If you notice any warning signs that alert you to automatic transmission concerns, then these are telltale symptoms that something is wrong with your vehicle. Warning signs are there for a reason – they need to get the driver's attention that a part is not working correctly and needs to be repaired or replaced before you have premature transmission failure.
Your automatic transmission is a complicated – and important – mechanical and computer-operated system within your car. Since your automatic transmission is one of the most expensive parts and mechanisms to repair or replace in your vehicle, this means you are better off paying attention to the symptoms of a faulty transmission before it worsens.
When asking yourself what causes an automatic transmission to fail, you need to keep in mind the main signs and symptoms that explain why this mechanism is not working properly in your car. After all, the transmission and engine are arguably the two most important internal components in a vehicle.
There are various reasons why you could be experiencing transmission problems. However, some main signs and symptoms give drivers and mechanics a clear idea of what causes an automatic transmission to fail.
Signs of Automatic Transmission Problems
Let’s see the top warning signs of automatic transmission longevity concerns – such as an automatic transmission problem with shifting gears.
Grinding Sensation in Gear
Your automatic transmission is designed to operate smoothly and consistently when changing between gears. However, if you find that your transmission is shaking, grinding, or buzzing while trying to speed up or slow down, this is a clear sign that slipping or shaking has caused transmission concerns that will lead to performance issues.
This grinding sensation is one of the most serious and severe problems in your vehicle, so the sooner you get your car inspected by a mechanic, the quicker you can remedy the root cause of the problem. Fixing the automatic transmission problem with shifting gears will alleviate other transmission concerns in your car.
Car Won’t Engage When in Gear
When you switch gears, put your car in reverse, or try to shift into Drive, you should notice no glitches or catches in the gear system. However, if there is a delay, this means that your car will not be able to engage when you try to move forward or backward. Both of these issues are clear signs of a problem in your vehicle, like an automatic transmission problem with shifting gears.
These are both concerns that typically spur from low fluid levels, contaminated fluid, or a computer system problem. If you feel like you can diagnose and fix the issue, try resetting the car's computer to see if the TCM or PCM caused the uneven fluid levels and gear switching concerns.
If fixing the computer does not alleviate the automatic transmission problem with shifting gears, it is time to bring your car to the mechanic so they can analyze the transmission and see why your transmission is beginning to fail.
Loud Noises While in Neutral
Along with the buzzing and shaking while shifting gears, if you notice whining, humming, or clunking noises while shifting your car in Neutral, then this shows an issue with your automatic transmission fluid prematurely breaking down due to excess wear and tear. Since the fluid has such an important job of lubricating parts and preventing overheating, low fluid levels can quickly lead to excessive friction between hot parts.
If you hear clunking and loud noises while in Neutral, this could result from an integral part giving out due to overheating. If that is the case, it is key that you bring your car to a local mechanic or dealership who can check your automatic transmission fluid and perform a transmission fluid flush.
A transmission fluid flush will typically run about $150, with smaller cars going as low as $!00 and larger trucks and SUVs cost the owner around $200 to fix the automatic transmission problem with shifting gears.
Burnt Fluid Smell
Sometimes, the automatic transmission problems with shifting gears can be due to the transmission fluid burning instead of just being at a low level in your car. If the fluid is not the right color, like black instead of red, or you notice a burning smell, this is likely the culprit. Burnt fluid can occur when the transmission overheats, and there is too much friction. In this case, you need to swap out your transmission fluid.
Torque Converter Problems
The torque converter’s main function is to transfer the engine’s power into torque, which is the type of power that the transmission can use. Over time, the torque converter will break down and become damaged. When the converter is functioning correctly, the fluid will flow through the torque converter, but the transmission fluid will not flow if it is damaged. It can cause automatic transmission problems with shifting gears.
The gear set is the main reason for automatic transmission problems with shifting gears. The gear set in your vehicle requires various clutches and bands that change the gears and affect the speed of the changes. The automatic transmission bands are usually the key issue when it comes to slipping, if the fluid is not the issue, as slipping can be a sign of a worn band. The worn-out band and damaged band can allow parts of the transmission to continue to rotate for a few seconds after you change gears.
Can’t Stay in Gear
This kind of issue may indicate other problems with your automatic transmission valve, the shifter cable, the shifter, or a transmission fluid leak from one of the seals, gaskets, or lines. You might even need to have the mechanic that you bring your car to check your car’s computer system to see if there have been any diagnostic trouble codes using a diagnostic scanner. This will appear since the computer lets the transmission know when it needs to go into new gears.
Damaged Transmission Control Module
While trying to diagnose the automatic transmission problem with shifting gears, the transmission control module is a key suspect. The transmission control module is in charge of shifting, changing gears, and the acceleration and performance qualities of hte engine. Aside from the transmission control module’s main responsibility, this part also has other functions that are crucial to the performance, longevity, and durability of your vehicle.
First, the transmission control module sends OBD-II codes that show your car’s problems to the computer. If your car happens to detect any malfunction in the transmission, the transmission control module can send the codes. The trouble codes can appear in various forms, like the check engine light coming on or other signs that alert you that something will not be right under the hood.
When asking yourself what causes automatic transmissions to fail, the transmission control module should be at the top of everyone’s list.
Along with the check engine light coming on in your vehicle, there can be unpredictable and erratic shifting in your car while you ask yourself what causes an automatic transmission to fail. Since the automatic transmission relies on the transmission control module to shift properly, a bad transmission control module can cause incorrect and unintended shifting.
Unless you have a manual override option in your car, you will need to go to a mechanic or an auto body shop to have the transmission control module replaced and fix your car before it hurts your engine. If you notice that your engine is also suffering in your vehicle, this can worsen the automatic transmission problem with shifting gears.
Reduced Fuel Economy
If you experience your transmission system problems, this can result from low fuel economy and poor fuel mileage. An automatic transmission is designated for quick and smooth gear selection and timing, providing you with the best possible fuel economy and the most efficient gas mileage.
If you have a transmission control module that has gone bad or is damaged, this can affect the timing. Your engine will have to overheat and work harder than usual to give the same amount of performance. This can cause you to spend more fuel than usual, more money filling your tank, and cause an automatic transmission problem with shifting gears.
Transmission Repair Cost
The transmission replacement is one of the most extensive and expensive replacements and jobs. The average cost of the transmission replacement typically ranges from around $1,800 to $3,400 for most cars. If you decide to save some money, a used transmission ranges from about $800 to $1,500, while a rebuilt transmission charges between $1,100 to $2,800, and a remanufactured option runs between $1,300 and $1,300.
If your car is old, you might expect to pay a different amount than if your car is new. An older car might have more issues and require a higher replacement or repair cost. The car will also have been through more wear and tear, leading to a more extensive repair job.
The Bottom Line
Figuring out the most obvious signs and symptoms of transmission trouble can help give you an answer to the causes of an automatic transmission problem with shifting gears. If you want to save thousands of dollars on transmission repairs and potential replacements, keep an eye and ear out for hard shifting, inability to shift into Neutral, and other noticeable signs of transmission damage!