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Symptoms of A Bad Transmission Filter: All You Need to Know

Car Problems You Should Never Ignore

Some of the common symptoms of a bad transmission filter include:

1.    Weird rattling noise

2.    Strange whining noises

3.    Transmission fluid leaks

4.    Burning smell

5.    Difficulties switching gears

6.    Weird noises at neutral

The transmission is one of the core components in any vehicle, and without a perfectly running transmission, driving the vehicle becomes an extremely challenging experience, if not dangerous.

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Although the transmission filter is a minor component compared to other components in your transmission, it plays a major role in a successful transmission behavior. Unfortunately, over time of use, the filter gets clogged with debris and contaminants, making the driving experience extremely stressful.

This article walks you through the main symptoms of a bad transmission filter to help you the second issue early so you prevent dealing with major complications that might cost you thousands of dollars if ignored.

What is the transmission filter, and what does it do?

The transmission filter is a minor component that is very critical in your transmission system. As the name suggests, this filter prevents any contaminants or debris from beginning to the transmission fluids.

The transmission fluid is very important for operating the transmission whether you're driving a vehicle equipped with a manual or automatic transmission. Obviously, in automatic transmissions, transmission fluid becomes more critical.

With the advantage of a transmission filter, all contaminants or debris resulting from the metal shaving gears won't make their way to the transmission fluid. Therefore, your transmission is expected to work with its full efficiency without any disturbances.

Typically, the transmission filter consists of both the metal plates and a mesh that collects all contaminants or debris before it gets to the transmission fluid's location. Typically, the transmission filter sits somewhere between the transmission fluid pressure regulator and the transmission pan, which is responsible for collecting any excess transmission fluid.

What are the common symptoms of a bad transmission filter?

Like any other filter in your car, the transmission filter is expected to get partially or completely clogged over the time of use. Ignoring a clogged transmission filter results in negative consequences that might be extremely critical and might result in damaging major components in your vehicle.

Therefore, one of the best ways to prevent these negative consequences is to learn about the common symptoms of a bad transmission filter. The good news is that your vehicle is smart enough to let you know that the transmission filter is clogged or about to get clogged before it even does.

Here are some of the common symptoms of a bad transmission filter:

1.    Weird rattling noise

One of the first symptoms indicating that your vehicle's transmission filter is clogged is hearing some rattling noise. This noise might come from various other culprits, including a bad catalytic converter, a damaged or loose exhaust hanger, faulty heat shielding, etc.

You must go through the list of potential culprits before concluding that it's a clogged transmission filter. If you notice that none of the mentioned items is having an issue, you might want to check the transmission filter because it might be clogged.

Your mechanic will give you an accurate answer about whether the issue comes from a bad transmission filter or any other faulty components. Sometimes your vehicle will throw additional warning lights indicating some hints leading you to the faulty components.

2.    Strange whining noises

Automotive experts recommend taking any weird noise coming from your vehicle seriously because it might be linked to a major problem. Still, also it can be a simple issue. However, once you take these noises seriously, you can't resolve minor issues fast and prevent them from getting more complicated, causing problems to other components.

Among the weird noises you might experience, a badly clogged transmission filter might cause some whining noise, especially if you're trying to shift gears. However, experts indicated that the whining noises are expected to happen much more if you drive a vehicle equipped with a manual transmission.

When hearing the whining noises, you might experience some difficulty engaging the gears related to a faulty clutch. However, the problem might also be linked to a clogged transmission filter causing all these troubles.

3.    Transmission fluid leaks

When the filter gets completely clogged, it prevents the transmission fluid from running smoothly through your transmission. Therefore, it's not surprising to see puddles of transmission fluid leaking underneath the vehicle.

Keep in mind that there are many other fluids inside your car, which means that whenever you see a puddle of fluid color, you can't immediately say it's a transmission fluid leak. Instead, you must promote yourself with the different types of fluids characteristics to tell which fluid it is.

A transmission fluid leak is a very critical problem because it can lead to significant transmission damages in no time. As you already know, the transmission is one of the very valuable components in your car that costs thousands of dollars in certain vehicles. Thus, taking fluid leaks seriously is very critical to help prevent paying unnecessary high repair costs.

4.    Burning smell

In severe bad transmission filters scenarios, you might even start noticing some burning smell coming from the transmission location. For example, if you're driving a vehicle equipped with a manual transmission, the burning smell might be linked to a bad clutch, but also it might be an issue with the clogged transmission filter.

Thus, before investing installing a new clutch, you must differentiate between the real culprit and look at the transmission filter because it is a simple fix compared to the clutch replacement.

5.    Difficulties switching gears

All components in your transmission need to work together to help you switch gears smoothly. If there's an issue with one of these components, you can easily notice difficulty switching gears. For example, like all important elements in the transmission, a clogged transmission filter can make it hard for your vehicle to switch gears and result in slipping or hesitation problems every time you try to switch gears.

6.    Weird noises at neutral

In general, most vehicle noises are typically linked to situations where you will run the vehicle at high speeds. However, dealing with abnormal noises in neutral can be very concerning. Among the different culprits that could make the loud noises at neutral is a bad transmission filter.

7.    Sudden stopping

In some scenarios, a clog fuel filter might get your vehicle to stop suddenly without any previous warning sign. This is a scary situation for many inexperienced drivers, especially those who don't keep up with changing the transmission filter.

Therefore, before you get to this situation, you must take any of the minor signs that we indicated earlier seriously to change the filter before impacting your vehicle's drivability.

8.    Slipping clutch

A clogged fuel filter might be a culprit among the different factors that impact your vehicle's clutch behavior. This problem is not related to vehicles equipped with an automatic transmission, and it's more for people who prefer to ride a car with a manual transmission. As the transmission filter gets more clogged, it gets harder and harder for the clutch to control shifting gears due to insufficient lubrication and lack of hydraulic power.

Difficulty reversing

While a clogged fuel filter impacts shifting gears in general, having difficulty reversing is one of the most complaints that customers suffer from. When your vehicle's transmission filter gets partially clogged, you'll notice that the vehicle hesitates to switch gears to reverse. Still, when it's completely cloud, you might have significant difficulties switching to reverse.

How long do transmission filters last?

According to automotive experts, most transmission filters should last up to 30,000 miles or two years, whichever comes first. However, it is important for you as a driver to keep an eye on the mentioned symptoms of a bad transmission filter because the filter might get clogged earlier, depending on your driving habits and other factors.

Whenever you notice the mentioned symptoms, you must reach out to your mechanic and have him inspect the transmission filter and confirm whether you need to install a new one or not.

Can a clogged transmission filter cause shift problems?

Yes, when the transmission filter gets clogged, it significantly impacts the shifting experience. When the transmission is not clean, it impacts how easily the transmission fluid runs around the different internal components. When transmission fluid does not reach all components, these components won't have enough lubrication, which means that you'll notice some weird behaviors, including grinding gears, slipping transmissions, shifting problems, etc.

How much does it cost to replace a bad transmission filter?

Although most of your vehicle's filters are not too expensive to be changed, the transmission filter is quite a little more expensive than others. Typically, changing the transmission filter should cost you somewhere between $250 and $340 depending on your vehicle's type and the location where you get the job done. If you break down the price range by labor and parts, expect to pay between $100 and $125 for labor while $150 and $215 for parts.

Some drivers prefer to save on labor costs when it comes to transmission filter replacement. Still, suppose you don't have enough experience and haven't changed a transmission filter before. In that case, it is recommended that you leave it to professionals because it is very easy to introduce some mistakes causing significant damage is in a core component like the transmission. But, first, no matter how much you save on labor costs, it won't replace the whole transmission.

How long does it take to replace a transmission filter?

Transmission filter replacement is not a complicated job, and it shouldn't take more than one hour in total. However, if you decided to go with a dealership or probably a busy independent shop, you might want to add some waiting time depending on how busy the shop is.

In some organized mechanic shops, you might have the chance to book an appointment, so you don't have to worry about waiting time. Therefore, do so whenever you can't schedule an appointment and have the job done within the one-hour frame.


The transmission filter is a minor element among the other elements in your transmission. However, this element is very critical regarding how efficient your transmission is and how smooth it is to switch gears.

Over time of use, the transmission filter is expected to get clogged due to debris and contaminants from the transmission fluid as it turns around the different internal components. When this happens, it is important that you immediately replace the filter to prevent dealing with negative consequences that might impact your driving experience.

Summarizing yourself with the common symptoms of a bad transmission filter helps you detect it early and prevent future complications that might cost you thousands of dollars. Some of these symptoms include weird whining and rattling noises, along with difficulties shifting gears.

If your vehicle has other major components than those related to a bad transmission filter, it might not be worth investing your time and effort in installing a new filter. Instead, automotive experts recommend that you evaluate whether it's the right time now to sell your car and use its value towards a car that doesn't have any transmission problems.

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