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Early Signs of Transmission Failure

by Dave Dobson

Welcome back, guys! I hope you all had a great Christmas and New Year with your families. Hopefully, 2021 will be a far better year compared to last, with Covid hopefully leaving us for good! Onwards and Upwards as they say!


Taking care of your car is critical to get the most out of your investment. The last thing you should do with your investment is to ignore it. It requires maintenance, so keeping a keen eye and ear on what is happening with your car’s transmission can help you catch them before you end up stranded on the side of the road. To help you identify these, I am going to give you some early signs of transmission failure.

Whining and Clunking

This is one of the more obvious ones but needs to be reiterated regardless. Whining and clunking can easily be ignored with some loud music blasting over it, which we are all guilty of doing from time to time. When your car starts making noises it should not be making, it is time to get it checked out. You will probably hear a humming or buzzing coming from your transmission. When this happens, do not wait, get it fixed. Fix it sooner rather than later because it can cause more damage the longer it is left.

Lack of Response

Your transmission was designed so that you can switch gears instantaneously. So when there is a noticeable delay and it does not do what it was designed to do straight away, it is time to get it looked at. It can even feel a bit sluggish in its response and still warrant a checkout, do not delay as it could cost you more in the long run. One thing to note, though, is that if your car has a turbo fitted, there will be some lag between you feeling the full power your car can provide, as the turbo draws in air to spool up and this can take a second or two!

Burning Smell

The smell of something burning is never a good sign in a lot of situations but especially when it is coming from your car. The cause could be a wide range of thing, but it is often due to overheating of the transmission fluid. Do not panic when this happens, but make sure you take it to a professional as soon as you can.

Leaking Fluid

Fluid, where it should not be, is a tell-tale sign so look out for it. The best way to find where the leak is coming from is to lie down on a few bits of cardboard when the car is parked. Then slide out the pieces to see where your car is leaking. Be sure to share this information with any vehicle professional you take your vehicle too when you seek expert assistance.

Grinding Gears

This symptom manifests itself differently for manual and automatic transmissions. For manual transmissions, when you change gears and you hear or feel a sense of grinding; it could mean that you have just worn the clutch and you need to replace it.

But it can also mean that one of the transmission’s synchronizers is worn out and damaged. For the automatic drivers, if your automatic transmissions end us feeling like a rough shift rather than an unnoticeable one it could be caused by a huge variety of things. Check with an expert if you notice this.

Dashboard Lights

Perhaps the clearest indicator that something is wrong is the “SERVICE ENGINE SOON” light on your dashboard. If those are the last words you see when you get out of your car you should seriously consider doing something about it. This could mean almost anything but does not mean it should be ignored. There are sensors placed throughout your car’s engine for a reason so do not procrastinate away from addressing them.

To recap, there is a whole range of issues that could signify that your car’s transmission is on the way out. That is why you need to do your best to keep a track of your car’s health. If you do not, then you will end up paying for it in the end. Pay attention to your car, and be aware of any odd sound (or smell for that matter) it makes. In most cases, the wear and and tear show up in the axle, transmission and engine block. In case your car’s transmission requires a replacement, you have two choices. You could either get hold of an old but working transmission, or buy a new one altogether. In case you are looking for a used transmission, then auto part web stores (like SirCarPart) might be a good starting point.

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