Even if your mechanical knowledge is limited, you probably know enough about cars to be aware that transmission trouble can result in costly repair bills. Fortunately, you may be able to keep expenses down by learning to recognize signs of potential transmission trouble, which will enable you to get your car into the shop before the damage is extensive. Although it doesn't always work this way, a general rule of thumb with major auto parts such as engines and transmissions is that driving the vehicle until it completely breaks will cost significantly more than having it repaired when you first notice a possible malfunction. Following are five signs that your vehicle's transmission is due for a checkup.
A classic symptom that your vehicle's transmission is in distress is that it's leaking red fluid. This isn't necessarily a sign of a major problem, though -- it could be as simple as a small leak in your transmission case. A sign that something serious may be in play is if the fluid has a burnt odor. No matter what, though, you need to get your car to a professional as soon as possible after noticing a leak.
Whether your vehicle has a manual or automatic transmission, slipping out of gear is a sure sign of a potential big problem. Not only is your car unsafe to drive at this point, but doing so will most likely damage the gears even further. Be safe and have it towed to the mechanic's shop.
Failure to Shift Gears
This could mean a minor problem such as an inadequate amount of transmission fluid or something more serious such as a malfunctioning clutch. This scenario is far more likely to occur in vehicles with automatic transmissions. You can easily check the level of fluid in a car with an automatic transmission by locating your transmission and checking the level with a dipstick -- there should be one provided right next to the transmission fluid tank. If you don't know where your transmission is, then consult your owner's manual. Checking the fluid level of a vehicle that has a manual transmission is a bit more complicated -- leave that task to the mechanic unless you've got some basic mechanical skills yourself.
A Burning Odor
A sharp, burning odor can be a sign that your transmission is overheating. A common cause of this is low transmission fluid levels or fluid that has not been changed in a long time that has become so dirty that it is failing to lubricate the gears properly. If you have a manual transmission, having the fluid changed every 30,000 -- 60,000 will will help prevent this from happening. Keep in mind that if you do most of your driving in urban areas that require a lot of stopping, going, and otherwise shifting gears, your transmission fluid may require changing more often. Automatic transmissions that function normally can easily go over 60,000 miles without having to have their fluids changed.
Grinding and Shaking
If your vehicle has a manual transmission, a grinding sound when you switch gears could be indicative of a worn out clutch -- but it could also mean that the clutch simply needs to be adjusted. Only a qualified mechanic will be able to know for sure what needs to happen. Automatic transmissions rarely grind their gears though -- they're more likely to shake and shimmy when they're experiencing difficulty changing gears. Occasionally, they may switch gears abruptly with a loud clunk or thud, and this invariably means that the transmission needs immediate mechanical attention.
Being on the lookout for small signs that you transmission may be beginning to malfunction and keeping current on maintenance tasks such as changing transmission fluid will help keep your vehicle's transmission from experiencing major issues. You can click for more information if you have questions on the best strategies for keeping your vehicle running well.