7 Signs of a Bad Transmission

Published on

January 29, 2024

Technician working underneath the car to repair a bad transmission

When you put your car in drive and your foot down on the gas pedal, you expect the wheels to start turning and your vehicle to start moving. There's one key component under the hood of your vehicle that plays a major role in this - the transmission - and if it's not working properly, it's going to affect how your car runs.

In this post, we'll cover the importance of your vehicle’s transmission, signs your transmission needs to be serviced, and more. Read on to learn more or contact your local GreatWater 360 Auto Care affiliated service center today to get back on the road quickly.

What is a Transmission System

Your vehicle’s transmission essentially takes the power generated by the engine and - via a system of gears - transfers it to the wheels to move the vehicle. The transmission is what allows the vehicle to move in a controlled fashion.

Today most vehicles have an automatic transmission, which smoothly changes gears automatically as you drive your vehicle based on driving conditions and how you're pushing the accelerator pedal. Though less common, manual transmissions are often found in classic cars or older cars and are still preferred by many automotive enthusiasts. Unlike an automatic transmission, drivers who operate vehicles with manual transmissions shift gears themselves.

Signs of a Bad Transmission

With proper maintenance, transmissions can last for the life of your vehicle. But let's take a look at some of the signs and symptoms that are likely indicative of a transmission in need of service:

Check Engine Light

Pay attention to any lights that pop up on your dashboard, especially if it's the "check engine light." It's common for a faulty transmission - notably problems with a speed sensor, solenoid, or even gear slippage - to trigger this light. Contact your local GreatWater 360 Auto Care-affiliated location if your engine light is on for a thorough diagnostic check.

Trouble Switching Gears

Perhaps the most obvious sign of a transmission in decline is noticeable issues while switching gears. Be on the lookout for a noticeable delay when shifting, strange noises, and erratic shifting.

Burning Smell

If you're catching a burning smell coming from under the hood of your vehicle, the source could be one of several components, including your transmission, especially if it's leaking fluid or overheating.

Slipping Gears

Engine humming but you're not going anywhere? Or not going anywhere near as fast as you should be? Your transmission may be slipping gears. Check your dashboard to view your RPMs. If the needle is moving up, but the speed of your vehicle isn't, it’s time to have the transmission serviced.

Clunking, Grinding, or Humming Noises

Strange noises coming from under the hood of your vehicle are never a good thing. If they're coming from a component as important as the transmission, it's especially problematic. Keep an ear out for any odd noises and see if you can pinpoint when they're occurring to help further diagnose the issue. For instance, do they make the sound when you push the gas pedal?

No Response or Slow Response

Do you find yourself pushing down the gas pedal, the engine revving, and the transmission just won't shift into gear quickly? A slow response or no response at all is a sign of transmission problems that need to be addressed.

Fluids are Leaking

Similar to how engines rely on engine oil for effective, efficient operation, transmissions rely on transmission fluid. This fluid is reddish-brown and can leak from one of several places. If you notice a leak under your vehicle, have it serviced immediately. Low or depleted transmission fluid can lead to a series of problems, including total transmission failure.

Common Transmission Issues

Most transmission problems are either the result of old age, failure to properly maintain the transmission, or poor driving habits.

The best thing you can do for your vehicle's transmission is to ensure it's regularly maintained. This includes flushing or changing the transmission fluid per your vehicle manufacturer's recommendations. Failure to do so could cause debris to build up in your system and lead to overheating, delays in shifting, and more issues.

Another good habit to keep your transmission in good working order is to not regularly drive an overloaded car. The excessive weight will put more wear and tear on the transmission and could lead to premature failure.

Rebuild or Replace?

If your transmission is beyond repair, your options are either rebuilding it or replacing it. Both have their share of pros and cons. Rebuilding is typically a more affordable option than replacing, but the process tends to take longer than if you were to replace it. Rebuilding essentially consists of removing the transmission, taking it apart, and fixing any issues.

Replacing a transmission tends to be more costly, but the major payoff is a brand-new transmission that's up to today's latest standards.

Contact your locally operated GreatWater service center to learn more about the pros and cons of rebuilding and replacing a transmission and what option is best for your situation.

When to Seek a Professional

If you're experiencing one or more of the issues we outlined in this post, make an appointment to have your vehicle's transmission serviced as soon as you can. If you have transmission issues, it's likely only a matter of time before they get worse - and if they continue to worsen, your vehicle may not be able to operate at all.

Contact GreatWater 360 Today

When you bring your vehicle to any GreatWater service center, you can rest assured that you'll receive the highest quality automotive service - whether it's a transmission problem or some other issue because we get the job done right the first time. Find your nearest GreatWater location today and schedule an appointment.