A car is made up of countless parts that work together, which means that any issue with a single component often has an effect on the whole chain of operation. Your vehicle’s transmission is no exception, and being aware of the common warning signs will help you both save money down the track and avoid potential danger on the road. Spotting problems early on is one of the best ways to skirt this issue, as it allows you to seek more affordable maintenance before much more expensive damage occurs.

Transmission slipping while driving

Have you ever been driving down a flat road and calmly maintaining your speed only to feel the car suddenly lurch and hear the engine painfully whine? This is a common symptom of slipping, which is when your transmission changes gear or back into neutral when not required. This can be highly dangerous if you need to quickly accelerate in a dangerous situation, as you won’t be able to get power to the wheels if not in the correct gear.

Delayed engagement when starting

Related to transmission slipping while the car is moving, delayed engagement is basically a sluggish pause when shifting from park or neutral into drive or reverse. This delay may be anything from a brief few seconds to an extended period, and is often most noticeable in the morning or after any long period of inactivity. Delayed engagement typically indicates a problem with your transmission and can be a result of anything from broken vacuum lines to use of incorrect fluid.

Burnt, dirty or low transmission fluid

Automatic transmission fluid (ATF) plays an extremely important role in your vehicle by providing lubrication, fluid pressure and cooling for the transmission. Problems with ATF can lead to expensive issues in the future, which is why it’s important to check it once per month and keep an eye out for the warning signs. If the fluid levels are low or the fluid itself looks dirty or smells burnt, chances are your transmission needs a repair to prevent overheating and other associated issues.

Check engine light and any strange sounds and smells

Being aware of your car in general will help you notice anything odd. Modern vehicles are equipped with increasingly advanced technology and will often notify you of any uncharacteristic behaviour that may not have been otherwise noticed; take this warning as a chance investigate any potential issue further before it gets worse. On top of that, use all your senses to detect strange sounds, burning smells or heightened temperatures — even if you aren’t an expert, you’d be surprised how often you can tell when something isn’t right.

What to do when you encounter an issue

Leaving any transmission problem unaddressed is a quick way to land yourself with a costly repair or replacement down the track. If you notice any of the above signs, taking your car to get fixed by a professional as soon as possible is the best way to keep the transmission in top condition while minimising your future expenses.