AAMCO Centers of Southern California


AAMCO Centers of Southern California

5 Main Symptoms of Transmission Failure

Learn the signs and symptoms of transmission failure in automatic and manual transmissions.

AAMCO Socal  | 03/24/2022  | Auto Repair & Maintenance

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5 Main Symptoms of Transmission Failure

A transmission failure could mean the end of a car's life in many cases. Proper transmission maintenance is key to keeping your car functional across all Southern California roads.

Second only to your engine in importance, owners often underappreciate the transmission. In short, the system is responsible for transferring the car engine's power to its wheels. The transmission can regulate the torque delivered and achieve a smoother driving experience thanks to different gearing ratios.

However, with the transmission constantly transferring and regulating power delivered from the engine, the individual components in a transmission system come under a lot of stress. While transmission systems are robust, components will break down with enough wear, eventually leading to failure.

It is imperative that Southern California drivers don’t ignore any potential issues from the transmission. The cost and time associated with replacing a transmission are high but can easily be avoided with routine inspections. 

Automatic Transmission Failure Symptoms

While the system is complicated, there are usually simple signs of impending transmission failure. If drivers experience any early symptoms, it's crucial to contact a local Southern California transmission specialist quickly.

Whining/Grinding Sounds

A variety of issues can cause a transmission system to spew a whining sound. Anything from a clogged transmission line to a problem with the torque converter could be the leading cause of the noise. Because of its varying culprits, the whining might only occur in specific instances of accelerating or reversing. It’s vital not to ignore any whining sound as it could eventually lead to a more deathly grinding sound. In an automatic car, a grinding sound from the transmission could be due to more severe issues with the planetary gear system. 

Burning Smell

A burning smell is indicative that a transmission system is overheating and burning off the transmission fluid. This fluid is an essential component responsible for cooling and lubricating the transmission. With minimal fluid, transmission failure and other costly damage are inevitable. 

Noisy in Neutral

If you notice a noisy bumping sound when in neutral, it may signify that your transmission fluid needs to be replaced. A more serious problem like worn bearings or gear teeth could be the culprit.

Slipping Gears

Gears slipping out of place is a dangerous symptom and cause for immediate repair. If the transmission system slips into a lower or higher gear while driving, it will change the torque delivery to the wheels and could cause momentary traction loss. 

Check Engine Light

A check engine light is not restricted to engine issues and could indicate a transmission issue. 

Manual Transmission Symptoms

Manual cars could see additional transmission failure symptoms. While manual and automatic transmissions serve the same purpose, the addition of driver-initiated gear shifts and a clutch pedal present additional areas of concern.

Gears Grinding When Shifting

As with an automatic transmission, grinding noise in a manual transmission can be caused by various issues. This can range anywhere from the transmission fluid being low to the shift synchronizer rings being worn.  

Abnormal Clutch Behavior

After driving a manual car for a while, owners will subconsciously become accustomed to where the clutch engages. A clutch that is engaging lower than usual may be facing an issue with the linkage or hydraulic system. On the other hand, a clutch that is engaging high may indicate a problem with a worn clutch disc and pressure plate. 

Take Action Immediately

A vehicle’s transmission is one of its most critical components. It also happens to be one of the most expensive and labor-intensive parts to replace. Swapping the system could cost thousands of dollars and weeks at the shop. 

With proper oversight, drivers can prolong the life of their transmission. Acting upon early warning signals will save money and keep drivers safe. 

Choose A Professional

An enclosure with dozens of precisely machined and aligned parts and gears requires a specialized set of hands. Even experienced general auto repair technicians in Southern California lack the capabilities needed for more extensive and technical transmission repair. 

Due to a transmission’s mechanical complexity, finding a local Southern California transmission specialist for maintenance and repair is recommended. These shops will have the appropriate tools and technicians explicitly trained in the inner workings of different transmission systems and can discuss with best repair options for your budget and situation.

As a critical component, it’s essential to find the best transmission specialist for the job:

  • Reviews: Online reviews are a great way to view a shop's experience. 
  • Certification: In a good transmission shop, technicians will be certified by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE).
  • Warranties: If a shop in Southern California offers warranties on their repair work, it’s an excellent sign that they back the quality of their work.

Transmission Maintenance 

As with all things, proper maintenance goes a long way to prolonging the life of your transmission. Along with keeping a lookout for any failure symptoms, drivers should be mindful of general care practices, as discussed more extensively in this article about transmission maintenance

We're Here to Help

If you recently noticed a problematic transmission symptom or just want to ensure your transmission is working at its best, don’t hesitate to contact a Southern California AAMCO Center near you and schedule an appointment today!.

AAMCO has more than 50 years of experience diagnosing, servicing, and repairing more than 20 million vehicles. Customers rely on us for:

  • Quality repairs
  • Expert technicians
  • Superior customer experience
  • Trustworthy, honest service
  • Best warranty coverage available

AAMCO Centers of Southern California and surrounding areas represent trust, quality, and value. If you’re having cooling system trouble, call us today!

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