How to Detect Transmission Problems

To detect transmission problems, observe your car's performance, listening to how it runs and pinpointing any strange leaks or smells.

Most car owners know that transmission problems are expensive to repair. Thus, early detection is the key to saving money – and potentially your car. If you're not a car person however, how would you know that something was wrong with your car's transmission?

While some transmission problems can happen without warning, there are some signs you can look out for. They indicate that you may need to get your transmission repaired. Pay attention to these things below:

10 Tips to Detect Transmission Problems

Lack of response

Is your car having trouble shifting gears? If you have an automatic transmission, check for a delay before the gears shift from park to drive. This is a sign your transmission is in trouble. For manual transmissions, check for changes when shifting gears. Usually, the RPMs will increase and the car doesn’t move as fast.

Funny noises

Every car may sound a bit different when there are transmission problems. But if you notice a sound you’ve never heard before, it’s probably best you get to a mechanic. Car owners with transmission problems have reported hearing a humming or buzzing noise. Manual transmissions may make more of a clunking sound.


One of the easiest ways to detect transmission problems is to check for a leak. Transmission fluid is necessary for lubricating and cleaning the transmission. Check underneath your car. Do you see a bright red fluid on the ground? If so, you need to have a hole fixed. A dark fluid with a burnt smell, however, indicates that you may need a transmission flush or serious repair.

Shaking and Grinding

If your car has stopped running smoothly, it could be the sign of a transmission problem. Notice shaking, jerking, or grinding? This generally means that there is something wrong with the gears. Manual transmission drivers will notice a grinding as they shift gears. Automatic transmission won't grind, but instead, you will notice it taking more time to shift into gear. The car may shake profusely when the problem gets worse.

Burning Smells

If you smell something burning coming from your car this could be the smell of overheating transmission fluid. When the fluid starts to break down, it causes the system to run too hot. This, in turn, causes more friction and corrosion that produces a burning smell.

Won’t Shift Gears

When early signs of transmission problems are not properly detected and repaired, it can lead to more serious issue. You may be unable to shift into certain gears. If you hop in the car and come across this problem, you need to contact your mechanic right away.

Check Engine Light

Yes, your check engine light can come on for several reasons, but your transmission could be one of them. While you won’t be able to tell exactly what’s going on with your car, a quick computer diagnosis will help your mechanic to tell you exactly where the transmission problem is and how much it will cost to repair.

Noisy Neutral

If you put the car in neutral and hear a lot of bumping noises, this could indicate that there is transmission trouble. While it could be something as simple as adding, or changing the fluid, it could also mean that there are worn out parts that need to be replaced.

Slipping Gears

The vehicle doesn’t shift gears until the driver (manual) or computer (automatic) tells it to. Check if your car is slipping into and out of gear as you’re driving. This is a serious transmission and safety problem that needs to be addressed.

Clutch Dragging

If you have a manual transmission, then a dragging clutch is one way to detect transmission problems. If the clutch is dragging, this means that the clutch disk is not properly disengaging the flywheel. This makes it nearly impossible to shift gears.

Learning how to detect transmission problems is simple if you know your car well. If you’ve noticed any of the above-mentioned signs, go to a mechanic for transmission repair. While some of these transmission problems are minor and inexpensive, they can lead to more significant issues when ignored. It can cost you a pretty penny and potentially ruin your car.

Got transmission problems that are too expensive or not worth investing in? CarScrappers offers cash for cars with transmission problems. Call us today at (855) 929-0828 for a free quote.

Scroll to Top