What Happens When Your Transmission Goes Out?

by Laura Gianino
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yellow car, a honda japanese sport car model image by alma_sacra from Fotolia.com

Transmission problems may put you and your passengers at risk if you do not know what to expect when your transmission goes out. The transmission controls the transfer of engine power to the drive wheels and allows the driver to change gears and control speed. When a transmission goes out, vehicle handling and performance may be affected. Learn how to identify transmission problems, the steps you can take for your vehicle now and how to prevent transmission problems in the future.


Overheating is one of the most common causes of transmission failure, which may occur because of a car pulling a heavy load (such as a trailer), driving in snowy conditions or stop-and-go traffic in excessive heat. When the transmission temperature rises, the fluid burns and begins to lose its lubricating qualities. When this happens, the transmission hardens and becomes prone to leaks, which cause transmission failure. Your transmission may also stop working because of poor automotive design, poor maintenance, wrong fluid type or harsh driving.


If your transmission stops working, you may notice leaking under the car. Transmission fluid is a reddish transparent color, which makes it easy to spot. A faulty transmission may leak fluid that is cloudy, brown or has a burnt odor. To prevent further damage to your transmission, check your fluid level often until you are able to visit your local auto repair shop or transmission facility. Read your car's manual to be sure on how to check transmission fluid levels. Typically, it will involve pulling out the transmission dipstick to get a reading on fluid levels. Make sure to have your transmission looked at before the fluid levels dip too low, or you risk further damage to your transmission.


When your transmission goes out, your car's handling will be affected. You may experience vibrations, slippage (engine revs but vehicle does not accelerate as it should) or different shift patterns in your vehicle. The gear shift on your car will stop working when the transmission dies. This may be caused by a bad fluid pump in the transmission, which can lead to total gear breakdown. Typically, an automatic car should shift smoothly and soundlessly; if your car makes noises while shifting or you begin to feel a vibration, this indicates a transmission problem. Bring your car to your local mechanic or auto repair shop to have your transmission checked out or repaired.


Prevent transmission failure by regularly checking your transmission for leaks. If you catch a problem in time you will be able to prevent complete transmission failure. Manually check or bring your car to a mechanic to have him check your transmission levels so your fluid levels are always maintained. Bring your car in for regular repairs to have the fluid changed when it becomes dark or cloudy in color. Make sure you are using the proper transmission fluid for your car, as specified in your vehicle owner's manual. When driving, avoid frequent stopping and starting. Make sure the car has come to a full stop before shifting to the parking gear.

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