Signs of Transmission Problems

Transmission LeakWhen buying a used car, you are always taking a risk that it may be more “used” than you bargained for.  There can always be hidden problems lurking that are difficult to diagnose in the few minutes you have while you are looking at the car.  The same can be true of the car that you are currently driving.  When you jump in it starts every time and gets you where you need to go so you assume that everything is working as it should and in good condition.  This for the most part this is true because most of the systems in your vehicle will give you some sort of warning before they break.  For example, before your tire goes flat, it usually gets a little pudgy at the bottom.  Also, before your power steering pump fails it often will start to cause a whining noise when you turn.  Thankfully, your automatic transmission is one of the components of your car that will usually give you indications that it isn’t doing well before it leaves you stranded.  In this article we will be helping you develop an ear to hear what your automatic transmission is telling you.

The first step in learning how to listen to your transmission is true for any component of any car.  Start by driving a few miles on the highway, and a few miles around town with the radio off and no one else in the car.  These qualities miles with your vehicle will allow you to hear what a healthy and happy car sounds like.  Try opening the windows and listen to the sounds your car makes as you idle, turn corners, accelerate, brake, turn on and off different equipment like the air conditioning or head lights.  Also, watch the gauges your car has to see where they read during normal operation.  Knowing what your car sounds and acts like when its working properly will help you notice when something different is happening which can allow you to make an early diagnosis of a failing component, which will save you money and frustration.

To focus on your automatic transmission, think back to last time you drove your car.  If you don’t remember much about your transmission it was probably working correctly.  It hopefully shifted when you thought it would, without being too jerky or too sluggish, didn’t make any noise and got you to where you are going.  If your automatic transmission is having problems there are a few ways it will let you know:

Signs of Transmission Problems:

  • Hard Shifting
  • Slow shifting (or hanging up)
  • Slow going into gear from Park or Neutral
  • Whining or humming

Some of the ways your transmission may let you know there is a problem won’t actually be a sound, but you still should be able to feel in the way the car drives, or “in the seat of your pants”.  If you notice your vehicle shifting hard, meaning the vehicles jerks in between gears as the RPM of your engine is dropping it may be due to warn transmission components or low fluid level.  Start by checking your transmission fluid level, and topping it off if necessary.  Similarly, if your transmission is shifting sluggishly, feels like it is hanging up or seems to have problems staying in a specific gear it could also be a sign of the same two problems, low fluid or warn internal components.  The same problems may make your automatic transmission not go into gear right away when you move the selector lever.  Your transmission uses pressurized transmission fluid to engage clutches and bands to make gear selections so a low fluid level can cause these gear changes to happen too quickly, too slowly or not at all.  Lastly, if your automatic transmission is whining or humming it could be due to a low fluid level causing the pumps or gears to whining as the engage.

Trans LeakIn all these situations you should start by checking and topping off the transmission fluid.  If that fixes the problem you need to immediately stop the fluid loss to make sure your transmission fluid stays at the proper level to ensure proper operation, lubrication and cooling.  If you have an automatic transmission fluid leak, add BlueDevil Transmission Sealer to your transmission fluid.  BlueDevil Transmission Sealer will mix with your transmission fluid and will restore old seals and gaskets to their original size and flexibility permanently sealing your leak and leaving your transmission fluid at a constant level.  BlueDevil Automatic Transmission Sealer will not harm the pump or valves in your transmission and can stay in the fluid until your next fluid change. 

BlueDevil Transmission Sealer

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

  • AutoZone
  • Advance Auto Parts
  • O’Reilly Auto Parts
  • Pep Boys
  • NAPA
  • Bennett Auto Supply
  • Prime Automotive Warehouse
  • CarQuest Auto Parts

 

You can also purchase BlueDevil Transmission Sealer directly from BlueDevil online.

Pictures Provided by: www.transmissionrepairalpharetta.com and www.aa1car.com

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22 responses to “Signs of Transmission Problems

  1. Hi I seem to have a humming noise coming form automatic gearbox fluid levels are fine and is isn’t tire noise and it also hums in neutral down hill what could it be

    1. Robert-

      Thanks for your question about the humming noise in your transmission. Humming noises are usually an indication of a bad bearing. If you are sure the noise is coming from your gear box and happens even in neutral, then the output shaft bearing in your transmission may be starting to go bad. This usually only happens if your vehicle has a lot of miles on it. The other possibility is that one of CV joints is going bad if you have a front wheel drive car, or one of the universal joints or the carrier barring is going bad if you have a rear wheel drive car.

      For more information about CV joint issues, check out our article about that here: https://www.gobdp.com/blog/steering-wheel-noise/.

      If you have any more questions please leave us a comment on that article.

      Thank You!

      -BDP

  2. My truck the other night seemed like in was driving itself my fluid levels are fine and I also hear a whinny noise from somewhere what could it be

    1. Patrick,

      Thanks for your question about your truck. As for your truck driving itself, we’re not quite sure what you mean. Whining noises are usually associated with power steering problems. Start by checking your power steering fluid level. If it’s low it probably is what is causing your whining. Add BlueDevil Power Steering Stop Leak (available here: http://store.gobdp.com/power-steering-stop-leak-00232/) to seal the leak and top off your power steering fluid to stop the whining noise. If the whining noise seems to change with gear shifts or is coming from your transmission it could be an indication that it is time for new transmission fluid.

  3. I was gone out of the country for two months and hadn’t turned on my truck till I got back and it apparently lost a lot of oil judging by the stain under my truck when I put in drive it took a few seconds to go in and it was really weak I wanted to take it around the block but decided not to I didn’t any whining or humming but rather a sluggish liquid type noise ?

    1. Josue-

      We recommend adding 1 bottle of the BlueDevil Oil Stop Leak to help stop the oil loss you are experiencing. Expect to notice results after about 100 miles of driving.

      Thank you!

      -BDP

  4. Hi I just took a Tiida 2006 1.8 done 70,00kms for a test drive. The engine seemed to be whining while driving. When I stopped and put it in neutral it stopped. The dealer said I probably needed fluid but he just wanted to sell it, so thought I’d ask advice.

    1. Debbie-

      Thanks for your question about the Nissan Tiida you took for a test drive. The engine whining may be an indication of a power steering problem or a worn bearing. The thing that worries us is that it stopped when you put it in neutral. That sounds like an indication of a bad sensor or a problem with the fuel system. In the end it may not be an expensive repair, but may be difficult to track down and wouldn’t be repaired by adding fluid. You may consider looking for another car with a few less problems.

      -BDP

  5. Hello. I have a 2007 chevy cobalt it has around 195000 miles on it. It is the coupe LS style and an automatic. I’m currently trying to figure out why it shifts slowly and it hums while driving it at all times. I went to autozone they ran the test to see what was wrong. They gave me great info however I’m trying to figure out exactly what is wrong while driving that causes it to have these problems.

    1. Sami-

      Thank you for your question about your Chevy. 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. If you are still experiencing the hard shift after changing the fluid and filter then you may want to have your vehicle looked at by a transmission specialist.

      Thanks!

      -BDP

  6. 95 Nissan max 278k. No clinking,whining, or hard shifting. It just won’t shift past 2nd. It’s been like this for about 2k miles (local driving). I went out today and find that it won’t engage in reverse. It just revs up but won’t move. Fluids are topped. It’s also very sluggish. I’ve Never changed the trans fluid and was advised not to. The “mechanic” said fluid won’t cause this, yet had no advice other than get a new car?! What’s your thoughts?

    1. Mike-

      Thank you for your question about your Nissan. 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. If you are still experiencing trouble with going into reverse after changing the fluid and filter then you may want to have your Nissan looked at by a transmission specialist.

      Thanks!

      -BDP

  7. Hello. I have a 2000 Jeep Cherokee and my Transmission when it shifts to 3rd gear or so I think it does, after 3000RPM it goes into neutral or so it seems and it will loose all power. I have to wait until it downshifts to second in order to get power back. So basically I only have 1st and 2nd gear and Reverse that works just fine. I’m thinking it could be the filter on the Transmission(I hope it’s just that). What do u think is the cause of my problem. thanks.

    1. Sandy,

      Thanks for your question about your 2000 Jeep Cherokee. The problem you are having may have a few different causes. The first thing to do is check your transmission fluid level. Put your jeep in park and level ground and leave it running. Check the transmission fluid level and condition on the dip stick. If the fluid isn’t up to the “high” mark and bright red it may be time for a fluid flush which could get things back to normal.

      Also, on some Cherokee’s around your year owners have found that the problem is with a faulty sensor not allowing your transmission to shift into 3rd. Your transmission computer will store error codes just like your engine’s computer but you will need to take it to a jeep dealership to have those codes read and diagnosed.

      Thanks again for your question!
      -BD Auto Pro

  8. Hello I have a 94 chevy c1500. I just replaced my rearend in my truck because I thou it was going bad. Still has the same noise. When taking off u can hear everything moving inside the rearend then it shifts into 2nd and goes away. What could this possibly be and also tends to lock up when shifting back into 1st

    1. BWhitt,

      Thanks for your question about your Chevy truck. The problem you’re describing sounds more like a transmission issue than a rear end issue. If the noise changes immediately when your truck shifts into 2nd gear then you may have a problem in your transmission. Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can service on the transmission on your truck without removing it from the vehicle so you might be best off taking your truck to a transmission specialist.

      Thanks for your question,
      -BD Auto Pro

  9. My 1988 Ford bronco is a five speed and it is stuck in fourth gear and will not come out what is the problem

    1. Cindy,

      Thanks for your question about your Ford Bronco. The problem could either be with your clutch or with your transmission. If you can push the clutch pedal in and the truck will roll then you can assume your clutch is working good enough to get the transmission out of gear. If the truck doesn’t roll you may need to bleed your clutch, or replace the slave or master cylinder.

      If the clutch is in good shape and you still can’t get your transmission to shift out of 4th then you have some internal damage to your transmission. It could be a bad shift fork, or loose linkage, or it could be the 3-4 shift collar dogs sticking and not allowing the shift collar to slide back off of 4th gear. Either way, you’re probably going to have to remove the transmission from the vehicle and open it up to figure out what the problem is.

      Thanks again for your question!
      -BD Auto Pro

  10. I have a 2002 VX Commodore wagon Auto and It came to an abrupt stop. Will not go into gear and whines when I try to put it into gear.

    1. Steve,

      Thanks for your question about your 2002 VX Commodore. Based on your description it sounds like your transmission has a major internal issue that caused a component either to seize or a false shift that has locked it into 2 gears at once. Either way, we would recommend taking your car to a transmission specialist to have them diagnose the problem and give you your options for repair.

      Thanks again for your question!
      -BD Auto Pro

  11. Hi I have a 97 chevy c1500 she whines in every gear besides park and neutral and only from 0 to 35 mph then the whine completly stops unless i need to work her up a large hill than the whine will re appear. If you have any ideas please let me know

    1. William,

      Thanks for your question about your Chevy Truck. It’s hard to pinpoint what your problem is based on your description. Unfortunately, with most automatic transmissions, the best you can do is make sure the fluid is fresh and up to the proper level and the filter has been changed regularly. The whine you’re hearing could be caused from a low fluid level, a clog, or a failing solenoid. If you have a local transmission shop you trust, they may be able to give you a better diagnosis as the transmission in your truck is a relatively common model

      Thanks again for your question,
      -BD Auto Pro

  12. I have a 2003 Chevy Malibu. Just a few days ago I was driving at a high speed about 50 mph on a high heel and it started jump and jerk then the car turned off. Once I started it up again. It drove off really slow and now won’t change gears. It still drives but not smoothly. What could that be? There is no check engine light on or anything.

  13. Hi,
    I have a Chevy cavalier 1998 and it seems that after it’s been on the road for a bit mostly on the highway. The car seems to shut off when I let go of the break as if the break was holding it with power and all of a sudden when I let the break go putting no gas into it, it shuts off even when coming to a stop or at a stop even when I put it on park. I will say too that when I break its a bit hard and sounding like if was throwing out air.

    1. Hugo,

      Thanks for your question about your Chevy Cavalier. It does sound like you’ve got a few problems going on so it may be worth taking your car to chevy dealership to have them help you solve the problem. The first thing we would recommend checking is your brake booster. Based on your description it sounds like when you press the brakes it is causing a vacuum leak which is big enough to shut off your car and cause problems braking. This may cause a dangerous situation so we would recommend having the checked out right away.

      Thanks again for your question!
      -BD Auto Pro

  14. I have a 1995 Nissan Quest. I was driving today when I heard a “pop” noise — like something broke or snapped — and the car stopped accelerating. I managed to pull my van to the curb with the engine still running, but I could not get the van to move forward or backward. I had the van towed to my home and while the van was being lowered from the tow truck I noticed a small stream of transmission fluid leaking near the front of the engine. I think the transmission is blown. What do you think?

    1. Melvin,

      Thanks for your question about your Nissan Quest. It does sound like you’ve got a problem, but your transmission may not be blown. If you can look under your car and figure out where the fluid is coming from, it will help figure out what the problem is. It is possible that one of your axles broke while you were driving. That cause a loss of power and transmission fluid to leak out, but the fix could be as simple as a new axle, seal, and transmission fluid.

      If the leak is coming from a seam in the case or part of your linkage then it would be a pretty sure indication that something went terribly wrong in your transmission and it will need to be rebuilt or replaced.

      Thanks again for your question!
      -BD Auto Pro

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