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Common Transmission Slipping Symptoms – Full Guide

Common Transmission Slipping Symptoms – Full Guide

Automatic transmissions in modern vehicles are quite complicated. When you start to experience issues with them, most people have no idea what is causing it or how to fix them. A common problem is transmission slipping. If you think your transmission might be slipping, then keep reading!

We will tell you exactly what a slipping transmission feels like, what it might be caused by, and what you can do to fix it. In some cases, it can be repaired relatively easily while in other cases, the repair is much more involved and costly. Having a full understanding of the problem and causes will allow you to make a much more informed decision on how to proceed with your car.

What Does a Slipping Transmission Feel Like?

Common Transmission Slipping Symptoms – Full Guide

You already know what a normally operating transmission should feel like. When you press the gas pedal, the car accelerates and shifts smoothly and firmly through the gears. There are no weird noises or smells coming from the transmission, and its temperature stays within the normal operating range. But, what does it feel like when you start to have transmission problems?

You can typically feel a slipping transmission in one of a couple of ways. First, it may feel like the car is jerking or surging. As the transmission slips, it temporarily loses the ability to transfer power to your wheels. So, as you try to accelerate, the wheels are getting little bursts of power and you will feel the jerking effect. This is the one of the most common feels of a slipping transmission.

The other common feeling is when your car engine revs up between gear changes. You might think your wheels are spinning momentarily as your engine will hit a high RPM but your car will not be gaining speed. It may require you to let your foot off the accelerator before it will shift into the next gear.

Finally, you might feel nothing at all when you press the accelerator. Literally – you might press the gas pedal and your car goes nowhere. When it does eventually start to move, you might notice a lunge as it slams into gear and starts moving. If you experience any of these feelings, you should have your car checked out at an auto repair shop immediately. Ignoring these signs of transmission slippage can cause complete transmission failure and lead to a very expensive repair.

In addition to the items above, there are some other ways that you might be able to notice a problem with your transmission. If you hear strange noises while you drive your car, especially when it shifts gears, then you likely have a problem that needs to be addressed. Also, any transmission fluid leak definitely signals a problem. You should never see fluid on the outside of the transmission or on the ground.

A check engine light may appear when your car’s computer realizes there is a problem with the transmission. Also, if you notice it overheating or smell a burnt odor, then you should have it checked immediately.

If you have a manual transmission, then you might notice clutch problems or problems when you shift gears. Both manual and automatic transmissions have clutch plates, and these can cause issues in either type.

Another sign of a slipping transmission is when you notice that your car will not shift into reverse. In addition, it might not shift into drive easily either. This can also signal larger transmission issues, so you should have this checked out right away. This might be a much bigger deal than a basic slipping of the transmission.

What Are The Causes Of A Slipping Transmission?

Now that you know some of the signs of a slipping transmission, let’s talk about what can cause this issue. Automatic transmission slipping can be caused by a number of things. Here are some of the most common causes:

Normal Wear & Tear

Internal transmission parts don’t last forever, and they will eventually start to wear out. Thankfully, these parts last for many years under normal driving conditions and with proper maintenance. However, as with any moving parts, heat and friction eventually begin to break them down. Gears become worn and bands start to stretch. When this finally happens, you will need to make some repairs.

Low Transmission Fluid Level

Low fluid level is one of the most common reasons for a slipping transmission. Without the proper level of fluid in your transmission, it cannot operate like it should. It needs fluid for both lubrication and heat exchange as well as hydraulic pressure for proper shifting and operation. You should always use your dipstick to keep an eye on your fluid level to make sure that it does not get too low so that you can avoid further damage. A transmission leak can sometimes go undetected, especially if you park your vehicle on the grass. That is why it is extremely important to keep an eye on things to make sure that your fluid level stays where it should be!

Old or Burnt Transmission Fluid

If you ever experience a burning smell coming from your transmission, you should, at a minimum, change the fluid immediately. Old or burned fluid can no longer lubricate your transmission parts like it should, and it loses the ability to remove heat from your transmission. Heat and friction are the two main killers of transmissions, so making sure that you have clean, fresh fluid in it goes a long way toward keeping your car on the road.

Bad Solenoid

Your car’s transmission uses a solenoid to control the flow of fluid as it shifts. Your car’s computer sends a signal to the solenoid to control how much fluid enters the valve body, thus allowing the transmission to shift into the correct gear. When you start to have solenoid problems, your transmission will not shift properly. This can cause low fluid pressure and might even cause your transmission to overheat since not enough fluid is flowing through.

Worn Transmission Bands

The bands inside your transmission must engage and disengage at precisely the right moment and with the right amount of pressure for proper shifting and operation of your transmission. Over time, these bands become worn and may no longer engage as they should. This is particularly true if your transmission has experienced overheating or low fluid. These issues will cause the bands to wear even faster.

In some cases, these bands can be adjusted back to normal conditions. While this still requires a major repair of your transmission, it is not as expensive as the need to rebuild your entire transmission. This, again, highlights the importance of proper transmission service and maintenance.

Bad Torque Converter

Torque converter issues can cause many problems, and a slipping transmission is just one of them. When fluid doesn’t flow through the torque converter properly, your wheels do not get power as they should. As with your other internal parts, your converter will eventually wear out. If you notice your transmission slipped, it could very well be an issue with the torque converter.

Worn Out Clutch

A worn out clutch is usually the most common cause of slipping in a manual transmission. The manual clutch is replaced by the torque converter in automatic transmissions, although they do still have some internal clutches as well. If it feels like your manual transmission is slipping, then the clutch is the first place to start. When it becomes worn and no longer can grip the flywheel as it should, then it slips and does not spin your wheels properly.

Transmission Slipping Repair Costs

The cost to repair your transmission really depends on what is truly causing the issue. A qualified mechanic at your local dealership can provide a thorough evaluation to determine the root cause and assess your repair options.

Sometimes, you can fix a slipping transmission with a simple fluid change. This can even be done yourself for less than $100 in most cases. Just drain the fluid from the system, replace the gasket on the pan, and refill with brand new fluid. You should consult your owner’s manual to determine exactly how much fluid you will need. Even if you have the work done at a repair shop, you can generally expect to pay less than $300 for a transmission flush. Much cheaper than some other repairs like a timing belt replacement, for instance!

If you have waited too long or you have bigger problems, then you might be in for a bigger repair bill. If you have a totally worn out transmission, then you are going to need a complete rebuild or maybe even a replacement. Heads up – this is a very expensive repair!

A total transmission rebuild is probably going to cost you somewhere between $1,500 – $2,500 depending on the make and model of your car. If you need a new transmission, you are probably looking at $3,000 – $5,000! Who has that kind of money sitting around for a car repair?!?

In that case, your best option is probably to sell your car to Auto Wranglers. You can use the money you get to purchase a new vehicle that doesn’t have transmission problems. We will make you a free instant offer to purchase your car for cash. We will have you paid within a day or two so that you can get yourself into a new ride!

Can You Drive With A Slipping Transmission?

You should never drive with a slipping transmission as this can present a very dangerous situation to you and other drivers on the road! Your vehicle could suddenly lose power or fail to shift, resulting in an accident.

Imagine that you pull out into traffic onto a highway, but your vehicle will not shift gears. Cars will be speeding by while you struggle to gain speed. At the least, you will get horns honked at you and maybe some choice words from other drivers. At the worst, you could be involved in a bad accident due to your transmission not functioning properly.

Plan and simply – driving with a slipping transmission presents a safety hazard and it should not be done. If you do not have the money to repair your transmission, then contact Auto Wranglers and simply sell us your car. We buy cars across the country for cash, and we’ll buy yours too. Use that extra money to get a vehicle that is safe and operates properly.


A slipping transmission has a certain feel that you can learn to recognize if you paid attention while reading this article. If you feel any of those symptoms, you should have it diagnosed by a professional immediately. Driving with a slipping transmission is never a good idea as it is dangerous to both you and others.

While your problem can be caused by a number of things, a mechanic can help you narrow down the precise issue. It could be as simple as a need for new fluid, which can be repaired relatively inexpensively. On the other hand, you might need an entirely new transmission. If that’s the case, you are probably better off calling Auto Wranglers. We will pay cash for your car even – even with a blown transmission – and you can get a new ride that will stay on the road for years to come.