3 Transmission Slipping Signs That Are Easy To Identify


3 Signs Your Transmission Is Slipping. Transmission problems are more than just annoying; they can also be bad news for the vehicle as a whole. One such issue is when a car’s transmission slips between gears. Slipping can be challenging to notice at first, but there are signs you can look out for.

The first sign that your car’s transmission is slipping is when there are indirect symptoms like burning smells, grinding noises, and an illuminated Check Engine light. A more specific second sign is that the transmission struggles to switch and stay in a new gear. Those switching and slipping problems will also cause acceleration problems and excessive RPMs when the vehicle is between gears.

Transmission slipping should never be taken lightly. So, read this guide to the end to discover what it is, why it happens, and how it’s fixed.

What Does “Transmission Slipping” Mean?

Before diving into the 3 signs of transmission slipping, it’s important to establish what transmission slipping actually is. That way, you’ll understand how and why it’s different from other problems that can affect your transmission.

When a transmission slips, that means it struggles to shift from one gear to another. Worse yet, it will also struggle to stay fully in a particular gear as you drive down the road.

As you can imagine, a slipping transmission will cause many problems for your vehicle in terms of comfort and performance. On top of that, it can also lead to problems with your transmission and its internal components.

So, if your transmission is slipping, you must immediately get the vehicle to a workshop. That way, a qualified mechanic or automotive technician can troubleshoot the issue and quickly get you back on the road.

mechanic working under lifted car

Read: Honda CRV Automatic Transmission Problems

How Do You Know If Your Car’s Transmission Is Slipping?

Transmission slipping is undoubtedly a significant problem. However, there is one silver lining: the problem is easy to notice when it happens. In other words, it’s not like other less obvious car problems you won’t know are going on until it gets really bad.

Here are the 3 signs that your car’s transmission is slipping and has a serious problem:

#1 Smells, Sounds, And Warning Lights

The first sign that your car’s transmission is slipping and has a severe problem is that it demonstrates indirect symptoms. You’ll notice these symptoms with your eyes (e.g. warning lights), ears (e.g. grinding or whining noises), or nose (e.g. burning smells).

These indirect signs only tell part of the story. Plus, they can be triggered by a wide range of different car problems. However, they’re also the first hints that you might have a problem with your transmission system, especially if it’s slipping.

For example, transmission slipping could trigger the Check Engine light to appear on your dashboard. For most cars, that’s the most basic indicator that there’s a problem somewhere in the vehicle’s systems.

transmission slipping could trigger check engine light

Some car brands and models will have more specific indicators that point to the transmission system and its issues.

Besides that, you’ll also hear unusual noises coming from the engine bay. Typically, you’ll hear grinding or whining noises coming from the transmission. Of course, these sounds are challenging to pinpoint while you’re inside the cabin as a driver or passenger.

Lastly, problematic transmission systems will also affect your nose by giving off burning smells. You might also smell other unusual odors that are traceable back to your car’s transmission system.

Read: What Is Average Transmission Fluid Change Cost?

#2 Problems Shifting And Staying In Gear

The second and more apparent sign that your car’s transmission is slipping is when you have gear problems, such as the following:

  • Trouble shifting gears: Whether you’re using a manual or automatic, the transmission will struggle when shifting from one gear to another. As you can imagine, this will also make your driving much more turbulent as that happens.
  • Harsh gear changing: A healthy transmission will switch between gears smoothly and with barely any signs that it’s happening. However, you’ll notice a problematic transmission switching gears harshly.
  • Inability to stay in gear: Lastly, the transmission struggles to stay in gear. Instead, it slips to the previous gear or straight to neutral, despite nothing forcing it to do so.
automatic transmission shifter

Read: Bad Car Transmission Symptoms

#3 Acceleration Problems

The final sign that your car’s transmission is slipping and has a serious problem is that the car, as a whole, has problems with its acceleration.

For instance, your car’s acceleration could be sluggish or even delayed, despite there being nothing else wrong with your vehicle.

Plus, you might experience extremely high RPMs as the transmission tries and fails to switch gears. That problem also happens when the transmission slips straight back to neutral, even though it should be moving to a higher gear.

Why Does A Vehicle’s Transmission Slip?

A slipping transmission is a significant problem, affecting your car’s performance and safety on the road. 

Transmission fluid dipstick

The problem can happen for several reasons, including the following:

  • Transmission fluid issues: Like many other components, the transmission system relies on the correct fluid to function correctly. Low fluid levels are the first reason the transmission will start to slip. However, burnt or old fluid can cause the same problem.
  • Faulty transmission solenoid: Transmission systems also rely on solenoids to control the flow of transmission fluid. Unfortunately, faulty solenoids will prevent transmission fluid from flowing correctly, leading to slipping and other problems.
  • Worn-out components: Lastly, transmission slipping can also be caused by worn-out transmission components like gears. When those parts are broken, damaged, or worn out, they’ll lose their grip and cause slipping.

Read: Why Automatic Transmission Stuck in Gear?

How Do You Fix A Slipping Transmission?

As you read in the previous section, there are many reasons why a car’s transmission will slip. That’s why there are different ways to fix the problem.

Suppose the root cause is a transmission fluid issue. In that case, the solution is to bleed the system and refill it with fresh transmission fluid.

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However, worn-out components or faulty solenoids must be replaced with new parts. The transmission system will only function correctly once all its components are in excellent condition.

You can fix a slipping transmission yourself as a DIY task, assuming you have the necessary skills, knowledge, and tools. However, you’ll save yourself a lot of time and stress by letting a professional handle it for you.

How Do You Prevent A Transmission From Slipping?

The best way to keep a transmission in excellent condition and prevent slipping is to maintain it regularly.

That includes replacing the transmission fluid every 30,000 to 60,000 miles. Doing so will ensure that the transmission parts are always well-lubricated while preventing them from overheating.

Aside from that, you should also inspect your transmission fluid regularly. Even if you haven’t reached that 30,000-60,000 mileage range, regular inspections enable you to catch transmission problems while they’re still minor.

automatic transmission gears

Fixing these problems quickly will ensure that the transmission’s components don’t suffer too much damage and lead to slipping.

Read: Is CVT More Efficient Than Manual Transmission?

Final Thoughts

The transmission system is crucial for your car, regardless if it’s a manual or automatic vehicle. So, you must get someone to troubleshoot slipping or other problems as soon as possible.

Remember: you want to catch and fix problems while they’re small. Ignoring them will only worsen the problem, leading to much more expensive repairs and parts replacements.

When you see any of the 3 signs that a car’s transmission is slipping, drive to your preferred mechanic as soon as possible and get their trained opinion.

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