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Symptoms With Your Car Having Low Transmission Fluid

by Dan Boone

"Slip slidin' away...You know the nearer your destination, the more you're slip slidin' away." Singer Paul Simon croons about it. Experiencing your vehicle's transmission slipping and sliding means you may not make it to your destination. Low transmission fluid levels restrict hydraulic power inside the transmission casing. The fluid keeps the transmission cool, it keeps internal parts and gears lubricated and allows your vehicle to move forward and backward. Recognizing warning signs of low transmission fluid will help you get to where you need to go.

Engine Slipping

If your engine speeds up suddenly and your vehicle fails to respond, it could be that your transmission fluid is low.

Sluggish Shifting

Sluggish shifting and noticeable lack of immediate response in and out of forward and reverse gears could mean your transmission fluid is depleted.


If your vehicle surges forward and then falls backward during normal operation, creating erratic movements, you may need to replenish transmission fluids.


Unusual sounds like a rhythmic beating, clunking and/or grinding when shifting gears could signal low transmission fluid.


If you see puddles of fluid appearing under your vehicle directly underneath the transmission gear box, it could be your transmission fluid leaking. It should be checked and restored.

Burnt Toast Smell

Friction and heat raise temperatures inside the gear box, and bad smells or smoke can signal transmission problems. Check your transmission fluid level using the transmission "dip stick." If the color appears brown and has a burnt-toast smell, the fluid has cooked itself and can't lubricate or cool the transmission. Service the transmission to replace the fluid.

About the Author

Dan Boone has been writing since 1999. His work has appeared on and he wrote for the "Virgin Voice" magazine and its website, Virgin Voices. Boone has a Bachelor of Arts in composition and arranging from Berklee College of Music in Boston. He also holds a certificate in digital-sound engineering from the Trebas Institute in Montreal.

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Photo Credits

  • old gearbox dumped in a rest area on the side of the road image by Undy from