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Automatic Transmission Slipping When Accelerating – What Are The Signs?

Automatic Transmission Slipping When Accelerating

As you can imagine, having an automatic transmission slipping during acceleration can be very frustrating – and dangerous. You have been driving your car for a while and you know how your car should be running, so when it is not running correctly, it should be easy to feel. If you go to pass someone or you go to power up a hill and it is not working correctly, you might hear your engine rev but your vehicle not accelerate like it should. This can be caused by a slipping transmission, a gear slip, or engine slipping.

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Automatic transmissions work very differently than manual transmission, not just because they use automatic properties, but because they use a completely different system and mechanics to change gears to work efficiently. To help understand why the automatic transmission is slipping when accelerating, it is key to diagnose the issue and find out the warning signs. 

Reasons why transmission slips during acceleration


We all know that the automatic transmission is a key component of your vehicle. It is in charge of converting power from your engine into power that translates to your wheels and forward motion. Keep in mind, that this is not just from the transmission power – the process involves plenty of hydraulic fluid, gears, and clutches that help to move the car.


If you do not know why the automatic transmission slips when accelerating, then there is usually an answer – and it can sometimes be very severe, requiring you to repair or replace certain parts to fix the issue. The cause of the automatic transmission slipping when accelerating will depend on the kind of transmission that you have in your vehicle. There are three main types of transmission – automatic, standard or manual, and CVT – continuously variable transmission. 

Why is the automatic transmission slipping when accelerating?

Low fluid 


If you have an automatic transmission and you notice that the transmission is slipping while you are driving, the most common cause of this issue is low transmission fluid. The transmission fluid is necessary to lubricate the parts and keep your car running correctly. If your transmission slips, this means that the car engine revs, but no power is transferred to the wheels to move the car. If the sleeping is caused by low transmission fluid, it will only get worse as the transmission overheats and friction builds during use.

Burnt fluid


Sometimes, the automatic transmission slipping when accelerating 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, then 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. 

Clutch problems


Both automatic and manual transmission use clutches, and although the issue is more common in manual cars, the automatic cars can still succumb to clutch issues. These clutch issues can cause the automatic transmission slipping when accelerating. In an automatic car, the transmission and the torque converter have clutch plates that can become worn out and damaged due to insufficient transmission fluid. 

Torque converter issues


The main function of the torque converter 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 teh converter is functioning correctly, the fluid will flow through the torque converter, but if it is damaged, the transmission fluid will not be able to flow and it can cause the automatic transmission slipping when accelerating. 

Transmission bands 


Along with the previous issues that occur from automatic transmission slipping when accelerating, it is also possible for the transmission bands to become broken down, worn overtime, and damaged. These issues can cause the transmission to slip, since they are in charge of connecting your gears together. 

Worn gears 


The gear set is the main reason why the automatic transmission can start slipping. The gear set in your vehicle requires various clutches and bands that change the gears and affect the speed of the changes. The bands in the automatic transmission 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.


The continuation of the rotation after you change gears causes the gears to feel sloppy, meaning your engine will rev during a gear change and the automatic transmission slipping when accelerating. 

Solenoid issues 


Along with a worn band and low transmission fluid, there are other reasons for your transmission problems. The gear changes in the automatic transmission are actually sparked by the transmission solenoids that convert the automatic transmission fluid into the various components in your transmission to cause things to move and the clutches and bands to disengage from the system.


The problem with having the automatic transmission slipping when accelerating is that it can be hard to determine what exactly is going on inside of the automatic transmission without special tools at a mechanic’s office or without tearing the transmission apart to look for worn or damaged parts. The computer controlled transmissions have error codes that you can determine from diagnostic tools, similar to how your engine might notice the check engine light is on. 


As the owner of a vehicle that might be having issues with the automatic transmission slipping when accelerating, the only thing you can do to fix the issue is to diagnose why you have a slipping transmission and check the fluid level and the transmission condition. The transmission repairs can be very costly, aligned with full replacements of the transmission. 

How to check your transmission fluid level


In order to figure out the reason why the automatic transmission is slipping when accelerating, you need to learn how to check your transmission fluid level. In many cars, you can do this very easily by using a dipstick in the engine bay. The dipstick will look like the oil dipstick, but will be red in color. The transmission dipstick is usually located near the engine bay by the firewall, with the transmission fluid level needing to be checked while the engine is running and warm.


When you pull out the transmission dipstick, you need to take note of a few different things – the color, the color it should be, and the fluid condition. If you are having trouble looking at the fluid, you can hold the transmission fluid up to a bright light and look for any debris like metal shavings, in your transmission. Any debris or shavings can indicate internal transmission damage. 


After this, if you need to change the transmission fluid, you need to have a look at the transmission filter and make sure it is not clogged and free of debris, making sure it can perform the function of siphoning out particles and cleaning the fluid in your transmission to keep the part working correctly and smoothly. 

Can low transmission fluid levels cause the automatic transmission slipping when accelerating?


It might be a long shot, but it can happen. You need to check the transmission level as a low fluid level that can cause low pressure in your transmission that can lead to the slipping transmission while operating your vehicle. If you analyze the transmission and determine that the transmission fluid level is too low, you should top it off with the fluid that your manufacturer recommends. 


In addition, the only way that your transmission fluid level is low can be due to an oil leak that needs to be fixed before you lose any additional transmission fluid. You can quickly and easily seal the fluid leak by adding sealer to your transmission fluid to prevent the automatic transmission slipping when accelerating.

Signs of the Automatic Transmission Slipping While Accelerating


Dealing with a slipping transmission can be daunting and difficult. It can also be a huge problem with any car, especially those with automatic transmissions. This is a minor issue that needs to be taken care of right away before it worsens over time. To deal with the issue as soon as you see it, you need to notice the signs and symptoms of the transmission slipping. 

Leaking transmission fluid


If you notice the red transmission fluid leaking underneath your car, then there is most likely a transmission leak occurring from one of the seals, the gaskets, or the various lines in the transmission. This is not only damaging for the lifespan of the transmission, but it is dangerous if the transmission fluid leaks onto a hot surface. You need to check the transmission fluid without a dipstick to see the level and determine if it needs topping up or changing.

Burning smell


Burning smells or any odors coming from your car are a clear warning sign that something is wrong. Determining where the smell is coming from is key to diagnosing the issue. The potential burning smell is usually the result of a transmission fluid leak and low transmission fluid levels. Catching this problem early on before there is too much of a leak is crucial to fixing transmission. 

Unable to 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. 

Loss of power


When your engine is running correctly and smoothly, but your car has very low or no power, it might be from the car’s computer, the engine control unit, limiting the power to the engine. It can also be due to internal transmission problems, or the brakes dragging due to faulty parts, like the brake hose or brake calipers. 

Missing gears 


These problems can be due to a low amount of transmission fluid, which can be from water getting inside of the transmission, lack of maintenance, fluid contamination, or a transmission fluid leak. If you do not fix this issue and let it get worse over time, it can lead to engine overheating, too much friction, and serious damage that can lead to engine replacements. 


Missing transmission gears or delayed shifting in the transmission can also be due to additional problems besides the transmission, like the engine, that makes the engine control unit prevent the transmission from shifting into a higher gear and performing correctly. 

Strange Noises

If you hear certain noises in your car, especially if they are coming from under the hood, like humming, clunking, or buzzing, then this usually shows that there is an internal issue, like a bad bearing or planetary gear damage that can harm the transmission over time. These issues can cause the automatic transmission slipping when accelerating. Buzzing can be also due to a low transmission fluid level, a broken seal, or internal surfaces that have become damaged over time. 

What are my options when my transmission is slipping


If you do not want to pay the money to repair the transmission slipping or replace the transmission if the problems have gotten worse, you need to figure out what to do about the automatic transmission slipping when accelerating. Depending on the severity of your transmission slipping and their causes, you might find that you do not have the money or the means to make the repairs.


Sometimes, these repairs can be expensive and your car might be old and used – it might not be worth it to repair the car. In this case, you might not be able to afford the repairs, your vehicle is worth less than the cost of the repairs, you do not want to pay for an old car, or you do not want to pay money on a car you were planning on replacing soon. 


In this case, you have a few options. However, your best option is to sell your car to a local and reputable junk car buyer that can give you cash in hand, contains reputable and trustworthy agents, and will give you the best deal possible. 

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