Your car's transmission consists of so many internal components. These components are continuously exposed to friction and heat as they interact with each other. That's why there will be a point in time when you will experience transmission problems.
Transmission problems shouldn't be ignored because if you don't repair it immediately, these problems could result in severe damages to your vehicle and might cost you a lot of money.
While not everyone is an expert and can determine transmission issues, you can still tell if your car is not behaving as usual. For instance, you might notice weird sounds, strange smells, or even different vehicle handling when driving. If you noticed anything normal, never ignore it and always consider bringing your car to the mechanic.
In this article, we give you a quick introduction about the role of transmission in your vehicle. We will move to the main internal causes of transmission problems, and finally, we will end with transmission problems symptoms that can tell you to take your car to the mechanic immediately.
What is the transmission?
Your vehicle's transmission, or what is known as the “gearbox,” is the component that is responsible for translating the engine's power into something that makes the car move. A car without a transmission means a running engine without moving.
Most common transmission problems
Like any other mechanical part in your car, your vehicle's transmission can experience a lot of problems over time of use. Here is a list of the most common transmission problems you might experience:
Reduced transmission of fluid level
Transmission fluid is a very important component of both manual and automatic transmissions. Manual transmissions don't use the fluid to move vehicles. However, transmission fluid is essential to keep manual transmissions lubricated and reduce any grinding.
On the other hand, automatic transmission relies on the fluid to move the vehicle by hydraulic power.
In both transmission types, your car has to have a certain amount of fluid to drive property. If the transmission fluid is low due to contamination, leaking, or age, your engine can experience problems that could potentially lead to complete transmission failure.
For instance, low transmission fluid levels can result in parts overheating, slipping, and grounding gears.
Therefore, you need to make a habit of monitoring your cars' fluid level, like when you monitor the engine's fluid level, to avoid any severe transmission problems.
Tear and wear in gear synchronizers for manual transmissions
In a manual transmission, synchronizers are responsible for transferring spinning speed between the gear you are shifting from to the gear you are shifting into.
The synchronizers work on making gear shifting very smoothly and not noticeable when driving.
If you have a manual transmission, you need to keep an eye on the synchronizers because if they were worn, they could cause severe transmission failures that cost you a lot of money.
Tear and wear in the clutch for manual transmissions
In manual transmissions, the clutch is responsible for transferring the rotation speed from the engine to the wheel, and thus, make your car move as your engine produces power.
Like most mechanical components, the clutch can tear and wear over time of use. You can tell that the transmission clutch needs replacement if you noticed that it is hard to reverse, there is a weird noise in neutral, listen to grinding sounds, and much more.
It is obvious now that if you own a car with a manual transmission, you need to make regular checks and confirm that the clutch is not worn. Otherwise, you need to replace it immediately.
A problem with the needle roller bearing in automatic transmissions
As you noticed before, there are specific problems associated with manual transmissions. In the same fashion, there are specific problems that you might only experience if you own a car with an automatic transmission.
For instance, one of the most common problems for automatic transmissions is the failed needle roller bearings.
These needles are responsible for avoiding and preventing friction between the transmission gears. Once these needles start wearing over time, you will start to hear grinding and brushing sounds while driving.
Issues with the transmission solenoids
Solenoids are the transmission parts that are responsible for up and down shiftings while you drive. These solenoids might go bad because of electrical problems, stuck open or stuck closed because of dirty transmission fluid, and others.
When the solenoids go bad, your transmission will not have the required pressure level, which causes soft, hard, or sometimes delayed shifts.
While you can still drive your car when the solenoids go bad, you still need to get them fixed as soon as possible to avoid further complicated problems that might result in complete transmission failure.
Symptoms of transmission problems
Now you have an understanding of what might be the root problem for your transmission issue, and it is important to be able to detect when the problems start. That's why you need to familiarize yourself with any strange symptoms that might mean transmission issues.
There are a lot of symptoms that you can experience if your transmission is having an issue. Here is a list of the most common transmission problems symptoms:
Slow transmission engagement
If you experience delays in your transmission response to gear shifting while driving, this is a clear sign of a transmission problem. However, the delayed transmission is usually a sign of a minor transmission issue. If you ignore this minor issue, the problem can turn into a major transmission problem.
Signs of grinding or shaking
One of the clearest signs of a transmission problem is shaking or grinding sound. Usually, if the planetary gear system is damaged, the first thing you will notice is this strange shaking and grinding sound.
Transmission fluid leaks
In general, if you notice any fluid under your car, you must not ignore it.
The leaked fluid color can tell you where the problem is coming from. For instance, if the fluid is red, it is a sign that your transmission fluid is leaking either from the gasket, seal, or cooler lines.
Leaking transmission fluid is one of the very serious symptoms when you must take your car to the mechanic as soon as possible to avoid further damages.
You can use the dipstick to check the severity of the leak, and if the transmission fluid is super low, you might need to tow your car to the mechanic.
Another red flag and a serious transmission problem sign is the burning smell. Your transmission can smell burn if the clutches are burning or if there is a leak in the fluid.
One way to take the first guess is to use the dipstick and confirm that the transmission fluid is not low.
In either case, you must take your vehicle to the mechanic as soon as possible to avoid significant transmission damage.
There is no power in your vehicle
If you know for sure that your vehicle's engine does not have any problem, then you noticed that the vehicle has a very low or even no power, this is another sign of internal transmission problems. In this case, you also need to take your car to the mechanic immediately.
Check engine light is illuminating
Some people might think that an illuminating engine light indicates the engine's problems. However, there are a lot of reasons that make the engine's light illuminate.
Some of these reasons might be an internal issue with the transmission like solenoid failure, speeds sensors problems, and other transmission-related issues.
The only way to confirm the problem source is to take your car to the mechanic and read the error code that is causing the engine's light to illuminate. Once you read the code properly, you will be able to identify the actual reason for engine light illuminating.
The most common code that means a transmission problem is “P0700”
A slipping transmission
When you drive your vehicle, you might feel that the car changed the gear without any clear reason, or your transmission is slipping.
A slipping transmission can happen due to low fluid, contaminated fluid as it is not changed on time or issues with wear and tear.
Whatever the reason is, your car needs to be diagnosed by an expert mechanic to identify and solve the problem.
A humming or clunking sound
It is very hard to tell what you will hear when your transmission goes bad. For sure, you will hear something very weird and unusual. Especially with a manual transmission, the noise can be very loud and noticeable.
As we discussed before, don't wait till you have the time. Get the problem diagnosed and solved as soon as possible to avoid severe damages for your car's internal components.
How much does it cost to get a transmission remanufactured?
You are remanufacturing your vehicle transmission costs between $1300 and $3,400, depending on your car's make, model, and year. This price does not include the labor cost. Thus, expect to pay between $400 and $800 as additional labor costs.
Transmission replacement is always much more expensive than a transmission rebuild. However, you need to think about all the additional fees and costs to best select between a transmission rebuild versus a transmission replacement.
For instance, you need to consider any initial evaluation costs, towing charges, and probably the money you will pay to rent a vehicle while you are waiting for your car to get fixed.
It is recommended that you get at least three quotes from different mechanic shops and dealerships before you authorize the transmission repair.
Keep in mind that fixing your transmission can easily go wrong and cause severe damages, that's why you need to be balanced between who you select and how much you will pay.
A lot of experienced larger mechanic shops like AAMCO offer discounts between now and then. You can take advantage of that. AAMCO also has a reward program where if they perform a specific repair for you, they provide you a discount or a free fluid change, for instance.
Recommended questions to ask the repair shop before getting your transmission fixed
It is important to get a clear picture of what will be done in the repair process, so you don't get surprised by the final bill.
For example, consider asking if the mechanic will replace any internal component in the transmission. You can also ask whether the transmission will be replaced or rebuild. Whatever the process is, get a clear understanding of the source of any part that will be installed in your transmission.
You might also need to check and confirm that the mechanic shop will not replace or fix any other part rather than the transmission unless they confirm with you.
It is also a good habit to check who will perform the transmission repair. Some people might select local mechanic shops to get their transmission repair because of a good deal or discount. However, what they forgot is that they need to make sure a mechanic with a certain skillset has to perform the repair.
Any mistakes or issues in the transmission repair or installment might cause further and more complicated transmission damages.
In the end, you need to maintain regular vehicle maintenance. This is because you can avoid a lot of very expensive and complicated repairs just by detecting the problem early.
As a rule of thumb, when you notice a strange sound or smell, this is a clear indication that your vehicle has an internal problem and needs attention. The problem does not necessarily mean a transmission failure; it could be any other internal component.
It is important to educate yourself about the transmission of major issues and causes for problems. This way, you can have an idea about how server the problem is, how much of repair time and money you need to spend.
If you experienced any strange smell or sound, have your vehicle diagnosed by a professional mechanic as soon as possible.