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Can A Bad Sensor Cause Transmission Troubles?

Can A Bad Sensor Cause Transmission Troubles?

There are various sensors located within the transmission system – and any one of these sensors can lead to transmission problems in your car. A failing speed sensor will directly impact the transmission operation, leading to delayed shifting and limited gear choices, while numerous other sensors can have similar detrimental effects.


 

By trying to answer the question of “Can a bad sensor cause transmission problems?” you can determine what warning signs and symptoms to look out for you in your car according to the specific sensor’s problems.

Transmission sensors

There are various transmission sensors in your car, all with different functions and purposes. These sensors work together to read data, analyze the data, and then use it to determine their next step to keep your car running safely and healthily. Transmission sensors work together to keep the transmission working correctly, reduce any problems, and prevent the sensor from causing transmission problems. 

 

These sensors work as a team to help your transmission function at an optimal level. The transmission function is transferring the power from the engine to the driveshaft and the rear wheels or the axle half-shafts. The gears inside the transmission change according to the car’s speed and change the torque based on the engine’s speed and current torque. 

 

To know if the bad sensor can cause transmission problems, you need to know the different types of transmission control module sensors in your vehicle. 

  • Vehicle Speed Sensor

The transmission control module uses the vehicle speed sensor to determine how fast the car is traveling, so it knows the correct time to change gears based on the car’s performance. If this sensor is not working at the right level or is functioning incorrectly, the transmission control module can choose the wrong gear at the appropriate time, causing the transmission to slip. This is how you know if your transmission control module is bad and can help you answer, can a bad sensor cause transmission problems?

  • Turbine Speed Sensor

The turbine speed sensor, also known as the input speed sensor, is in charge of telling the TCM certain details. The transmission control module uses this data to determine the correct amount of slippage to put on the clutches, bands, and torque converter clutch. Without this ability, the transmission control module will not apply the proper tension, helping you answer whether a bad sensor can cause transmission problems.

  • Throttle Position Sensor

One of the sensors that constantly sends signals to the transmission control module is the throttle position sensor. This sensor provides an important data source, with the data coming directly from the throttle position in the vehicle. If the throttle sensor cannot send the proper location, then the throttle position sensor functions to figure out, “can a bad sensor cause transmission problems?”

Throttle Position Sensor Test

To determine if the throttle position sensor test worked, you need to perform additional steps after completing the initial testing protocol. Back Probe the signal and ground terminals on the connector. Then, connect the red lead to the signal wire and the black test lead from the multimeter to the ground wire. 

 

Turn the key ON without starting the engine, ensuring the throttle is fully closed. If the digital multimeter reads between .2 to 1.5 volts, then the throttle position sensor is working correctly. As you open the throttle plate, the digital multimeter should increase to 5 volts. If the throttle position sensor test does not reach 5 volts, this is a sign that the throttle position sensor needs to be replaced and will answer, “can a bad sensor cause transmission problems?”

Throttle Position Sensor Replacement Cost

To give you an idea of how much you might spend at a local shop, we have included the cost comparison between various shops. Your local mechanic price will range between $106 and $245 for the throttle position sensor replacement. 

 

At chain shops, Midas’s price ranges between $118 and $272, while Midas is between $126 and $256. The last chain store you could bring your vehicle to for this process is NAPA, coming in between $112 and $281 for the replacement price.

 

If you can do this procedure yourself, you can get the parts at Walmart between $409 and $170 or Amazon for an average of $42-$195. Replacing this part can help you answer the question of “can a bad sensor cause transmission problems?”

  • Wheel Speed Sensor

The wheel speed sensor data helps the transmission control module know what the car is currently doing by performing it. This means that the wheel speed sensor tells the transmission control module what is happening in the car. The wheel speed sensor lets the transmission control module adjust the shifting and gear changing accordingly. The wheel speed sensor also notifies the TPM of when to control and alter the torque converter’s function.

TCM Function

In a nutshell, the transmission control module is a collection of various electrical circuit boards and processors that are key to the car’s electrical functioning. It is in charge of activating the transmission solenoids, telling the hydraulic fluid within the system the final destination. This hydraulic fluid is also called transmission fluid and is directed by the transmission control module to the proper clutch or the gearset. If the TCM is not working well, it can help you answer, “can a bad sensor cause transmission problems?”

  • Transmission Fluid Temperature Sensor

The transmission fluid temperature sensor is typically utilized by older transmission control units to monitor and read the transmission system’s current health and longevity. The fluid temperature sensor can determine the performance of the transmission by the current efficiency and operating levels.

 

 If the transmission overheats during use, then the transmission control unit might turn on a special mode in your car to protect you and the drivers – this special mode is called limp mode to protect the transmission from further damage. If this does not turn on, how can you answer whether a bad sensor can cause transmission problems?

  • Engine Control Unit

The engine control unit is the brain and working computer of your vehicle. This component, along with the important transmission control module, works in tandem to make the vehicle operate efficiently and safely down the road. Some of the ECU functions are in charge of including turning on the check engine light during failure, storing error codes that can help diagnostic processes, and temporarily changing the engine’s RPM to spur the proper gear change. 

 

The engine control unit is the brain of an engine and handles various performance and driveability functions. Its job is to do this by reading the values produced by various sensors located inside the engine bay. The engine control unit interprets the data using performance maps and adjusts the engine actuators. Before engine control units were used, idle speed and ignition timing had to be mechanically programmed. 

  • Powertrain Control Module Microprocessor

The powertrain control module microprocessor is associated with the engine control unit as the vehicle’s brain and driver. The powertrain control module microprocessor receives information by gaining data from other sensors located around the vehicle. These transmission sensors are in charge of the shift timing, along with additional roles of vehicle shifting. 

 

The TCM, also known as the transmission control module, is an additional microprocessor that regulates the transmission function. These mechanisms are given information from all the sensors. If the TCM and the powertrain control module microprocessor are not working correctly, this can answer the question of can a bad sensor cause transmission problems?

Symptoms of Failing TCM

Check Engine Light

Although your check engine light might appear on your dashboard for many reasons in your car, some serious and some minor, if the check engine light comes on, it can direct you directly towards your transmission control module as the culprit. If you have any issues with shifting along with this light on your dash, the two together can indicate how you know if your transmission control module is bad. 

 

Poor Shifting

If you have a light on your dashboard and erratic shifting that is unpredictable and occurring at the wrong time, this is a clear sign of an issue with the TCM. Since the automatic transmission relies on the TCM for smooth shifting to ensure optimal performance, a bad TCM causes dangerous shifting and can answer, “can a bad sensor cause transmission problems?”

 

Problems Upshifting or Downshifting

Although these sound like opposites, the TCM problems directly indicate that you have problems either shifting up into high gears or downshifting smoothly. If you notice your transmission cannot move into high gears while you are driving uphill or accelerating, this is how you know if your transmission control module is bad. 

 

In addition, if you need to slow down to make a turn or pass a slow-moving car and you are not able to, this is a sign that can help answer “can a bad sensor cause transmission problems?” 

Symptoms of a Faulty Transmission Sensor

When the position sensor fails over time, the car’s computer will not have any information to select the proper gear in your vehicle. Because of this, the car’s engine will most likely fail to start. Since the computer will not determine if the car is in neutral, park, or reverse, the transmission and engine will not turn on. These symptoms can help you answer the question of “can a bad sensor cause transmission problems?”

  • Inability to Shift Gears

The transmission sensors are in charge of telling the vehicle when to shift and whether to shift up or down. If the vehicle can’t send the right signals from the transmission sensor, you know it will not be able to shift. The car stuck in gear might have a damaged or poorly working transmission sensor since it will not know whether to shift to a higher or lower gear. 

  • Shaky Shifting

If your transmission speed sensor is not working correctly, this can answer whether a bad sensor can cause your transmission to fail. A damaged transmission might tell the car to shit too late, lagging at the wrong time and missing the cue to shift gears. This can lead to hard shifting or cause your transmission to slip, which can be very detrimental to your car’s lifespan. 

  • Overheating

If there is overheating or too much friction in your car from excess motion, this can lead to inadequate cooling from the cooling system and excessive temperature. Sensors that register the incorrect temperature are prone to transmission overheating and leading to a complete necessary replacement. 

Transmission Sensor Replacement Cost

Although this part is not the most expensive repair or replacement in your vehicle, the cost to replace a transmission sensor can add up over time. However, this is key to answering the question of can a bad sensor cause transmission problems?

 

The average cost for a transmission position sensor repair or replacement can run you about $240 up to $350. While our estimates are the average, you have to factor in the high labor costs as well. Those costs can cost you anywhere between $125 and $160. 

Transmission Sensor Replacement Options

When looking at how much you might spend on the transmission sensor replacement cost, there are typical prices that you will spend if you are just buying the parts and doing the repair on your own. If shopping online for the replacement sensor for your vehicle, you can expect to pay between $12 and $20 for a sensor.

 

For example, you can purchase a replacement speed sensor with a 2-prong pin male configuration with a 1-year unlimited warranty that works with various four-cylinder and 2.5-liter engines for just $12. 

Conclusion

A failing speed sensor will directly impact the transmission operation, leading to delayed shifting and limited gear choices, while numerous other sensors can have similar detrimental effects. By figuring out symptoms and signs to look out for when asking yourself, “can a bad sensor cause transmission problems,” you can help keep your car running effectively for a long period of time!