Signs Your Transmission is Slipping
If your car’s automatic transmission is showing signs of slipping, then you should have it checked right away.
What might seem to be a minor annoyance can turn into a bigger, more expensive problem down the road. Transmission slipping does not always mean your transmission is going to fail, but it is a signal that maintenance is required. Because your car’s transmission is one of its most complicated systems, it is important to accurately diagnose the cause of the symptoms.
If your transmission is slipping, be aware of the signs.
There are some common signs that you can look for. Signs of slipping can appear in a number of forms when you are driving, or even sitting at idle. Signs include:
• Engine revs or chugs
• Slow, weak or delayed acceleration
• Difficulty shifting gears or hard shifting
• Grinding, whining or other strange noises
• Won’t go in reverse
• Burned or strange smells
• Check engine light
Common Causes of Transmission Slipping
There are a number of possible causes, but if you can find and fix the source of the problem quickly, you can prevent it from doing further damage to the transmission.
Low Fluid Level
An automatic transmission relies on hydraulic pressure provided by transmission fluid to perform gear changes. If there isn’t enough fluid in the system, the transmission pump won’t be able to create enough pressure to engage the next gear. Low fluid levels may indicate a leak and can lead to overheating, and significant internal damage.
What to do: Check the Fluid Level
Transmission Fluid Leak
As we just explained, an automatic transmission requires hydraulic pressure to change gears. If yours is leaking, chances are there isn’t enough fluid to shift gears without difficulty.
Sometimes, the problem can be as simple as a bad transmission pan gasket, but it can also be faulty seals, ruptured fluid lines, a leak in the pan or a crack in the torque converter. Check the fluid level and look at the underside of your car around the pan and on your drive for any sign of a leak.
What to do: Seal Leaks With Lucas Fluid
Burnt/Worn Out Fluid
Over time, the composition of fluid breaks down, causing it to become thinner, darker and full of contaminants. If it is too thin or burnt it will be ineffective at removing heat from the transmission and won’t be able to keep the bands and clutches properly cooled. This will cause it to overheat, preventing it from shifting gears in a normal manner.
What to do: Change the Fluid
4) Broken or Worn Out Transmission Bands
In an automatic vehicle, metal bands are used to link the gears together. If one of these transmission bands is worn or broken (often caused by overheating), that particular gear won’t be able to engage properly, causing it to ‘slip’.
What to do: Replace or adjust the band(s)
The clutch is the cause of slipping in manual transmissions 90% of the time (the other 10% can be attributed to leaks). A clutch disc typically lasts from 20,000 to 200,000 miles depending on your driving habits.
The clutch uses friction material (like a brake pad) to grab onto the engine flywheel and basically separate the engine from the transmission during a gear change. If the friction material or throw-out bearing (the metal bit that moves the clutch when you step on the pedal) is worn, you won’t be able to fully engage the clutch and shift gears.
What to do: Replace the clutch
An automatic vehicle uses clutch plates inside both the transmission and the torque converter to engage the various gears. If the friction material on the plates is burnt or wears down, it might not be able to go into gear or smoothly shift gears and it may slip out of gear too.
What to do: Change the fluid and replace plates
How Do You Know When the Transmission Fluid Needs to Be Changed?
Wipe the dipstick with a clean rag or paper towel. Then look at the color of the transmission fluid.
• If it’s bright pink-the fluid is new. No need to change it.
• If it’s light brown with a hint of pink-It needs to be replaced.
• If it hasn’t been changed in a long time-it will be very dark brown. And, it may have metal particles floating about. This indicates transmission damage.
If your vehicle has lifetime transmission fluid, still check it around 100,000 miles. You want to make sure the vent tubes that allow pressure in your transmission to equalize isn’t allowing in dust and moisture, too.
Should You Flush or Simply Change the Transmission Fluid?
Again, let your owner’s manual be your guide! It will tell you which is recommended for your car, truck, or SUV.
For changing the fluid-Open the transmission drain (it’s on the underside of the car). About 50% of the fluid will drain into the pan. The other half stays in the torque converter as well as other parts of the transmission.
Flushing your transmission-This method allows you to completely change all of the fluid. Attach a transmission hose to the input of the line running through the transmission. Attach another to the output.
By pumping new transmission fluid into the transmission pushes out the old fluid. We caution that this method is only recommended if the current transmission fluid is in relatively good condition, showing no signs of damage.