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
  • Advance Auto Parts
  • 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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16 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: 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

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