Transmission repairs and replacement can be very expensive, sometimes several $1,000’s. However, there are many minor causes of transmission problems that might scare you needlessly. Here are just a few that we have seen that could be at the root of your transmission problem.
- Transmission Fluid Leaks / Low Fluid Level: Your vehicle may have a small or large leak of the transmission fluid. There are a few causes of this, and quite often, the fix is affordable.
- Vacuum Lines that have come out or are loose: Usually when this happens, your transmission won’t shift at all. Of course, a non-shifting transmission can scare you, but if this is the cause, the cure is not painful at all.
- Linkages and/or cables that have come loose or are out of adjustment: These run from the transmission to the throttle body. If one comes out of adjustment, you may experience shifting issues such as no shifting, hard shifting or late shifting.
- Bad Solenoid: The transmission contains shifting solenoids inside (and on some models, outside). The symptoms from this transmission problem cause a wide array of shifting problems, like not shifting into particular gears. Usually, a bad solenoid gives problems with specific gears or sets of gears like 1st, 2nd, and 3rd.
- Computer problems: Today’s cars all have computers in them to help coordinate the many functions of the car. But the computers can develop problems and seem to cause you transmission problems. Symptoms from a computer problem range from no shifting to erratic shifting.
- Sensor defects: Each car has sensors that help tell the transmission when to shift. Fixing this problem is much easier and more affordable than a new transmission.
- Bad Fluid: There are occasions that a fluid flush fixes your transmission problems. In fact, we often like to do this to see if it solves the problem affordably. However, if we find that it doesn’t help, we remove the charges if we do a major transmission repair or rebuild. It’s often a smarter first step because it MAY fix the problem.
Transmission problems due to infrequent or no fluid changes are common and often results in major damage. The purpose of the transmission fluid is to lubricate the internal parts such as bearings, gears, clutch pads, etc and keep seals soft and pliable. However, just like motor oil, transmission fluid breaks down with time, heat and what engineers call “sheering.” As oil is squeezed between gears it is like taking a pair of scissors and slicing the molecules, which eventually breaks them down to a point where they can no longer lubricate. Once transmission fluid loses its protective properties, the internal parts deteriorate quickly.
Transmission Service Intervals?
Your car’s owner manual lists the recommended service intervals. These are the minimums that the manufacturer requires to maintain your factory warranty. It’s important to point out that the manufacturer has a balancing act when they specify these intervals. On one hand, they want you to protect the transmission from problems so they don’t have to pay excessive warranty repairs. On the other hand, they don’t want to be known for requiring services at intervals that are too frequent. It has jokingly been said that the “Marketing Department” dictates the service intervals rather than the Engineering Department.