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Common Symptoms of Transmission Problems


Your transmission is one of the most integral parts of your vehicle. It is located deep within your car and is attached to many different parts of your vehicle. If you hear strange noises coming from your car, or feel gears slipping or clunking, you may suspect you have transmission problems. But when is it really time to come to a mechanic, and when might you really be looking at issues with the transmission? Learning to recognize these common symptoms of transmission problems can keep you out of trouble, as long as you take your car in right away.

Common Symptoms of Transmission Problems [infographic]

Whining, Clunking, and Strange Noises

This may be one of the most common and obvious signs of transmission problems. Unfortunately, it is also one of the most often overlooked. But strange noises coming from your car are like strange pains in your body. They could be nothing, but they could also be symptoms of a much worse problem that you want to catch early. Your car shouldn’t be making any noises other than the hum of the engine. So if you’re hearing other noises, it’s time to bring it in.

Common noises coming from a transmission might be a buzzing or a humming sound. Whining is another noise that could indicate damage, typically due to a transmission fluid leak. If you hear or feel clunking coming from your transmission you may be dealing with some serious damage. It can often be hard to pinpoint the source of a strange car noise. If you hear any unusual noises coming from your car, it’s best to bring it to a licensed mechanic for a diagnosis.

Slow Response Time

If your transmission is working properly, it should change gears as soon as you move the gearshift. If the gears are taking time to change after you’ve moved the gearshift, you could have transmission problems.

Burning Smell

When you notice a burning smell coming from your car, your first response may be panic. But take a deep breath. There are many reasons you may smell burning, and they range in how serious they are. You may smell burning fluids. For instance, if an oil leak is dripping oil onto a hot part of your engine or exhaust system, the oil will burn. The would give off that telltale burning smell. Another burning smell may come from belts that are wearing thin. In this case, you might be smelling burning rubber.

There are many other parts of your car that could create a burning smell as well. While a burning smell is not necessarily the harbinger of terrible car troubles, it is not indicative of a properly functioning vehicle. If you smell burning, it is best to get to a licensed mechanic as soon as possible to avoid any further damage.

Fluid Leaks

This is one of the easiest symptoms to spot and pinpoint. You may notice leaking fluid if you see it dripping from your car, or you may notice fluid stains on the floor of your garage or in your driveway. In some cases, an indicator light may illuminate on your dashboard, telling you that a fluid is getting low.

If your car is leaking fluid, there is a relatively easy way to pinpoint the location of the leak. When your car is parked, place several pieces of cardboard under the car. Come back in the morning and check the cardboard. Looking at which piece is stained and where the stain is should give you a pretty good idea of where the leak is.

One word of caution about pinpointing a fluid leak. Leaking fluids can sometimes stick to parts of your car and flow downward to a lower point before dripping off onto the ground. While the cardboard test can be helpful, it is not necessarily conclusive. However, it is a good piece of information to share with your mechanic. And you should definitely be seeing a mechanic. Low fluid levels can cause serious damage to your car if left untreated.

Grinding Gears

This symptom shows up differently in automatic and manual transmissions. In a manual transmission vehicle you will hear or even feel grinding when changing gears. This could mean you need a new clutch, or it could indicate more serious damage to the transmission. In an automatic transmission vehicle, the grinding will be noticeable as the car changes gears during acceleration. An automatic transmission should shift from lower to higher gears smoothly as you accelerate. If there is bumping, grinding, or any unevenness to the shift, you need to bring your car in to have it checked.

Making Noises While in Neutral

Generally, when your car is in neutral your transmission should be pretty quiet. The hum of the motor should be all you hear. Sometimes, though, you may hear a bumping sound even when the car is in neutral. Don’t panic. It’s possible that all the car needs is to have the transmission fluid replaced. However, if the bumping continues, it’s time to bring your car in for a diagnostic check.

Warning Lights on the Dashboard

Modern cars have all kinds of warning lights embedded in the dashboard. Some may be more serious than others. An alert that your windshield wiper fluid is low can probably be ignored until the most convenient time for you to replace the fluid. A low oil light, on the other hand, shouldn’t ever be ignored. Driving even a few hundred yards without enough oil can destroy an engine beyond repair. But knowing which lights to be concerned about can be tricky.

One common light to illuminate is the “SERVICE ENGINE SOON” or “CHECK ENGINE” light. Don’t ignore this one. There are sensors all over your car that are reporting back to your car’s central computer with information about your car’s condition. If one of those sensors picks up an anomaly you want to know about it.

The “CHECK ENGINE” light can be triggered be dozens of different sensors that are attached to all parts of your drivetrain and transmission. The first thing a technician will do is hook up to your vehicle’s main computer and get a readout of which code set off the light. But even when you know which sensor set off the light, pinpointing the issue can take some old fashioned mechanic work. When the “CHECK ENGINE” light comes on, it is best to get your vehicle to a mechanic as soon as possible.

Where to Go if You Suspect Transmission Problems

There are hundreds of mechanics large and small all across the Atlanta Metro Area and North Georgia. Knowing where to go can be tricky. And since many people don’t know much about their cars, it can be hard to tell if a mechanic is being honest with you. Luckily, TrustDALE has done the research for you. TrustDALE has reviewed the competition and can honestly recommended Atlanta area AAMCO Total Car Care centers for all your transmission and car care needs.

AAMCO Total Car Care is the largest transmission repair and service specialist in North America, with thousands of centers across the United States and Canada. They know what they are doing when it comes to transmissions. But don’t let their size scare you away. Every AAMCO center is run by human beings who will treat you like a human being, not just a number in a national chain.

When it comes to mechanics, there is always someone out there doing it cheaper. But cheaper doesn’t always mean better. AAMCO’s labor rates are competitive with other mechanics in the area. And when you use one of the TrustDALE certified AAMCO centers you can get up to a $100 discount off of their already low prices. Plus, when you go to one of the AAMCO centers listed on TrustDALE, they will double your warranty.

So if you suspect that you have trouble with your transmission or any other part of your car, don’t wait for the problem to grow. Come in to a local AAMCO center today!