Most mechanical car problems give some indication that something isn't working properly. When your car's transmission begins to fail, however, there may be few outward signs as the transmission is controlled by a computer. By the time you notice symptoms, it may be too late to do anything about the problem. It's important to stay vigilant to watch for signs of transmission problems to reduce your repair costs and potentially avoid a necessary transmission replacement. If you have any of these signs, it's time to contact a transmission specialist right away.
- Car won't go into gear
While manual transmissions have a more basic operation, plenty can go wrong. One of the most common signs of trouble is the transmission refuses to move when you press the clutch pedal and try to move the shifter. Sometimes this happens when you try to move into first gear from a stop or it may happen at other times. This may be caused by low transmission fluid, improper adjustment of the shift cables, or the wrong fluid viscosity.
- Transmission is noisy in neutral
If you hear odd bumping sounds while your car is in neutral, it may be the transmission. Sometimes this is an easy fix, such as replacing or adding more transmission fluid. The noise may also be a sign of more serious trouble like mechanical failure.
- Odor of burning transmission fluid
Smelling burning transmission fluid is a clear sign that your transmission is overheating. Your vehicle's transmission fluid keeps the transmission lubricated and it prevents the transmission from overheating and burning. This burning smell may be caused by low transmission fluid or you may need your fluid changed.
- Slipping gears
When your transmission is functioning properly, your vehicle will stay in gear until you or the car's computer initiate a shift. A transmission that slips gears or randomly pops out of gear while driving should be fixed right away. This isn't just frightening; it can be very dangerous.
- You have a dragging clutch
A dragging clutch does not disengage the clutch disk from the flywheel when you step on the clutch pedal. You will notice a loud grinding noise when you try to shift gears. This is usually a fairly affordable fix: the problem is often too much slack in the pedal.
- You notice leaking transmission fluid
Transmission fluid is bright red with a somewhat sweet aroma when your transmission is functioning correctly. Regularly verify that your transmission fluid is not dark. If you notice you're running low on transmission fluid, it's a sign that you have a leak somewhere because the transmission does not burn up fluid like a motor.
- You have grinding or shaking gears
Your vehicle may do any number of things when your transmission acts up, depending on whether you have an automatic or manual transmission. Manual transmissions tend to make a grinding sound or sensation when you try to shift gears. With an automatic transmission, your car may shake or jump into a new gear instead of transitioning smoothly.