Common Transmission Problems

automatic transmissionYour car’s transmission is one of its vital organs.  Your vehicle’s basic purpose is to get you from one place to another comfortably and reliably.  This is accomplished in every automobile by transforming the power created by your engine to movement of your vehicle.  Your transmission is the crucial link between your engine and the rest of your vehicle’s drivetrain.  A properly and efficiently operating transmission often operates so seamlessly that you don’t even notice it.  An improperly operating transmission can make a simple drive stressful and can make you question the reliability if your vehicle.

In this article, we’re going to talk about some common transmission problems for automatic transmission, why they happen, and what you can do about them.

Recently automatic transmissions have become more complicated and varied in design.  As automobile manufacturers have strived to increase power output and fuel economy of their vehicles, automatic transmission have increased in the numbers of gear ratios, the type and design of the clutches and other small changes that have allowed higher power output and more fuel efficient vehicles.

Even with all these developments, most vehicles on the road today have relatively similar designs and operate with the same basic principles.  One of the things that almost every automatic transmission shares is that the operating fluid has to both lubricate the transmission as well as operate as a hydraulic fluid to cause movement, gear changes or transfer power in the torque converter.  As your transmission fluid lubricates the gears and bearings in your transmission it will accumulate wear particles, or tiny metal shavings, that will float in the fluid and travel through your transmission.  These particles can wear out small passages, change hydraulic pressures, clog and quickly destroy seals and gaskets in your transmission.

Changing your automatic transmission fluid regularly is the best way to minimize this wear and keep things working like they should be.  Check your vehicle’s maintenance schedule in the owner’s manual to find your vehicle’s recommended transmission fluid change interval.

Even if you change your transmission fluid often, things can still go wrong in your transmission.  The majority of the time you’ll notice problems with your transmission in the form of odd shifting habits.  The most common transmission problems include harsh shifts, hanging shifts or not shifting.

Harsh shifting can be caused by excessively high transmission line pressure, sticking control valves or sometimes a low transmission fluid level.  High pressures and sticking valves usually come from gummed up control surfaces or gunk in your transmission.  This can often be remedied by a transmission fluid flush and a new filter if your transmission is so equipped.  A leaky transmission can be identified by a low fluid level on the dipstick or fluid drips under your vehicle.

transmission problemsHanging shifts means that your transmission is shifting too late allowing your engine to over-rev.  This can be caused due to improper adjustments of linkages on older transmissions, failed sensors on new cars or again a clogged transmission line or control valve.  Your transmission decides when to shift based on inputs usually from your vehicle’s speed, your engine’s RPM, and your throttle position.  Newer transmissions get this input from sensors and make the decision with a computer and older transmissions have mechanical inputs, like a kick down cable, and make the decision mechanically.  If one of the inputs is improperly adjusted or a sensor has failed it will allow your transmission to behave improperly.  If those all are working properly, a fluid flush and filter change is your best option.

If you’re finding your transmission doesn’t shift at all, even if it’s just for one specific gear, it could be an indication again of a low fluid level or excessive wear.  The clutches and bands used to cause a gear ratio change in your automatic transmission will wear out over time even if your transmission is properly maintained.  Just like a car with a manual transmission, these clutches and bands need to be adjusted and replaced every so often.  If this is the case with your vehicle, it is best to have your transmission inspected and refurbished by a professional transmission shop.  If your vehicle isn’t shifting due to a low fluid level you need to seal the leak and add more fluid.

If you discover the transmission problems you’re having are due to a low fluid level, add BlueDevil Transmission Sealer as you top off your transmission fluid to seal the leak in your transmission and keep from having to continue adding fluid to keep your car running correctly.

BlueDevil Transmission Sealer

For more information about BlueDevil transmission Sealer, visit our product information page here: Transmission Sealer.

You can purchase BlueDevil Transmission Sealer at any of our partnering local auto parts stores like:

  • AutoZone
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  • Bennett Auto Supply
  • CarQuest Auto parts
  • NAPA Auto Parts
  • O’Reilly Auto Parts
  • Pep Boys
  • Fast Track
  • Bumper to Bumper Auto Parts Specialists
  • S&E Quick Lube Distributer
  • DYK Automotive

 

Pictures Provided By:

automatic_transmission.jpg – By typhoonski – Licensed By Thinkstock Photos – Original Link
transmission_problems.jpg – By Kubtee145 – Licensed by Thinkstock Photos – Original Link

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52 responses to “Common Transmission Problems

    1. Reggie,

      Thanks for your question about your Savana Cargo Van. It seems most likely that the problems actually aren’t connected and that pulley the transmission dip stick is moving bumping something, maybe unplugging a wire or disconnecting a sensor that causes the engine to stop running. Next time you have a chance, make sure you check the area around the dipstick carefully for loose connections or other components that could be affected.

      Thanks again for your question!
      -BD Auto Pro

  1. I am having Automatic transmission Nissan sunny 2008 model. When I start the car it drives smoothly and shifts gear very well. But after some time when the car is well warmed then changing 1 gear to 2 and 2 to 3 gears. It automatically enhances the ramp and with a sound hnnnnn then it shifts the gear. It is more worse when i turned on AC and leave it for 10 minutes in Neural. After that shift gear is more worse.

    I have recently changed transmission oil and filter and all four spark plugs. But the problem is still their.

    I checked with mechanic and he said it could may be due to Transmission mount.

    Please advice……

    1. Rohit,

      Thanks for your question about your Nissan Sunny. First, if the fluid and filter change affected the transmission shifts, then the problem is most likely internal to your transmission and may consider having a full transmission flush performed. If the problem didn’t change when you got the fluid changed then you may have an internal problem in your transmission. As the fluid heats up it gets thinner. It sounds like your transmission is hanging on gear shifts when the fluid is thin and warmer, which would cause low pressures. You may have an internal leak in your shift solenoid or your transmission fluid pump may be starting to wear out.

      Thanks again for your question!
      -BD Auto Pro

  2. I have a 2005 Dodge neon, and it has really bad hanging shifts, it gets really bad in between 2nd n 3rd, 3rd 4th. I was told it could just be bad spark plugs, but that doesn’t make any sense to me. So can you please give me better information about what my problem could be? Thank you.

    1. Spicoli,

      Thanks for your question about your 2005 Dodge Neon. Theoretically, if your spark plugs are really bad your engine may not be producing much power which would make your transmission shift late and your engine over-rev but that seems like a long shot. Replacing spark plugs is an easy and inexpensive job so you may consider doing it as part of your regular tune-up anyway.

      The problem seems related to a bad sensor, like the speed sensor in your car. The transmission is controlled by a computer that uses inputs from various sensors to decide when to shift, so if that speed sensor is bad it wouldn’t tell your transmission to shift until a very high RPM. First, try having your computer codes read to see if it can tell you any sensors are reading incorrectly. If all the sensors are reading correctly then you may have some internal problems in your transmission, but besides a full rebuild the only thing you could do to help there is a flush your transmission fluid.

      Thanks again for your question!
      -BD Auto Pro

  3. I have Nissan sunny ex saloon 2001. When I engage my reverse gear the car doesn’t move but have to put on the accelerator hard then it’s starts to move slowly. All front gears are ok and oil level is ok. What could be the problem.

    1. Alam,

      Thanks for your question about your Nissan Sunny. Since your car does go into reverse slightly, it sounds like the problem you’re having is internal to your transmission. The failure could be due to an internal seal or o-ring going bad, the shift solenoid going bad, or even a worn reverse band. Unfortunately, the only way to diagnose what the issue is would be to remove your transmission and inspect or rebuild it.

      Thanks again for your question!
      -BD Auto Pro

  4. I have a 2008 Ford Taurus and when I put in drive it won’t go. It works well in reverse or neutral but in drive it won’t go unless I put my feet on the gas. And it makes noises when I turn

    1. Sherannee,

      Thanks for your question about your Ford Taurus. The first thing to check anytime you’re having transmission problems is the level and condition if your transmission fluid. If your fluid is not bright and full, you may consider changing the fluid to see if that gets things back to normal. If you find a low fluid level, add BlueDevil Transmission Sealer (available here: http://store.gobdp.com/transmission-sealer-00236/) with your new fluid to seal your leak so you don’t end up here again.

      If your transmission fluid is full and new and you’re still having the problem, the best thing to do would be to take your car into the Ford dealership or a transmission specialist.

      Thanks again for your question!
      -BD Auto Pro

  5. Hi my 2003 honda accord doesnt take any gear but when i remove the plug from the double sensor and places it back on then it takes the gear. What could it possibly be? 4 cylinder automatic

    1. Thompson,

      Thanks for your question about your Honda Accord. It’s difficult to know which plug you’re removing to get your transmission to shift into gear, but it seems likely that the problem is with an electrical component. If your transmission malfunctions electronically it usually stores an error code in your engine’s computer. You should consider taking your car to an auto parts store to have them read your engine codes to hopefully help you figure out what component is malfunctioning so you know what to replace.

      Thanks again for your question!
      -BD Auto Pro

  6. I have a 2011 Chevy Malibu. It only drives in reverse. The fluid level is really low. Could that be the cause of my problem?

  7. I am in an environment where -20F is common and the occasional -40F is experienced in the winter. Transmissions are slow and sluggish until warmed up. While the auto is warming up in the morning, is there a shift position i.e. N or P that allows the fluid to move through the system and warm up before driving?

    1. Steff,

      Thanks for your question about your transmission in these cold environments. Yes, if your engine is running then the transmission pump is also running regardless of what position your shifter is in so the transmission fluid is circulating. We recommend leaving it in park. Many vehicles run the transmission fluid through the vehicle’s radiator to help warm it up in extremely cold weather like you’re describing as well. Unfortunately, without driving, it’s difficult to warm your transmission fluid very much as there isn’t much friction in the system. If your vehicle is equipped with a block heater, plugging that in the night before can help keep both the engine and transmission warm. Also, most auto parts stores sell additional block heaters that are simply magnetic so you may consider purchasing one of those to attach to the outside of your transmission in the evening to keep it warm.

      Thanks again for your question!
      -BD Auto Pro

  8. I have a 1992 Pontiac Sunbird, 3.1L, automatic transmission. The car has been garaged, non moving for the past 4 years. It has been getting an engine replaced. So I went to move it into the driveway and the transmission will not go into gear. Any suggestions would be helpful.

    1. Curtis-

      Thank you for asking about your Pontiac Sunbird. Did you notice if the fluid was low? Did the fluid look dirty or clean? Based on your description, we recommend having the transmission fluid drained and having a transmission system flush performed. Re-fill it with clean fluid and that should get it back to normal functionality. If the problem persists, you may want to bring the vehicle to a transmission specialist for a proper diagnosis.

      Thank you!

      -BDP

  9. I have a 05 Chevy Impala when I come to a complete stop then start to give the car gas the tranny jerks someone told me it’s my spark plugs it’s crazy it does it way before the car shifts into gear

    1. Sherry-

      The best place to start would be to change your transmission fluid and filter and then double check to make sure the fluid level is correct. Having dirty/old transmission fluid or the fluid level too high or too low can cause the transmission to act up and not function properly.

      If you are still experiencing the same shifting issues after changing the fluid and filter and topping it off to the proper level then you may want to have your vehicle looked at by a transmission specialist.

      Thank you!

      -BDP

  10. I have a Nissan exterra 2003,,,for some time now,,I have been issues with kickdown,,,it selects well but find it difficult to down to lower gear on motion,,,machanic said is a leakage from the gear seal,,so please,, I need urgent idea of what the issue is and what to do concerning it…

  11. I sent in a comment on 25 regards to kickdown issues,,, now I have changed the gear sale,, but my experience is the gear raises high before changing to 2,,what could be responsible

    1. Felix-

      How many miles are on the vehicle? Are you noticing a loss of transmission fluid? Please contact our technical support line at 888-863-0426 so that we can get a better understanding of the vehicle’s condition and be able to make any appropriate recommendations.

      Thank you!

      -BDP

  12. I experienced a gear fluid leakages from the seal,,and have replaced it,,,but funny enough,,,the car engine now raises high about gear 2 change,,,(Nissan Exterra 2003) pls what could be responsible ?and what is the remedy.. Thanks

    1. Felix-

      Thank you for asking about your Nissan Xterra. Based on your description, it is possible an air pocket is trapped from when the seals were replaced, causing the fluctuations in gear changes. We recommend draining the oil and refilling it, getting rid of any air that may have been trapped.

      Thank you!

      -BDP

    1. Daryl-

      Thank you for asking about your Chevy Impala. Have you checked to ensure the fluid is topped off to the proper level? How many miles are on the vehicle? Please contact our technical support line at 888-863-0426 so that we can get a little better understanding of the vehicle’s condition and be able to make any appropriate recommendations.

      Thank you!

      -BDP

  13. I’ve been having problems with my car’s transmission lately. That part about what to do if it doesn’t shift at all was educational. I’ll have to check the fluid levels. However, I’m probably going to take my car into a shop to make sure there isn’t anything else wrong.

  14. Hello I have a 94 Chevy cavalier and I noticed that I can’t get it to engage in any gear. It’s a 5 speed Manuel transmission. I have checked the clutch and also all the rings I can see any ideas what could be wrong with it.thanks

  15. I have a 1991 Ford Taurus sedan 3.0 ohv only 75,670 miles . The tranny shifts into 1st gear but when it tries to go into second it lags until 15-18 mph then it will kick in and be fine .But if I go from 0-16 very quickly you not feel a lag. But if you go 0 to 8-10 mph take you foot of the gas drop to 5mph it will take very look to get back up to 15-18 then kick in and be fine .But if you let it hit 0mph then give it gas quickly it will run ok . I got a filter and flush done and the car ran great for about 6months with no problems at all .Then it happened again the same exact symptoms no different.Went to do another Filter and flush ,this time no change .Its been 2yrs now that I have been driving like this .I check the fluid it is not burning and the level is ok .I have the knack on pushing the gas letting it up at the right time and giving it gas ,Saving money now hoping its nothing major . Was reading it could be one of the four shifting solenoids .What do you think.
    Thanks ,Sal

    1. Salvatore,

      Thanks for your question about your 1991 Ford Taurus. You are correct that this problem could be caused by a bad 1-2 shift solenoid especially since a fluid flush and new filter helped things out the first time. It could also indicate a clog somewhere in your valve body so you may end up having to replace the whole valve body to get things to shift normally again.

      Thanks again for your question!
      -BD Auto Pro

  16. I have a 2001 dodge caravan my vehicle just start acting when I start driving the car runs fine but as I come to a stop and accelerate my van will not move I need to know is it time for a tune-up or replace the transmission

    1. Albert-

      The best place to start would be to change your transmission fluid and filter and then double check to make sure the fluid level is correct. Having dirty/old transmission fluid or the fluid leveltoo high or too low can cause the transmission to act up and not function properly.

      If you are still experiencing the same shifting issues after changing the fluid and filter and topping it off to the proper level then you may want to have your vehicle looked at by a transmission specialist.

      Thank you!

      -BDP

  17. My 2009 automatic corolla shifts normally but from 3 to 4 the rpm rise for a second and then engages the gear. But occasionally in cold start not feeling the delay. Also I feels like lack of power output when pressing accelerator for sudden increase of speed even in other gears. Changed my transmission oil and filter 1000km before but still its dark brown. Should I go for a complete flush of transmission fluid or does it have some things to be repaired?

    1. San-

      Thank you for asking about your Toyota Corolla. Based on your description, and depending upon how many miles are on the vehicle, flushing the transmission system would be recommended in this case. The dark brown fluid you have discovered could be due to metal shavings or other debris that have built up in the system over time. Flushing the transmission should alleviate the issue and return shifting to normal functionality.

      Thank you!

      -BDP

      1. My car has reached 174k miles. Heard of mixed reviews on doing transmission flush. Many say to avoid flush if the fluid is already black since it could make the damage more worse. Even a mechanic suggested me that the clutches might have worn out so either have to rebuild or replace transmission & not to change the fluid. Not sure about his opinion is true or not. Really confused what to do. Please give me a detailed reply on what to do..

        1. San,

          Thanks for your question about getting a transmission flush done on your vehicle. There are lots of mixed opinions about transmission flushes. If your transmission fluid is very dirty then it is possible that there is a significant amount of wear in your transmission and these wear particles have built up in parts of your transmission. Getting a transmission fluid flush can dislodge these particle build ups allowing internal fluid leaks which will change transmission pressure and affect shifting and may even cause external fluid leaks if the debris was clogging a leak in a gasket or seal. In this way, a transmission fluid flush doesn’t actually cause any problems, it would just uncover problems your transmission already had. If this were the case in your transmission, not doing a transmission fluid flush is really just a way of getting a few more miles out of your transmission before it totally fails because there are already problems lurking inside. The benefit of doing the flush is that if there aren’t any problems like this hidden inside your transmission, a fluid flush can significantly extend the life of your transmission by introducing fresh fluid and removing wear particles. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to tell what’s going on inside your transmission without trying a fluid flush or disassembling it.

          Thanks again for your question!
          -BD Auto Pro

  18. My 2009 automatic toyota corolla when shifting from 3rd to 4th rpm rises for a second then engages the gear. In cold start not finding this issue.changed tansmission fluid and filter 1000km before but stil it is dark brown. Will this be solved by a transmission flush? Please help me to resolve this issue

    1. San,

      Thanks for your question about your 2009 Toyota Corolla. If your fluid is still dark after a fluid change we would recommend changing it again or getting a fluid flush. A fluid change only changes about 1/3 of the transmission fluid in your car so doing a change twice more or a flush should make sure you’ve got enough clean fluid in your transmission.

      If a flush doesn’t stop the hanging shift from 3rd to 4th it’s possible that you’ve simply got some internal wear on the shift mechanism or some internal leakage causing the pressures to be low at the 3rd to 4th shift. You could try measuring the line pressure in your transmission during that shift, but it is impossible to check for wear without disassembling your transmission.

      Thanks again for your question!
      -BD Auto Pro

  19. My Mitsubishi RVR 2011 got a transmission problem, today. When the car speed is about 40km/h, then noises appear from gear box (i lifted and listen the noise my car at Mechanic WorkShop). It seem the gear goes down (i mean 6 to 5, 5 to 4, 3 to 2, the noise appear like a damage motor noise.
    ( last week, I changed my car’s oxygen sensor. And also I got ignition coil failure, I change with good (used) ignition coil. Befoe changing ignition coil, the car is vibrate, after changing ignition coil, its good to drive. Today is the 6th day of changing ignition coil. Noise start today. You know the CVT shift down, the noise apper. If speed is high (about 60 rpm over) and I off my legs from lever-pedal, the noise are high).
    How should I do?

    1. Chicz,

      Thanks for your question about your Mitsubishi RVR. Based on your description the noise does sound like a problem with your transmission and would be unrelated to your bad oxygen sensor or ignition coil. Since you mentioned the noise sounds like a bad motor and gets louder when you let off the gas, our guess would be that you’ve got a bad bearing somewhere in your transmission that is causing the noise. Our recommendation would be to drain the transmission fluid and filter it as it comes out looking for metal particles or wear products.

      Thanks again for your question!
      -BD Auto Pro

      1. Thanks alot. Now, we checking up the transmission box (outer part, ball and bearing part!).
        I’ll inform you about the condition. Thanks alot

  20. My Mitsubishi RVR 2011 got a transmission problem, today. When the car speed is about 40km/h, then noises appear from gear box (i lifted and listen the noise my car at Mechanic WorkShop). It seem the gear goes down (i mean 6 to 5, 5 to 4, 3 to 2, the noise appear like a damage motor noise.
    ( last week, I changed my car’s oxygen sensor. And also I got ignition coil failure, I change with good (used) ignition coil. Befoe changing ignition coil, the car is vibrate, after changing ignition coil, its good to drive. Today is the 6th day of changing ignition coil. Noise start today. You know the CVT shift down, the noise apper. If speed is high (about 60 rpm over) and I off my legs from lever-pedal, the noise are high).
    How should I do?
    Thanks

  21. Hello I have a 02 dodge neon runs and shifts fine but when at low speeds and you push the pedal to pick speed up fast it acts like I’m locking the breaks up then it takes off. Any idea. I think possibly shifting sensor or speed sensor??

    1. Michael,

      Thanks for your question about your Dodge Neon. The problem could be in your transmission or the way your engine is running. If your vehicle has a bad sensor, a large introduction of air could cause it to run lean leaving the engine without power for a second while the airflow meter catches up with the throttle change. That could be caused by a bad throttle position sensor or manifold air pressure sensor.

      The other possibility is that your transmission isn’t shifting correctly. That could also be caused by a bad throttle position sensor or transmission kick down cable if your transmission is equipped with one. If your car has a check engine light on that would be a good place to start.

      Thanks again for your question!
      -BD Auto Pro

  22. I have a 2000 dodge neon and for some reason when I drive it will go from 1st to 4th gear and completely skips 2nd and 3rd like the gears dont exist ive tried replacing the fluids in the transmission but I am not sure what else to do

    1. Mack,

      Thanks for your question about your 2000 Dodge Neon. If your transmission is actually skipping gears like you mentioned then you most likely have a significant internal leak or damage to your valve body allowing fluid pressure to bypass certain portions of the system. You could try replacing the valve body to see if that gets shifts back to normal but before you start throwing parts at your transmission it might be worth taking it to a transmission specialist for assessment.

      Thanks again for your question!
      -BD Auto Pro

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