10 Warning Signs Your Transmission Is Going Out (+ What To Do About It)

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Marc Skirvin

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No one enjoys car problems, but trying to diagnose an issue on your own can be difficult without the right information.

If you don’t know much about cars, trying to find out which part of the car is broken can be an impossible task.

Luckily, there are surefire ways to tell if the transmission in your vehicle is what is giving you trouble.

Learn about the 10 signs your transmission is going out below and find out what you can do if it happens to you.

1. No Starting or Slow Starting

When your vehicle won’t start or is having trouble starting first thing, it may be a sign that your transmission is failing or has already failed.

Generally, this type of issue is more common in cold weather. The winter months can be hard on your vehicle.

A non-starting vehicle can mean many things, however, so diagnosing the transmission as the issue is something a professional may be able to do for you if that’s the case.

2. Gears Slipping

A transmission that is functioning as it is supposed to will stay in the gear that you select or the gear that it electronically is designated to be in. Once you or the computer within your vehicle initiate shifting gears, the gears will shift.

If your transmission is not doing this correctly, there is clearly something wrong. This can be a dangerous issue to have, regardless of whether or not your car is manual or automatic.

When the gears slip, it will pop the car out o the gear it is supposed to be in and may force it back into neutral. If you’re driving down the road when this happens, obviously it is quite dangerous.

3. Burning Smell

The pump in your car may not be getting the fluid circulating through the transmission as it is meant to. Because of this, the transmission will overheat and the fluid is going to start burning. This creates a putrid smell that won’t be pleasant.

It’s easiest to identify where the smell is coming from if you check the fluid dipstick. The fluid will likely be lower than it should be and it will be a darker color than it normally is.

Always check your fluids to make sure that they are where they should be.

4. Transmission Fluid Leak

Another problem with fluids is leakage. If you see that there is red fluid leaking underneath your vehicle, you need to get your transmission checked out straight away.

If you’re not sure whether there is a leak or not, you can put some cardboard beneath the car to catch any potential liquid that comes out.

After a while, you can check it to see where the fluid is coming from, what color it is, and how badly it is leaking.

5. Surging or Jumping

It can be scary when your car starts surging and jumping for no obvious reason.

One reason this may happen is if your transmission fluid or the transmission itself contains dirt and contamination. This prevents the fluid from flowing properly and can lead to the burning problem mentioned earlier.

There are other reasons for this issue, so it is not always the transmission, but it is worth determining if that is the cause of the issue. If so, you may need to get a new transmission or consider selling the vehicle.

6. Transmission Noise

Your car may be making weird noises and if this starts to happen, you should diagnose the issue right away. It may be more serious than it seems.

If the gears and the clutch packs are not lubricated with fluid pumped through the transmission, they may start to create friction. This can cause the noise, but it also causes premature wear and tear, extra space between parts, and slippage.

A bad transmission pump will lead to issues with the rest of the transmission in the vehicle. In addition, problems with the transmission can lead to problems with the pump.

This is why issues to do with low fluid, contamination, and worn out parts will make your pump and your transmission work a lot harder than they should. Eventually, they will fail due to excessive work.

7. Delay in Movement

Have you ever been putting your foot on the gas and your car takes a beat before it actually starts to move? This is a delay in the movement of the vehicle.

It may mean that your transmission is having issues, but more importantly, this is a huge safety concern. If you’re trying to pull out of a parking lot or turning left on a green light, you need to have an immediate response or you risk an accident.

If this is happening, you need to have your vehicle looked at by a professional as soon as possible to stay safe on the road.

8. Hard Shifting

Hard shifting happens when the transmission fluid isn’t pushed into the transmission at all. The gears don’t become lubricated as they are meant to and this causes significant wear on your gears.

If you have an automatic transmission, you will notice this when you feel a jerk or delay as you accelerate. In a manual transmission, it will be more difficult for you to get into the gear you need.

9. Check Engine Light

A check engine light can actually refer to a lot of different issues in your vehicle. It’s not always related to the engine, which is a common misconception.

diagnostic machine can look at the specific error code that your car is exhibiting and it will diagnose where the issue is in the vehicle.

You can buy one of these machines for yourself or take it to a shop to have them read the code or you.

10. Grinding Gears

You may feel that when you change gears, there is a loud grinding noise.

It may be something you feel in your hand if you have a manual transmission. With an automatic transmission, your car may make noise or seem to have a hard time getting to the speed you need.

In this case, you may have worn out the clutch and that may be what needs replacement. In other situations, it may be that the transmission’s synchronizers need to be replaced because they are damaged or worn out.

Automatic transmissions that have a rough shift can mean a lot of things, so taking it to a professional to look at what is going on is a good idea.

Is It a Good Idea to Drive with a Bad Transmission?

A vehicle that has problems with the transmission should not be driven. You not only risk putting more damage on the car, but it is a huge safety problem.

The transmission is an important part of the vehicle that helps it run. Without it, your vehicle would not work. When it isn’t working correctly, the vehicle may stop working all of a sudden, cause you significant delays while you drive, or create dangerous distractions.

Shifting out of gear all a sudden while you’re on the interstate or not being able to move when a red light turns green are not issues you want to deal with.

The best idea is to decide if your transmission should be replaced or, if the price is right, sell your vehicle.

What Should You Do?

The first thing to do is to make sure it is your transmission that is actually causing the issues.

Then, you will want to find out how much a transmission replacement will cost. This will help you determine if your car is worth that cost or not. Find out how much your car is worth to see if the cost of repair is greater than the overall value.

A local shop or a dealership can tell you what you need to know about estimated prices for transmissions.

If possible, you may be able to have your transmission repaired. This generally is not going to be as good as having a new transmission, but it may save some money and keep your car going longer.

Find out how much your car is worth to see if the cost of repair is greater than the overall value.

If you decide that your vehicle isn’t worth the repair or replacement cost, it may be better to sell it. You can do this in a variety of ways, including going to a salvage yard, to get the best price possible.

Have Signs Your Transmission Is Going Out?

After seeing some of the signs your transmission is going out, it can be easy to determine if it is worth it for you to fix it.

When it is time to sell your car, it can be a difficult choice. How do you know who to sell it to?

One of the easiest ways to get the vehicle off your hands and purchase a new one is by working with Cash Auto Salvage. We will give you an offer and pay you while we pick up your car, van, or truck at no cost to you.

If you feel like it’s time to part with your vehicle, we serve a lot of areas and yours may be one of them. We want to help you sell and get the money you deserve.

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About the Author

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Marc is the Co-Founder of Cash Auto Salvage and Director of daily operations. He retired from a leading Internet Marketing company in 2013 and has been involved in the automotive industry ever since.

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