I Have a Sticking Transmission

by Karen Adams
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Transmission issues are notorious for their cost and complication. Often, if car owners hear the word "transmission" from a mechanic's mouth, it's not a good sign. Understanding why a transmission sticks might help in repair cost or avoid the issue altogether. If your car already experiences a sticking transmission, it could be one of many problems related to both manual and automatic transmissions.

Scanning the Diagnostic Trouble Code

On newer car models, a diagnostic trouble code designates certain problems in the transmission. For most cars, a "Check Engine Light" appears on the dash. The codes generate after plugging a code reader or scan tool into the vehicle's diagnostic connector. Auto repair shops have diagnostic code reader tools. Some auto parts stores do the scan for free and look up repair parts for you. This code is the first step to diagnosing your sticking transmission problem.

Sticking Automatic Transmissions

Automatic transmissions involve more construction and so have more problems because of all the different parts. If the transmission experiences slipping or sticking in a certain gear, the problem could be low transmission fluid or a bad solenoid, which is a valve that controls the flow in and out of the automatic transmission based on an electrical current. If the sticking speed is higher than specifications, you likely have a sticking pressure regulator valve. Again, a diagnostic code isolates the problem, particularly in automatic transmissions.

Sticking Manual Transmission

A major cause of sticking in manual transmissions is a broken shift cable. If your vehicle becomes hard to shift, it could mean a shift cable is failing. The problem starts as the shift cable does not pull on the linkage, and the gear shift becomes too stiff to operate. For this problem, replace the cable and study the linkage to make sure no damage occurred to the transmission. Another issue could be the clutch, especially if the gears grind or clash when shifting or the clutch is not fully releasing when the pedal is pushed back. You might need to replace the clutch in this instance.

Cold Weather Sticking Transmission

In winter months, you might notice your transmission sticking more. The problem likely lies with the lubricant in manual transmissions. A heavy lubricant will not work in cold weather just as a thin lubricant will not work in hot weather. Vehicle manufacturers specify the type of lubricant needed for your vehicle's transmission. An oil level left too low for a long period of time can also contribute to a worsening condition of a manual transmission.

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