Why do I have a slipping transmission?

slipping transmissionHaving a slipping transmission can be a frustrating thing.  You’ve been driving your car for a while now and you’ve come to expect it to shift a certain way.  It’s comfortable and you’re a better driver because you can predict when your car will shift and how it will feel.  It’s a very strange feeling when you go to pass someone on the freeway or take off from a stop light and when your car shifts you feel your engine rev up but your vehicle doesn’t accelerate like it usually does.  This can be caused by a slipping transmission.

Your transmission may be slipping for a variety of reasons.  A slipping transmission is a lot like having a worn out clutch in your vehicle with a manual transmission.  In an automatic transmission there are a variety of clutches, brakes and bands that engage, disengage and hold stationary certain parts of the gear set to change the ratios.  These clutches, brakes and bands are activated by hydraulic pressure created by the fluid pump in your transmission that pressurizes the automatic transmission fluid.

Your transmission may by slipping for one of two reasons.  First, the components in your transmission may be overly worn causing them to literally slip when they are trying to make gear changes.  This can cause erratic shifting, or allow your engine to over rev as it changes gears.  The components in your transmission may have become worn from normal driving.  As these components operate, they will wear down with normal use, but there a few ways you can help them to last a little longer.  First, change your transmission fluid regularly.  This will make sure there aren’t suspended particles in the high pressure fluid that can be abrasive and wear down components prematurely.  Also, when your vehicle is cold, operate your engine at a lower RPM by driving slower.  Automatic transmission fluid does a better job lubricating things when it is warm so keeping engine speeds to a minimum while your transmission is still cold can help it last longer.  Also, if your vehicle has a performance shift option, it can accelerate wear of the shift components as it causes the transmission to operate at high pressures and make harder shifts, so only use it when necessary.

The other possible cause of your transmission feeling like its slipping would be due to low fluid pressure.  If the fluid that operates the shifting mechanisms is low for some reason it can cause your transmission to not fully engage and feel like it is slipping.  Low fluid pressure may be due to bad fluid pumps, clogged transmission filters or a low transmission fluid level.  On many vehicles you can check your transmission fluid level through a dip stick in your engine bay.  Your transmission dip stick will look a lot like your oil dipstick but should be marked as “TRANS” or be red in color.  The transmission dip stick is often at the rear of the engine bay near the firewall.  If you discover your transmission fluid is low you should top it off with the manufacturer’s recommended type of transmission fluid.  Also, your low transmission fluid level is due to a leak which should be fixed before you lose any more transmission fluid.  You can quickly and easily seal any transmission fluid leak by adding BlueDevil Transmission Sealer to your transmission Fluid.  BlueDevil Transmission Sealer will quickly and permanently seal the leaks in your transmission by restoring the seals and gaskets to their original condition.

BlueDevil Transmission Sealer

You can purchase Blue Transmission Sealer online.

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

  • AutoZone
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  • 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:

Transmission Shift – By Raniel Diaz in Infinity FX45 Licensed by Creative Commons Share Alike 3.0 via Flikr Oringial Link

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17 responses to “Why do I have a slipping transmission?

  1. A bit doubtful at first,but used blue devil trans fix in my 87 vw vanagon auto trans and then drove it 7 yrs with no problem(warm up required of course).I’m a believer now.

  2. 19995 Mercedes Benz SL500, car must run about a 1/4 mile to warm up before shifting into 2nd gear. The transmission then stall’s between 1st and 2 gear, what’s the likely problem?

    1. Fitzpatrick-

      Thanks for your question about your ’95 Mercedes. With any transmission problem, the first thing to do is make sure you have been keeping up with changing your transmission fluid and filter. If it has been more than a year since you have changed those, try that first and see if it fixes your problem. When refilling the transmission fluid you should make sure it is filled to the proper level.

      Thank You!


      1. So if your experiencing slipping all of a sudden, its a good idea to try to change filter and fluid to see if that does anything?

        1. Matt-

          Yes, it would be wise to change the transmission fluid and filter just in case you are experiencing the symptoms from dirty or old fluid.

          Thank You!


  3. Thanks for sharing this advice on getting your car’s transmission problems fixed. I had no idea that a slipping transmission occurs when the gears become too worn. However, that could explain why my car has a little trouble decelerating. It feels like my car takes an extra moment to shift into the right gear. Either way, I should probably have my car inspected before I go and buy a new part immediately.

  4. I have a 2004 chevy impala ss with a 3.8 super charge motor…. my question is when I first start driving my car it shifts fine but after warming up my car does not wanna shift and my rpm just go higher while I’m driving…. it accelerates but it doesn’t want to kick in gear so the rpm can go down… I checked my fluid and it’s reading fine on the dip stick…. any suggestions would really help if I can find a cheap way to fix this…. thanks

    1. Christopher,

      Thanks for your question about your 2004 Chevy Impala. It sounds like your transmission is having trouble building enough line pressure to shift once it gets warm. You can check this if you have a performance shift option. If shifts work better with that performance shift option switched on then this may be the case for you. This may be due to a clog somewhere in your system so you could try having your transmission flushed and the filter changed to try and see if that helps.

      If that doesn’t help then you may have to go as far as changing one or more of the shift solenoids. Getting to these in your transmission can be quite the job so usually a whole “valve kit” will be installed replacing all the solenoids while you’re in there.

  5. My 1999 Ford exploer takes about 15 min in drive before it will go into gear with a jerk. I have to rev to get it into gear. Can I do anything other then buying new tranny I can’t afford. Out of work.

    1. Penny,

      Thanks for your question about your 99 Explorer! Unfortunately, when it comes to automatic transmissions, there isn’t much you can do besides checking the fluid to make sure it is at the proper level and is clean and bright. On your Explorer, that dipstick is at the back on the engine bay on the passenger side with a black handle. You need to check the level while your truck is running and in park. If you find a low fluid level, use BlueDevil Transmission Sealer (available here: http://store.gobdp.com/transmission-sealer-00236/) to stop the leak. Then add the correct type of automatic transmission fluid to the proper level and you should be back on the road!

      If your fluid level is good and the fluid is red and bright then your problem probably runs deeper in your transmission and your only option would be to take it to a transmission specialist.

  6. Hi there,
    I recently change my transmission fluid and filter 3days ago. Before the change there was an issue on shifting the car is jerking, after I change the fluids the jerking issue but now its slipping when changing from the 3rd to 4th gear which I’m not experiencing before. Any idea what is the issue and how van I fix it. My car is corolla 2010 automatic trans.
    Thanks and regards.

  7. A slipping transmission can be dangerous if you try to shift gears and your car doesn’t respond how you expect. My car is an automatic, so I didn’t even know it could get a problem like this. I’ll have to tell my husband to look for discount transmission parts so we can fix it soon.

  8. I have a 2002 chevy cavalier with an automatic transmission. When I pull off at a stop light the transmission starts sticking then the rpm goes high. Then it stalls the car. I start the car back up and then it works fine. It does this randomly. Please help

    1. Sid-

      Thank you for your question about your Cavalier. Sabrina-

      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 and stalling after changing the fluid and filter then you may want to have your Chevy looked at by a transmission specialist.



  9. Hey hope all is well. I have a 2005 Chevy Silverado 5.3L and I am having transmission problem back in march I had my transmission rebuild and in July I had my transmission line came lose and lost fluid. Now when I was coming from work yesterday the transmission starting acting up whenerver I get to 40 or 50 mile per hour it start rev up so I pull on the side on the road check the fluid and it was empty. I put a quart of fluid in the truck got up this morning and checked it still full of fluid and still doing the same thing. Please help me out.

    1. Henry,

      Thanks for your question about your Chevy Silverado. If your transmission is full of clean fluid and is still slipping at 40 or 50 mpg, then it is most likely that you have some sort of internal damage in your transmission, possibly from running low on fluid. Without pulling the transmission apart, it can be hard to tell the extent of the damage or wear so you may consider bringing your track back to the shop that originally rebuilt it to see if they’ll take a look under warranty for their rebuild.

      Thanks again for your question,
      -BD Auto Pro

  10. Hi I have a 2001 Pontiac grandprix and I recently just started having problems with my transmission when I get in my car I can go into reverse but my car Won’t shift into drive I have to put it down to the lower gears to get it to go I can’t afford a new tranny so if you could help me that would be nice

    1. Dante,

      Thanks for your question about your Grand Prix. Unfortunately with automatic transmissions, all you can do is check the transmission fluid color and level. If the fluid is clean and bright and at the proper level you most likely have a bigger issue with your transmission and will need a GM dealer or a transmission specialist take a look at it.

      Thanks again for your question!
      -BD Auto Pro

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