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How To Tell When You Have A Dying Transmission

Updated on June 5, 2011

Symptoms of a Bad Transmission

The transmission is a critical component of overall vehicle operation and without it you would not be able to drive your car. A transmission allows you to move your vehicle forwards and backwards at different speeds. For car owners, transmission failure can be a complete nightmare, costing thousands of dollars to fix or replace. Nobody knows when or where a transmission will fail, so there is another inconvenience of possibly being stranded in the middle of nowhere or on your way to an important function.

Symptoms Of A Bad Transmission

Although transmission failure is not something any car owner wants to hear about, there are warning signs that may indicate your vehicle is having some kind of transmission problems. Remember, even if your vehicle is experiencing one or more of these warning signs, it does not necessarily mean it is the transmission. Symptoms of a bad transmission overlap with numerous other common vehicle problems, so it is always best to take your vehicle in to have it inspected before just jumping to any irrational conclusion. Bringing your vehicle in for an evaluation and possibly catching a minor problem before it becomes a major issues, might save you thousands of dollars. All that said, below are some of the more common symptoms of a bad transmission:

Leaky Fluid-transmissions require fluid in order to function and are the lifeblood of the transmission, serving to keep the internal parts cool and lubricated. One warning sign of a bad transmission is when your vehicle begins to leak transmission fluid. If you park on a white surface, such as a concrete driveway or in a garage, you will be able to tell if you have such fluid leakage. If you park on a dirt or grass surface you will need to place a white cloth or blanket underneath the hood part of your car to find such leakage. If you notice any pinkish fluid leaking out, then you will know that it is from the transmission. Also any very dark or burned looking fluid is another sign that the transmission may be having a problem since optimal color should be a dark or cherry red. Any fluids leaking from your vehicle are cause for concern and warrant taking your vehicle to get transmission repair at as soon as possible.

Keep An Eye Out For These Signs Of Trouble

Slipping-another warning sign is transmission gear slippage. This is usually one of the more common signs of transmission failure. You will know if there is a slippage problem if you try to accelerate from a stopped position. Vehicles with normal functioning transmissions allow for a smooth acceleration without hesitation, however a vehicle that may be experiencing a transmission problem would slow down this acceleration process and at the same time your vehicle's RPM spikes up. A jerking motion when putting the vehicle in gear or accelerating from a stand still would be a sign of gear slippage as well.

Surging-when driving your car at steady speeds, you should never notice any type of jerking movements. Bad transmissions usually cause vehicles to surge or lurch ahead. You might hear the RPM's have a sudden increase as well. Again, this issue needs to be solved right away and you should take your car to a service center as soon as you're able.

Any Type of Burning Odor-a burning smell can be many things, and this includes your transmission. A burning odor coming from your transmission fluid means the fluid has broken down. When this happens, corrosive agents and varnish accumulate throughout the transmission. When this happens, heat builds up and can ultimately cause complete transmission failure. Transmission overheating can be disastrous, so if you ever smell any kind of burning odor, stop driving immediately until you have your vehicle checked out by a professional.

Non-existent Transmission Action-transmissions that do not engage no matter what gear you are in can indicate a serious transmission problem. There could also be some sort of electronic failure causing your transmission not to engage, so best thing to do is have it looked at right away to determine the extent of the problem. Many repair shops will offer free towing with repair if you're within a certain distance from their location.

Dashboard Lights-your dashboard is your friend and usually (not all the time) if your vehicle is having a problem a warning light will come on to alert you. If you notice that your check engine light comes on, take your vehicle in for an inspection as soon as possible. Although the check engine light can be indicative of many things, even something as simple as an electronic sensor or computer chip malfunction, it can also indicate a possible transmission problem, so it is always better to be safe than sorry here. Don't always think the worst case scenario just because you see warning lights come on in your vehicle. Your vehicle is simply alerting you that an issue needs to be addressed.

There are many things that can go wrong when driving your vehicle, so it is always wise to have your vehicle checked on a routine basis and at specific mileage intervals according to your owner's manual. There are over 300 moving parts in many transmissions and any one of these could be the cause of your problem. A transmission problem is usually the extreme when it comes to diagnosing different vehicle problems, but it is a problem that no car owner desires to have. As soon as you notice any of the above symptoms or other abnormalities when driving your vehicle, don't take chances and have the vehicle checked out. Routine maintenance can be a low cost of way of preventing major transmission failure down the road. Although there are no guarantees of preventing any kind of possible transmission problems, having knowledge about the symptoms of a bad transmission may prevent further damage to this vital component and save you a lot of money in the long run.

About The Author

David Friedman, Transmission Doctor

The number one place on the internet for information on transmission repair , transmission problems , and reputable Transmission Repair Shops.

1371-A Abbott Court, Buffalo Grove, IL 60089 T: 847-737-4576


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