Transmission Warning Signs to Watch Out For
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 service?
Don’t worry, it’s not impossible for a professional to diagnose your vehicle’s problem. Learn what symptoms you should look out for if you suspect transmission problems.
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.
The cost to repair a transmission 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.
Bad Transmission Symptoms
Look out for these warning signs and symptoms of a bad transmission.
- Sluggish Transmission
- Slipping Gears
- Jerking Upon Acceleration
- Noises During Acceleration & Deceleration
- Burning Smell
- Check Engine Light Registering a Transmission Error Code
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 transmission repair and automatic transmission repair are both important in this situation because a car that shifts gears uncontrollably is dangerous.
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 get 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.
Vehicle Transmission Troubleshooting
The ignition that starts the car, the fuel pump that pumps gasoline, the engine, the gears that shift the transmission from park to drive, even the system that turns on the windshield wipers — every motor vehicle has hundreds or thousands of parts that make them work. It is nearly impossible to know each and every working part. Fortunately, there are signals that alert you when your vehicle is starting to have transmission repair-related issues.
Top 5 Transmission Warning Signs
There are 5 important transmission warning signs you should never ignore:
- Rough Shifting – At times, your vehicle may start to feel like it is not wanting to change gears when it should or it isn’t as smooth when it does shift. When experiencing this issue, you might also start to notice that it is more difficult for your car to pick up or get up to speed. Rough shift issues are also related to the noticeable thud or clunking sound when your vehicle shifts from one gear to the next.
- Slipping Transmission – Somewhat of the opposite to rough shifting, a slipping transmission is when it feels like you’re driving in one gear, and for no reason, your vehicle shifts into a higher or lower gear. If you aren’t certain that slippage is the issue, listen to your engine when this happens since it may change pitch or start making a whining sound.
- Delayed Engagement – If you notice a delay before your vehicle goes into drive and starts moving, there is a delay in the response of the transmission when shifting. When you shift out of Park and into Drive, there may be a long pause when you apply the accelerator and revs the engine, but it’s not moving forward as it should.
- Transmission Leaks – Transmissions are tightly sealed units that should never be leaking fluid. To determine where a leak is coming from, place a piece of clean cardboard under your car in the front and middle. After a couple of days, take a look at the cardboard to see if you have any active leaks. If your transmission is leaking, the fluid will be bright red or even a dark reddish-brown and you will want to get it to your transmission repair expert immediately before more problems arise.
- Warning or Check Engine Light Illuminated– Your vehicle is equipped with sensors and relays that let your car know when something isn’t operating as it should be. Check and be attentive to your dashboard warning lights. If your check engine light or transmission warning light comes on, don’t ignore it. Have a professional diagnose the reasoning for the light.
Depending on the transmission problems your vehicle is experiencing, transmission repairs cost can be a wide range. With My Transmission Experts in Houston, Bear Creek shop in west Houston, Tomball, Kingwood and Katy TX, we will perform a thorough diagnosis to make sure we pinpoint the exact problem before starting the repairs, and will only perform the necessary repairs without tacking on additional services that your vehicle may not need quite yet. If you are experiencing any of these common transmission problems, contact us for expert transmission service today to avoid future costly repairs tomorrow!
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 Experts at the first sign of trouble.
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