The transmission is the most misunderstood and neglected part of a vehicle. But a well-functioning transmission is just as essential to a car’s performance as the engine. The transmission is responsible for making sure that the appropriate amount of power is transferred to the wheels to keep you moving at a given speed. Transmission problems can put you, your passengers, and other motorists at risk. That’s why understanding the signs and symptoms of a bad transmission before it fails is extremely important — this knowledge can extend the life of your transmission, save you money, and keep you safe.
So, how do you know that your transmission is failing?
Lack of Gear Shift Response
Hesitation to shift to the proper gear is a telltale sign of transmission problems. You may notice a delay when shifting from drive to park, particularly in automatic transmission vehicles. If you’re driving a vehicle with a manual transmission, the lack of gear shift response presents as a disconnect between the revving of the engine’s RPMs and actual driving speed — the noise is a lot louder than you would expect for the acceleration.
Different makes and models have different sounds, but the more you drive your car, the more you become familiar with your vehicle’s individual noises. If you hear a sound you’ve never heard your car make before, take it to your local shop immediately. If the sound resembles humming, buzzing, or clunking, you may be experiencing transmission failure. Bad automatic transmissions may emit humming, buzzing, or whining noises while manual transmissions have harsher “clunking” sounds.
Automatic transmission fluid lubricates transmission components to prevent overheating. If the transmission fluid leaks, you’ll be left with less lubrication, increasing your chances of overheating. If you spot bright red fluid beneath your car, you’ve got a leak. If the fluid is dark brown or black and smells seared, the fluid might be burnt.
Trembling, Grinding, or Jerking
Shaking, trembling, and jerking are reliable indicators of transmission problems, and gear grinding is a common symptom in manual transmission cars. As mentioned above, automatic transmission failure usually starts with hesitation while shifting gears. As the problem progresses, the vehicle may shake while shifting.
If you notice a burning smell but no leakage, your transmission fluid is likely overheating due to clutch debris and a breakdown of metallic components. This is common if your transmission fluid has not been flushed in over 100,000 miles. When transmission fluid burns, it has an acrid smell similar to burning rubber. Burnt fluid can no longer control heat, lubricate parts, and shift gears.
Can’t Go Into Gear
If your car won’t shift into gear, several different issues could be the cause, including the wrong type of transmission fluid, improper shift cable positioning, internal mechanical failure, a clogged filter, faulty clutch linkage, failing solenoids, malfunctioning sensors, or a malfunctioning computer system.
A failed transmission poses a serious safety hazard to everyone on the road. That is why every driver and car owner must be aware of the symptoms of a bad transmission.
If you notice any of the signs described above, take your car to a trusted transmission shop for inspection and repair or order roadside assistance by clicking GET HELP NOW or by downloading the HONK app onto your smartphone or tablet.