How to Spot Transmission Damage Early and Prevent Costly Repairs

Let’s face it, transmission repairs can be costly and time-consuming. The earlier you catch signs of transmission damage, the better off you’ll be once you make it to a mechanic for repairs. Typically major problems don’t happen all at once and will instead gradually grow into more noticeable issues. Once you know you’re dealing with damage in your car’s transmission, taking steps to prevent further wear and tear — and finding the right mechanic — will help both you and your vehicle in the long run.

How Your Car’s Transmission Works

To understand what signs may indicate a transmission problem, it helps to know what the transmission does and how it works. Whether you drive a manual or an automatic transmission, this system is responsible for facilitating each gear shift and sending adequate torque out to the drive wheels via the drivetrain. In a manual transmission vehicle, you’ll also have to look for clutch problems.

When it’s time for your car to shift gears, a combination of mechanical parts and hydraulic pressure from transmission fluid will help engage the new gear — and keep it engaged. In an automatic transmission vehicle, this is triggered by sensors that detect and communicate when a gear shift is necessary. In a manual transmission vehicle, the driver is responsible for initiating each gear shift using the clutch pedal to disengage the transmission.

Look Out for Signs There May Be Transmission Damage

Wear and tear in your car’s transmission can show up in a few key ways, from changes in drivability or performance to new sounds and smells. Often, these symptoms can be confused with problems in other systems of your vehicle, so pay close attention to timing, frequency, and other conditions around signs you notice.

Changes in How Your Car Shifts Gears

Each gear shift should feel smooth and easy. If it’s more difficult than usual to shift between certain gears, it could be an indication you’re due for a transmission service. Over time, it will likely become even more difficult or impossible to shift gears — and one of the first places this can happen is between Drive and Reverse. In a manual transmission, you’ll most likely notice trouble shifting in and out of First Gear as an early sign of clutch or transmission wear.

Hesitation or Jerking While Driving

You’re cruising along and suddenly feel hesitation or a jerking sensation from your car. On one hand, it could indicate an engine misfire — on the other hand, it may be a sign of transmission damage. More specifically, it could be a slipping transmission, which could be due to inadequate transmission fluid, worn gears, a faulty solenoid, or a number of other transmission problems.

Grinding, Gurgling, or Whining Sounds

One common sign of a worn or damaged transmission is strange sounds, including grinding, gurgling, or whining. If you’re overdue for a transmission fluid service, you may notice gurgling, which happens due to excess air in the system when fluid levels are too low. Grinding or whining sounds often point to a more mechanical problem, though they can mean one of a number of repairs or services are needed.

A Burning Smell While Driving

Any time you smell burning while driving, it points to one or more systems in your car overheating. Depending on timing, you can get an idea of whether you’re dealing with overheating brakes, engine, or transmission. If you smell burning alongside any difficulty shifting gears or other changes in your car’s performance, it’s time to get to a mechanic to help prevent more serious damage.

What You Can Do When You Notice Signs of Transmission Trouble

The simplest answer when you’re dealing with signs of transmission damage: is don’t ignore them. Whether you need fresh transmission fluid or have worn parts in your car’s transmission, you risk further damage the more you continue driving. You can try doing some at-home checks, but it’s always best to have a mechanic inspect your vehicle when there are changes in performance.

Check the Transmission Fluid Level and Condition

Just like engine oil, most vehicles now make it easy to check the level and condition of transmission fluid using a dipstick under the hood of your car. Consult your owner’s manual if you have trouble locating the right dipstick in your vehicle — and if you notice fluid that’s too low or dirty, it’s a clear indication it could be contributing to your car’s problems.

Avoid Driving More Than Necessary — And Head to a Mechanic

Whether or not bad transmission fluid is part of your car’s issues, the most important steps to take are avoiding driving and getting your car to a mechanic. The more you drive with damage in any essential system, the more you risk causing failure of that part or system. Instead, get your car to a mechanic as soon as possible so the problem can be diagnosed and repaired.

AAMCO Louisville Mechanics are Your Best Choice for Any Transmission Repair

Time for a transmission service or repair? No matter what your car needs, the expert mechanics at your local AAMCO Louisville auto shop are here to help. Staying proactive about your car’s care helps save you money, extend the life of your vehicle, and give you peace of mind. Give us a call today or easily schedule your appointment online.

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