How to Spot Transmission Trouble Yourself

December 11th, 2015 by


A well-functioning car is a lot like a well-functioning body: each part does its own specialized task and, when all parts work together correctly, the body is healthy and works well. This is the same for a car, which has specialized parts throughout that all have a specific job to do. And, much like a body, when one part breaks down, it can affect the whole system.

That’s why it’s important to know what is going on with your vehicle when something starts to feel wrong with it, just as it’s important to identify and diagnose problems in your body. Without being able to do so, you run the risk of allowing what could be a minor problem to develop into a much bigger one – often, one that is more expensive to repair.

It’s important to be able to identify basic automotive issues before they escalate, and so here are some handy tips for how to know when your transmission could be the cause of your vehicle’s performance woes.

If your car is experiencing any of these symptoms, it might be time to get it and yourself over to a mechanic for a car transmission repair.

Grinding, Shaking, or Banging

Pretty much, your car should sound like a car. That means smooth engine noises, free from any scratching, grinding, banging, or screeching. These sounds are not a part of any properly functioning mechanical system, and so they should raise a red flag to any car owner who hears them.

If you hear any of these noises they are likely from several sources. The grinding could be the clutch, unable to catch when switching gears, that is grinding metal on metal. The struggle for your transmission to shift can wear away the teeth of the transmission’s gears and will only be exacerbated the longer it is left unrepaired.

On automatic transmissions, the driver may feel the transmission shake or “wiggle” as it struggles to shift from one gear to the next. You’ll know it’s the transmission if the shaking gets worse as you shift into higher and higher gears. If when you try to shift from one gear to another you feel your steering wheel vibrate under your hands, this is a pretty direct sign that your transmission is shaking into place each time it shifts.

If you hear any banging or bumping sounds under the hood, even while in neutral, that could be a clear sign that there is something wrong with the transmission, which still spins even when the vehicle is idling.

If it’s a whirring or screeching sound you’re hearing, especially just after your automatic transmission has shifted gears, it could signal some past or continuing damage to the gears of your drive shaft.

Clutch Dragging or Gears Slipping

Transmission PartsAt no pint should your car be seriously struggling to shift gears, and it should never shift gears unexpectedly. If you find that there’s a noticeable delay between when you initiate shifting and when the clutch actually catches, this could be a sign that your transmission’s teeth are worn down or broken, or that the clutch is in need of replacement.

In the very worst cases, your car will not be able to shift into gear at all, meaning your clutch is immovably stuck on park or neutral, or will not shift out of one gear back into park. This, obviously, renders your car practically (or literally) immobile and requires an immediate fix.

A faulty or damaged transmission can also lead to gears slipping, or changing unexpectedly. If you notice your car dropping gears and revving high on low gear without switching, or if your car has ever slipped into neutral while driving, you know how frightening and dangerous this can be. When you can’t trust your transmission to hold the gear it’s in until you expect it to shift, it may be a problem with your transmission.

This kind of problem especially points to the transmission when coupled with trouble with the clutch, or the check engine light being lit. Often it is the combination of problems that leads to an accurate diagnosis. In some cases, problems shifting gears can be caused by the computerized system to which the transmission is paired and not the transmission itself. A professional diagnostic check can sort this out for certain.

Leaking Fluid

transmission fluid exchange

If you’ve noticed spots of fluid underneath your vehicle when you first move it in the morning or after a long time spent parked, it could be a sign that your transmission is leaking fluid.

This can be especially important to fix immediately, as leaky fluid can quickly destroy your transmission as it drips through your engine block. Having too little fluid also allows for greater friction between the moving parts of your transmission, leading to overheating.

This can further damage the internal parts of your transmission and create a host of other problems as well. If you detect a burning smell or see smoke coming from under the hood of your car, it could be a sign that overheating has caused the transmission fluid to start burning. This can turn the fluid into sludge, contaminating your transmission and ensuring greater problems down the road.

It’s always a good idea to check your transmission fluid if you suspect there may be a problem. Healthy, clean fluid is typically a deep, filtered red color with no cloudiness or debris. If your fluid is slightly brown or spotted, that could be a sign of overheating or contamination, and it is important to change your transmission fluid right away.

Getting a Diagnosis

Check Engine Light

Now that you’ve identified the likely cause of your engine trouble you should feel comfortable taking your vehicle to a mechanic with an accurate assessment of what the problem might be. The mechanic can then take a closer look and see if your hunch is right.

Knowing what the problem might be before taking the car for repairs is one of the best ways to be a smart consumer about car repairs. Not only does this signal to the mechanic that you know what you’re talking about, it also implies you know what to expect from a repair job and won’t be fooled by unnecessary services and repairs.

A mechanic typically has several options for a transmission repair. He or she may choose to take on a simple transmission rebuild, in which the mechanic inspects your transmission for faulty parts and cleans or replaces only those parts in most dire need of replacement. This procedure is usually the cheapest option for transmission repair and, in most cases, is exactly the right job for repairs.

The other option is a total transmission re-manufacture, in which each and every part is removed, cleaned, re-manufactured or re-machined, and then replaced. Each part is changed out, regardless of its quality, to ensure every part will work well and last as long as possible. This is typically much more expensive but is nearly guaranteed to ensure your problem has been solved – and it typically comes with a warranty.

So if you’ve noticed one or more of these problems – especially if they are occurring at the same time – it is likely the problem lies in your transmission. now that you can identify the problem yourself, it’s time to take that educated analysis to a mechanic for a professional car transmission repair.

With all this knowledge in tow and working for you, you’ll be back on the road and driving happily in no time.