In 2017, households in the United States spent $9,737 on transportation alone. That spending included gas, insurance, auto upgrades, and local transportation (think cab, Uber, bus, train, etc.).
But a considerable amount, an average of $850 in 2016, went towards maintenance and repairs.
True, maintenance is key to making your ride last up to 200,000 miles, so you shouldn’t skimp on that. But many bigger car headaches, not only age but also engine-related, are preventable. And the longer you delay having them checked, the bigger and costlier they become.
Among these are ignoring signs your car needs transmission repair.
So, how do you tell your transmission needs TLC from a pro mechanic? Keep reading, as we’ve listed five symptoms to look out for!
1. A Blinking or Steadily-Lit Check Engine Light
Every year, the AAA responds to 12 million calls for help with engine and mechanical trouble. From that, they tow 600,000 vehicles because of a failed transmission.
Even if you don’t have a breakdown in the middle of nowhere, it can still happen, especially if you keep ignoring that lit warning light on your dash. The light can come on because of a loose gas cap, but it can also mean excessively-hot transmission fluid.
If it’s the latter, your transmission light will come on. It often means the fluid’s high temp forces the transmission to work in a hotter environment. Your car’s sensors picked up that abnormality, which is why the warning light engages.
If this happens while you’re driving, slow down to a complete stop and pop the hood. Check the engine coolant and transmission fluids. It’s possible they’ve almost run dry and you only need to top up.
If not, it’s best to get professional help. A continuously-lit or blinking warning light is one of the signs of a bad transmission. Have that checked right away. Otherwise, you’ll end up having worse transmission problems.
2. Leaking Transmission Pan
Have you seen pooled, red fluids on the spot you usually park? If so, you most likely have a leaking transmission fluid pan. Those leaks are another of the signs that yours is going bad and requires transmission repair.
There are other red car fluids, though, like for the windshield wiper and anti-freeze. They differ in consistency and odor, with transmission fluid being slick and oily. It also smells a bit like gasoline but can smell burnt if it’s time to change it.
Where exactly the leak is can also help you determine if it’s the transmission fluid. If it’s near the front or somewhere in the middle of your car, you’ve got a transmission fluid leak.
A slow-to-start transmission can arise from being low on transmission fluids. That can tell you if there’s a transmission fluid leak. If you can’t get your transmission to start at all, that likely means you’ve run out of transmission fluid.
Transmission fluid leaks are avoidable with proper vehicle maintenance. You should also change the transmission fluid after 30,000 miles, or at least every two years.
If you do have a leaking transmission fluid, have that repaired ASAP. Most leaks are pretty easy to resolve, and it’ll prevent bigger transmission repairs.
3. Burnt Smells
Speaking of transmission fluids, smelling something burning can signal an overheating transmission. This is one of the most obvious ways to tell if your transmission is bad.
As mentioned above, this fluid’s temperature can go super high to the point of smelling burnt. In this case, the fluid can no longer lubricate your transmission’s many components. It’ll also be unable to provide cooling, which can then burn up the transmission itself.
These smells often result from having an inadequate or dirty supply of transmission fluid. This can then point to a leak or a much-needed transmission fluid change.
It’s easy to check the state of your transmission fluid — you only need to look at the dipstick.
For a front-wheel drive, you’ll find this part sticking out your car’s transaxle. If you’ve got a rear-wheel drive, it should be near the in-line engine. To be sure, check your owner’s manual.
Before pulling out the dipstick, put your car in park or neutral mode and warm up your engine. The engine should still be running when you pull the dipstick out.
Check the color of the fluid. It should be almost clear and pink or light red. If it’s more brownish and has a burnt smell, that means you need to go for a transmission fluid change.
4. Dragging Clutch
Difficulty in shifting gears is also a common sign of a bad transmission. This is often accompanied by grinding noises. It happens when your clutch doesn’t release the clutch disk from the flywheel.
Even if you push the clutch pedal, you can’t switch gears because the clutch is still engaged. It’s still spinning with your ride’s engine — the reason for the grinding noises.
In most cases, a clutch pedal that has too much slack in it is the culprit behind the drag. Luckily, it’s not that expensive to repair. Your mechanic may only have to increase the leverage between the clutch disk and the pedal.
In automatic vehicles, a slipping transmission can prevent your car from accelerating. You’ll notice this as you step on the gas pedal and even hear the engine rev, without your car speeding up. Worn gears, lack of transmission fluid, or burnt clutch disks are often to blame.
What’s important is to get this issue checked out right away, or the clutch disk will wear out too early. If this happens, the mechanic would need to take apart the transmission, which will cost you a lot more.
5. Unusual Sounds
The grinding sounds we mentioned above usually takes place in manual transmission vehicles. Sometimes, though, you’ll feel more of a grinding rather than hear it when you shift gears. Both are signs you have issues, such as a worn clutch or gear, and need transmission repair.
Odd buzzing or humming are signs of bad transmission more common in automatic cars. Sometimes, you may even hear your car whine, which you should take as a sign to get transmission tuneup.
Early Transmission Repair Can Prevent Breakdowns
A car break-down isn’t only a costly inconvenience; it can also put you at road risk. If your transmission fails you while you’re on the road, you can get into a car accident. The last thing you want is to add to the yearly 2.35 million Americans who sustain injuries in such incidents.
So, be a responsible driver and don’t ignore these signs of transmission repair. Once you notice them, bring your ride to a mechanic ASAP.
Think you need transmission service in Colorado? If so, then please don’t hesitate to give us a call. We can help determine if you only need a transmission tuneup, a clutch replacement, or a full repair.