We Buy All Cars, Running or Not!

How to tell if the transmission is bad – the signs and symptoms of a failing transmission

How to tell if the transmission is bad

When your transmission is failing or has already gone bad, there are certain signs and symptoms that can clue you into the main cause of the problem and the fixes of the issue. There are main warning signs that can alert you to tell if your transmission is bad and can mean you need to get a replacement or a repair of transmission. 

⚠️ If It's Broken, Don't Fix It - Get Paid Cash for Your Vehicle ⚠️


The job of your car’s transmission is to make sure the right amount of power goes to your wheels in order to drive your car at a given speed and allow the driver to remain in control. The transmission works by shifting gears at the right time, giving the right amount of power to the given moment in your vehicle. 


A manual transmission involves the driver adjusting the gear shifter, and has the same effect as pushing the clutch and disconnecting the engine and the transmission. An automatic transmission uses an automatic gear shifter by using a torque converter to sense these changes as you accelerate and shift you to a higher gear.

Refusal To Switch Gears


One of the main warning signs of how to tell if the transmission is bad is a refusal to switch gears. If your vehicle struggles to switch gears or simply cannot, then you are more likely to face a problem with your transmission system. Low transmission fluid or the wrong kind of transmission fluid is oftentimes to blame in this case. 


The most common cause of hard shifting in your car is a low fluid level, so make sure you check your fluid level of the transmission fluid to see if it is the right level. Jerky shifts and jerking while accelerating can also be caused by excessive line pressure due to a clog or malfunctioning transmission shift solenoid. This can be a way to tell if the transmission is bad. 

Burning Smell


A second warning sign of the transmission failure and how to tell if the transmission is bad is that you can notice a burning smell in your car. When you notice a burning smell coming from under the hood or while driving in your car, you need to visit an auto shop right away. This odor is often a sign that your transmission is overheating or the transmission fluid is too old and filled with debris. 


There are main signs of the transmission overheating that can clue you into if the transmission is bad, like the acrid burning odor, since the transmission changes gears using principles of hydraulic power, the slow response times, like the fluid levels dropping too low, and the transmission slipping, meaning that when the transmission fluid ages it loses its ability to provide smooth shifting between gears and is a clear sign of how to tell if the transmission is bad.

Neutral Noises


Another sign of how you can tell if the transmission is bad is that there are weird noises coming from your vehicle when your car is in neutral, and is a sure sign of transmission trouble. At best, the noises might show that your car is ready for a new transmission oil, or it can mean that your car could require a costly part replacement due to mechanical wear. The mechanical wear can be a  sign that your transmission is slipping, and can be a sure sign that you might need a transmission replacement and can be a way to tell your transmission is bad. 

Slipping Gears


If your car slips out of gear during use, this can cause a dangerous situation on the road and trouble for other drivers. At best, this noise might indicate that your car is ready for a new transmission oil, or it can mean that your car requires a costly part and a replacement due to the extensive mechanical wear. Sign of your car slipping gears is a delay in acceleration, burning or other unusual smells, very high engine RPMs over 3,5000, trouble shifting gears, harsh response any time you shift gears, check engine light constantly turning on, and strange noises coming from the transmission. The car slipping gears can be a way of telling if your transmission is bad. 

Dragging Clutch


A dragging clutch is a symptom of failure to disengage the clutch disk from the flywheel in your vehicle when you press down on the clutch pedal. Signs of clutch drag can include hard starting, the vehicle moving during starting, hard shifting and jerking while shifting, hard shifting in high RPM from the engine, and the gear clash during shifting. 

Leaking Fluid


Leaking transmission fluid is one of the easiest problems to diagnose and identify when you are trying to tell if your transmission is bad. If you notice that there is fluid pooling under your car, and the fluid is red and sweet smelling, this can be a clear sign that your transmission is bad and needs replacing. There are the main causes of the transmission fluid leak that can show you why your transmission is bad.


First, the transmission pan gasket can be damaged or misaligned and can be blamed for a transmission fluid leak. It provides the necessary seal between the transmission pan and the bell housing, and can wear down over time due to the simplicity of the rubber gasket. In addition, seals and other gaskets can cause the transmission fluid to leak if they are not secure. The rear main engine seal and the front input seal might deteriorate or cause something to come out of alignment.


In addition, the transmission lines can show damage and cause a transmission fluid leak. Different hoses and lines run between the various components and provide a consistent flow of fluid throughout the transmission system, causing a bad connection or a hole or crack in one of the transmission lines, showing a clear way of how to tell if the transmission is bad. 


Furthermore, leaking transmission fluid can be due to a damaged part or faulty valves and solenoids that can cause a transmission leak. Along with this, misalignment of two components within the transmission system can cause things to shift while you drive, meaning the fluid can leak and be a clear sign of how the transmission system is bad. 

Check Engine Light


The check engine light showing up on your dashboard can be due to a variety of issues within your car, that are a combination of both minor and serious problems. The check engine light can be a way to tell if your transmission is bad. Other reasons of your check engine light being on in your car include a bad oxygen sensor, a loose or faulty fuel cap, catalytic converter failure, spark plug and ignition coil issues, bad spark plug wires, mass air flow sensor failure, issues with an aftermarket alarm, vacuum leaks, or exhaust gas recirculation valve failure. 

Grinding or Shaking 


More common in a car that has an automatic transmission, a grinding or shaking that happens at the same time of you shifting gears is a clear sign that something is wrong with your transmission and can be a way to tell if your transmission is bad. Causes of the gears grinding in your car can stem from the speed of your wheels and the engine not being on the same page. The mismatch of the engine speed and the wheel speed can cause a troubling grinding noise. 


Other reasons for your gears grinding and a sign your transmission is bad is clutch problems, with the manual transmission relaxing on the clutch being pressed and resulting in damage to the clutch assembly and components. In addition, torque converter problems can cause transmission issues, since you will hear grinding when shifting into reverse. 


In addition, low transmission fluid, gear system damage, other internal transmission damage, and bad driving habits can cause the transmission to go bad and the grinding or shaking while shifting gears.

Humming Sounds


You can hear humming, whining, or clunking noises in your transmission, and these can be clear signs of how to tell your transmission is bad. None of these sounds are good to hear in your car and can indicate serious problems. By checking out the origin of these sounds and where they are coming from, you can prevent further transmission trouble and prevent your transmission from failing completely. 



If your car does not respond when you try to change gears, especially going from a standstill into drive, then it is most likely caused by a problem with your transmission and can be a sign of how to tell your transmission is bad. 

Can I drive with a bad transmission?


Your transmission is a key function and component of your car. Your car will not be able to drive or function without the transmission working correctly. If the transmission is experiencing any type of failure or needs replacing or r repairing, it is likely that your car will stall and the vehicle will leave you stranded. If the transmission requires replacement, it is imperative that you bring your car to the mechanic right away. Make sure you bring your car to an auto body shop before you make the assumption that your transmission is bad. 


Transmissions commonly develop problems over time and might need replacing. They are vulnerable parts in your car, in that they are constantly succumbed to high heat, and are forced to absorb abuse from the engine and the wheels over time, and operate under extreme pressure and high demand. In some types of cars, the transmission will last the entire lifespan of the car. However, there are some signs of how to tell your transmission is bad, and can cause issues along the way. Complete transmission replacements are common, and oftentimes occur between the average of 90-140k miles, and can be a sign of how the transmission is. 

Transmission Repair Considerations

When deciding that you need to repair or replace your transmission after you know that your transmission is going bad, you need to determine the overall costs of what you need to pay. Costs related to repairing your transmission can be as little as $150 to just replace a defective transmission solenoid, or can be upwards of around $2,500 for the complete replacement of the entire transmission system. 


The average cost of rebuilding, repairing, and replacing your transmission is one of the most expensive jobs done by any mechanic. According to various sites, the average cost of the transmission replacement ranges from around $1,800 to $3,400. A used or salve transmission typically ranges in price from $800 to $1500, while a rebuilt transmission ranges from $1100 to $2800, and a remanufactured transmission ranges completely from $1300 to $3400. 


In addition, the labor to remove and replace the transmission ranges from around $500 to $1200 for around 4 to 10 hours of billed time at a local mechanic shop or an auto body shop. Rebuilds can oftentimes cost just as much as a replacement depending on how much damage is done on your transmission. The higher end of the price range of the spectrum is usually for the replacement of a high end vehicle’s transmission or a complete rebuild after a mechanical failure. 


The average cost of rebuilding a transmission is between $2800 and $3800, and the average cost of a replacement of the transmission is between $4000 to $8000. By determining the causes of the transmission failing and how to tell if your transmission is bad you can determine if you need a repair, rebuild, or replacement transmission. 


There are other transmission repair costs that go along with the transmission fix. The average transmission leak repair is between $150 to $200, while the solenoid replacement is between $300 and $850 depending on how many solenoids are replaced, and the average transmission rebuild is between $1500 to $1800.


The average transmission leak repair is $200 or less, the average transmission flush cost is around just $100, and the average transmission rebuild is between $2,800 and $3,800. 

© 2022 Cash Cars Buyer. All Rights Reserved. Terms & Conditions | Privacy Policy | Sitemap