Signs of a bad transmission

Ask the Mechanic

Automatic transmissions are intricate and designed to work trouble-free for the life of your car. Proper maintenance is essential to avoid repair or replacement. Try to look out for these signs to see if you may be on the road to a transmission repair.


Check engine light

Although check engine lights come on for many drivetrain or car-related issues, they can also warn of transmission problems. Possible transmission problems could be:

  • Overheating
  • Low fluid levels
  • Faulty sensors
  • Control unit failure

Although you can purchase an OBD II diagnostic reader to read the check engine code, it’s best to consult with an automotive technician.


Fluid leaks

If you don’t see a check engine light, that’s the first sign of a transmission nearing the end. To try and find fluid leaks, look beneath the car where you park. If your transmission is leaking fluid, you’ll see reddish-brown drops or dark spots on the ground. You can touch the dots to see the colour and try to ascertain the smell. Red liquid with a sweet odour is transmission fluid. If you find something else, it’s good to try and check all of your fluid levels and take your car to a technician for a check-up.


Hesitation before shifting

If your transmission lags before shifting, your car, truck or SUV isn’t kicking into gear right away. For example, you’re at a stop sign and you press your accelerator when it’s your turn to go but your vehicle doesn’t move right away. Transmission lag can also happen between the higher gears.


Revving without moving

If you are in gear and ready to accelerate and the engine revs and you don’t move, you have a transmission problem. Your transmission is unable to engage in gear. Your clutch could need a replacing, and the same holds for an automatic. A technician should check the clutch as soon as possible.


Slipping out of gear

Your transmission should shift into gear and stay until prompted by you or the computer to shift. If your transmission is slipping out of gear, there is a problem that could further damage your transmission. The issue could be with the car’s computer and not the transmission itself, but either way the transmission will suffer.


Nelson Xavier Ssenyange

Team Leader

Germax Autos, Spares & Garage Ltd

Lukade Road, Naalya



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