10 Most Common Transmission Problems
The transmission is a crucial component of a vehicle, as it serves to transfer power from the engine to the wheels. Consequently, if the transmission or any of its associated parts, such as sensors or computers, are not functioning properly, the vehicle will not be able to move. So if you ever found yourself in a situation where your car isn’t going into gear, it’s a telltale sign of a problem with the transmission.
There are two main types of transmissions in vehicles: automatic and manual. Manual transmissions are typically sealed units, so there is no need to check or add transmission fluid directly to the transmission, although regular fluid changes should be carried out as recommended by the manufacturer. On the other hand, fluid levels in automatic transmissions should be checked and changed as required.
In any case, transmission problems can manifest in a variety of ways, and these are the 10 most common:
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1. Transmission Leaks
The transmission, much like other vehicle components that hold liquids, can be susceptible to leaks. A lack of transmission fluid can lead to the transmission not functioning. Transmission fluid is necessary for lubrication and proper operation of the transmission. If you’ve ever noticed that your vehicle is able to drive forward but not in reverse, it’s likely an indication that the fluid is low. A transmission leak needs to be fixed, and it could be caused by a leaking pan gasket or front pump.
2. Bad Clutches
If you notice that your vehicle’s transmission is not responding as it should, it could be a sign of worn clutches. The clutch is made up of friction plates and steel plates, which can wear down over time, causing improper pressure on the planetary gears that determine the gear you are in. If the transmission fluid level is okay, but the transmission is slipping, it’s likely that you need to replace the clutch kit. When a transmission slips, the engine will rev up, but the vehicle will not respond accordingly.
If the transmission whines or clunks, have it looked at sooner rather than later. The problem could be in the torque converter or the “hard parts,” or planetary gears. Torque converters can be replaced, but if the hard parts are damaged, it’s time for a new transmission.
4. Shaking and Grinding
Grinding gears is a common issue with manual transmissions and is typically caused by a problem with the gears themselves. This issue can manifest as a grinding sound when shifting into gear. In most cases, the manual transmission clutch is the root cause of this problem and needs to be replaced. However, other possible culprits include worn synchronizer rings, a damaged or worn gear set, or a lack of lubrication.
5. The Car Won’t Go Into Gear
When your car is not going into gear, the first step is to check the transmission fluid level. Make sure it is at the correct level. If it’s not, add the necessary amount. If the level is correct, the issue may be related to the shift cable or the clutch linkage needing adjustment. It’s also possible that a computer or sensor malfunction could be the cause of this problem. In some instances, the “service engine soon” light may be illuminated, indicating that there is an issue that needs to be addressed. In such cases, it’s best to take the vehicle to a qualified technician who can read the diagnostic codes and determine the root cause of the problem.
6. Slipping and Popping Into and Out of Gear
If you notice that the transmission is slipping, but the fluid level is correct, or if the transmission is shifting in and out of gear, the issue may be related to a broken or worn link that holds the gears in place. This is a serious problem and should be addressed immediately, as it can pose a safety risk while driving. Therefore, it’s best to get a professional diagnosis to determine the exact cause if you ever feel the transmission popping in and out of gear.
7. Dragging Clutch
If you find that the clutch disk does not disengage from the flywheel when the clutch pedal is pressed, it’s likely that there is too much slack in the clutch pedal. This can cause the linkage to fail to pull the clutch disk away from the flywheel. This condition prevents the clutch from disengaging and makes it impossible to change gears. Fortunately, this is one of the least expensive repairs that can be made on a transmission. However, to avoid this kind of problem, it’s important to check the clutch pedal for proper adjustment and get the transmission checked during routine maintenance visits.
8. Burning Smell
A burning smell coming from your vehicle is a cause for concern and should be addressed immediately. The smell could be coming from a variety of sources, such as oil leaking onto the exhaust manifold, wire insulation burning on the manifold, or a transmission running hot. The transmission could be overheating due to a low fluid level or the use of the wrong type of transmission fluid.
9. Loose Clutch Pedal
If you press the clutch pedal and it seems unresponsive or feels excessively loose, it may be an indication of a problem with the slave cylinder. Manual transmissions use a master cylinder, which is where transmission fluid is added. If a master cylinder leaks and goes unchecked, it can cause damage to the slave cylinder or the transmission itself. The slave cylinder is responsible for disengaging the clutch when the clutch pedal is pressed. The pressure it uses is provided by the master cylinder. A failing slave cylinder can also manifest as difficulty shifting the vehicle into and out of gear (see problem number six).
10. Automatic Transmission Shudders and Problems Shifting
Automatic transmission shudders and problems shifting can be caused by a failing torque converter. This issue can manifest in a variety of ways, such as a “rattling” noise, difficulty shifting out of first gear, or uneven shifting. If the torque converter is found to be the cause of the problem, it will need to be replaced.
How to Prevent Transmission Problems
Like any mechanical component, the various parts of a transmission will experience wear and tear over time. However, regular maintenance can help to prolong the life of the transmission. One of the most important things you can do for your transmission is to have a transmission flush done at the intervals recommended by the manufacturer. This can be done at a shop or dealership, or you can do it yourself if you have the appropriate equipment and knowledge. Additionally, it’s important to use the proper type of transmission fluid for your vehicle when changing the fluid. Using the right fluid will help ensure that your transmission is properly lubricated and protected, and it will help to prevent potential issues.