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Anyone who has ever driven a manual, or “stick shift,” has a genuine appreciation for the performance of their vehicle’s transmission.  That’s because operating a manual transmission requires drivers to be closely connected to their vehicle.  Drivers have direct control over the vehicle’s speed and acceleration and have to be alert to the sounds and sensations as they shift the gears.  That’s why, at one time, many drivers chose a manual transmission over an automatic to enhance their driving experience.

When automatic transmissions were introduced, that connection with our vehicles changed.  Without a doubt, automatic transmissions are a great innovation to make driving an easier task.  However, since shifting no longer requires manual effort, many problems are sometimes overlooked by drivers until they become costly repairs.

In this blog, we review common automatic transmission problems and how to spot a developing problem in your vehicle that might be related to your transmission.  We also discuss preventive maintenance tips to keep your automatic transmission running smoothly.

Common Problems

IssueDescriptionSigns of a Problem
Gear Grinding, Slipping, or Damage- Automatic transmissions were designed to create a smooth shifting process during acceleration as the vehicle moves between gears. Gears can become damaged or worn over time and become misaligned or fail.
- A slipping transmission can be the result of gear damage but also low transmission fluid.
- Rough or jarring sensation during acceleration as the gears shift
- Vehicle shakes or grinds during acceleration
- RPMs above 3500
- A delay in acceleration or an inability to shift into reverse
- Vehicle takes too much time to “coast” without applying the breaks
Transmission Fluid Leaks- Transmission fluid is a vital component that is used to lubricate the moving parts within the transmission.
- Transmission fluid is a sweet smelling, red fluid.
- Visible pools or puddles of transmission fluid under the vehicle
- Low fluid levels during checks
- Transmission fluid warning lights on the dashboard
Low Transmission Fluid- Automatic transmissions are an intricate set of gears that work together to power the movement of the vehicle.
- Lack of fluid can result in gears making noises as a result of friction.
- Transmission fluid also keeps the transmission from overheating. If it is running too hot, it may burn off fluid.
- Unusual noises during operation such as:
Whining
Screeching
Humming
Clunking
Rattling
- Burning smell and presence of dark or black transmission fluid

An attentive driver can use their senses of smell, hearing, and touch to pick up on developing problems with their transmissions.  A common culprit of developing transmission issues has to do with low or no transmission fluid.  If corrected early enough, transmission problems do not need to develop into costly repairs.

Preventative Maintenance 

Below are some ways to keep your transmission free of problems:

  1. Check and Replenish Transmission Fluid: One of the most important maintenance tasks that you can perform on a regular basis is to check the level of your transmission fluid.  If you do it yourself, make sure to consult with your vehicle owner’s manual on the specific location of your transmission fluid dipstick.  Some new vehicles no longer have a dipstick, and the fluid is monitored by the onboard diagnostics.  If this is the case, make sure to address any transmission warning lights as soon as they appear on your dashboard.  If you do add fluid, be careful not to overfill.
  2. Replace Transmission Fluid and Filter: The typical recommended timeframe to replace your transmission fluid and filter is about every 30,000 miles.
  3. Stay Alert to Smells, Sounds, and Sensations: If you pay attention to signs that there may be a developing problem with your transmission, you may be able to mitigate a much bigger problem and costly repairs.  Familiarize yourself with the smells, sounds, and sensations of developing transmission problems.

If you are concerned about any developing problems with your automatic transmission, or would just like to have it inspected, contact the service professionals at Best Western Transmission of Northern Colorado.  Our technicians will inspect your transmission and advise you on any repairs, replacements, or maintenance that may be necessary.