How Do You Know If You Need a New Transmission?

by Andrea Palmer
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A transmission can prove costly and difficult to replace on your car. Even a rebuilt transmission can cost thousands of dollars. Some choose to ignore signs that their transmission needs to be replaced and risk travel with a failing transmission, increasing the chances of a breakdown. Performing a basic check of your transmission, from fluid color, leakage and the overall sound can give you insight into whether or not your transmission needs to be replaced. With a few pointers you can quickly troubleshoot your car for transmission problems and decide whether or not you need to replace the transmission.

Step 1

Listen to your car at start-up. The sounds your car makes, such as grinding or loud rumbling when the transmission shifts, can be a sign of trouble. Failing transmissions may rumble loudly or even make grinding or whining sounds. If you notice grinding or slipping into gears, bring it into an auto shop and have a professional look at it. Usually when the transmission is grinding loudly, it is time for a transmission overhaul.

Step 2

Check for leaks frequently. Leaking of any kind isn't good; car fluids are meant to remain in the vehicle. If you see a leak and suspect it is coming from your transmission, place a shallow pan under the transmission area overnight. In the morning check the pan for fluid. If there is liquid in the pan, take the car to an auto shop or your dealer for a proper check. Early detection can make the difference between having minor repairs and replacing the transmission completely. A professional will have the proper tools and machines available for diagnosis.

Step 3

Regularly check your transmission fluid level and the fluid's smell. If the fluid levels are low, particularly when recently refilled, your transmission is likely burned out and needs an overhaul. If you notice a bitter or burnt smell in the transmission fluid, immediately take it to an auto shop for maintenance. If your car is grinding as you are in motion check the fluid within an hour after parking and turning off the engine.Transmission fluid must be drained before new fluid is added. Healthy transmission fluid is bright red, transparent and has a syrupy consistency. If the fluid is cloudy or brown, it indicates trouble but the damage may not be serious if caught early. Check your transmission fluid at least once a month, particularly with older cars.

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