If there’s only one thing you remember about your transmission fluid, make it this:
It’s important to keep the transmission fluid clean and at the proper level – only use the correct type and amount of transmission fluid for your car. Check the owner’s manual or ask your mechanic if you’re not sure.
- Transfers the hydraulic pressure to shift the gears
- Lubricates all moving parts
- Cools the transmission
Transmission fluid lasts longer than engine oil, but still deteriorates over time and under high temperature and load.
Signs you should get your gearbox checked
1. Slipping Gears
Normally a car will stay in the gear selected by the driver, or by the computer for a given RPM range, until a change is made. If the gears are slipping, this means the car can spontaneously pop out of gear and (in a manual) force the stick back into neutral. This situation is potential dangerous, so if you notice this happen, it’s time to have your transmission examined.
2. Dragging clutch
A dragging clutch occurs when the clutch disk fails to disengage from the flywheel as the driver pushes in the clutch pedal. The driver is unable to shift gears because the still-engaged clutch is still spinning with the engine. The driver experiences a grinding noise with each attempt to shift gear. The problem is likely too much slack in the clutch pedal. This is not costly to fix – whew.
3. Leaking transmission fluid
This is one of the clearest alerts that there’s a problem – the fluid is vital to the functioning of the transmission. Have you ever noticed a little liquid – bright red or clear, and sweet-smelling – on your driveway? This could become a major problem.
When you check the automatic transmission fluid, make sure it’s not dark in colour with a burnt smell. If so, you need to take the vehicle to the mechanic to have the fluid replaced. If you are running low, there is definitely a leak. Note that checking the manual transmission fluid is not so easy.
4. The ‘check engine’ light
This light may come on for a variety of reasons – so it may not be a transmission problem. A diagnostic scan tool plugged into your car will tell you the diagnostic code that corresponds to the fault.
Automatic vs manual
Transmission problems can feel different in manual and automatic cars. Here’s what to look out for:
5. ‘Feeling’ a transmission problem
How does it feel as the gears change?
Manual: Do you hear a grinding sound when shifting to a new gear? Note the grinding gears can be caused by various factors.
Automatic: The car will likely ‘shimmy’ into each gear rather than producing unnoticeable movements, or there will be a jarring transition to the next gear.
6. Listening for a problem
As with any good relationship, you need to listen to your car.
Manual: You may experience a more abrupt and mechanical sound. Listen for a ‘clunk’.
Automatic: You may hear a whining, humming, or slight buzzing sound.
If the vehicle hesitates, or refuses to go into gear, your car is alerting you to a problem.
Manual: Shifting into a gear, the engine may rev up, but the car is not moving as fast as the engine is running.
Automatic: the car may demonstrate the same lack of response, but it will appear while engaging the park or drive modes.