Dealing with a slipping transmission can be a significant problem with any car; especially those with automatic transmissions. This is one of the many issues with your auto that can begin as a minor issue and then quickly worsen, becoming more expensive. You should never delay repairing a slipping transmission.
There are multiple potential slipping transmission causes, and although maintenance is always required, the severity of the problem can vary greatly. Remember that the transmission slipping indicates that you need a mechanic’s assistance, regardless of the severity.
Signs of a Slipping Transmission: What Does a Slipping Transmission Feel Like?
If you are unsure how to tell if your transmission is slipping, be on the lookout for some of the more common transmission slipping symptoms. The following are among the most common slipping transmission signs:
- Your check engine light is on
- An rpm of over 3,500
- Acceleration delays
- Burning or unusual smells
- Inability to reverse
- Problems shifting gears
- Harsh responses or strange noises when shifting gears
- The reverse does not engage
If you’re wondering what it means when your transmission is slipping or what transmission slipping is, these transmission slipping signs should give you a good idea. There is no clear definition of exactly one thing that signifies a slipping transmission, as the problem is mostly defined by its symptoms and causes. As such, your best course of action is to watch for the above signs and, if you encounter them, begin to look at your repair options.
Any of the above signs your transmission is slipping may point to a range of problems, not limited to the transmission slipping. However, they do all require maintenance, so if you notice any of those symptoms, you will want to visit your mechanic.
You should also be on the lookout for other potential signs of transmission problems, which may or may not include slipping. Your mechanic can help you with how to tell if transmission is slipping or you have another problem.
Leaking Transmission Fluid
If you notice red fluid underneath your auto, then there is likely a transmission leak from a seal, gasket, or cooler line. This is damaging for the transmission and dangerous if the fluid happens to leak onto a hot surface. You can check the transmission fluid with the dipstick. Keep in mind that some of the other fluids in the transmission must be checked by a professional.
The potential burning smell is usually the result of low fluid or a fluid leak. Catching this problem early is crucial to being able to fix the transmission.
It Won’t Stay in Gear or Engage
This type of problem may indicate issues with your automatic transmission valve, the shifter cable, the shifter, or a fluid leak. You may even need to have your mechanic check your auto’s computer system to see if there are trouble codes, since the computer lets the transmission known when it should go in gear on newer autos.
No Power for the Car
When your engine runs properly but your auto has minimal or no power, it may be from the computer limiting power, internal transmission problems, or the brakes dragging from a faulty brake hose or caliper.
Shifts Miss Gears or Delay
These problems can be due to low transmission fluid, which could be from water intrusion, lack of maintenance, contamination, or a leak. If you do not take care of this problem, it can lead to overheating that causes serious internal damage. Missing gears or delayed shifting can also be due to engine problems that make the computer prevent the transmission from shifting to a higher gear.
If you hear a humming, clunking, or buzzing sound from the transmission, this usually indicates an internal problem, such as bad bearing or planetary gear damage. Buzzing might also be due to a leak causing low transmission fluid, a seal, or poor internal sealing surfaces.
Remember that anytime you are unsure of how to determine whether your transmission is slipping, you should consult your mechanic to get an evaluation as well as a fix transmission slipping cost estimate.
Slipping Transmission Causes – Why Is My Transmission Slipping?
As mentioned, there is a long list of potential reasons that your transmission is slipping. Some are more common than others, and most of these are more likely to occur in automatic transmissions.
Of the various slipping transmission causes, the most common is having low fluid levels. This comes from the vast ways in which low fluid levels can negatively impact your car, from not producing enough hydraulic pressure for engaging gears to overheating.
To check whether low fluid levels are causing your problem, you can just look at the dipstick in your engine compartment. Remember that the system for the transmission is closed. As such, it should never have low levels. If there are low levels, you may be dealing with a leak.
Sometimes, the transmission slipping is due to the fluid burning instead of being low. If the fluid is black or you notice a smell similar to burnt toast, then this is the likely culprit. Burnt fluid can happen when the transmission overheats. In this case, you will need to quickly swap out your transmission fluid. After that, you will need to have a technician inspect your transmission to ensure there is no further damage.
Both automatic and manual transmissions use clutches, and while manual transmission slipping is most likely due to clutch issues, it is also a possible cause for an automatic transmission slipping. In an automatic, the transmission and torque converter have clutch plates that can burn or become worn out due to insufficient transmission fluid.
In manuals, the clutch relies on brake pads and other friction material to grab the engine flywall, helping separate the transmission and engine as you change gears. If this material gets worn, the clutch will not fully engage or switch gears, requiring a replacement.
As your car ages, your gears will begin to wear out. This is completely natural and occurs due to wear and tear. Gears can also wear out from malfunctions. If the gears are frayed or worn, they will not link together properly, leading to bumpy shifting.
Your auto’s solenoid is an electro-hydraulic valve that is responsible for controlling fluid flow in the transmission. If this component has electronic issues or suffers damage, it will not dispense the appropriate amount of fluids, leading to issues like transmission slipping. You can use an OBD2 scanner for trouble codes to help you figure out which solenoid to replace.
Problems with the Torque Converter
The torque converter converts the engine’s power so it is torque, which is the form of power that the transmission can use. Over time, the torque converter can wear down. When functioning properly, fluid will flow through your torque converter. If the fluid does not flow properly, the transmission can misbehave in a variety of ways, including slipping.
Damage to Transmission Bands
It is also very possible for your transmission bands to become broken or worn over time, leading to the transmission slipping. The bands are responsible for connecting your automatic transmission’s gears together. You can overcome this cause by replacing or adjusting the defective band(s).
In Manuals: Grinding Gears When Shifting
If the manual transmission grinds as you shift gears, this usually indicates the clutch is not releasing, the transmission’s shift synchronizer rings are broken or worn, there is an adjustment problem, transmission fluid is low, or the shifter is worn.
In Manuals: Clutch Pedal Grabbing High or Low
Your clutch pedal engaging extremely high or low in your manual can also be transmission-related. Grabbing high may be due to worn pressure plates, worn clutch discs, or adjustments. Grabbing low is usually due to the hydraulic or linkage system experiencing problems.
Can You Drive with a Transmission Slipping?
It is not smart or safe to drive with a slipping transmission. Similarly, you should not drive the car at any point that the transmission does not work properly; this could lead to the auto unexpectedly changing gears as you drive. You would also likely notice acceleration problems.
Transmission Slipping Fix – How to Fix a Slipping Transmission
In the case of transmission slipping due to minor problems, such as low fluid levels, ineffective or burnt fluid, or a leak in the transmission, you may be able to fix the problem yourself. Most people should be able to check the fluid themselves and many will feel comfortable changing it as well. You would likely want help from a mechanic to fix a transmission leak.
The fix becomes significantly more complicated with the other causes. If you need to adjust or replace your clutch, adjust or replace the bands, or replace the gears, you are in for a bigger repair. In this case, you will likely need to dismantle the transmission to resolve the issue. It should come as no surprise that this is not something that a novice should take on. As such, you should expect to pay a mechanic to inspect and repair the transmission.
The key here is that the solution will depend on the cause of your slipping transmission.
From Low Fluid Levels
If the problem was due to low fluid levels, check the fluid levels and top them off if necessary. Ideally, you should check the levels at least monthly. This is a very quick-fix slipping transmission solution.
From Worn out or Burnt Fluid
In this case, you need to drain and change the fluid. This is a bit messy and requires some mechanical knowledge, although many home mechanics can do it themselves.
From Fluid Leaks
This type of problem requires finding the source of the leak and fixing it.
Transmission Slipping Prevention – How to Stop Transmission from Slipping
The best way to prevent your transmission from slipping is to stay on top of regular maintenance. At the very least, follow the transmission maintenance outlined in your owner’s manual. Ideally, you should regularly check your transmission fluid. You may also want to make sure that you flush it and install a new filter every 30,000 miles, although the recommended interval for this maintenance depends on your auto.
Are Repairs the Only Option? Consider Selling Your Car
Depending on the severity of your transmission slipping problems and their causes, you may find that it is impractical to make the necessary repairs. Sometimes, they will be very expensive, especially if the transmission needs to be disassembled and assessed. In this case, you may have to deal with a situation where:
- You cannot afford the repairs
- Your vehicle is worth less than the cost of repairs
- You do not want to pay that much for repairs on an aging car
- You do not want to pay that much for repairs on a car you were planning to replace
No matter the reasons that you do not want to proceed with repairs on your car, there are still other options available. The best choice in this scenario will likely be to sell your car.
You could try to find a private buyer who wants to buy your car with its transmission slipping, but they would likely want a discount for the price of the expected repairs. This would go against the point of selling the car instead of making the repairs in the first place.
You could also try junking the car and bringing it to a scrapyard. However, these junk yards are notorious for giving poor prices and only valuing the car based on the weight of the metal, regardless of how many functional and reusable components it has. You would also have to get the car to the scrap yard.
We Will Buy Your Car – Even with a Transmission Slipping
The easiest option will likely be to sell us your car. We buy cars in any condition, even with slipping transmissions. We always offer a fair price for your car and are up front with the quotes. Once you agree to our offer, we will come pick up your vehicle quickly; this way, you do not have to keep storing a useless car in your driveway. Our efficiency also ensures you get the money for your car quickly, giving you the chance to figure out your next mode of transport.
Contact our team or fill out the form for an online quote. We will offer a fair price for your car based on its make, model, year, and condition. Once you accept our offer, we arrange to pick up your auto and give you cash in exchange for it, without hidden fees.