By paying attention to the sounds that your car is making and the way it feels as you drive, you can detect the early signs of a transmission problem. Getting your car into a transmission shop at the first sign of an issue may prevent a larger problem from happening, requiring major service or a transmission replacement. Here are some of the typical signs that it's time to have your transmission inspected.
1. The transmission hesitates when shifting gears.
The car should move smoothly between gears so you barely feel the transition. If you hear the engine speed up slightly or feel the car jerk slightly when the gears change, there is a problem. It could be as simple as a low transmission fluid level.
2. The transmission makes a metallic clunking sound when shifting gears.
The components in the transmission are spinning rapidly and must be precisely aligned when shifting gears. If there is an issue with the alignment, the metal gears will bang against each other as they try to connect. If you ignore this sound, one or more gears may eventually break, creating an expensive transmission rebuild or replacement.
3. The car doesn't stay in one gear.
When driving on level roads, the car should stay in one gear. If you feel the car shifting in and out of gears, there is a problem. The mechanism that keeps the gears together could be failing or the computer module that controls shifting could be faulty.
4. The transmission makes noise when the car is in "Park" or "Neutral".
When your car is just sitting and idling in "Park" or "Neutral", there should be few moving components in the transmission. If you hear grinding or a "whirring" sound from the transmission, there may be loose or worn parts. If these parts fail when driving at high speeds, the transmission can have major damage needing costly repairs.
5. Transmission fluid leaks.
If you spot a puddle of reddish brown fluid under your car, you may have a transmission fluid leak. This fluid keeps the metal components lubricated and prevents the transmission from getting too hot. If too much fluid leaks out of the transmission, it can overheat and fail. The problem can be as simple as a worn rubber gasket or the sign of a cracked transmission casing. Get your car in quickly when you suspect a transmission fluid leak.
6. There is a smell of burnt fluid after the car has been driven for a few minutes.
When the fluid level gets low enough in the transmission, the remaining fluid can't keep it cool. The transmission begins to overheat and burns the fluid creating the acrid smell. The fix may simply be replacing the fluid with fresh fluid and topping it off, so get your car into the shop when you begin to smell the hot fluid.