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signs of bad Transmission

17 Warning Signs of A Bad Transmission


Are you experiencing strange noises or vibrations while driving? Is your car struggling to shift gears or leaking fluid? These are all warning signs of a bad transmission, and ignoring them can lead to costly repairs and even total transmission failure. But how can you tell if your transmission is going bad? And more importantly, what can you do to prevent it?

An early detection of transmission issues can save you hundreds, if not thousands of dollars, as well as prevent further, more serious damage to your vehicle. To help you identify the warning signs of a bad transmission, we’ve compiled a list of the 17 most common symptoms and what you can do to avoid them. From slipping gears to fluid leaks, we’ll cover everything you need to know to keep your car running smoothly.

If you’ve purchased or leased a defective car with signs of a bad transmission, we can help you receive compensation at no cost to you. Contact Cali Lemon Lawyers today!

1. The “Check Engine” Light Is On

check engine light

Your vehicle has a number of sensors that can detect issues with the transmission. The check engine light is intended to alert you to a number of potential problems with your car. While it may turn on for various reasons, it is essential to NOT ignore it.

If the system identifies any transmission issues, it will turn on the check engine, and disregarding this alert could be costly!

Technicians can quickly detect the problem by analyzing the fault code using innovative diagnostic tools and sensor reading analytics. If you take your car in promptly, the chances of repairing the fault without replacing the transmission are higher.

2. Problems with Response

gears shift problem

Another way that you can tell that there is a problem with your vehicle’s transmission is when you notice unusual hesitations or an absolute refusal to shift gears. In these cases, the problem could be mechanical, electrical, or hydraulic in nature.

When switching from drive to park in a vehicle with an automatic transmission, there could be a delay before the gears engage.

Receiving limited response in manual transmission vehicles appears as a mismatch between the vehicle’s speed and the engine’s revolutions per minute (RPM).

In this situation, the acceleration will be far lower than it should be, which is referred to as “transmission slipping”.

When you notice this, it is time to take your vehicle to a mechanic.

3. Leaking Transmission Fluid

car oil leakage

Transmission fluid works to keep your vehicle’s transmission cool and lubricated. It also serves as a hydraulic fluid to engage gears. There could be several causes for leaking fluid, including a damaged transmission pan gasket, which can be easily replaced.

This fluid aids in the effective operation of your transmission, and you face the risk of your transmission overheating if there is a fluid leak, which might cause transmission failure.

Fortunately, detecting and diagnosing a transmission fluid leak is quite easy. Thanks to the vibrant crimson color and the pleasant smell of automatic transmission fluid, a leak can be identified easily. If you notice suspicious fluids under your vehicle, simply check the transmission dipstick to determine whether the transmission fluid level has dropped.

4. A Burning Smell

burning smell

If you notice a burning smell coming from your vehicle, it could indicate transmission problems. The smell of something burning in a car is never a good thing. It is likely being caused by degraded protective chemicals or worn internal components.

There could also be a significant sludge accumulation within the gearbox. Driving your car in such conditions is very dangerous. We advise vehicle owners never to operate a motor vehicle that emits a burning smell until the issue has been resolved.

5. Slipping Gears

If your gears are not shifting smoothly or you find that the car does not stay in gear as your drive, your transmission has likely failed.

Both manual and automatic transmissions can experience gear slippage. Gear shifts are controlled by external inputs in your car.

The driver controls the shifting of gears in manual transmissions by depressing the clutch pedal, and drivers can choose between park, reverse, neutral, and drive in automatic transmissions.

When your car stops abruptly, slips between gears, or keeps switching to neutral, it’s essential to take it to a competent transmission repair facility since it poses a significant safety risk to you and other motorists.

6. Strange Sounds Could Also Indicate Transmission Trouble

strange car sounds

Depending on the exact problem, there are a variety of sounds that you may hear coming from under the hood. Potential issues range from blocked transmission filters to broken transmission pumps. When a vehicle is working at its best, you should hear mild whining or humming noises.

However, if your vehicle begins to make weird noises, take it in as quickly as possible for an assessment and transmission service at a professional transmission repair shop.

7. A Dragging Clutch in a Manual Transmission

Cars with manual transmissions are the only vehicles that experience a dragging clutch when there is a problem with the transmission. When the clutch drags, switching gears becomes challenging.

In such cases, when you depress the clutch pedal, the clutch disc and flywheel do not release, which results in a dragging clutch. A manual transmission may also move out of gear in some instances.

If the clutch pedal is too loose, the clutch disc will not release, and the engine will not be able to transfer any power to the drivetrain, resulting in a grinding sound.

8. Grinding, Jerking, or Shaking

Jerking, grinding of the gears, and shaking are common indicators of a bad transmission. Some manufacturers have even issued recalls for such issues.

In manual transmission vehicles, the grinding of gears is typical. However, when it comes to automatic vehicles, a failed gearbox usually starts with a delay when changing gear. This is commonly referred to as transmission slipping.

When you shift gears, your vehicle will start to shake or vibrate if there is a problem with the transmission.  The easiest way to identify the cause of the problem is to take your vehicle to a repair shop as soon as possible.

9. Your Vehicle Won’t Go into Gear

If you’re stuck in a stalled car with the engine running and cannot move, it could indicate transmission problems. It could also be that your transmission remains in first gear.

Several factors could cause your car’s inability to shift into gear. The incorrect type of transmission fluid, improper positioning of the shift cable, mechanical failure, blocked filters, defective clutch connections, failed solenoids, faulty sensors, or a dysfunctional computer system are just a few possible problems.

10. A Lack of Power

Should your car have limited or no power at all while the engine is running normally, it might be because of internal transmission issues.

Alternatively, it could be caused by dragging brakes caused by a malfunctioning brake caliper or hose or your car’s computer reducing power to safeguard the engine. To identify the issue, have the vehicle’s problem codes verified.

11. The Clutch Drags Very High or Very Low in Manual Transmissions

An issue with the clutch’s connection or hydraulic system is usually the cause of a low-engagement clutch pedal. When there are no hydraulic leakages, a simple modification or bleed may be enough to fix the problem. On the other hand, a high-grabbing clutch pedal could be an adjustment, or it may be a deteriorated pressure plate or clutch disc.

12. Excess Noise When in Neutral

Excessive noise might sometimes be a sign of a problem. An engine inspection is required if your vehicle makes a loud, banging noise while in neutral gear. Typically, the remedy is pretty simple. It could be a lack of transmission fluid that can be easily replaced. It’s also possible that the incorrect type of fluid was used.

13. Your Automatic Transmission Only Goes Backward

Does the vehicle not move when you try and shift into drive? Does it only allow you to move backward? The issue in such cases is typically because of a mechanical failure of the front clutch. However, it’s also possible that the clutch plates are simply worn.

14. Limp or Emergency Mode

Many modern vehicles mitigate the risk of transmission failure by going into what is known as a limp or emergency mode. In limp mode, the vehicle’s computer system detects a problem and switches to a single gear (often the third gear) to prevent transmission failure. This means that you cannot drive your car in any other gear.

15. Delayed Shifting

Suppose the transmission takes a long time to shift into gear. In that case, it could be due to a low transmission fluid level caused by a leak, contaminants caused by poor maintenance, or even water infiltration during off-road or flooding scenarios. Although it might not appear to be a major problem, it can cause overheating, as explained above.

16. Your Automatic Transmission Does Not Pull Properly

Damage to the torque converter may be the reason for a vehicle not taking on the gas or pulling the vehicle correctly. It’s also possible that the car’s clutch plates are worn and need to be replaced.

17. Transmission Hesitation

This warning indicator is an inconvenient delay before the next gear engages. If your transmission begins hesitating between gears, you’ll know that something is definitely wrong. You should have a technician take a look at the system.

How to Prevent a Bad Transmission

If you have transmission trouble, you can take certain measures to avoid a costly transmission replacement. Even though the damage is usually permanent once it occurs, there are some precautions that you can take before your transmission fails.

By paying attention to your vehicle, you can identify potential problems with the transmission quickly and easily. Here are a few tips to help you prevent damage to your car’s transmission:

  • Check for fluid leaks regularly
  • Ensure that your vehicle is serviced regularly
  • Don’t ignore the check engine light
  • Listen for strange noises
  • Take your vehicle to a repair shop if you notice any strange smells

Even though the problem may seem insignificant, you should never drive a vehicle that has a transmission problem. If gear shifts don’t go as planned, the consequences could be devastating. We always advise vehicle owners to contact a professional repair shop as soon as possible.

Need a Lemon Law Attorney? We Can Help!

Having a vehicle that is experiencing transmission problems can often be a manufacturing defect.

If the car is under warranty and the manufacturer is unable to repair a problem, they may be required to buyback or replace your car under the Lemon Law

Get in touch with Cali Lemon Law today to find out if you have a lemon!

Comments (4)
  • Thanks for explaining how your car will vibrate or shake when you shift gears if there are transmission problems. My younger brother borrowed my car this morning to go to the store, and he told me he noticed it shaking whenever he shifted. I’ll have to find a reputable auto repair service in the next few days to get it inspected and repaired if necessary.

  • I like the tip you gave that transmission problem is the cause of not being able to drive your car. After moving to our current area, I am planning to buy replacement parts such as used transmission and brake parts for my car because of its old age of them. You did a great job of explaining proper maintenance that will benefit me. I’ll be sure to try consulting the local salvage yard next week for the parts I need.

  • I’m glad you mentioned that you might have transmission issues if you notice a burning smell. For the past couple of weeks, my husband and I have noticed a burning smell coming from my car, so I was wondering what could be causing it to happen. I’ll have to look into finding an auto service that can repair my transmission for me as soon as possible.

  • My transmission went into reverse but nothing..could hear like the fly wheel spinning…took it from 2h into 4h pulled forward, placed in neutral then back into 2h an had reverse,..it gets better..no 1st or 2nd gear to down shift but the go into gear an it still drives …in other words if you down shift to slow down it won’t slow you down…I have a 2006 Chevy Silverado Z71 4 wheel drive crew cab…can someone point me in the right direction…or have an idea on a fix?

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