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One of the most disheartening things any car owner can hear is that you need a brand-new transmission. This is why detecting the signs of a bad transmission early on or at an early stage can save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars. It can also help avert more severe damage to your automobile, which will ultimately cost you a lot more of your hard-earned money.

This is why it is highly crucial to learn how to recognize the telltale or warning signs of a bad transmission. You also need to know precisely what to do as soon as you experience any of the top 10 signs of transmission trouble.

But before, what will happen if your transmission goes bad? Find out below.

What Happens When Your Vehicle’s Transmission Goes Bad?

When your vehicle’s transmission goes bad – or ‘goes out,’ as they say – you start experiencing some terrible or adverse effects on how your vehicle operates.

For instance, you start experiencing different shift patterns or vibrations that weren’t there before the transmission issue came up. These could be the overall effects of breaking down one or more gears within the transmission system. This may – or may not – be associated with fluid pump issues.

You can only confirm the extent of damage or if your transmission has gone bad by having it checked by a certified mechanic.

Top 10 Signs of a Bad Transmission

1. Burning Smell

When you notice or perceive burning smells from your vehicle, it may imply that your transmission is overheating. It could also indicate that the transmission fluid is burnt or old.

What to Do: Visit the nearest auto repair shop as soon as possible.

2. Slipping Gears

Driving with a slipping transmission is dangerous and never recommended, no matter how skillful you think you are with your car. Gears that impulsively slip in and out of place while driving can be alarming and scary.

The telltale sign that your transmission has slipped is when your car’s engine revs during a gear change. This can be compared to that feeling you experience when driving over ice with zero traction on the road.

Other symptoms that inform you your transmission may have slipped include strange noises, delays in acceleration, or a harsh response anytime you attempt to shift gears.

What to Do: Check the transmission fluid level and then top it off as required. Use only the recommended type of transmission fluid for your specific transmission design.

3. Strange Noises When in Neutral

When weird noises emanate from your car when it is in neutral, it is a sure sign that your transmission has issues. The noise may only indicate that your vehicle needs nothing but a new transmission fluid. A professional can help you flush and replace the old transmission fluid with a new one.

But the noise could indicate something much more severe than getting a new transmission fluid.

What to Do: Get your vehicle to your local auto mechanic for a proper diagnosis to confirm what exactly is wrong with it.

4. Refusal to Smoothly Switch Gears

Have you noticed your car struggling or refusing to change gears? The problem may be from your transmission system.

At times, incorrect types or low transmission fluids may be the culprit behind your vehicle’s refusal to switch gears smoothly.

What to Do: Get a professional mechanic to look over your transmission and restore it to its former glory.

5. Leaking Fluid

One of the most uncomplicated transmission issues to notice or identify is leaking transmission fluid.

If you suddenly notice the appearance of a sweet-smelling red fluid beneath your vehicle in a parking lot or garage, there is trouble.

What to Do: Get a certified mechanic to check the transmission fluid level. Let the professional inspect the transmission for possible leaks.

6. Dragging Clutch

When a clutch drags, it fails to disengage the clutch disk from your vehicle’s flywheel whenever you press your clutch pedal.

This problem causes the clashing of gears while the vehicle moves when shifting gears. The misplacement of the clutch or mechanical failure causes dragging clutches.

What to Do: Get a specialist to adjust the clutch or correct the mechanical failure as soon as possible.

7. Unusual Sounds

Whining, humming, or clunking noises are unusual sounds no one wants to hear in their vehicles. Your car may be emitting those strange noises for several reasons. The only way to confirm this is by getting a certified professional to check your vehicle’s transmission.

What to Do: Get a certified technician to check and diagnose your transmission, tracing the noises to what is generating them.

8. No Longer Responding

If your vehicle suddenly refuses to respond whenever you try to change gears, especially from ‘Park’ to ‘Drive’ – there’s an issue with your transmission.

What to Do: Get your vehicle to the local auto repair shop for transmission service.

9. Shaking or Grinding

Shaking or grinding is a symptom more commonly experienced in vehicles with automatic transmissions. There is shaking or grinding whenever the gears change. This shows that your transmission has a severe problem that must be attended to as soon as possible.

What to Do: Get your vehicle to the nearest auto repair shop and get the transmission carefully inspected right away.

10. Check Engine Light

When the check engine light on your dashboard lights up like a Christmas tree, it indicates several car problems, which could be severe or minor.

But do not take any chances whenever the check engine light on your car’s dashboard lights up the entire place.

What to Do: Get your vehicle to the nearest auto repair shop as soon as possible. Let the certified technician find the root cause behind the lighting up of the check engine light.


No one enjoys having car issues, especially if it has to do with its transmission. Diagnosing car problems on your own can be tricky if you do not have the correct information or know what to do with it.

But luckily for you, you just went through the top 10 signs of a bad transmission and the vital steps to take if you experience any of them at any particular time. Hopefully, this information will come in handy someday, and you will be glad you knew the exact steps to take to prevent a total breakdown of your transmission.

If you found this information useful or helpful, kindly share it with your colleagues and friends who own cars. Additionally, contact Gearstar for high-performance automatic transmissions, built by trusted professionals you can count on for the quality you deserve! We offer a range of transmissions, including Ford, GM, and Mopar.

Good luck and safe driving!

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