transmission slipping symptoms

Recognizing Transmission Slipping Symptoms Before It’s Too Late

A car’s transmission helps transmit engine power to the wheel to keep your vehicle moving. While vehicles come with different transmission types, they all do the same task.

However, the transmission may slip for several reasons.

When this happens, you should immediately take the car to a transmission specialist or an expert mechanic. While a slipping transmission does not necessarily mean you have a bad transmission, it could destroy your transmission if left unattended.

So how do you identify a slipping transmission?

Symptoms of a Slipping Transmission

The following are common signs of a slipping transmission to look out for.

Inability to shift gears

If you find it difficult to shift from one gear to another, you might be dealing with a slipping transmission.

Since the transmission has issues shifting from one gear to another, the long delay causes the engine to rev until the transmission sends power to the wheels again.

Hence causing the RPMs to rev higher in between shifts.

Delay in shifting gears

If your vehicle fails to accelerate or engage immediately after stepping on the gas pedal, you may need to check the transmission.

A long break occurs when you shift from PARK to DRIVE before the car starts moving.

During this period, the engine revs, but the car doesn’t move. While in some cases, a slipping transmission slowly responds, in other cases, it might not respond at all.

Unauthorized gear shift

A slipping transmission will also cause your car to change gears without your input or any action. If you experience this, have your car taken to an expert immediately as the car is now unreliable and dangerous to drive.

Car jerking or surging

A functional transmission will constantly supply engine power to your wheels to help move the car. However, when the transmission starts slipping, the transmission will transfer little or no power to the wheels.

Since the transmission fails to transfer enough power to the wheel, your car will start losing power, especially at high speeds. Hence causing your car to jerk or surge.

Strange noises

A slipping transmission will also cause your car to make weird noises such as grinding, winding, or clunking noises, especially when trying to shift gears. This is mostly associated with cars with automatic transmissions.

While a slipping transmission may not be the only reason for such noises, it is sometimes a culprit. If you experience this, allow an expert to diagnose the issue.

Increased engine noise 

The engine would usually make noises whenever you turn it on. However, if the noise seems louder than usual, you may be dealing with a slipping transmission.

Unusual smells

Unusual smells such as a burning smell from your engine may also mean your transmission is slipping. The smell stems from a fluid that has leaked into the exhaust, and it’s burning, or the transmission is overheating due to a low fluid level.

Decrease in fuel economy 

If you start using more fuel than usual, you might have a slipping transmission. You may visit service centers near you to have it checked.

Illumination of the check engine light

A slippery transmission will also cause your check engine light to come on. However, the check engine light may also point to other faulty components.

So the best way to know if it’s a transmission issue is to diagnose using a scan tool.

Related Post: What transmission do I have

Causes of a Slipping Transmission

Here are common reasons your transmission slips.

Burnt or low transmission fluid

The transmission oil helps lubricate moving transmission components and also serves as a coolant for the transmission.

It can be low due to a fluid leak or gets contaminated over time and not doing its job properly.

This can cause overheating and eventually cause your transmission to slip. Try keeping up with transmission maintenance as needed to avoid further damage.

Worn gears

The gear can wear out over time, especially if it keeps working hot due to low or contaminated fluid. It could even wear due to natural causes or manufacturer defects.

However, worn gears will not link together properly, causing transmission slippage.

Torque converter issues

The torque converter helps transfer rotating power from the engine to the transmission.

However, it might get worn after some time. When this happens, it will not allow transmission fluid to pass through it at the right time. Hence, causing the transmission to slip.

Worn or broken transmission band

The transmission bands help link gears in an automatic transmission vehicle together.

However, the bands and clutch must engage and release simultaneously for transmission to work. But over time, they may become worn or broken.

A worn band will usually cause the transmission to slip, while a broken transmission band can result in total transmission failure. In some cases, the band just needs to be readjusted.

At other times, you may need to replace it together with the clutch plates.

Faulty transmission solenoid

The transmission solenoid helps regulate the quantity of fluid that goes through the transmission. When it becomes bad, low hydraulic pressure ensues in the fluid, not letting enough fluid into the transmission, causing transmission slippage and other problems.

A consistent drop in the fluid level can also cause the solenoid to fail.

Clutch problem

While manual transmission vehicles use a clutch, you will also find clutches in cars with automatic transmissions.

If your clutch has issues, your transmission will slip and cause shifting problems. The best way to figure out a clutch problem is to visit service centers near you and have it checked.

Similar Read: How much does a clutch replacement cost

Normal wear

No matter how much you care for the transmission, they will eventually wear out naturally. They are not meant to last forever. If you keep your car for a long time, you may eventually need to carry out transmission repairs.

How to fix a slipping transmission

The best approach to fixing a slipping transmission issue is knowing the cause. If the low or contaminated fluid is the culprit, a simple fluid change or flush around $125 – $400 could solve the problem.

First, check the transmission dipstick. If it looks fresh but below the line, top it.

Transmission fluid in good condition should have a dark red color. If it’s dark brown or black, carry on with the fluid change or flush. If, however, a flush or change doesn’t solve the issues, you may need to visit a professional mechanic.

You may need a new transmission solenoid, readjusted bands, or even a full transmission rebuild. These aren’t issues you can handle yourself; only an expert can.


How much does it cost to fix a slipping transmission?

Transmission repair costs could be anywhere between $125 – $5000 depending on the issue. A fluid change or flush on average costs around $250; you can even do it for $100 if you’re doing this service yourself. If, however, you want a total transmission rebuild, you should spend around $1500 – $2000 and even higher for luxury cars. If the issue requires getting an entirely new transmission, the cost could be anywhere between $3000 – $5000. At this point, you may consider selling the car if you know spending such money on repairs does not worth it. And probably getting a new car.

How often should the transmission be serviced?

Transmission should be serviced around 30k-60k miles. This service typically includes just a fluid change or flush and no other thing. With the transmission fluid in good condition, the transmission should work for a long.

What is the difference between a slipping and broken transmission?

A slipping transmission may fluctuate in supplying power to the wheels. So your car will still function. However, a broken transmission won’t allow you to drive at all. But remember, a slipping transmission not fixed will eventually lead to a broken transmission.

Can I drive with a slipping transmission?

A slipping transmission will still let you drive your car. However, this isn’t a good idea as you could lose control of your car and get into a crash. In other cases, driving with a slipping transmission will result in further transmission damage. Try fixing it immediately to avoid costly transmission repairs.

How long does transmission last?

A properly maintained transmission can last between 200k-300k or more. However, lack of maintenance may affect its lifespan.


While a slipping transmission may still work, it can lead to transmission failure. So watch out for warning signs and fix them immediately.

Fortunately, even a simple top-up or fluid flush can solve the issue.

If, however, it’s not a fluid issue, you may need to take your car to a certified auto shop and have it checked by a professional.

Transmission issues are not easy to detect and, therefore, can’t be fixed by individuals. Because transmission problems require a lot of time to fix, they are always expensive.

So for a major repair, you could be spending a few thousand dollars.

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