How To Know If Your Transmission Is Bad? (10 Symptoms)

How To Know If Your Transmission Is Bad

Do you know what the transmission symptoms or the transmission trouble signs are? Well, you are at the perfect place to find the answer to such a question.

You don’t need to know how the transmission works to understand that it is a vital part of your vehicle.  A faulty transmission can lead to inefficient driving. Over time, it may even result in the vehicle’s engine dying.

This is why it is so important that you learn to recognize when there are issues with your vehicle’s transmission.

Here are the most common transmission symptoms:

1.         Gear Switching Becomes An Issue

2.         Your Check Engine Light Comes On

3.         Gears Slip

4.         Grinding Noises When Your Vehicle Is In Neutral

5.         Transmission Fluid Leaks From Your Vehicle

6.         Burning Smell Coming From Vehicle

7.         Gears Grind Or The Vehicle Shakes When You Change Gears

8.         Clutch Drag

9.         Your Vehicle Suddenly Sounds Different

10.       Your Transmission Shifts Too Early (Automatic Only)

If you can spot the issue earlier, then you are much less likely to run into problems later on down the line.

On this page, we are going to walk you through how you can determine whether you have a bad transmission.

1. Gear Switching Becomes An Issue

One of the first signs that you will often have with a transmission issue comes with switching gears.

Many people with transmission issues notice that it becomes exceedingly difficult to switch between gears. It may almost feel as if the gears are stuck as you try to make the switch.

This means that you need to push a little bit harder to get the gears to change properly.

The problem is going to be quite minor at first. You may not even notice it happening. However, as time goes on, it becomes harder and harder to switch between gears.

Although, we are hoping that you would already have decided to take your vehicle in for a proper inspection a long time before this happens!

Read also > >Should I Change Transmission Fluid After 200k Miles (Best Tips!)

Read also >> Where Can I Recycle Transmission Fluid? (Best Tips!)

2. Your Check Engine Light Comes On

The check engine light can come on for a whole host of different reasons. Obviously, we cannot say that it is 100% your transmission that is causing the check engine light to come on. However, if you notice any one of the other 9 issues on this list, and you see that check engine light, then your vehicle is literally screaming out that the transmission has some issues.

Of course, even if your transmission doesn’t have any issues, it is still important that you do not ignore the check engine light.

That light only comes on when there is a serious problem. The longer you take to fix the problem, the more expensive that repair is going to get.

3. Gears Slip

This is where we start to slip into the world of incredibly dangerous.

If you have serious transmission issues, then you may notice that your vehicle’s gears slip while you are driving. For example, you could be driving merrily along in 4th gear, but then your gears slip, forcing you back into neutral/park.

Obviously, the last thing that you want is for your gears to slip like this. You wouldn’t believe how dangerous it can be to be traveling at an incredibly fast speed and suddenly hitting neutral.

You are almost certainly going to get into a car accident.

Once again, thankfully, this is a problem that seems to happen at the latter end of transmission problems. By this point, you should have hopefully taken your vehicle in for a proper service. 

4. Grinding Noises When Your Vehicle Is In Neutral

This is another issue that you may notice in the early days.

When your vehicle is switched to neutral, you may start to hear some grinding noises coming from your vehicle. In other cases, you may hear a few whirring noises here and there.

As with most of the issues on this page, those grinding issues are going to be pretty minor at the start. However, as your transmission problems start to become worse, the noise will become louder and louder.

Although, once again, hopefully, you would have taken your vehicle to be checked over by this point.

5. Transmission Fluid Leaks From Your Vehicle

Notice a sweet-smelling, red liquid under your vehicle? Most of the time, this is going to be transmission fluid. It is perhaps the biggest sign that you have a serious issue with your transmission box.

As you can probably imagine, your transmission should never leak fluid. It means something is broken inside. At this point, you are going to want to head to the garage as soon as possible.

Not only are you going to need to have your transmission fluid levels topped up, but the garage is also going to need to check what the problem is so that they can rectify it.

In most cases, a transmission leakage problem can be easily patched.

6. Burning Smell Coming From Vehicle

Notice a burning smell coming from the underside of your vehicle? Well, there are a variety of reasons that this can happen.

Not one of them is good. Trust us, a vehicle that is overheating has some serious issues.

One of the most common reasons for a burning smell coming from underneath the vehicle is because the transmission is overheating.

This problem needs to be dealt with immediately. Switch off your vehicle. Get in touch with a garage. If your transmission is overheating, then you run a huge risk of a fire, and a fire in a vehicle is never a good thing. Gas is quite explosive.

Even if a fire doesn’t occur, there is still the risk of serious damage happening to that transmission. It isn’t uncommon for people to completely ignore the problem, only to find themselves faced with a massive bill to replace the entirety of their transmission!

7. Gears Grind Or The Vehicle Shakes When You Change Gears

Hear a grinding sound when you change gears? Is your vehicle shaking? This is basically your vehicle telling you that you really need to have that transmission looked at.

The gears grinding and the vehicle shaking will often happen after you start noticing the loud noises happening when you are in neutral. 

If your gears are grinding, then stop driving that vehicle immediately. There is a good chance that the gears could start to wear down, and this is going to result in a rather hefty repair bill for you.

8. Clutch Drag

Clutch drag is when the engine is not fully disengaged when the pedal is pushed down. You may notice that there is a bit of looseness in the pedal, or the transmission doesn’t quite act in the way that you want it to act.

There are a variety of reasons why clutch drag can occur. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you have issues with the transmission. For example, clutch drag can be caused by a worn-out clutch cable.

Still, no matter what is causing that clutch drag, you are going to need to have it looked at. Clutch drag is going to make it incredibly difficult for you to change gears, and this has the potential to be very dangerous. 

9. Your Vehicle Suddenly Sounds Different

If your vehicle sounds different from what it normally sounds like, then you have issues.

The following sounds often happen when you are dealing with transmission issues:

  • Whirring
  • Humming
  • Grinding
  • Banging

Of course, it doesn’t always mean that your transmission is the culprit. You are going to need to head to the garage to check for sure.

No matter what is causing the change in sounds, we can guarantee you that it is not good.

10. Your Transmission Shifts Too Early (Automatic Only)

If you have an automatic vehicle and you have noticed that your transmission is shifting up and down far sooner (and sometimes later) than you think it should, then you probably have an issue with your transmission.

There could be a variety of reasons why this is occurring. In some cases, it may be because the gear system is struggling to switch over. In other cases, it may be because your vehicle isn’t recognizing soon enough that it is time to change gears.

Once again, the only way that you will be able to know for sure is if you take your vehicle to a mechanic to be looked over.

Remember, there is actually far less that can go wrong with the transmission on an automatic vehicle. For example, you have no clutch pedal, so you won’t have issues there.

The gear changes often are a little bit smoother too, which means that you don’t have to worry about somebody messing up your transmission because they switched gears in a bit of an abrupt manner.

Signs Your Transmission Has a Serious Problem >> Check out the video below.

Final Word 

A bad transmission can make it incredibly difficult to change gears. If you have difficulty changing gears, then it becomes very tricky to drive. There are a whole host of signs that your transmission is going bad. You may hear grinding.

You may notice that switching between your gears becomes difficult, or even impossible. In some cases, you may even notice that the transmission fluid starts to leak from your vehicle.

As soon as you start to spot signs that your transmission could potentially be bad, get yourself to a garage. The quicker you deal with the problem, the cheaper it will be. 



Jeff is an automotive technician, technical writer, and Managing Editor. He has held a lifelong passion for cars, with a particular interest in cars like the Buick Reatta. Jeff has been creating written and video content about transportation, automotive, electric cars, future vehicles as well as new, used for more than 18 years. Jeff is based in Boulder, Colorado.

Recent Posts

error: Content is protected !!