How to Determine if Your Automatic Transmission is About to Fail

It’s well known that your car’s transmission is one of the central components to smooth, safe operation. It’s also well known that having to repair or replace your car’s transmission can be costly. To protect yourself physically and financially, here are some of the warning signs you should be aware that your transmission is about to fail.

Warning Lights

Perhaps the most obvious (and helpful) indicator that something is going on with your transmission is when one of your warning lights turns on. Almost all cars today are equipped with internal sensors that pick up on irregularities and potential problems, which will then alert you via warning lights on the dashboard if something is off.

Specifically with transmission problems or failure, sensors will be able to recognize early indicators that you might not be able to see or feel. One of the most common dashboard warning signs that will give you a heads up if your transmission is about to fail is the transmission temperature indicator. This means that “transmission fluid is hotter than normal causing your transmission to operate at a higher temperature.” If this warning light goes on in your car, you should check your transmission fluid and engine coolant levels as soon as possible, or take it into a shop to get these levels looked at professionally.

Another warning light that could signal something is wrong with your transmission is the check engine light. This warning light can be triggered by many different things, but in the case that it turns on, you will want to do your due diligence and get it checked out.

Leaking Fluid

Speaking of fluid, another sign that your transmission is about to fail is leaking transmission fluid. Any time your car is leaking fluid, this is one of the surest signs that your car needs to be looked at by a professional.

If you notice fluid leaking from your car, you should take it to a mechanic right away, since there’s a chance this may be transmission fluid. You can identify transmission fluid easily since it’s bright red and may have a faint sweet aroma.

Transmission fluid leaks can be caused by a number of problems, including worn seals or gaskets, a loose transmission pan or pan leak, worn axles and more. Another common trigger to transmission fluid leaks is if you recently had any work done on your car that involved replacing or disconnecting cooler lines, or if you recently had your transmission flushed. If you are aware of any of these occurrences with your car, you may be able to cut off transmission failure before it happens by taking your car to a professional. You can also stay on top of potential transmission fluid issues by checking fluid levels regularly – since transmission fluid does not burn off (like motor oil), if levels are low, a leak is likely to blame.

Unusual Sounds

You drive your car often – maybe even every day. So, you should be well acquainted with its normal sounds and vibrations. So, if you notice a new sound or something seems off – pay close attention. New and strange noises could be a sign that your transmission is about to fail. Especially if you hear noises that resemble grinding or “whining,” according to AAMCO Colorado, it’s in your best interests to take your car to a mechanic. In addition, any grinding sounds are also indicative of an issue with the transmission.

And if those whining or grinding sounds are accompanied by starting delays after pressing the gas pedal, sluggish acceleration or, worse, sudden surges, these are all signs that your transmission may be in trouble and you should make your way to an auto-shop as soon as possible. Many general mechanics and auto-shops will be able to take a look at your car if you’re really in a bind, but it’s always best to try to see a make-specific dealership. So for example, if you drive an Audi, you should do your best to get to an Audi service center for big check-ups and potential transmission problems.

Unusual Shifting Patterns

Even if you drive an automatic vehicle, if something is going on with your transmission, you’re likely to experience some unexpected shifting. If at any point while driving, you feel a sudden “clunk” that shifts the care, this can absolutely be a sign of a transmission that is about to fail.

As a rule, any automatic vehicle should be able to shift smoothly (and without noise), so if you start to notice any jolts, vibrations or other strange sensations, your transmission may be failing. Be extra aware of how your car feels when driving it – this could be the difference between a costly repair and some preventative maintenance.

Aftereffects From Rough Driving Bouts

If you have recently driven through inclement weather, such as heavy rain, snow or ice, and this driving was rough on your car’s brakes, then you should be on high alert for any of the signs mentioned above. Unexpected rough driving conditions are a leading cause of sudden transmission failure, so it’s best if you are able to avoid challenging driving conditions completely, or at the very least, make sure your car is in top shape (fluids topped off, oil changed, tires well-inflated) if you know you may be encountering some rough terrain.

If you notice any of these signs in your car, you should take your car to a mechanic, and do it quickly. As is the case with most things, and definitely with your car’s transmission, it’s better to be safe than sorry.