8 Signs Your Transmission May Be Failing

Whether you have an automatic transmission or a manual, your transmission takes a lot of wear over time. No matter how well you maintain your vehicle, transmissions can start to have problems over a certain mileage, so it’s important to be able to tell when it may be beginning to have issues so you can catch them before they become a major repair. Here are a few signs that your transmission may be starting to fail:

  1. Your transmission is leaking. Transmissions should never be leaking fluid, so any leaks should be inspected as soon as possible. Transmissions require the fluid levels to stay at a specific level to operate correctly, so driving your vehicle with low fluid may damage the transmission and potentially cause your engine to overheat. Transmission leaks are easy to spot; you’ll see bright red (or dark red if the fluid is older and dirty) spots under your vehicle. If the fluid is brownish or nearly black, this is an indication that the temperatures are too high.

  2. Your vehicle is shifting roughly. Whether you have an automatic or manual, your vehicle should be able to shift to the next gear smoothly. If it’s shifting roughly or making noise when it shifts, this is a sure sign that the transmission is having issues and should be inspected as soon as possible.

  3. The transmission engages slowly. Your transmission should immediately engage when it’s put into gear; slow engagement means you may have to wait several seconds after putting it in gear to be able to drive.

  4. Your transmission is slipping. When your transmission is slipping, you may notice a lack of acceleration or the sound of your engine may get louder while you’re driving at a steady speed. You may also notice that your automatic is shifting for no apparent reason.

  5. Your vehicle is making noticeable noises. Some automotive problems require a trained ear to hear, but that’s not the case with transmission issues. If you’re hearing any strange sounds such as buzzing, humming, clucking, or whining, your transmission could be the source of the problem. You may also notice your engine is making loud noises when you put it into neutral.

  6. You smell burning transmission fluid. If your transmission is leaking, but you haven’t seen any fluid, you may be able to smell the odor of it burning as you exit your vehicle. The smell is acrid and has a similar odor to burnt rubber.

  7. Your manual transmission has a dragging clutch. A dragging clutch will fail to disengage the clutch disk from the flywheel when you push the clutch pedal, keeping you from being able to shift gears. You’ll notice a grinding noise every time you attempt to shift.

  8. Your check engine light is on. This one seems obvious, but it’s not uncommon for the check engine light to go ignored until significant problems occur. If your check engine light is on, it could be an indicator that your transmission is in the early stages of failing.

Transmission repair can be an expensive fix, but early diagnosis and repair can often prevent the need for a total transmission replacement. If you’re noticing any of these issues, it’s essential to schedule an appointment to have one of our ASE certified service technicians take a look at it as soon as possible.