Category Archives: signs your car transmission is failing

6 Signs Your Car Transmission May be Failing


gears from a car transmissionNothing’s worse than when you want to go somewhere, but your car transmission has failed…except, possibly, for the repair bill from your mechanic.  As with anything else in life, there’s good and bad news when it comes to your car’s transmission.  The good news is that some transmission failures can be prevented.  The bad news is that some car transmission failures are unavoidable; however, if you know the signs of a transmission failure, you can hopefully avoid the inevitable stranding when it gives out.

Fluid Leak

Transmissions low on fluid or with very used transmission fluid are susceptible to transmission failure.  If you find transmission fluid on your garage floor or on the street (here’s how to tell it’s transmission fluid), you could have failing gasket or other transmission part.  Schedule an appointment to get the problem diagnosed, so your low fluid level doesn’t cause your transmission to fail.

Dirty Fluid

Dirty transmission fluid looks brown instead of the bright red of new car transmission fluid.  To find out if your transmission fluid is dirty, turn your car on and let it run for a few minutes.  With the car in park, pull the transmission dipstick up and wipe it with a clean rag.  You can find the location of the transmission dipstick in your car’s owner manual.  If the fluid on the rag is brown, it’s time to schedule an appointment for a transmission flush.  In general, your transmission fluid should be replaced every two years or 30,000 miles.


Clunks, grinding, bumps…any of these sounds while shifting your car can signal a failing transmission or a transmission that needs a transmission fluid flush.  If you consistently hear a loud ‘clunk’ when shifting the car into gear, or if the car makes that noise when shifting gears, schedule an appointment to get your transmission checked.

Light on Dash

We all love to ignore those dash warning lights and pretend there’s not a problem, but the reality is that dashboard warning lights can notify us of problems that we can’t feel or see.  If your transmission fluid temperature or check engine light comes on, ask your mechanic to hook your car up to the computer at your next oil change.

Slipping gears

If you can feel your car slipping gears when shifting, get the problem checked.  Slipping gears can signal dirty or contaminated fluid, or can be a sign of a much more serious problem.  Schedule an appointment to find out the cause of the slippage, and avoid a transmission failure.


If your car surges or hesitates, your transmission fluid may have to be changed or there could be another transmission problem going on.  Schedule an appointment with your mechanic.  Be aware that if your vehicle is displaying any of these warning signs of a failing transmission, your transmission may be damage beyond dirty transmission fluid.