How Do I Know If My Transmission Is Broken?

by Jen Davis

Problems that occur with the transmission in a vehicle can be expensive, inconvenient and time-consuming. The transmission in your car controls how the vehicle moves and shifts through its gears. If your transmission is experiencing problems, you will be able to tell when you drive the vehicle and notice its operation.


Check the transmission fluid. Transmission fluid should be a pinkish-red color and translucent. If the transmission fluid is brown or black, milky or appears to be otherwise contaminated, you will need to replace it immediately and determine the cause of the contamination. Transmission fluid works as a lubricant and coolant for your transmission; so if there is a problem with the fluid, it may cause your transmission to overheat and completely stop functioning.


Most newer cars and trucks have a sensor that will trigger a check engine or service transmission light to come on in your dashboard if the transmission experiences problems, primarily overheating. An overheated transmission can suffer long lasting permanent damage, so it is important to stop driving the vehicle and have it repaired as soon as you notice this light come on.

Hard Shifting

Transmission shifting should not be significantly noticeable. If the transmission jerks when it shifts, makes clunking noises or refuses to shift and causes the engine RPMs to increase well above their usual level, you need to take your car into a transmission repair specialist to diagnose the problem with the transmission.

Not Moving

In the worst case scenario, your transmission will completely lose one or more gears, and your vehicle will be unable to move or become stuck in a single gear. If your vehicle will not move or only travels in reverse or first gear, you can be certain there is a problem with the transmission.

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