How to Tell if Your Transmission is Failing

Did you know that your car’s transmission system experiences more wear and tear than any other part of your vehicle? Your transmission multiplies engine torque into usable power, allowing the wheels to spin at different gear ratios per the load and speed, and therefore it is absolutely necessary for it to be functioning smoothly. However, many vehicle owners don’t know how to recognize the signs of a faulty transmission. If you don’t address the signs right away, your transmission will only get worse, eventually leading to expensive and inconvenient repairs. That’s why we recommend a transmission tune-up every 2 years or 30,000 miles. Let’s discuss a few signs that your transmission is starting to fail so you know when to take your car to an expert for proper diagnosis, repair, rebuild, or upgrade.
Man with a clipboard in our transmission shop.

Strange Sounds

Every vehicle sounds different depending on the make and model, but if you start hearing strange sounds that weren’t there before, you need to take your vehicle to a transmission specialist for proper diagnosis and repair. Whining, clunking, buzzing, or humming sounds may indicate transmission failure. Since a transmission system contains hundreds of components, a single loose bearing or worn case can emit troubling noises. The sound may be different for manual and automatic transmissions, and it may also be related to the drive shaft, wheel bearing, differentials, exhaust system, or engine. So, if you are hearing strange noises, let an expert diagnose them correctly.

Lack of Response

Slow or no response while shifting gears is a strong indication of a transmission problem. The issue may be mechanical, hydraulic, or electric. If you have an automatic transmission system, you might feel a slight delay in engagement while shifting to park from drive. For manual transmissions, there may be a disconnect between the vehicle’s speed and the engine’s RPM, often called a slipping transmission. In this case, you will notice lower vehicle acceleration than the engine’s sound implies.

Fluid Leakage

Automatic Transmission Fluid (ATF) is critical for your transmission to function properly. It lubricates the components, thereby decreasing friction and preventing overheating, and it acts as a hydraulic fluid, which allows the gears to engage. If your ATF leaks, your transmission is forced to work with low fluid levels, putting it at high risk for overheating and eventually breaking down. If you notice bright red fluid under your vehicle, get it checked by a transmission shop immediately.

Burning Smell

If you notice a burning smell coming from your vehicle without any fluid leakage, the fluid may be overheating due to metallic components breakdown, clutch debris, or sludge. This is a common issue if you don’t have your transmission fluid flushed regularly. When ATF burns, it releases an acrid smell like that of burning rubber. You may even see smoke. Burnt fluid cannot dampen your engine’s heat or lubricate the gears and parts.

Jerking, Shaking, or Grinding

Jerking and shaking are telltale signs of a transmission problem, and grinding is also common in manual vehicles. Shaking occurs when the gears hesitate while shifting. It’s important to take your vehicle to a transmission repair expert as soon as you notice these signs, as a delay in service will worsen the damage.

Gear Slips

Gear slips are a serious safety hazard. Your vehicle will not respond appropriately when you slam the brakes or accelerate quickly, which not only endangers your life, but is also a threat to pedestrians and other vehicles on the road. It is your responsibility to take your vehicle to a specialist to address this serious issue.

Noise in Neutral

Pay attention to the noises your transmission makes in neutral. If it quakes or bumps, it may require adding or flushing the ATF. To rule out any other serious issues, have an expert inspect and diagnose your vehicle.

Not Going into Gear

If the transmission does not go into gear, your engine will turn on but you will not be able to move your vehicle an inch. This may be caused by the improper type of transmission fluid, incorrect positioning of the shifting cable, clogged filter, mechanic failure, malfunctioning sensor, failing solenoids, bad clutch linkage, or faulty computer system.

Dragging Clutch

A dragging clutch is common with manual transmissions, and it will make it extremely difficult to change gears. It can be caused by a disengaged flywheel and clutch disc when pushing the clutch pedal, and it is often accompanied with grinding sounds while shifting gears. Speedy’s Transmission Shop in Richmond, VA has over four decades of combined experience in fixing transmissions. We offer top-quality workmanship and honest communication for our customers to ensure complete satisfaction every time. If you notice any of the above signs in your car, visit our shop for accurate diagnostics and expert repairs.

Serving Richmond, VA and surrounding areas

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Phone: (804) 999-1845

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