Common Transmission Problems

Most people are aware that leaking oil means there is a problem with their vehicle, and the sooner it is repaired, the less chance there is for the problem to get worse. Do you know what to look for when it comes to the transmission?

Becoming familiar with the most common automatic transmission problems can help you recognize certain symptoms, allowing you to get your vehicle looked at, and repaired if necessary, often before the transmission fails completely.

Problems develop more easily in automatic transmissions than in manuals because they are much more complex and have hundreds of individual parts. Performing proper maintenance and taking your vehicle in at the first sign of trouble can potentially save you thousands of dollars in repair bills.

Here are the most common automatic transmission problems:

Low Fluid Levels

Signs that indicate low fluid levels include the transmission slipping, difficulty shifting gears, or overheating. Heat is the #1 enemy of a transmission and low fluid levels means less fluid disperses the heat of the transmission. Leaks can cause havoc to a transmission. A slipping transmission feels like fails to shift when expected and rather revs to a high rpm. In some cases, the engine may begin whining or change in pitch.

Burnt or Ineffective Fluid

Burnt or ineffective fluid may be the problem if the transmission is slipping, you have trouble shifting gears, or it is overheating. There are several possible causes, including neglecting maintenance, build-up of dirt and particles, clogs filters or sensors, overheating, mixing with the coolant, or a dirty transmission filter.

To check for transmission fluid mixing with coolant, look for a pink stain inside the coolant reservoir or what looks like a strawberry milkshake on the transmission fluid dipstick. Note: some transmissions do not have a dipstick, or are very difficult to access. If you can access the dipstick and it does not look like a strawberry milkshake, but is dark in color, that would indicate burnt fluid.


Transmission leaks are indicated by the transmission slipping, difficulty shifting gears, low fluid levels, and overheating. According to the, potential causes for this would include a “worn gasket, loose pan bolts or drain plug, punctured pan or cooler lines, blown seals, or torque converter issues.”


Signs that your transmission is slipping are a burnt smell, gears slipping, metal shavings in the fluid, high RPM, delay in acceleration, loss of acceleration, the check engine light constantly turning on, or strange noises from the transmission. There are several possible causes for this, including worn parts, low fluid levels, dirty or burnt fluid, a defective solenoid, a problem with the clutch, or worn/broken transmission bands.

According to, “The solenoids regulate the flow of hydraulic fluid for shifting. A problem with one or more of the solenoids can cause a lack of pressure, resulting in hard, soft or delayed shifts. A failed shift solenoid can also cause transmission slippage, where your engine revs faster but the car stays at the same speed.”

Check Engine Light

If the check engine light comes on, says it’s likely due to “solenoid issues, electrical issues, sensor issues, internal failures, or defects outside of the transmission.”

As with any other potential transmission problem, it’s best to avoid driving your vehicle until you can get it checked out by a professional. When the check engine light comes on, however, certain codes can help diagnose. In such cases it may be advisable to tow your vehicle to a trustworthy and credible transmission repair shop.

Problems Shifting Gears

If it takes longer than usual for your gears to engage, or it’s difficult to shift gears, chances are good the cause is either worn gears or fluid that is low, dirty or the wrong type.

Get Professional Help

While you can learn to recognize the symptoms of a transmission in trouble, professionally trained technicians have the know-how and skills to accurately diagnose problems and recommend any needed repairs or maintenance.

At Advanced Transmission Center, we are here to make sure you get our free TrueTest Inspection, an accurate quote, and only the repairs you need. Make an appointment today if you suspect your transmission is in trouble or is in need of maintenance. If your car is not drivable, we offer free towing through our high-quality towing partners. Call our Northwest Denver center at (303) 421-4140, our Southwest Denver center at (303) 922-4102 or contact us online today!

Written by Advanced Transmission Center