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.
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.
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.
|Bad transmission||Strange noises from transmission
Transmission fluid leakage
Check engine/transmission light
|Low transmission fluid
Bad shift solenoid
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 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.
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.
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.
Hello I’m Magnus, the owner and the writer of this website. I have been working with cars since I was 16 and I’m specialized with in-depth Automotive diagnostics. Also been driving drifting for the last 6 years. I’m here to give you answers to all your automotive questions and I hope that you enjoy our content.