automatic transmission 1

Automatic Transmission Symptoms, Function & Replacement Cost

In Transmission by Magnus Sellén1 Comment

An engine is nothing without a transmission. The two are practically married to each other, and their product is the power and speed you feel when you engage the gear and press the accelerator pedal. Imagine if one of them were to break down; your entire driving experience could be ruined. That’s why it’s important that you pay as much attention as possible to their care.

And since this article deals with the transmission, that’s where our focus will be. A vehicle’s transmission takes power from the engine and transmits it to the differential, which transmits the power to the wheels, causing them to move. Therefore, any problem with the transmission can affect the performance of your car and reduce its efficiency. Now the question is whether your car’s transmission is defective. Well, to find out, read the list of symptoms and find out for yourself.

Signs of a Bad Automatic Transmission

While there can be many causes and symptoms related to a transmission failure, we will list those that occur most commonly.

1. Unnecessary Sounds

If your car runs without any problems, you will not find a single sound except that of your engine. However, if you hear an unnatural noise, especially when changing gears, it means that there is a problem with the transmission of your car. As soon as you hear a crunching or whimpering noise in your transmission, it is time to see a professional mechanic.

2. Unresponsive Shifting

The transmission of your car is built for one purpose: namely, to distribute the power of the engine at the right interval. If you shift gears and your car takes a little longer to respond than it should normally, you are dealing with a transmission-related problem.

SEE NEXT:  Transmission Shift Solenoid: Functions & Symptoms

3. Unpleasant Smell

The transmission of your car has a special fluid inside that allows it to easily perform its functions. If you feel a burning smell when shifting gears, it is possible that your transmission fluid is burning. In any case, a burning smell coming from your car can only mean one thing: Trouble. That is why you need to get it checked as soon as possible.

4. Leakages of Transmission Fluid

As mentioned above, transmission fluid is necessary for the smooth functioning of the gears. If this fluid leaks anywhere, you can easily detect it. The best thing to do is to start your car, lie down on the ground and check for possible leaks. You will probably see fluid trickling down somewhere under the engine flame wall. Otherwise, you can put pieces of cardboard under your car at night and look for signs of contamination in the morning.

5. Grinding Gears

Let’s face it, the grinding sound is something every driver hates. It’s also easy for everyone to hear because it is so loud. This symptom is easy to detect when driving a manual transmission. You will literally feel the vibrations in your hands when changing gears. In manuals, this could indicate clutch problems, but it could easily be a transmission problem. Be sure to have it checked in the mechanic’s workshop before anything else goes wrong. With an automatic gearbox, the grinding of the gears is somewhat subtle, but it can get caught if your car shifts gears abruptly. Again, a mechanic will be useful.

6. Noisy Neutral

The transmission should not make any noise when in neutral. If you feel a rattling of the transmission while it is in neutral, you probably have too little transmission oil. But it could easily be something else, so it is better to have it checked.

7. Transmission Won’t Shift

This is a serious problem, and it means that your transmission is in poor condition. In such cases, you have no choice but to call a mechanic and have your car checked for any problems related to the transmission.

SEE NEXT:  How to Choose the Right Axle Ratio for your Truck/Pickup

8. Check Engine Light Illuminates

The phrase ‘Check Engine Light‘ is a general term; it does not always mean that there is a problem with your engine, and it could mean that there is a problem with your transmission system. If this light shines on your dashboard, you can be sure that there is a problem somewhere.

Problem Symptoms Causes Solutions
Bad transmission Strange noises from transmission

Unresponsive Shifting

Transmission fluid leakage

Grinding shiftings

Noisy Neutral

Check engine/transmission light
Low transmission fluid

Bad shift solenoid

Wiring issues

Other damaged parts inside the transmission

Bad transmission control unit (rare)
Fill up transmission fluid

Replace transmission fluid

Flush the transmission

Repair parts/wirings inside transmission

Replace transmission

Replace transmission control unit (rare)

Solutions to Solve a Transmission Failure

Transmission failure is a big issue that you cannot solve on your own. In the majority of cases, you need to hire the services of a mechanic.

Check and fill up the transmission fluid

If your car has transmission damage, take it to the garage and have it checked. Sometimes a general service, where the mechanic checks all fluids of your car, can solve the problem. During this service, he or she can determine if your transmission oil is at a critical level and replace it.

Transmission Flush

In some cases, if the Automatic Transmission Fluid is old, it may help to flush the transmission and then refill it with new fluid. This is a pretty cheap thing and it solves many transmission problems. Just check if your mechanic has the necessary tools for a transmission flush.

Read the trouble codes

Use an OBD2 scanner to read the trouble codes from the transmission control unit.  In many cases where a transmission problem occurs, error codes may be stored, e.g. a wiring problem or a bad shift solenoid.

Take the transmission/car to an expert

If none of these methods worked, the best choice is to have an experienced transmission mechanic take a look at the car. This can save you a lot of money if he finds a small part to replace instead of the whole transmission.

SEE NEXT:  Rear Differential Noises - How to Diagnose it

Transmission Replacement Cost

The bad news first: The transmission is a big car part, so its replacement or repair will usually cost you a lot of money. It is necessary, therefore, that you are extremely vigilant. As soon as you sense that something is going wrong with your transmission, contact the mechanic. The mechanic will diagnose the problem and fix it immediately. Normally, all you are missing is a little transmission oil, which will be replaced and will not cost you much. If you delay the problem, you could ruin the transmission further and damage it so much that it needs completely replacing.

In the worst case, you have a hefty bill in front of you. The cost of a transmission repair or replacement may vary depending on the make and model of the car and the availability of the part. In general, a used transmission can cost between $1200 and $3,500. Add to this the labor costs of about $500 – $800 and bankruptcy is inevitable! Repairing a transmission can cost you a lot less, but it can cost you more time. While your car is being worked on, you will not be able to drive it.

Ultimately, the decision to repair or replace is up to your mechanic, as only he can assess the extent of the transmission damage to your car.

1 thought on “ Automatic Transmission Symptoms, Function & Replacement Cost ”

Comments
  1. My 2004 Ford Focus SE with an automatic transmission shifts a little harder between gears than feels right. I am in the beginning stage of diagnosing the problem with my first stop being the mighty interweb. The check engine light is on, but I have yet to take it to someone with an OBD2 to check for codes. My research leads me to believe it could be the A or B shift solenoids, although I have yet to hear of a hard shift as a symptom, just wacky reverse problems, slow shifts, and lost gears. I know the codes will help me zero in on the problem, and I will also check the 12v continuity to be sure the transmission wiring isn’t faulty. I’m writing to ask, before I begin down this road, if you have any other possible solutions that might easily fix this problem before I get too deep into this? I have just enough automotive repair experience to be dangerous so I want to be sure I’m not overlooking something that’s cheap and simple to resolve this. Thank you.

  2. Due to very high demand and a high amount of comments, you might have trouble getting your comment answered by me. If you want to get fast answers from a certified automotive technician you should ask your questions here: Ask A Mechanic

Leave a Comment