Be On Alert! 6 Signs of Transmission Troubles

  • Feb 27,2017
Blue car with hood open, broken down on country road Blue car with hood open, broken down on country road

If you're not familiar with cars and all of their inner workings, it can be tough to identify issues related to your transmission.

Since the system is part of the engine, you can't necessarily "see" it the same way you can see your windshield wipers or check your motor oil level. The transmission is one of the most important (and most complicated) parts of your car. Without it, the power from your engine would never reach your wheels.

Thankfully, spotting a transmission issue early on could help prevent expensive repairs down the road. Start by learning the basics and watch for these six signs of transmission troubles to keep your car running smoother, longer.

What Is A Car's Transmission?

Your transmission is a part of the engine that transforms power into torque. Torque is a force that rotates an object—like a wheel—around an axis or axle. Your transmission turns all of the motion in your engine into something that gets and keeps your car moving. Without a functioning transmission, your car won’t drive. To avoid your vehicle becoming an expensive lawn ornament, look for these signs of transmission trouble.

Signs of Transmission Trouble

#1 Check Engine Light

While this little light could indicate any number of issues under the hood (such as a faulty airflow sensor or worn spark plugs), it could also mean you’re having transmission issues. Because the check engine light is connected to a brilliant little sensor in your engine, it can detect vibrations and problems before you ever feel or hear them. If you notice your check engine light is on, it's probably time to take your car to a professional.

#2 Slippery Gears

Slip-and-slide may have been one of your favorite summer activities as a kid, but you may have a problem if your gears are reenacting this childhood classic. One of your transmission's most important jobs is keeping track of gear shifts. When it’s failing, your transmission could give your gear shift an unintended slip to neutral, severely impeding your ability to control your acceleration and, more importantly, deceleration. Your car may feel like it's struggling to go or isn't accelerating like it normally does.

#3 Burning Smell

In general, any type of burning smell coming from your car is cause for concern. Overheated or low transmission fluid could be a potential source of this burning smell. Fresh transmission fluid tends to smell sweet or tart. When that smell turns burnt, your transmission fluid has broken down and the system is burning too hot, leading to an increase in friction and corrosive activity in the engine. This type of issue may be easily fixed with a transmission fluid flush and change, or leak repair. If left unresolved, the transmission could eventually damage itself enough that it breaks down completely.

#4 Noisy in Neutral

When your car is in neutral or even accelerating, it shouldn’t be making any major racket. If you’re hearing grinds, bumps, or any noise you would classify as "unusual," you may have a transmission problem brewing. The source of the issue could be something simple, like low transmission fluid, or something major, such as worn bearings or gear teeth. Moral of the story? Weird noises mean it may be time to get your transmission checked out.

#5 Leaky Fluid

Fluid shouldn't be visibly leaking from your vehicle. Any sort of leak is a sign that something's up. Transmission fluid is typically red, should have a somewhat sweet smell, and if leaking it will drip from under the middle of the car. A leak signals a gap somewhere in your transmission, worn seals or gaskets, a loose transmission pan, an out of balance drive shaft, or damaged bell housings.

#6 Tricky Transitions

Your car’s gears are constantly shifting. Strange surges of power or grinding noises during gear shifts could mean your transmission is troubled. If it feels like your car’s being pulled by a jumping bungee cord instead of traveling smoothly, get things checked out. Slipping, grinding, or jumping during acceleration when the car is shifting gears could signal transmission problems.

A small transmission problem could turn into a big breakdown if left unresolved. Don't wait until it's too late to make sure your transmission is in tiptop shape. At Firestone Complete Auto Care, our technicians don't bat an eye at transmission problems! Schedule an engine repair appointment online today and trust one of your vehicle's most important components to our experienced technicians. No trouble is too tough for your local Firestone Complete Auto Care to tackle!

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