Mechanical auto problems, as opposed to electrical auto problems, usually come with distinct sounds and sensations that help indicate that something isn’t functioning the way it was designed to in your import truck. Transmissions take a lot of use over the years, and after a while, they’re bound to start having some problems. Transmission repairs can be expensive, so it’s worthwhile to pay attention to anything that seems unusual.
Here are eight signs of transmission trouble you should watch out for:
Leaking transmission fluid is probably one of the easiest ways to identify that your transmission needs attention. Automatic transmission fluid is vital to your car’s shifting capabilities, so a little fluid on your driveway can quickly turn into a major problem. Automatic transmission fluid is bright red, clear, and a little sweet-smelling when everything’s working correctly. If the fluid isn’t there, or if it’s a dark color and has a burnt smell, you will need to replace the fluid or take it to a mechanic.
Unlike your car’s motor oil, the transmission doesn’t really consume or burn up any fluid during use, so if you notice you’re running low on fluid, then it’s definitely leaking out somewhere.
If you have a manual transmission, checking the fluid levels may not be as easy as simply lifting the hood and reading a dipstick. Manual transmission fluid has to be checked right at the transmission case — usually through the fill plug.
If you start to smell burning transmission fluid it may indicate that your transmission is overheating. Transmission fluid works to keep the moving parts of a transmission lubricated as well as keeps the unit from burning itself up by providing the necessary cooling.
Common causes include low or inadequate transmission fluid, which can indicate a leak or dirty fluid that needs changing.
Transmission Noisey in Neutral
If the car is making noise when in neutral it could be the transmission. As with many of the problems on our list, adding or replacing the transmission fluid will usually do the trick. Keep in mind you should read your owner’s manual before deciding which fluid to use.
Refuses to Go Into Gear
Another potential problem is that the transmission refuses to go into gear when you press the clutch pedal and attempt to move the stick shifter. It may happen when trying to get into first gear from a stop, or at any point up and down the assorted gears. Common causes include low transmission fluid, wrong viscosity (thickness) of fluid, or required adjusting of the shift cables or clutch linkage.
Feeling Grinding or Shaking
For automatic transmissions, you’ll most likely feel the car shimmy into each gear or the transmission will make a jarring transition into the next gear. If you notice anything other than a smooth transition between gears, then you might need to have your automatic transmission looked at for adjustments or repair.
In a healthy transmission, the car stays in gear until a gear shift is intentionally initiated. But on a transmission where the gears slip, the car can spontaneously pop out of the gear it’s in while driving and (in a manual) force the stick back into neutral.
Lack of Response
When your transmission hesitates or refuses to go into the correct gear it’s a sure sign there’s something wrong. With a manual transmission, you may notice after shifting into a gear that the car’s engine will rev up, but the car won’t be moving as quickly as the engine is running. In this case, a worn-out clutch or more serious transmission problem may be occurring.
Automatic transmissions have the same lack-of-response problem, but you will usually see the issue while engaging “Park” or “Drive.” If your transmission hesitates to go into either one, then it’s most likely an issue with the transmission.
Check Engine Light
The check engine light can be a great early indicator that something is starting to go wrong with your transmission. The check engine light can come on for any number of reasons not related to your transmission as well, but don’t overlook this clear warning sign.
If you want to know if your check engine light is telling you about a transmission problem, you can purchase a diagnostic scan tool that you plug into your car underneath the driver’s side of the instrument panel. The scan tool will display a code that corresponds to the area of the vehicle causing the fault.
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