Transmission Repair & Replacement

What Happens When Your Transmission Goes Out?

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.


Transmission Maintenance

Before diagnosing a broken transmission, a Meineke certified technician will perform a computer diagnostic to find out if there is a problem in the control system. This can also help identify an electrical component that might need replacing.

The malfunction might be due to a sensor, instead of a mechanical problem. However, if you have a fluid leak, you may need to replace the pan bolts, drain plugs, seals, gasket and fluid lines. In other instances, the transmission fluid might need to be changed and flushed.

Fluid Flush

If necessary, having your transmission flushed can help get your car back to running as intended. A fluid flush is essentially a process that helps push out grime and sludge that has accumulated over time. First, the old oil is removed. Then, new oil and sometimes cleaning solutions are run through it to help remove the unwanted debris. Finally, the transmission is filled back up with new oil.

Fluid Replacement

Technicians will follow the guidelines recommended by your vehicle’s manufacturer when performing the transmission fluid exchange, and if necessary, change the filter as well. The worst case scenario is that the transmission will need to be replaced or totally rebuilt. You should always have a technician change the fluid at regular intervals and avoid overheating.


Most Common Transmission Problems

Your car’s transmission is one of the most important parts of your vehicle, and transmission problems with your vehicle can result in rendering your vehicle completely undrivable. The transmission in your vehicle is the part of the car that directs the power from your engine to the driveshaft which in turn helps to turn the wheels on your vehicle. Following good preventive maintenance procedures for your transmission will always help your transmission perform better, last longer and require fewer repairs. However, in the event that your transmission does have problems, knowing what some of the more common types of transmission problems are can help you quickly diagnose and repair them. So, here is a list of the most common type of transmission problems.

Low Fluid Levels or Leaks

Low levels of transmission fluid or transmission fluid leaks are by far the most common type of transmission problem. Low levels of transmission fluid are usually caused by leaks in the transmission system itself. The seals in the transmission or driveshaft may become faulty and leak fluid. Occasionally, transmission gasket seals may need to be replaced to seal the leaks in the transmission. On some occasions, transmission fluid may be contaminated from coolant in the radiator. This is called cross-contamination and does occur on occasion.

Generally speaking, symptoms of low fluid levels or fluid leaks will include gear slippage or slow shifting. In the event fluid is very old or contaminated, the fluid will need to be changed or the transmission completely flushed and refilled.

Torque Converter Problems

Torque converters and transmission can be the source of several types of problems that can result in transmission damage or failure. One of the most common problems associated with the torque converter is worn or damaged needle bearings. If the needle bearings become warm, you will generally hear strange noises coming from the transmission while in driving gears. When the vehicle is in neutral, the transmission will probably not make any strange sounds, but when in a driving gear will make grinding or brushing sounds.

Solenoid Problems

The solenoid controls the flow of fluid throughout the transmission. Many times, the solenoid can become damaged because of insufficient fluid levels or other electronic problems with the solenoid. Problems with the solenoid are usually similar to those of inadequate fluid levels or fluid leaks. If your vehicle’s transmission is slipping and there are no leaks, the solenoid is the next item that you should check.

Clutch Problems

The clutch is located within the torque converter and can occasionally become jammed. When the clutch jams, the solenoid may become locked and the amount of transmission fluid in the torque converter may not be correctly calculated. These type clutch problems in the torque converter also appear very similar to low fluid levels. Clutch problems will also normally cause violent shaking underneath the vehicle and may produce very high heat levels in the transmission. You will normally also notice a very sharp drop in the power output of your engine.


Transmission Slipping

Transmission slipping is quite common, and can be caused by a variety of transmission issues such as low fluid levels, fluid leaks, worn out gears, or solenoid problems. Luckily, it’s pretty easy to identify transmission slipping, especially in an automatic car. Your engine will suddenly change in pitch – it may go from a low rumble to a high-pitched whine, and your RPMs will increase dramatically, even though you’re going the same speed. This happens if your transmission slips and downshifts at a high speed.

Conversely, you may find that your car is performing sluggishly and feels underpowered – this can happen when the transmission upshifts at a low speed. You’ll notice poor acceleration, and engine noise that’s more lower-pitched than usual. Transmission slipping can be dangerous, and can easily lead to accidents, or further damage to your transmission. Get your car check out by a mechanic right away if you’re experiencing this issue.

Rough Shifts

When your car shifts into another gear, it should be relatively smooth and easy – there should be no “clunking” or “thudding” noises when your transmission shifts.

If you do start to hear these noises when shifting gears, they are certainly a cause for concern. Low transmission fluid and worn-out gears can be the culprit – and computerized sensors and solenoids can cause clunking if they send the wrong information to your car’s gearbox.

It’s usually impossible to determine the cause of rough shifting until you take your car in to be repaired, so get your vehicle serviced as soon as you notice these issues.


Check Engine Light Is On

Don’t be fooled by its name. The “Check Engine” light in your vehicle’s dashboard can be turned on for a wide variety of reasons, including problems that have nothing to do with the engine itself. Problems in the electronics, brakes and transmission can all be indicated by a check engine light. If your check engine light has turned on, you’ll want to visit Archer Volkswagen. One of our technicians can connect a sophisticated code reader to the OBD-II port on your vehicle. We’ll take the data we get and use it to begin diagnosing your problem. If it’s a transmission fault that’s caused the light to come on, we’ll know as soon as we get the diagnostic data from your vehicle’s computer.

Shuddering, Surging Or Stalling When Changing Gears

Picture it: You’re sailing down the highway in overdrive, when suddenly you begin to head up an incline. You can feel the car shuddering beneath you, as if you were traveling down a bumpy gravel road. This can be a sign of a bad transmission. You might also experience a similar shuddering when changing from reverse into drive, or from park into reverse. Sometimes, a brief shudder will be followed by a sudden surge as the fluid pressure returns to normal. This is often caused by contaminated transmission fluid, but can be due to other problems as well. The proper fluid pressure must be maintained, or the transmission could slip and you’ll lose power.