Top 10 Most Common Transmission Problems (2024)

The most important and expensive components of your vehicle are the engine and the transmission. But while lots of people know what to look for to diagnose your engine with a problem, the transmission doesn’t always get the same amount of attention.

In this guide, I’ll break down the ten most common transmission problems, before walking you through how to troubleshoot and fix some of the simple ones.

10 Most Common Transmission Problems

The most common transmission problems are leaking seals, a worn clutch, or old transmission oil. Faulty components inside the transmission, such as bad shift solenoids, bad transmission belts, or a faulty torque converter, are also very common.

Here is a more detailed list of the most common transmission problems and issues:

1. Leaking Seals

Top 10 Most Common Transmission Problems (1)

Just like your engine, oil fills your transmission to keep everything running smoothly. That transmission fluid is held inside through gaskets and seals, and as your transmission ages, those gaskets and seals can wear out. If this happens, you’ll get a leak, and you’ll have big transmission problems.

RELATED: 6 Causes of Transmission Fluid Leaks

2. Worn Out Clutch

Top 10 Most Common Transmission Problems (2)

If you drive a vehicle with a manual transmission, one of the most common problems you’re going to encounter is a worn-out clutch. Replacing a clutch isn’t easy or cheap, but it’s necessary to keep things running the way they should.

3. Old Transmission Fluid/Filter

While you don’t need to change your transmission fluid as often as your engine oil, it still doesn’t last forever. Check out your vehicle’s owner’s manual to see how often you should be changing your transmission fluid.

4. Broken Sensor

Modern vehicles have sensors everywhere, and that includes the transmission. A common problem is that, as a vehicle ages, those sensors start to wear out and breakdown. When this happens, you’ll need to replace them.

5. Slipping Gears

Whether you drive an automatic or manual transmission, as it ages, it can start to slip gears. While this might be more noticeable in a manual, it certainly happens in automatic transmissions.

6. Worn Torque Converter

If you have an automatic transmission, you have a torque converter. While a torque converter has a pretty decent service life, it’s not unheard of for them to wear out. If this happens, you’ll hear grinding noises as your transmission shifts gears, and your transmission will need a rebuild.

7. Faulty Shift Solenoids

Solenoids usually last longer than sensors, but if your transmission gets old enough or if you’re just unlucky, you might find that your transmission has a faulty solenoid. Solenoids are more expensive than sensors, so be prepared to spend a little more on repairs.

RELATED: 7 Symptoms of a Bad Transmission Shift Solenoid

8. Overheating Transmission

While an overheating transmission is a sign of a deeper problem, it might be the only thing you notice. There are tons of reasons your transmission might overheat. From jammed gears to old transmission fluid, you’ll need to thoroughly troubleshoot your transmission to find out what’s going on.

9. Broken Transmission Bands

Transmission bands hold different gears together to get you the proper output ratio. But when these bands start to break, you’ll find that your transmission simply doesn’t have gears that it should.

This is a problem with automatic transmissions, so what you’ll notice is a transmission that gets stuck in higher or lower RPMs and won’t accelerate like it’s supposed to.

10. Rough Shifting

Rough shifting is another problem that has a litany of underlying potential causes. There could be jammed gears, worn bands, or about a dozen other problems. The only way to find out for sure is to tear apart your transmission and rebuild it.

Basic Transmission Troubleshooting

Top 10 Most Common Transmission Problems (3)

While there are plenty of issues that can lead to a faulty transmission, if you know what you’re looking for, you can catch problems early and save yourself a ton of money.

That’s why I took the time to help you troubleshoot three of the common problems here. That way, you can fix problems when they’re small.

Leaks

Troubleshooting a leak is one of the more straightforward jobs. Look for the highest point of a leak, gravity pulls fluid down, so once you’ve found the top you’ve located the leak. If it’s coming from the bottom, it’s likely the transmission pan, but it’s likely a front main if it’s coming from the front.

Find the leak, then look into how complicated and expensive the repairs will be.

Rough Shifting/Slipping Out of Gear

When you find that your transmission is rough getting in and out of gears, the best thing you can do is a transmission fluid flush and add a little bit of a slip-stop additive to get things running like new.

While this won’t always work, if you catch the problem early enough, it might be just what you need to get another 40,000 to 50,000 miles out of your transmission before you need a rebuild.

Unable to Get Into Gear

When your transmission can’t get into or out of a specific gear, it can because of any number of problems. Start by hooking up an OBD II reader to your vehicle and seeing if the TCM generates any codes. If this is the case, your problem might be as simple as a faulty sensor or solenoid.

However, if you don’t have any TCM codes, there is likely something seriously wrong inside your transmission. This could be snapped bands or jammed gears. Either way, you’ll need a rebuild. Transmission rebuilds aren’t cheap, so you might want to start saving up now.

Summary

There are few components as critical as your transmission. That’s why you need to have a thorough understanding of how it works and keep an eye out for when things aren’t running the way they’re supposed to.

While transmission repairs can be expensive, you can often catch the problems early on if you know what you’re looking for. Hopefully, this guide gave you everything you need to know to diagnose your transmission and keep things running the way they should.

That way, the next time you hit the open road, you can rest easy knowing that your vehicle is going to run just like it’s supposed to.

Categories: Transmission

Top 10 Most Common Transmission Problems (2024)

FAQs

Which car has the worst transmission problems? ›

Here are a few models with the most problems and suggestions of better options according to The Consumer Report.
  • Chevrolet Traverse:
  • Nissan Altima:
  • Nissan Rogue:
  • Infinite QX60:
  • Nissan Murano:
  • Nissan Pathfinder:
Jul 26, 2023

What is the most common cause of transmission failure? ›

1. At the top of all auto repair experts lists for causes of problematic transmissions is low transmission fluid. Usually caused by a leak somewhere in the system, low or contaminated fluid makes it nearly impossible for the transmission to automatically shift gears and run smoothly.

What can be mistaken for transmission problems? ›

Common Automotive Misdiagnoses – 10 Engine Problems That Get Misdiagnosed As Transmission Failures
  • Oil leaks. ...
  • Faulty spark plugs. ...
  • Engine misfire. ...
  • Fuel delivery problems. ...
  • Clogged catalytic converter. ...
  • Faulty speed sensor. ...
  • Broken temperature sensor. ...
  • Malfunctioning interlock switch.

How do I find out whats wrong with my transmission? ›

Time for Transmission Repair? 5 Signs of a Faulty Transmission
  1. Burning Smell. A burning smell says a lot about your vehicle's safety and functioning. ...
  2. Strange Noises When Your Car is In Neutral. ...
  3. Trouble Switching Gears. ...
  4. Leaking Fluid. ...
  5. Vibrating or Shaking.
Feb 19, 2021

Which transmissions last longer? ›

It has been used in cars for over a hundred years. A manual transmission uses a driver-operated clutch to regulate torque and transfer power from the engine to the transmission. Since manual transmissions are the simplest of all transmission types, they have the most extended lives.

What is the life expectancy of a car transmission? ›

How Long Does Your Transmission Last?
Transmission Quick Facts
Transmission Lifespan Without Maintenance100,000 miles or less
Transmission Lifespan with Proper Maintenance300,000 miles or more
When to Change Automatic Transmission FluidEvery 30,000 miles
When to Change Manual Transmission FluidEvery 30,000 to 60,000 miles

What ruins a transmission? ›

Bad habits such as parking without the handbrake, changing gears incorrectly, and shifting an automatic transmission before the car comes to a complete stop can cause your transmission to wear out prematurely.

Do transmissions go out suddenly? ›

Luckily, transmission failure doesn't usually happen without warning. There are several warning signs that your transmission's going out.

Can you fix a transmission before it goes out? ›

Some transmission issues can be fixed with a simple in-vehicle repair or software update. But if the transmission has failed internally, it will either need to be rebuilt (if possible) or replaced.

Will bad transmission throw a code? ›

Often (though not always) a faulty transmission will trigger an engine diagnostic code and trip the Check Engine Light to let you know. Same goes if your engine overheats because of a bad transmission. Problems with a solenoid, speed sensor, slippage, and more can cause the Check Engine Light to come on.

How do I test my transmission? ›

Press the brake pedal and move the checkpoint handle sequentially from P (parking) to D (drive) and R (reverse), holding each for 3-5 seconds. The car reaction to switching should be barely perceptible, with a delay of no more than a second. There should be no kicks or extraneous sounds.

How does a mechanic diagnose a transmission? ›

Computer and Internal Diagnostics

Using a computer system scanner to retrieve any trouble codes and to determine the probable cause. All critical computer systems in the vehicle are checked for trouble codes, because a variety of systems could cause drivability issues.

Can you fix a transmission without replacing it? ›

Transmission Rebuild

The rebuild transmission option can completely revive your transmission. While the transmission rebuild cost is often higher than transmission repair cost, it will get you back on the road and running smoothly. It is also often at a lower cost than a transmission replacement.

How do I know if my transmission sensor is bad? ›

When your transmission shifts into the wrong gear, you may notice that your engine seems to stall out or rev unexpectedly. If your transmission is continually mismatching its gear selection and gear ratios, you may want to ask your mechanic to check on the condition of your transmission position sensor.

What are the symptoms of a bad transmission mount? ›

What are the Symptoms of Transmission Mount Failure?
  • Excess vibration while the engine is running.
  • Clanking or clunking noises when shifting gears.
  • Transmission is difficult to put into gear or shift.

Which car brand has best transmission? ›

What Is the Most Reliable Automatic Transmission?
  • Toyota A750. ...
  • Volkswagen DSG (Direct-Shift Gearbox) ...
  • Aisin-Warner AW1. ...
  • GM 6L80. ...
  • Subaru Lineartronic CVT. ...
  • Honda 10-speed Automatic. ...
  • Hyundai/Kia 8-speed Automatic. ...
  • Mercedes-Benz 9G-TRONIC.

What car transmission type is best? ›

The Gist: Based on the above information of car transmissions, we can conclude that an automatic gearbox is better than a manual one if you want convenience while driving and good fuel economy at high speeds (above 60 km/h), and a manual transmission is better if you want more control.

Which automatic transmission is most reliable? ›

Torque converters are the oldest form of automatic transmission. Because of this, it is the most reliable automatic gearbox.

What vehicle has fewest problems? ›

Here are nine cars for your consideration with the fewest problems.
  1. 2024 Kia Forte (Top-rated compact car) ...
  2. 2024 Kia K5 (Top-rated midsize car) ...
  3. 2022 Toyota C-HR (Top-rated small SUV) ...
  4. 2024 Kia Sportage (Top-rated compact SUV) ...
  5. 2024 Chevrolet Blazer (Top-rated midsize SUV) ...
  6. 2023 Chevrolet Tahoe (Top-rated large SUV)
Jan 2, 2024

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