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Your car’s transmission is responsible for transferring the power coming out from the engine to the wheels. As your car gets older, the transmission also experiences tear and wear and gets to a stage where it needs certain repairs. Transmission repair can be one of the most expensive car repairs if problems were not detected and fixed early.

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It is recommended that any driver should educate himself with the different bad transmission symptoms. This way, you can tell when the transmission is facing minor problems so you can get it fixed before these problems develop and become major sever problems. Detecting the problem early can save you a lot of time and money in car repairs, and in more sever situations, it can save your entire vehicle. 

In this article, we will present the different bad transmission symptoms that you can detect easily. We will also walk you through some signs of transmission failure as people ignore the minor bad transmission symptoms. 


What are the different types of cars transmissions?


The car’s transmission takes the engine power and supply it in a specific amount to the car’s wheels. That’s why, people can control how fast or slow their vehicle can drive. 

Transmissions use the idea of “gear shifting,” where it shifts between certain gears ratios to control the car’s speed. The car’s gears come in different sizes that allows the best use of engine power by controlling the engine’s torque. 

Using a low gear ratio, the car will have a higher torque and will force the car to run on a lower speed. On the other hand, using a high gear ration, the car will use a lower torque and as a result, it will run faster. 

Gear shifting can be done manually or automatically depending on the transmission type. There are three types of car’s transmissions: the manual, automatic, and dual-clutch transmissions. 

In this section, we will give you an overview about each type of transmission and how does it work.


  • Manual transmissions



In manual transmissions, the driver has to switch or shift gears manually to accommodate the different car speeds. Shifting gears 

Manual transmission is the common transmission type for older vehicles.


  • Automatic transmissions



With the technology improvements in automobile, cars switched from using the old manual transmission to a more advanced automatic transmission. 

In the automatic transmission, the part uses a torque converter instead of a clutch to switch gears. The torque converter uses hydraulic power gained from the transmission fluid.

The automatic transmission doesn’t use a set of gears with different sizes to control the engine’s power. Instead, it uses only one gear that has the ability to provide different gear ratios.


  • Dual-clutch transmissions



A dual technology was created to save fuel consumption in vehicles. In this technology, the transmission has to clutches instead of one. Each clutch is responsible for selecting a set of gears, one for the odd gears and one for the even gears.

The dual-clutch transmission allowed for very fast gear shifting and thus, effective use for fuel.

Most dual-clutch transmissions are associated with manual rather than automatic transmissions. 

Bad transmission symptoms. 


As we mentioned before, your car’s transmission gets old and will require a certain of repairs. While you can refer to your car’s owner’s manual to learn when your transmission is due for maintenance, there is a set of bad transmission symptoms that can help you tell when your transmission is due for repair. 

Yes, the car’s owner’s manual can provide an estimate about transmission repairs timeline, your driving style can also affect this timeline. In other words, if you drive on bumpy roads an switch gears at heavy throttle, you will cause faster transmission damages by tear and wear.

Here is the list of most common bad transmission symptoms: 


  • Is the transmission fluid leaking?



Transmission fluid leak is the most important bad transmission symptom. In fact, it is the cause for most other transmission issues as the transmission fluid gets low. 

So, what is the transmission fluid in the first place? Well, transmission fluid is a liquid that keeps your transmission functioning. The role of this liquid differ by transmission type.

For instance, transmission fluid helps lubricate manual transmissions and thus, reduce friction between internal parts. As a result, the manual transmission keeps cool and avoid over heating and tearing. 

On the other hand, transmission fluid is involved in the power of automatic transmissions. In other words, automatic transmissions need the fluid not only to lubricate it and reduce friction, but also to provide the necessary hydraulic power to function.

In both transmissions, you must keep the transmission fluid at the mark level to help them function properly and avoid transmission failure.

The best way to do that is by monitoring the transmission fluid level every time you do an oil change, for instance. You can do so using the dipstick in your transmission. Take the stick out, wipe it clean, dip it inside, check the fluid level and color. If the level is very low, you need to add more transmission fluid. If the color is very dark, you need to change the transmission fluid as it is contaminated and dirty.

Now, one of the worst things to happen for the transmission fluid is the fluid leak. 

If you noticed that there is a puddle of liquid under your car in the garage or wherever you park it, this is a clear indication of fluid leak. 

While fluid leak is a major bad symptom you mustn’t ignore, it doesn’t necessarily have to do with the car’s transmission. To confirm that the fluid is a transmission fluid, you need to watch its color. If the fluid’s color is red, then this is a sure indication of transmission fluid leak. And you MUST take the car to the nearest shop.

One important note, if the leak is just a few drops, it might be OK to drive your car to the nearest repair shop. However, if the leak is more than a couple of drops, you might need to tow your vehicle to the nearest shop.


  • Transmission refuses to switch gears.



The second bad transmission symptom has to do with transmission shifting gears. If you noticed that the transmission doesn’t switch gears or it the car doesn’t response to switching gears, then this is a clear indication of a bad transmission symptom. 

There are two common causes for transmission refusal to switch gears and both have to do with transmission’s fluid:

  • Low transmission fluid level
  • The transmission is filled with the wrong fluid type


  • Do you smell anything burning? 



Another clear bad transmission symptom is smelling something burning. This burning thing could be the transmission itself due to overheating, or it could be the transmission fluid is burning because it needs replacement.

A burning smell is another significant bad transmission symptom. If you smelled something burning, you must take your car to the closest mechanic as soon as possible.


  • Weird noises when neutral



In general, if you heard anything new or weird, this is a clear sign of internal car’s issues. More specifically, if the strange noise happens while your car at neutral, it is most likely that your transmission has a problem.

When hearing this type of noise, you must get your car fixed. The fix can be very cheap and simple like changing the oil, and it can also be very sever and requires a part replacement. 


  • Illuminating check engine light



Have you ever looked at the dashboard of your car and saw a symbol like an engine illuminating? This is the check engine light. 

Check engine light is a way the car’s computer uses to tell you there is an internal problem that needs attention. This problem could be related to many internal components, and it can be very minor or very major.

Like any other car’s parts, if the car’s transmission has any problem, it might cause the check engine light to illuminate. 

It is almost impossible to tell what the real cause beyond the illuminating check engine light is unless you use the appropriate tool. This tool is called the code reader. There are a lot of code readers with a variety of costs.

What the code reader does is that it takes the information from your car’s computer and provides a code number. The tool will tell you what the code means, where the problems is, and how to fix it. 

For example, here is a list of codes that has to do with the car’s transmission:

  • P0720: this code means that there is an issue with the speed sensor output.
  • P0715: this code means that there is a problem with the speed sensor input or turbine.
  • P0706: this code indicates a problem with the speed sensor range or performance.
  • P0700: this code tells you that there is a major issue with the overall transmission’s control system.
  • P0613: this code says that there is an issue with the transmission control module


  • Transmission gears slip when used



Gears slipping means transmission makes thud or clunk noise when switching gears, while switching gears should happen smoothly.

The major cause of gear slipping is also having insufficient amount of transmission fluid. As a result, the transmission’s internal components will start getting in contact with each other causing friction, tear, and wear.

Therefore, the first thing you need to do when experiencing gears slipping is to check the transmission fluid level, add if it is low, and change if it is dirty.


  • Do you feel any shaking or grinding in your car?



When driving a car with an automatic transmission for a long time, you might start feeling some shaking or grinding. If this happened, you need to check the car’s transmission immediately. 

Again, shaking and grinding can be due to low transmission fluid level, which can be fixed by adding the required amount of transmission fluid. However, in some scenarios, shaking and grinding can happen due to broken or cracked gears. 

Therefore, don’t always assume its Ok to leave the problem for a little bit, go ahead and check the engine’s fluid level. If the fluid’s level seems fine, then the transmission problem is more sever. 


  • Insufficient car’s power



If you noticed that the engine is running just fine and the car has low to no power, this is a bad transmission sign. Therefore, take the car to the closest repair shop and have an experienced mechanic check what’s going on with the transmission. 


  • No response to shifting gears



Another bad transmission symptom is when the car doesn’t response to gear shifting. You tried shifting gears, the car still doesn’t respond. You have to get your transmission repaired. 


  • Humming, buzzing, or clunking sound



When you drive your car, you shouldn’t hear any weird noises as it is an indication of bad transmission problem. 

If you heard any humming, buzzing, or clunking sound, your transmission needs to be checked by an expert transmission as soon as possible.




Your car’s transmission is one of the most important components that you must take good care of. Over time of use, your car gets older as well as your car’s transmission. Taking good care of the car’s transmission can save you a lot on repairs. this is because detecting early transmission problems can be solved maybe only by fluid change. 

Therefore, any driver needs to educate himself about bad transmission symptoms. These symptoms can be strange smell or sound, Unresponsive car or transmission, and low to no car’s power. 

Most transmission problems can be related to low or contaminated transmission fluid. Therefore, you must keep an eye on your car’s transmission level. You want it to be sufficient and clean at the same time. 

With good care of your car’s transmission, your car can serve you for longer time and you can focus your money and effort on more useful things. 

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