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What Causes An Automatic Transmission To Fail? You Might Have To Pay Upwards of $3,400! 

What Causes An Automatic Transmission To Fail? You Might Have To Pay Upwards of $3,400! 

When asking yourself what causes an automatic transmission to fail, you need to keep in mind the main signs and symptoms that can explain why this mechanism is not working properly in your car. After all, the transmission and engine are arguably the two most important internal components in a vehicle. 

Auto Repairs Are EXPENSIVE


There are various reasons why you could be experiencing transmission problems. However, some main signs and symptoms give drivers and mechanics a clear idea of what causes an automatic transmission to fail. 


It’s time to find out the most concerning issues in your car that can cause transmission failure and the total replacement cost you can expect to pay. Unfortunately for drivers, transmission repairs are some of the most expensive in a vehicle! Let’s see what can cause the transmission concerns and how much you will have to spend depending on the specific repair. 

Low Fluid Levels – What Causes an Automatic Transmission To Fail

If you have an automatic transmission and notice that the transmission is slipping while driving, the most common cause of this issue is low transmission fluid. The transmission fluid is necessary to lubricate the parts and keep your car running correctly. 


If your transmission slips, this means that the car engine revs, but no power is transferred to the wheels to move the car. If the sleeping is caused by low transmission fluid, it will get worse as the transmission overheats and friction builds, leading to the rattle noise under the car. 

Delayed shifting

If you find that your transmission is missing gears or experiencing a huge delay in shifting, you might have a low transmission fluid condition. This low fluid condition is typically due to a leak or contamination as a result of water or other debris-filled liquid entering the area it is not supposed to. 


During flooding or inclement weather, you may find that water has entered the transmission, leading to friction, overheating, and damage to other internal parts. If this occurs, you have the answer to your question of “what causes an automatic transmission to fail?”

High engine revving

When you press down on the gas pedal, the engine should rev according to how much pressure you place on the pedal. However, if you find that the engine is revving high or the transmission is slipping, this could be a severe issue caused by low transmission fluid, fluid contamination, or internal wear and tear over time. 

Leaking transmission fluid

Another potential answer to “what causes an automatic transmission to fail” is red fluid pooling under your vehicle, signaling that you have a transmission fluid leak from one of the fuel lines, coolant lines, head gasket, or transmission seal. Not only will this harm the transmission further, but it is also dangerous for the driver and passengers if the fluid comes in contact with a hot surface. 

Loud noises from under the hood

No driver wants to hear loud noises coming from their car – especially not loud buzzing, clunking, or humming noises from inside the transmission. Since the transmission is one of the most expensive parts to repair or replace in your car, any loud noises coming from the mechanism indicate something is wrong and require a hefty repair fix. 

Damaged Transmission Control Module – What Causes an Automatic Transmission To Fail

While trying to answer the elusive question of what causes an automatic transmission to fail, the transmission control module is a key suspect. The transmission control module is in charge of shifting, changing gears, and the acceleration and performance qualities of hte engine. Aside from the transmission control module’s main responsibility, this part also has other functions that are crucial to the performance, longevity, and durability of your vehicle.


First, the transmission control module sends OBD-II codes that show your car’s problems to the computer. If your car happens to detect any malfunction in the transmission, the transmission control module can send the codes. The trouble codes can appear in various forms, like the check engine light coming on or other signs that alert you that something will not be right under the hood. 


When asking yourself what causes automatic transmissions to fail, the transmission control module should be at the top of everyone’s list. 

Unpredictable Shifting

Along with the check engine light coming on in your vehicle, there can be unpredictable and erratic shifting in your car while you ask yourself what causes an automatic transmission to fail. Since the automatic transmission relies on the transmission control module to shift properly, a bad transmission control module can cause incorrect and unintended shifting. 


Unless you have a manual override option in your car, you will need to go to a mechanic or an auto body shop to have the transmission control module replaced and fix your car before it hurts your engine. If you notice that your engine is also suffering in your vehicle, this can answer the question of “what causes an automatic transmission to fail?”

Car Stuck in the Same Gear – What Causes An Automatic Transmission To Fail

If your car cannot shift out of first gear and know that your transmission control module is bad, your car will stick in neutral or first gear. This means that the transmission will not shift and you will not be able to move the car anywhere. If you find that your car is unable to drive or move anywhere, this can answer the question of “what causes an automatic transmission to fail?”


There are many reasons why it may be difficult or hard to shift gears, whether in automatic or manual transmission.  If you are having a hard time shifting gears in manual transmission, this could be due to your transmission stuck in a particular gear. 


Your transmission getting stuck in gear could be due to a low oil level, problems with the gear linkage, internal component malfunctions, worn-out drive gear teeth, a stuck shift rail, or a misaligned transmission. 

Reduced Fuel Economy

If you experience your transmission system problems, this can result from low fuel economy and poor fuel mileage. An automatic transmission is designated for quick and smooth gear selection and timing, providing you with the best possible fuel economy and the most efficient gas mileage. 


If you have a transmission control module that has gone bad or is damaged, this can affect the timing. Your engine will have to overheat and work harder than usual to give the same amount of performance. This can cause you to spend more fuel than usual, more money filling your tank, and answer the question “what causes an automatic transmission to fail?”

Car Has No Power – Causes an Automatic Transmission To Fail

Every driver has that nightmare about sitting in their car, late for a meeting, and turning the key to see that nothing happens. If you find that your car has no power and the engine is running correctly, the problem spurs from the transmission system. Along with a faulty transmission, you might have issues with faulty brake calipers, damaged brake hoses, and electrical concerns.


If you find that your electrical and computer system is not working properly, it could be traced back to a trouble code that was found to protect the engine’s longevity. In this case, you need your car to be checked for trouble codes to answer “what causes an automatic transmission to fail?”

Transmission Repair

The transmission replacement is one of the most extensive and expensive replacements and jobs. The average cost of the transmission replacement typically ranges from around $1,800 to $3,400 for most cars. If you decide to save some money, a used transmission ranges from about $800 to $1,500, while a rebuilt transmission charges between $1,100 to $2,800, and a remanufactured option runs between $1,300 and $1,300. 


If your car is old, you might expect to pay a different amount than if your car is new. An older car might have more issues and require a higher replacement or repair cost. The car will also have been through more wear and tear, leading to a more extensive repair job. 

Issues Related to Transmission Repair 

Along with the replacement or repair of your transmission, some other faulty parts could be directly related to this issue. The air conditioning refrigerant line replacement runs between $561 and $591, and the alternator replacement runs between $572 and $760. 


The last three repairs for the car that are related to the transmission control module replacement are the camshaft seal replacement for between $368 and $477, the variable valve timing actuator replacement for around $806 and $967, and the sliding door lock actuator replacement between $260 and $283. As you can see, transmission problems can range in severity, meaning you should check with a mechanic before forking over thousands of dollars! 

The Bottom Line

Figuring out the most obvious signs and symptoms of transmission trouble can help give you an answer to “what causes an automatic transmission to fail?” If you want to save thousands of dollars on transmission repairs and potential replacements, keep an eye and ear out for hard shifting, inability to shift, and a slipping transmission!