Any Mechanic will agree: your transmission is one of your vehicle’s most complex and essential systems. Beyond the choice between an automatic or manual transmission, it’s also something many drivers are unfamiliar with. Let’s take a look at what your transmission does, how to recognize when it isn’t functioning properly, and what to do about it.
What Does Your Transmission Do?
While most people assume the engine is responsible for making their car move, it’s only part of the equation. Your engine generates rotational power and must spin at a precise speed to perform efficiently and avoid damage. However, to get the car moving forward or backward, rotational power needs to be transferred to the wheels. While your drivetrain is responsible for delivering power from your engine to the wheels, your transmission operates like a switchboard by controlling the amount of power that is transferred.
In lower gears, like when you’re first accelerating or going uphill, your transmission multiplies this power to push the car forward. In higher gears, like when you’re cruising on the highway, breaking, or going downhill, this power is decreased.
As the name suggests, an automatic transmission does all of this, without the driver shifting gears manually. While an automatic transmission can help your car drive more efficiently, and significantly lower the risk of damage caused by improper shifting, all transmissions do wear over time. Thankfully, with a bit of knowledge, you can recognize any problems early and avoid a full transmission repair.
Symptoms of a Damaged Transmission
You know your car best and how it should drive. Any odd sounds or smells should always be carefully evaluated since they could indicate a problem with your car’s transmission. Below we’ll look at the most common symptoms of a damaged or worn transmission and what to do about them.
A Slipping Transmission
As you drive, your gears should switch seamlessly, and you shouldn’t notice much when they do. When you experience transmission slipping, you’ll notice that your car shifts gears unexpectedly, and your engine will likely be running at an excessively high rpm. This could also feel a lot like there’s a lack power when you press the gas.
First and foremost, if your transmission is slipping, your car is not safe nor reliable enough to drive. You should call your local Mechanic immediately to identify and fix the issue.
Transmission slipping can occur if your transmission fluid is too low or scheduled maintenance is ignored. Transmissions are complex systems that need to be checked and maintained regularly to avoid wear. When one part isn’t operating efficiently, it places excessive strain on the other components and will undoubtedly lead to extensive repairs.
Slow Gear Shifting
If it’s taking longer than usual to get into gear, you could have a transmission fluid leak on your hands. Your transmission fluid is crucial, and this should not be ignored. Transmission fluid functions as an oil and hydraulic fluid that helps simultaneously shift gears, cool the transmission, and lubricate moving parts. Needless to say, it’s very important.
With a lack of transmission fluid, the vehicle can overheat and quickly damage other parts of the system. It’s one of the easier things to fix when it comes to your transmission and will avoid more expensive repairs down the line.
Transmission Won’t Stay in Gear
If you put the car into drive (or gear), and it doesn’t move, you likely have an issue with your transmission. To ensure your transmission doesn’t get damaged, it’s important to maintain it on schedule. Doing so is the easiest way for your technician to check fluid levels and clean out the dirt that could damage the transmission.
If you’re driving and you smell burning, it’s a cause for concern. If your engine is not running hot and nothing else is noticeably wrong, your transmission fluid may be overheating. If your transmission fluid is overheating, your car will behave similarly as if fluid levels were low. That’s because parts are not being lubricated adequately, which increases friction and heat.
Stop driving immediately and call your local Mechanic. If it’s not repaired, your transmission will continue to damage itself and eventually seize up. A seized transmission is one of the most severe vehicle repairs and something you want to avoid at all costs.
Transmission fluid is easy to recognize. It’s red and will be located under your vehicle if it’s left in park overnight. It’s not as easy to know which part of your transmission the fluid is leaking from, though. It could be coming from a gasket, a cooler line, or a seal. In any case, this needs to be fixed immediately. As we stated above, low transmission fluid levels can be detrimental for the entire system. Leaking fluid can also directly drip onto hot pipes and damage them over time, leading to issues in initially unaffected areas.
Check Engine Light Is On
If your check engine light is on, it doesn’t necessarily mean there’s something wrong with your engine. It does mean you should contact your local Mechanic to find out what the issue is immediately! You see, a check engine light is used alert you of any number of issues with your car, including transmission problems.
A Buzzing or Humming Noise
It’s normal for your car to make noises while you drive. Again, you know your car best! Any sound that’s out of the ordinary isn’t good and should be inspected.
If you hear a clicking, buzzing, or humming sound, it is likely coming from your transmission. This could be happening because of damaged gears, a bad bearing, or low transmission fluid.
Like your check engine light, this noise is alerting you that something is wrong. Stop driving and contact your local Mechanic to find the source of the issue and perform any necessary transmission repairs.
Things to Consider
If you do require a full transmission replacement, you’ll have to decide the best way to proceed, and we can help you consider all options. Since your transmission is a critical part of your car, it can cost a lot to repair. If your car is older, it might not be worth it to repair, and it might be more cost-effective to replace the vehicle altogether.
While there are many different factors that impact the cost of your transmission repair, one thing is certain: proper maintenance saves you money. A properly maintained transmission will also help ensure that damage doesn’t get severe and that your transmission doesn’t completely fail or seize up.
If you suspect there’s anything wrong with your transmission, don’t wait! Contact your local Mechanic to schedule an appointment or discuss any questions you may have.