Signs of a Failing Transmission
Transmission fluid leak: Your transmission fluid is the lifeblood of your transmission. It ensures that all of the moving components don’t create too much friction, which can damage the intricate gears and moving parts of your transmission. If you have a transmission fluid leak, then you’ll need to repair it right away, before you lose enough fluid to hinder the functionality of your transmission. Keep an eye out for reddish or brownish fluid dripping from your car (it should be lighter in color than oil). Transmission fluid will usually drip from the front of the car if you have a leak. Take note, power steering fluid can look similar to transmission fluid, though it is usually a bit darker in color, and a bit thinner in viscosity.
Low fluid levels: If you have low fluid levels in your transmission, then you may notice a number of issues. Your vehicle may have difficulty shifting gears. It may drop out of gear. It may lurch as you attempt to shift. And finally, your transmission may overheat. Depending on the make and model of your vehicle, you may be able to check the transmission fluid level by popping the hood and locating the transmission dipstick. Take note, however, that many automatic transmission vehicles, especially those with sealed transmissions, no longer have transmission fluid dipsticks. For these vehicles, it’s best to bring your car into a mechanic to check the fluid levels and to ensure that your fluid isn’t leaking out of your transmission.
Worn down fluid: Transmission fluid wears down over time, and it can collect particulates as your vehicle tacks miles onto the odometer. If you have old fluid in your vehicle, then your transmission can endure unnecessary wear and tear. Your transmission may overheat and it may be damaged over time. Consult your owner’s manual for a recommended flush interval. Again, most manufacturers recommend a transmission fluid change every 30,000 miles.
You can also check the quality of your transmission fluid yourself if you have a dipstick for your transmission. Most transmission fluid will be pinkish and fairly transparent if it is new. If you have old, used fluid, it will be browner and you may notice particulates in the fluid. If your vehicle has a transmission dipstick you can take a look at your fluid to see if it is still in good condition.
Strange noises: Your transmission shouldn’t make much noise if it’s working properly. Pay attention to whining and humming noises if you have an automatic transmission, as well as grinding noises if you have a manual transmission. These noises are signs that your gears are worn and malaligned. You may also have an issue with your clutch if you own a manual vehicle.
Poor shifting: If it’s difficult to shift gears in your manual transmission vehicle or if your automatic doesn’t make a smooth shift from gear to gear, then your transmission may be damaged or low on fluid. Pay attention to grinding gears, slipping out of gear, or, if you have an automatic transmission, be weary of when your engine revs before switching to the next gear — these may all be signs that your transmission requires some attention.