10 Signs Your Transmission is About to Go Bad


Although we often associate owning a vehicle with ultimate freedom, there are a number of responsibilities that motorists have to follow in order to enjoy the privilege of driving out on the open highway. Vehicle maintenance is necessary to ensure you stay safe and that your car lasts for as long as possible.

Take your car’s transmission, for example. This car component experiences more wear during your car’s lifetime than any other. That means you’ll need to keep a sharp eye out for any signs of transmission trouble. Below, you’ll find 10 telltale signs that your transmission is on its last legs. Should you observe any of these signs, you’ll want to take your car to a reliable mechanic as soon as possible.

  • Strange Sounds: While your car may make the odd noise from time to time, any brand new sounds or noises that sound mechanical in nature should be taken seriously. If this is a sound you’ve never heard before or the noise could be described as clunking, buzzing, humming, or whining, you’ll want to pay close attention.
  • Failure to Shift: If you’re trying to shift gears and your car either hesitates or refuses to shift, your first thought should be your transmission. This may happen when you’re trying to go from park to drive (or vice versa) in automatic transmission cars. You might also experience transmission slipping.
    Fluid Leaks: Leaking fluid is never a good sign — and this can be a common cause of transmission failure. Without enough lubrication, your transmission can easily overheat. Look for pooling liquid underneath your vehicle; if it’s red, brown, or black in color, you’ll need to contact your repair shop right away.
    Shaking or Jerking: Your car shouldn’t exhibit signs of shaking or jerking when you’re trying to shift gears. If you notice your car starts to tremble in these circumstances, you should get it checked out to avoid any further damage.
    Burning Odor: Burning smells are rarely a good sign. This particular odor may indicate burnt transmission fluid. Since burning fluid can lead to overheating or even smoke, you’ll want to see about flushing your transmission fluid and assessing whether your transmission needs further attention.
  • Check Engine Light: The “check engine” light can illuminate for any number of reasons, with transmission failure being just one of them. Although it may be tempting to ignore this dashboard light for now, it’s best to have the car examined sooner rather than later.
    Neutral Noises: Aside from the strange sounds mentioned above, you should also watch out for noises that emanate when your vehicle is in neutral. If you hear bumping sounds or feel quaking sensations, it’s time to stop putting off your car’s maintenance visit to the mechanic.
  • Dragging Clutch: For those who drive manual transmission vehicles, a dragging clutch might be a concern. This happens when the flywheel and clutch disc fail to disengage when the clutch pedal is pressed. If you’ve noticed this issue, take action right away.
  • Slipping Gears: If your transmission is in trouble, your vehicle may actually “slip” into other gears without your knowledge. In this scenario, you’d have to quickly brake or accelerate in order to avoid an accident. This sign should never be ignored, as it poses a massive safety threat.
  • Gear Nightmares: In addition to slipping gears, it’s also possible that your car will refuse to go into gear at all. This can leave you completely helpless when you’re already behind the wheel. If your vehicle fails to go into gear, the transmission could be one possible root cause. Should this occur, you’ll really have no choice but to get it checked out.

Now that you know the 10 telltale signs of transmission failure, you can be a more informed driver and take steps to prevent road disasters.



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