Cars can be a blessing and a curse. It’s all smooth sailing until you hear a strange noise while driving and go, “That can’t be good.”
Of all car troubles, transmission failure is probably the most haunting for vehicle owners. The transmission transmits power from the engine to the wheels. When it breaks, you could face thousands of dollars in repairs.
As with any part of your car, addressing a failed transmission early on can save you money and prevent more serious damage down the line. And luckily, transmission issues don’t happen without warning. You only need to know what to look for.
Watch Out for These 17 Bad Transmission Signs
Because car transmissions take a lot of beating over the years, they’re bound to have problems after some time. But if your car is fresh out of the showroom, and the nonconformities persist after repeated trips to the mechanic, you may have a lemon on your hands.
However, you’re not entirely down on your luck. California’s Lemon Law protects owners with defective cars who have made reasonable repair attempts. Under the Lemon Law Presumption, you can qualify for a claim when:
- Your car’s problems are covered under the manufacturer’s warranty
- The issues occurred within the first 18 months of delivery or the first 18,000 miles, whichever came first
- The problem reduces the car’s use/value/safety
- The problem was not caused by abuse
- You have previously notified the manufacturer about the problem (if the warranty requires it)
Additionally, any one of the following statements must be true.
- You have taken the car to the manufacturer for repairs four or more times
- You have attempted repairs for an issue that could cause death or serious bodily injury two or more times
- Your car has been unserviceable for more than 30 days (not necessarily in a row) for a warranty-covered problem
Depending on the specifics of your case and the skill of your lemon lawyer in California, you can recover these damages as part of your settlement.
- An additional repair attempt
- Reimbursement for incidental expense
- A partial or complete refund
- A replacement vehicle
But how do you know if your car has a failed transmission? Let’s dive into the 17 faulty transmission symptoms to keep in the back of your mind.
1. Burning Smells
Road trips are chock-full of weird smells. But if any of them seem to be coming from the engine, you might have failed transmission. This is especially true for burning smells.
As transmission fluid depletes or degrades, it overheats, starts burning, and makes your engine run hotter. It’s the gateway to wear and tear, corrosion, and excess debris.
There are plenty of other causes of burning smells, including trapped plastic or a melting heater core. It’s best to get any abnormal smells checked out at the earliest.
2. Delayed Engagement
Has this ever happened to you?
You hop into your car, turn on the ignition, shift to ‘Drive’ or ‘Reverse,’ and nothing happens for a while.
Known as delayed engagement, this is a common faulty transmission symptom. Delayed engagement is characterized by a long delay between gear selection and feeling your transmission engage. It could be due to various reasons, such as insufficient transmission fluid, infrequent fluid replacements, or failing transmission solenoids.
3. Fluid Leaks
Transmission fluid has a bright red color and sweet scent, which may take on a darker tone if it is past its prime.
Anytime you notice a pool of red liquid in your driveway, use a transmission dipstick to see if your car’s fluid reaches the proper level. In case it doesn’t check for other transmission failure symptoms pronto.
4. Strange Sounds
Car breakdowns are often accompanied by strange sounds, and a failed transmission is no different. Weird noises like clunking, humming, or whining are all bad transmission signs. Malfunctioning manual transmissions will also emit loud mechanical sounds that seemingly come out of nowhere.
5. Check the Engine Light
Most drivers are used to ignoring a chronic Check Engine light. However, if it’s red and blinking, you should take it seriously.
Your car has built-in sensors designed to trip the warning system even when something inconsequential happens. In this regard, the transmission sensors can detect minute tremors you wouldn’t notice otherwise. If they set off the Check Engine light, it’s a transmission warning sign.
6. Slipping Gears
Slipping gears are another surefire way of diagnosing a failed transmission. It’s when your gears don’t shift smoothly, or the car doesn’t stay in gear as you drive.
Gear shifts are controlled by external inputs. In manual transmissions, you shift gears by pressing down on the clutch pedal. For automatic transmissions, you can choose between Park, Reverse, Neutral, and Drive. So, when your car halts abruptly, slips gears, or keeps switching to neutral without input, you have a transmission warning sign on your hands.
Normal transmissions are supposed to shift steadily. But if your car jerks or shakes violently every time you change gears, something may be wrong with the transmission. In fact, several Chevrolet, GMC, and Cadillac full-size truck-based SUVs were recalled due to this exact problem, now called the “Chevy Shake.”
8. Dragging Clutch
A dragging clutch can make it difficult, or nearly impossible, to drive a manual transmission. Usually, it occurs when the flywheel and clutch disc doesn’t disengage when you push the pedal. Since the clutch cannot transfer the engine power to the drivetrain, you can’t change gears – all thanks to a failed transmission.
9. No Response
A working transmission should slide into gear hassle-free. That’s why one of the most telling transmission warning signs is when your car hesitates or gives you no response when the engine is running.
In case your warranty covers failed transmission and you’ve made multiple repair attempts to no avail, discuss your options with a lemon lawyer in California.
10. Clutch Dragging Very High or Low in Manual Transmissions
A low-engagement clutch pedal usually stems from issues with the clutch’s connection or the hydraulic system. In the absence of hydraulic leakages, you’d only need a simple modification or bleed to fix the problem.
On the flip side, a high-grabbing clutch pedal could be an adjustment or a deteriorated pressure plate/clutch disc. It’s best to consult a mechanic for the right answers.
11. Excess Noise in Neutral
Does your car make a bumpy sound in neutral? You’ll want to call for an engine check. It’s possible that your car is low on transmission fluid, or it’s the wrong type and isn’t doing its job. Either way, be sure to pay heed to this bad transmission sign.
12. Limp/Emergency Mode
Many modern vehicles have a limp or emergency mode designed to mitigate the risk of a failed transmission. In limp mode, the vehicle’s built-in computers recognize a problem and automatically move into a single gear. They also prevent you from switching gears to ensure your safety.
13. Sluggish Acceleration
Sluggish acceleration can be a potential transmission failure symptom. When a transmission is not functioning properly, it may struggle to transfer power from the engine to the wheels. This can lead to a lack of acceleration, where the vehicle doesn’t pick up speed as quickly as it should even if the engine is running fine.
That said, delayed acceleration can also result from engine problems, fuel delivery issues, or a faulty drivetrain. These could arise from a manufacturer defect, entitling you to a settlement under California lemon law.
14. Gears that Don’t Switch
Stubborn gears are caused by low levels or the wrong type of transmission fluids. If your car struggles to switch between gears, or flat-out refuses to go into gear, your transmission could be to blame.
15. Loss of Power
A failed transmission can force your car to lose power while the engine is running normally, making it difficult for it to maintain speed. Alternatively, it could also be caused by a faulty brake caliper or hose. Have your car’s problem codes verified to get to the bottom of the issue.
16. Stuck in Reverse
Does your car only allow you to move backward? Is it completely stationary when you put it in Drive? It’s a transmission warning sign!
Being stuck in reverse could be caused by various issues within your transmission, such as a broken shift linkage, a failed clutch (in the case of a manual transmission), or a malfunctioning solenoid or valve body (in the case of an automatic transmission).
17. Grinding Noise from Gears
If your transmission makes a grinding noise when you shift gears, it’s likely due to friction caused by insufficient transmission fluid, worn transmission linkage, a maladjusted binding, or a dragging clutch. Whatever the case, have a mechanic take care of the issue immediately.
Let a Lemon Lawyer in California Fight on Your Behalf
Remember, transmission problems are common in older cars due to wear and tear or low fluid levels. However, a brand-new vehicle that is still within the warranty period should not have a failed transmission – unless it is defective.
Fortunately, you have California’s lemon law on your side. In case you experience any of these issues and the manufacturer cannot make repairs, you must file a lemon law claim to recover compensation for repair expenses, tow-truck, and rental car charges, as well as a vehicle replacement or buyback!
At Cline APC, our lemon lawyers in California understand how frustrating it can be to deal with repeated car problems. We’re here to defend your rights and fight for a fair settlement. Don’t hesitate to call us today for a free consultation, so we can analyze your situation and strategize a plan of action.