Automatic transmissions are a mystery to most. Many mechanics will quickly tackle a timing belt job or a head gasket replacement, but when it comes to transmission problems even the most seasoned mechanics often shy away. When your transmission is working correctly, you don’t usually think about it because it’s automatic and does its work seamlessly. When you have a transmission jerking, or it becomes hard to shift gears, it usually goes past annoying and can leave you stranded.
There are many different kinds of automatic transmissions in vehicles today. The earliest automatic transmission used a planetary gear set. A planetary gear set has a single center gear, a large ring gear around that with internal teeth and multiple small gears in between the center and ring gears. In an automobile transmission, there usually are two sets of planetary gears. This arrangement allows for a variety of gear ratios that can be changed easily, but if one part of the system fails, it often renders the whole system inoperable.
Many transmissions continue to use planetary gear sets today but there is an increasing number of designs being put in passenger cars today like CVT transmissions and dual clutch transmissions that allow for greater efficiency or higher performance. One thing all of these transmissions have in common is that often a glitch or failure leaves you stuck.
What are the Early Warning Signs of Transmission Problems?
Like many problems that arise in your car, there are usually early warning signs to let you know that one of these systems is about to fail. Luckily, the automatic transmission in your vehicle may give you some early warning signs to alert you of a working problem.
Automatic Transmission Failure Early Warning Signs:
- Dark or discolored fluid
- Strange Noises
- Erratic shifting
- Low fluid level
Dark or Discolored Fluid
Transmission fluid, like your engine oil, gets dirty over time from wear products and foreign matter. If your transmission fluid is getting dark more quickly than usual it could indicate that there is an abnormal amount of wear happening in your transmission. This accelerated wear could be due to a bearing going bad or a clutch or band at the end of its life. If you find dark fluid, consider changing your transmission fluid more often than your owner’s manual recommends.
The noisiest part of your transmission is actually the fluid pump. The fluid pump is what creates the high pressures in your transmission that affects the shifts can get noisy much like your power steering pump if fluid gets low or dirty. The pump can also get noisy if the pump is failing or if there is a clog somewhere in the system causing unusually high pressures. If you’ve got a noisy pump, try changing the fluid and listen for the sounds to change. Another noise to listen for is a bad bearing. Much like a bad wheel bearing, bad transmission bearings can cause humming and vibrations that change with vehicle speed or gear changes.
Transmission Jerks When Shifting or Shifts Erratically
If your vehicle has a hard time shifting gears, jerks when shifting, or otherwise shifts in ways you don’t expect it could indicate something is either wearing out or starting to fail. In today’s computer controlled transmissions, an erratic shift could be due to a bad sensor or shift solenoid. These types of problems can often be checked using a transmission or factory scan tool that can check pressures and solenoid operation when it’s plugged into your car. Shifting can also be affected by line pressures that are affected by low fluid level, dirty fluid, a clog or the transmission pump going bad. Lastly, erratic shifting can be caused simply by worn parts usually causing over revving or loose shifting.
Low Fluid Level
A low fluid level in your transmission can only be caused by a leak. Unlike your engine which can burn oil, your transmission is a closed system except for the input shaft seal, output shaft seal, and pan gasket. These seals can often be difficult and expensive to replace because of their location on the transmission. Rather than replacing them you can add BlueDevil Transmission Sealer to your automatic transmission fluid. BlueDevil Transmission Sealer is specially formulated to restore dried, cracked or shrunken seals and gaskets in your transmission without harming the transmission. BlueDevil Transmission Sealer is guaranteed to form a permanent seal. BlueDevil products are safe for your vehicle and can remain in the system until your next fluid change.
Look for the early warning signs of transmission problems to save yourself money and a headache down the road. If you find a low fluid level, use BlueDevil Transmission Sealer immediately!
If you’ve missed these early warning signs and already have transmission trouble, we’ll talk through a few symptoms of transmission problems and what to do now.
Why Does My Transmission Jerk When Shifting Gears?
As we talked about, erratic shifting can be the sign of a transmission problem and that would include jerky shifts. If your transmission shifts too quickly into a gear it will make your car “jerk” or accelerate too quickly on that shift. The most common cause of hard shifts is a low fluid level, so check your fluid level and add BlueDevil Transmission Sealer if it is low. Jerky shifts can also be caused by excessive line pressure due to a clog or malfunctioning shift solenoid.
How Often do you Need to Change Your Transmission Fluid?
The best place to look for the answer to this question is your vehicle’s owner’s manual. If your manufacturer didn’t specify a change interval, we recommend replacing your transmission fluid every 30,000 miles.
Can a Clogged Transmission Filter Cause Problems?
It sure can! On most vehicles, the transmission filter is just before the transmission fluid pump. If the filter is clogged it will put extra strain on the pump as it tries to pull fluid out of the pan. This can wear out the pump, but it can also allow air to become entrained in the fluid causing problems with the hydraulic pressure in your system. If the filter is badly clogged it can even lower the operating pressure of your transmission cause poor shift quality and possible damage to other components. If your transmission has a serviceable filter, we recommend replacing it every time you change the fluid
How Do you Know if your Transmission is Going Out?
Unfortunately, it’s impossible to tell if your transmission is worn out without removing it and opening it up to inspect it for wear and damage. Transmission specialists can make educated guesses but most transmissions do not have a sophisticated computer feedback system like your engine does to tell you something is going wrong. If you suspect your transmission might be going out, we recommend starting to save for a large repair bill and continuing to drive your vehicle making sure you keep the fluid full and clean.
If you need to keep your transmission working proprely and have a leak, you can pick up BlueDevil Transmission Sealer at your local auto parts stores like:
- 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 Distributor
- DYK Automotive
- Fisher Auto Parts stores
- Auto Plus Auto Parts stores
- Hovis Auto & Truck Supply stores
- Salvo Auto Parts
- Advantage Auto Stores
- Genuine Auto Parts stores
- Bond Auto Parts stores
- Tidewater Fleet Supply
- Bumper to Bumper Auto Parts
- Any Part Auto Parts
- Consumer Auto Parts
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transmission_shifting_hard-jpg – by Ineb1599 – Licensed by Getty Images – Original Link