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Transmission Problems Signs: Everything You Need to Know 

Transmission Problems Signs

Alongside your engine the transmission in your car may be the most important part of how the entire machine operates. In very basic terms the transmission is what takes the power generated by your engine and turns it into the motion that moves your wheels and allows your car to move. As you no doubt know there is more than one kind of transmission available in modern vehicles, and they each give transmission problems signs to look out for.

Auto Repairs Are EXPENSIVE


The most common kind of transmission these days is automatic transmission. With an automatic transmission, your car does most of the work for you in terms of changing from one gear to another based on the RPMs that you've achieved while driving. When you drive with an automatic transmission you still need to shift into park and reverse, but the gear shift that occurs when you're driving to take you from a lower speed gear up to a high-speed gear as you accelerate, and then from a higher speed gear to a lower speed gear as you decelerate is entirely done by the transmission itself.


Manual transmission was much more common in older vehicles and there are some cars that still operate with manual today. It's not as popular as automatic because it requires more training to learn how to use it, and many people feel uncomfortable using manual transmission because they had bad experiences when they were learning how to use it. If you don't know how to shift gears correctly you can potentially suffer slipped gears and a terrible grinding sound. The fact is most vehicles are manufactured as automatic transmission these days and you need to go out of your way to track down a manual transmission vehicle if you want one.


There are some benefits to using manual over automatic transmission. Manual transmission is actually more fuel efficient and you also have some better control over how your vehicle accelerates. A lot of drivers also like the way manual feels compared to automatic. You get that sense of greater control and when you shift into a higher gear acceleration feels a bit more exciting than an automatic transmission. 


There are also some other transmissions that are basically a combination of manual and automatic, as well as something called CVT which is continuously variable transmission. These are not as common as manual or automatic, however.


Because the transmission in your vehicle performs such an important task you do need to keep an eye on it to make sure it's working the way it's supposed to. Unfortunately, because the transmission is such a heavily used part of your vehicle it is subject to a lot of wear and tear. It can break down over time and when it does you could potentially suffer some serious problems as a result. So, let's take a look at all the problems that can happen with your transmission, what may have caused them in the first place, and what you can do about it.


What Are the Symptoms of Transmission Problems?


When your transmission starts going bad on you there are going to be some clear signs that something is wrong. If you start experiencing any of these, you definitely don't want to leave it go for too long without getting a mechanic to look at it. Transmission problems don't fix themselves but they do get worse if nothing is done about it. It can't get bad enough that eventually your transmission will fail on you completely.


  • Burning Smell: If you have a fluid leak somewhere in your transmission you may end up with a burning smell as a result. Transmission fluid is necessary to keep your transmission properly lubricated and cooled, so if there is a leak it could cause some serious problems.


  • Transmission Slipping: If your transmission fluid is low or has become contaminated in some way then you might notice that your transmission is slipping on you and your engine seems to be revving very quickly as a result.


  • Can't Stay in Gear: Another problem potentially caused by issues with low transmission fluid or a leak somewhere in your fluid as well as issues with your shifter cable or other parts of the transmission, if you try to put your transmission into a gear and you find that it won't stay in the gear and slips back into the previous gear. That's a clear sign you're having an issue with your transmission.


  • Grinding and Shaking: If you're feeling transmission is grinding, vibrating, or otherwise shaking as it transitions from one gear to the other it's a good sign that something has gone wrong. This may start out extremely weak at first and be barely noticeable, but it will become worse and worse over time.


  • Delays: If you start your car and put it into reverse and notice that there is a moment of hesitation before it actually starts doing what you want it to do, that can definitely be a sign you're having transmission problems. If it's not engaging into reverse or drive right away after you shift gear, then you may have an issue with your transmission fluid either being very low or very badly contaminated. It's also possible with newer cars that this is an issue with your car's computer. 


  • Hard Shifting: If you're finding it difficult to actually get from one gear to another, or it seems like your car pauses before it accepts the gear you're trying to shift into that could also be a problem with bad transmission fluid, low transmission fluid and other mechanical issues. Even though your transmission will eventually get into the correct gear, you could still end up facing issues of overheating and other problems.


  • Noises: Any time your car starts making unexpected noises then you know something has gone wrong. Your transmission can make a variety of unusual sounds when there's a problem from grinding to clicking it to buzzing to even a humming sound. These kinds of noises can be caused by bad bearings and planetary gears. It could also be potentially caused by some kind of a broken seal causing a leak.


  • Check Engine Light: The check engine light is always a good indication that something has gone wrong on your vehicle that you need to take a look at. Unfortunately, it's also a very vague indication that something has gone wrong. Without these other symptoms to help guide you, you may not know that you have a problem with your transmission if all that's coming on I s a check engine light. Literally there are hundreds of different reasons why your check engine light comes on in the first place, so you'll definitely need to refer to some of these other problems


 Can You Still Drive with Transmission Issues?


This is a common question that comes up when you're faced with any potential issues with your vehicle. Can it still operate even when something isn't working the way it's supposed to?  The fact is it can be hard to find the time or the money to get into a mechanic to fix a problem with your vehicle. Unfortunately, the transmission is not one of the systems in your vehicle that you can just ignore if something is wrong.


While you may be able to get away with ignoring a problem with your air conditioner, the transmission is of vital importance to how your car operates. You're risking extensive damage if you continue to drive a car knowing that you have a problem with your transmission and giving you transmission problems signs. Worse, you could also be risking an accident if it were to fail on you completely while you're in the middle of driving. If your transmission goes you will no longer be able to control your vehicle. If this were to happen while you were on the highway and your transmission seized up or otherwise stop functioning properly you could find yourself unable to properly drive your vehicle and that could be dangerous for both you and others on the road.


Another thing to keep in mind when it comes to transmission problems is that when transmission fails on you it can fail in an incredibly serious way. The kind of damage that bad transmission can cause your vehicle may be irreparable.  That is to say that the potential cost of fixing it may be even more than your car is worth depending on how bad the problem is and the kind of car you're driving.


 What Causes These Problems?


Transmission problems signs means there's a problem to be fixed, but what causes these problems? It's one thing to be able to detect that something is going wrong with your transmission, it's another to know why it happened in the first place. One of the most common causes of transmission issues is a problem with your transmission fluid. Transmission fluid is to your transmission what engine oil is to your engine. It both lubricates and cools the transmission to prevent the gears inside from overheating.


Your transmission fluid is potentially subject to leaks if there is a problem in your transmission somewhere. Additionally, if your transmission fluid is too old it may have become contaminated. You can pick up water from outside sources and it can also and that being contaminated by dirt and debris as well as metal shavings from years of use without being changed properly. 


As part of the regular upkeep of your vehicle you should be changing your transmission fluid every 30,000 miles to 60,000 miles or so. Your owner's manual will let you know for sure just how often it needs to be done. And of course, if you are noticing any of the transmission problems signs, especially that burning smell, then you're going to need to get it done sooner because you probably have a problem.


Transmission fluid is typically red, so if you see any drops of red underneath where you park then that's a good indication you have a leak somewhere. Typically, it won't be a very large puddle, may even just be a few drops, but keep your eyes open for it.


 Some vehicles have a dipstick that lets you check the transmission fluid just like you check your engine oil. Like we said it should be red and translucent. If you check your transmission fluid and it's a dark red or a muddy brown shade, then it's definitely become contaminated and you're going to need to do a fluid change and get some clean stuff in there.


 How Much Does It Cost to Fix Transmission Problems?


If you need to get your transmission fluid changed you can expect to pay somewhere between about $75 and $200 to get it done depending on the make and model of your vehicle and the mechanic that you take it to. On average it's going to be around $100 to $125, however.


 If you have a more serious problem with your transmission and need to get it repaired or replaced, then you may be looking at quite a steep repair bill. The average cost of replacing a damaged transmission can range from about $1,800 to as much as $3,500.


You may be able to find a rebuilt transmission or a manufacturer transmission for a bit cheaper, but these are still going to cost you around $1,000 at the very least. A salvaged transmission will likely be your cheapest option, but you do need to make sure you're still getting a good quality one. Those can cost you somewhere around $700 to up to $1,500 depending on where you go and who's replacing it for you.


The Bottom Line on Transmission Problems Signs


Without your transmission, the power generated by your engine will be essentially useless because it can't be transferred to the wheels of your vehicle to get you moving at all. It's absolutely essential to the proper functioning of your vehicle and for that reason you really do need to make sure you're taking good care of it and maintaining it as well as you can. It's crucial not to ignore any of the transmission problems signs your car communicates with you.


Make sure you're getting those regular checks of your transmission fluid and changing it when you need to. If you're experiencing any problems with the transmission when you're driving, don't put it off till it becomes a bigger problem. 


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