Over the last few decades, manual transmission vehicles have become an endangered species. Drivers opt for ease and convenience of an automatic transmission over the perceived effort of driving a manual or stick transmission. Although the popularity of automatics has changed the driving experience, automatic transmissions are not immune from problems.

In this month’s blog post, we examine some of the typical problems that you may experience with your automatic transmission and ways to spot a potential problem with your transmission. The good news is that there is preventative care that you can do for your transmission to avoid many costly repairs.

The automatic transmission is an amazing feat of technology that many drivers take for granted when they depress the gas pedal. In a nutshell, the transmission assists the engine with spinning at the correct rate (either slower or faster), while also providing the wheels with the power to move or stop when it is necessary.  Many auto professionals feel that your vehicle’s transmission is one of the most complicated pieces of machinery due to the variety of systems used to control its functions and output.

Common Automatic Transmission Problems

Grinding Gears, Slippage, or Gear Damage- Gear shifting in an automatic is designed to be smooth but gears can become damaged through wear and tear. This results in misalignment or grinding between gears.
- Transmission slippage may also be a sign of lower levels of transmission fluid.
- As the vehicle accelerates and the gears shift, you feel shaking, rough shifting, or grinding sensations.

- The vehicle runs at high RPMs during driving (above 3500)
- There may be a delayed response in shifting during acceleration or difficulty getting the vehicle in reverse.
Leaking Transmission Fluid- Just like other major components of your engine, the transmission requires lubrication to protect parts from friction and heat.
- Transmission fluid is used to lubricate parts and is a very distinct sweet smelling and red fluid.
- Signs of pooling or dripping transmission fluid under the front of the vehicle.

- Transmission fluid is below normal levels, or your dashboard warning light is illuminated.
No or Low Transmission Fluid Levels - When transmission fluid is depleted within the transmission, the set of gears will rub and grind, creating a variety of sounds. 

- Transmission fluid regulates temperature in the system and if the transmission is running too hot, the fluid can evaporate or burn off from the vehicle.
- Various sounds during vehicle operation, including:




- You may also detect a burning smell, or the fluid is discolored.

Transmission Maintenance


There are ways to minimize problems with your transmission through ongoing preventative maintenance.

  1. Stay more aware of any transmission symptoms:  Transmission problems will usually exhibit themselves through different sounds, sensations, and smells.  Pay attention to what your vehicle may be telling you and always make a point to check under the vehicle periodically for any signs of leaks.
  2. Check Transmission Fluid Levels:  Periodically (monthly) checking your transmission fluid levels is a crucial step in keeping your transmission operating effectively.  Consult with your vehicle owner’s manual on the location and proper level of fluid for your vehicle.  Make sure to avoid overfilling if you are replenishing any missing fluid.
  3. Fluid replacement:  As with other systems, transmission fluid becomes dirty and less effective over time and should be replaced, along with the transmission filter. Consult with your service professional or your owner’s manual but most recommendations for replacement are about every 30,000 miles driven.

If you are experiencing any of the transmission problem symptoms, and want your vehicle checked out, contact the service professionals at Campus Repair.  We will inspect your transmission and advise you on any repairs or maintenance that needs to be done to keep your transmission running smoothly.