Your transmission is one of the most important components of your car, and it’s important to pay attention to the signs it gives you. Here are eight signals that you may need automatic or manual transmission repair:
1. Car won’t go into gear: Even though automatic transmissions outnumber manuals in the used car market 10 to one, there are still drivers who prefer switching gears themselves. If the transmission doesn’t move when you press the clutch pedal and move the stick shift, you may have a problem with your transmission fluid or shift cables. If transmissions hesitate or refuse to go when shifting from gear to gear or park to drive, it also means it’s time to consider car transmission repair.
2. Burning smell: If you can smell transmission fluid burning, it probably means your transmission is overheating. Since the fluid usually cools the transmission unit, this may be a sign that your transmission fluid is low or contaminated or may even have a leak. Fully 20% of vehicles have inadequate cooling protection; make sure your car isn’t one of them.
3. Transmission Noises: If you hear strange bumps or clunks while in neutral gear, the fix may be as simple as adding or replacing transmission fluid, or it may be as complex as replacing parts from mechanical wear. Often sounds can come from worn reverse idler gears, bearings, or gear teeth. Whining, humming or clunking can indicate transmission problem in an automatic car, especially clunks during gear shifts. However, problems this severe should be checked out professionally.
4. Slipping gears: If the car slips out of one gear and into another before you before you or your car’s computer indicate a change, it could cause loss of control on the road — and is therefore a definite sign to look into manual transmission repair.
5. Dragging clutch: The flipside of the previous problem, a clutch that fails to disengage from the flywheel can prevent drivers from shifting gears. Usually, this is caused by too much slack in the clutch pedal; it’s one of the easier manual transmission repairs.
6. Fluid leaks: Transmission fluid is vital to your car’s ability to shift, whether you drive an automatic or a manual, so if it’s leaking, your transmission has a problem. Automatic transmission fluid is usually clear, bright red and sweet-smelling. If it looks dark and burnt, it needs to be replaced. It doesn’t get used up like gas, so if you’re running low, you have a leak. Manual fluid problems often have to be checked on professionally.
7. Check engine light: This light comes on for many reasons, but it’s often an indicator of transmission problems. If you want to know for sure, you can buy a diagnostic tool that plugs into the instrument panel to identify what the light is indicating.
8. Shaking or grinding: If your manual car is grinding when you shift into a new gear or your automatic is shimmying instead of shifting smoothly, your transmission needs attention.
Engine and transmission repair costs are the highest auto repair costs in the U.S., so make sure to catch problems early to save yourself a costly fix later on.