How Do You Know If Your Automatic Transmission is Going Out

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Automatic Transmission

How Do You Know If Your Automatic Transmission is Going Out : You’re cruising down the highway when suddenly your car starts acting up. It’s making weird noises, having trouble shifting gears smoothly, or maybe slipping in and out of gear. Uh oh. Could your automatic transmission be on its way out? Automatic transmissions are complicated, so the signs aren’t always crystal clear. But there are a few noticeable symptoms you can watch out for. If your ride is feeling a little funny, keep reading.

We’ll go over the major warning signs so you can try to catch transmission trouble before it leaves you stranded on the side of the road. By the time you finish this article, you’ll have a better idea of what’s going on if your auto transmission starts to go.

Signs Your Automatic Transmission May Be Failing

Signs Your Automatic Transmission May Be Failing

Uh oh, is your automatic transmission acting up? As your vehicle’s transmission starts to fail, you’ll notice some telltale signs that it’s time for a trip to the mechanic. Pay attention to these warning signs to avoid being stranded on the side of the road.

Strange Noises

Listen for whining, grinding, or clunking noises, especially when shifting gears. This could indicate worn out or damaged gears, bearings, or other transmission components. Strange noises mean it’s time to have the transmission inspected as soon as possible.

Difficulty Shifting Gears

If your transmission slips in and out of gears, makes harsh shifts, or won’t shift into certain gears, that’s a sign of trouble. The transmission should shift smoothly and quietly between all gears. Difficult or delayed gear shifts usually mean the transmission fluid is low or the transmission itself needs repair or replacement.

Check Engine Light

If the check engine light comes on, have the vehicle scanned for trouble codes as soon as you can. Transmission related codes will start with a “P07” or “P08”. The check engine light could indicate an electrical issue with the transmission or a sensor problem. It’s best to have it checked to avoid further damage.

Leaking Fluid

Look for red or brown fluid on the ground under your vehicle—that’s transmission fluid, and it should stay inside the transmission. Seal or gasket leaks will require replacement to prevent running low on fluid and causing permanent damage. Fluid leaks mean immediate attention is needed.

Loss of Power

If the vehicle loses power or won’t accelerate as it normally does, the transmission may be slipping or not shifting properly. Loss of power can be a sign of significant wear or damage inside the transmission. It’s unsafe to drive like this—have it towed to a repair shop.

The best way to avoid transmission failure is to have the fluid level and condition checked regularly, address any warning signs early, and follow the recommended replacement interval in your owner’s manual. An ounce of prevention can save a costly transmission repair or replacement!

Strange Noises and Vibrations

If your automatic transmission starts making strange noises like grinding, whining or humming, that’s usually a sign there’s an issue. The transmission is a complex mechanical system with many moving parts, so certain sounds can indicate wear and tear or damage.

You may notice grinding noises when shifting between gears. This could mean the transmission fluid is low or dirty, or there are worn out gears or bearings. Get it checked out right away before permanent damage is done.

A whining sound, especially at higher speeds, often means the transmission fluid pump is failing or there are worn bearings. This needs to be addressed promptly by a mechanic.

Humming or buzzing from underneath the vehicle could point to a faulty torque converter. The torque converter transfers power from the engine to the transmission, so if it’s malfunctioning, it will affect how your vehicle accelerates and shifts between gears.

Vibrations felt through the floor, seat or steering wheel are also a sign your transmission needs attention. Excessive vibration on acceleration could indicate worn or damaged mounts, or even issues with the transmission internals like failing clutches. Vibrations that change or disappear as you shift gears likely point to a transmission problem.

Other symptoms that frequently accompany strange noises and vibrations include:

•Delayed or hard shifts between gears

•Trouble accelerating or loss of power

•Transmission overheating or strange smells

•Check engine light coming on

If you experience any of these warning signs, have the vehicle checked by a trusted mechanic as soon as possible. It’s best to diagnose and repair minor transmission issues before they become major problems. The sooner you get it fixed, the less chance of permanent damage and costly repairs down the road. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, as the saying goes!

Slipping Gears

Slipping Gears

One of the most common signs that your automatic transmission may be going out is if the transmission slips or shifts roughly. This means that when the transmission changes gears, it feels like it pauses or slips for a moment before catching the next gear.

Transmission slippage usually happens because the transmission fluid is low, dirty or worn out. The fluid lubricates and cools the transmission, and over time it can break down or leak, reducing its effectiveness. When this happens, the transmission components overheat and glaze, causing slippage.

You may notice the slippage more prominently when the transmission first shifts into a higher gear, such as going from first to second or second to third gear. It may also slip going into reverse. The slipping sensation is often accompanied by a slight jerk or bump. If left unaddressed, the slipping will worsen over time until the transmission eventually stops working properly.

Other signs that can point to a slipping transmission include:

  • Delayed acceleration when stepping on the gas pedal. It may take a few seconds for the vehicle to speed up.
  • Difficulty maintaining speed on hills. The vehicle struggles or slows down going up inclines.
  • Grinding or shaking noises, especially when shifting between gears.
  • The check engine light comes on. A faulty automatic transmission can trigger the light to come on.
  • Increased fuel consumption. Slipping gears means the engine has to work harder, decreasing fuel efficiency.

If your automatic transmission shows signs of slipping or rough shifting, it’s best to have it checked by a mechanic as soon as possible. Often replacing the transmission fluid and filter can fix minor slippage. But if there are worn out or damaged parts, a transmission rebuild or replacement may eventually be needed to get your vehicle running smoothly again.

Delayed Shifting

If your automatic transmission is going out, one of the first signs will be delayed shifting. Instead of smoothly transitioning between gears as you accelerate, the transmission will take longer to switch from one gear to the next. This results in noticeable lags or jerks as the RPMs flare up before the next gear engages.

When an automatic transmission is working properly, the shifts between gears should be seamless and nearly imperceptible. As the transmission starts to deteriorate, the valve body or solenoids that control fluid flow may become stuck or slow to respond. This delays the transmission’s ability to change gears quickly and efficiently. You may experience:

  • Hesitation or jerking when accelerating as the transmission struggles to shift into a higher gear.
  • The engine RPMs increasing for a few seconds before the next gear engages with a hard shift.
  • Difficulty accelerating as the transmission slips in and out of gears.
  • The transmission shifting into neutral for a few seconds during acceleration before grabbing the next gear.

If you notice any signs of delayed or hard shifting, it’s best to have the transmission checked out as soon as possible. Small issues can often be addressed by adjusting or replacing inexpensive components like sensors, solenoids or seals. More significant damage to clutch packs, the valve body or other internal parts may require a transmission rebuild or replacement to fix the problem and avoid further damage.

The best way to avoid costly transmission repairs down the road is through regular maintenance. Following your vehicle’s recommended service schedule for fluid and filter changes will help keep your automatic transmission in good working order. Delaying or neglecting these services is one of the fastest ways to accelerate wear and shorten the lifespan of your transmission.

Check Engine Light and Transmission Warning Lights

Check Engine Light and Transmission Warning Lights

If your check engine light or transmission warning light illuminates on the dashboard, it could indicate an issue with your automatic transmission. These warning lights are your vehicle’s way of alerting you that it has detected a problem with the transmission or related components, like the transmission fluid sensor. When these lights come on, it’s best to have the vehicle checked by a mechanic as soon as possible.

The check engine light usually means that the vehicle’s on-board diagnostics system (OBD) has detected an engine or emissions-related issue. This could point to a transmission problem, like low transmission fluid or a faulty solenoid. The transmission warning light, on the other hand, specifically indicates a problem with the transmission itself. Some possible problems include:

  • Low or dirty transmission fluid: Transmission fluid lubricates the moving parts of your transmission. If the level is low or the fluid is dirty, it can cause slipping, jerking or warning lights to illuminate.
  • Faulty solenoid or sensor: Solenoids control transmission fluid flow, while sensors monitor conditions like fluid temperature and pressure. If one of these components is malfunctioning, it may trigger a warning light.
  • Transmission overheating: Excessive heat can damage your transmission components and eventually lead to complete transmission failure. Overheating may cause warning lights to come on.
  • Internal transmission problem: More serious issues like worn clutches, stuck valves or a faulty torque converter can also trigger your check engine or transmission warning lights to activate.

When the warning lights come on, the best course of action is to have the vehicle checked by a certified mechanic as soon as possible. They can scan for diagnostic trouble codes (DTCs) to determine the cause of the problem. The sooner you get the issue diagnosed and repaired, the less chance of permanent damage to your transmission. Delaying service when these warning lights are illuminated could lead to much more costly transmission repairs down the line.


So there you have it. Your transmission is like the heart of your vehicle, keeping everything flowing smoothly. Pay attention if it starts acting up, hesitate to shift gears, slip between them, or change how it operates. Catching problems early could save you a breakdown or needing a rebuild or replacement. But even if the inevitable does happen and it starts to fail, at least now you have a good sense of what to look and listen for so you’re not caught totally off guard. Take care of your ride, and it’ll take care of you.


Automation Technology

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