10 Signs That You Have a Faulty Transmission

Technical  ·  February 18, 2022

10 Signs That You Have a Faulty Transmission

How do you rule out other car issues and pin down the problem to a faulty transmission? Let’s take an all-too-familiar scenario. 

You're trying to make your way through rush hour traffic to get to work just in time not to be late. Then without warning, your car breaks down in the middle of the road. Not the best time to love your car, right?

Many times car owners find themselves in situations like this because they failed to heed the signs of a failing transmission. 

When you rev your car engine, can you distinguish between the "normal" and “weird” type of engine noise? Sometimes, something as insignificant as an unusual noise sound could be a pointer that your vehicle has a faulty transmission.

As a car owner, you need to learn how to quickly detect trouble in your car or any potential transmission problem. Discovering faults early enough can save your car from further depreciation, save you cash, and also save you a lot of embarrassment.

Here are pointers to ensure that you don't become that kind of car owner.

10 Signs That Your Transmission Is Going Bad

This article highlights warning signs that indicate an impending transmission trouble. Learn them, and you'll be able to tell a failing transmission early enough.

1. Car Not Responding

An irresponsive vehicle is the most obvious sign that something somewhere is wrong. It could be a mere hesitation to shift into another gear or a flat-out refusal to shift altogether. Under such circumstances, know that a transmission issue is lurking.

Many other factors can cause a car not to respond. Usually, it's either a faulty shift cable or a blown fuse. If your vehicle is a manual drive, after a delay in gear shifting, what follows is an RPM surge and engine noise that does not correlate with your speed.

2. Check Engine Light

Here’s another obvious one. Many do not pay attention to the check engine warning light when it comes on. You don't want to be one of those people. You see, your vehicle's inbuilt computer is continuously observing the performance of your transmission. When you see the check engine light come on, know that it's only because the computer has detected a problem.

Now, you can either choose to act on this or ignore it. But know this: Ignoring the light and waiting for the worst to happen is not the smartest thing to do. In fact, it could be a much costlier route to take. Is your check engine light on? Have your engine checked immediately.

3. Leaking Transmission Fluid

Your vehicle needs up to 6 kinds of fluids to function optimally, and the transmission fluid is one of the most important ones. So the minute you notice that your transmission fluid is leaking out, you should see your mechanic.

The good news is it's not hard to identify a transmission fluid leak. Transmission fluid, especially, has a reddish colour and a sweet fragrance. Older fluids tend to be darker with a burnt smell, and are an indication of a lousy transmission situation. 

Anyway, it's easy to detect the problem: A pool of red fluids beneath your car is a telling sign that your transmission is defective. Visit a transmission shop ASAP.

4. Burning Smell

Smells can come from anywhere when you're driving. But once you sense that a burnt smell is coming from your engine, you should be on the alert. If possible, don't drive your car until you fix the issue. Anytime something seems to be burning in your engine, odds are high that it’s a bad transmission. 

When transmission fluid reduces or loses quality, it starts to overheat and burn. Consequently, your engine begins to run hot. In other cases, a trapped plastic or a melting heater core can be what's causing the burnt smell. Either way, dutifully get a burning check. Better safe than sorry, you know.

5. Weird Noises

Your car is not a power bike. Therefore, it should not sound like one. If your vehicle's transmission filter is clogged, it could suddenly begin to make weird noises. There's also a big chance that a failing transmission pump could be the cause of the noise.       Quickly drive to a mechanic shop to get the problem fixed.

6. Surging Vehicle 

Many times, you can trace surging, jerking or shaking in your vehicle to contaminated transmission fluid. Fixing this issue isn't so hard, as long as you get the right person to do it. An expert has to clean out the dirty fluid and also replace the vehicle's transmission filter. 

7. Sluggish Performance

When your car starts to get annoyingly sluggish, chances are you’ve got a failing transmission. It's even much worse for manual car owners. Shifting gear becomes a real struggle because the clutch is still rotating along with the engine. The same thing happens when they try to accelerate. 

8. Gears Slipping

Neither you nor your vehicle's designated computer has initiated a gear shift, yet, your car has taken the liberty to shift itself. Did I say somewhere that your car doesn’t have a mind of its own? I take it back! And no one needs to tell you that it's extremely dangerous when your car does this. It would be best if you didn't wave it off when your vehicle started slipping in and out of gear at will. Head over to a transmission shop as soon as you discover this fault.

9. Shaking and Grinding

Manual and automatic vehicles don't respond the same way to a transmission problem. Like I said earlier, it is not unusual for manual cars to get sluggish and unresponsive when the driver gives it a command. These vehicles also tend to produce a grinding sound when trying to shift gears.

An automatic vehicle's way of responding to a faulty transmission is by noticeably shifting into another gear instead of making an undetectable transition. An un-smooth transition between gears is undoubtedly a telltale sign of a defective transmission.

10. Noisy Transmission in Neutral

You may consider it somewhat expected for your car to make noises when shifting to another gear. However, it's kind of weird that it would do the same when in neutral. This is a sure sign of mechanical wear and often linked to transmission fluid problems. Thankfully, this has an easy fix, one you can get at a good transmission shop near you.


Not all vehicle faults come from its engine. A significant percentage of problems may also come from a failing transmission. 

If you need to replace any malfunctioning transmission part, you'll do well locating sellers who have them through Carpart.com.au. You will enjoy the quick and effortless method of finding transmission components and other auto parts for you. Request a part here.

By Damilare Olasinde

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