear out over time and become sluggish or even refuse to operate.
If you drive a car with a manual transmission and have a long commute where you spend a lot of time with your foot depressing the clutch, you can wear it out. Instead of sitting in traffic with the clutch depressed, try putting the car in neutral and keeping one foot on the brake while the other foot lets off the clutch.
Fluid Problems: Leaking and Low Fluid
One thing that all transmissions need is fluid, and when the fluid gets dirty or starts to leak, big problems can start to occur. In fact, if you go too long with a transmission leak, you might be looking at a transmission rebuild or replacement. The only way your transmission can continue to work under such great pressure is with fluid.
Automatic and manual transmissions use different types of fluid, but it’s an essential component of your transmission no matter if it’s on a brand new vehicle or a classic car. Make an effort to check the transmission fluid just as you would the oil level, and keep an eye on any dark spots that appear under your car.
Automatic transmission fluid is reddish in color, and it gets dark when it’s old and needs to be changed. The best time to check the transmission fluid is after you’ve driven a few blocks, so checking it once a month at the gas station is usually a good idea.
What’s That Burning Smell?
A burning smell in any circumstance is usually a sign that something’s wrong unless you’re sitting in front of a campfire. If you smell something burning when you drive your car, it’s important to bring your car in immediately for transmission service.
Sometimes a burning smell could be a sign of an electrical problem, but the burning smell could also be due to old transmission fluid that has broken down and turned into sludge. The transmission gets so hot that old fluid can’t circulate correctly, which is bad news because it can allow the transmission to self-destruct.
Strange Noises, Shakes, and Grinding
Cars can make strange noises at a variety of times like when the car shifts into gear, when it sits in neutral, or even when you’re driving down the road. The source of the strange noise or sound might not be immediately obvious to you, but if you describe the moment when the strange noise occurs, your mechanic can pinpoint the likely cause of the symptom.
For example, if you feel an odd clunk each time you shift gears, there’s probably an issue somewhere in the transmission. On the other hand, if you hear the sound all the time, you could have a problem with the differential, which is a small box of gears and teeth between the wheels.
There are many moving parts within the transmission, and when any of them start to wear out or get unsynchronized, the car can start making strange noises when you try to drive it or shift into gear.
Your transmission should remain in gear until you manually shift it, or the car’s computer tells the transmission to shift. If you’re driving and the car suddenly shifts into neutral, a gear inside the transmission could be damaged. Manual or automatic transmission repair is important in such cases because a car that shifts when it wants can be dangerous on the road.
For drivers of vehicles with manual transmissions, another problem that may occur is a dragging clutch. This happens when you try to disengage the clutch by depressing the clutch pedal, but nothing happens. This problem often begins with a grinding noise whenever you try to disengage the clutch and eventually gets bad enough that you can’t get the car out of gear.
It’s important to bring your car in for manual transmission repair as soon as you hear any grinding with the clutch or it becomes difficult to shift the car. You could be looking at something simple like changing the slack of the clutch pedal.
The Dreaded Check Engine Light
When you see the little orange “Service Engine Soon” notification, it’s usually because something rather serious is about to happen. Although it says “engine” on the warning, the problem isn’t necessarily with the actual engine. Often, there’s something wrong with the transmission.
Just like you wouldn’t want to ignore a transmission fluid leak, you don’t want to ignore the check-engine light. Your vehicle is equipped with loads of sensors, and they might detect something you can’t feel yet.
If you want to avoid needing transmission replacement, it’s important to get your car serviced as soon as possible when you see the check engine light. It’s best to avoid driving the vehicle completely before you bring it in for service.
Remember: Don’t wait until a small problem like a minor leak becomes a massive inconvenience that requires major work. Bring your car into My Transmission Expert at the first sign of trouble.