How to Troubleshoot Your Automatic Gearbox
Some people have the bad habit of ignoring problems with their automatic transmission because they’re afraid that if they take it to the mechanic, they will end up needing an expensive replacement. So, they soldier on with a transmission that’s not functioning at its best, not realising that the majority of the time, the real causes of issues in an automatic gearbox are usually quite everyday and easy to fix. What’s really important is getting some key knowledge.
When you know the things that can go wrong with an automatic gearbox, the possible causes and what to do about them, you are much better prepared and confident in going to see the mechanic to get some proper help for your car trouble. Let’s take a closer look at troubleshooting an automatic gearbox!
1. There’s Fluid Leaking
Leaks from any part of your car are always a troubling issue that no one really wants to have to deal with. That’s mostly because a leak is always bad news! If your transmission is leaking, then you could have a defective pan gasket, possibly leaking fluid lines, broken seals or a faulty torque converter. On the other hand, you might just have loose bolts.
Solution: Check the pan bolts if you have the means. If they appear loose, you can tighten them and see if the leaking stops. If they appear tight but the leaking is continuing, then you need your mechanic to get a closer look to find the exact source and stop the leak as soon as possible.
2. Your Hear Clicking or Squeaking
The clicking, clunking, whining, squeaking or possibly even a grinding noise you are hearing is likely parts moving across each other without proper lubrication and cooling. That’s normally the problem of a lack of good transmission fluid. Assuming there’s not a leak of transmission fluid, it could mean that your transmission fluid has become too gunked up with various contaminants and now the fluid levels are low.
Solution: The easiest solution is to flush and replace the transmission fluid. Obviously, if there is a leak, you should get that fixed first and foremost. If the transmission fluid looks in good condition but there’s still too little, you can top it up to the right levels. Check the level according to your transmission fluid dipstick.
3. Delayed Shifting
Remember when you first bought that car? The automatic transmission was incredibly smooth and reliable, wasn’t it? It was so seamless that you likely forgot that there was a mechanism in there dealing with all the gears. When that seamless smoothness seems to fade away, you instead experience erratic shifting, long delays between moving to drive “D” and feeling the gears move up to match your acceleration.
The most likely cause of this is a faulty transmission solenoid, but it could also be defective transmission fluid. Sometimes, the solenoid itself might be damaged or broken, but at other times its function is being hindered by bad transmission fluid that can prevent the solenoid from acting on electrical signals sent by the ECU.
Solution: The best way to solve this problem is to check on the condition and status of the transmission fluid. If the fluid is contaminated and needs replacing, then flushing the transmission fluid and replacing it with fresh fluid is a good start and see if that allows the solenoids to work normally again. If there is still a problem with shifting, then the issue is with the solenoids and they need professional repairs.
Are you getting warnings about too much heat from the transmission? Is there any heat being transmitted through the shifter, or can you feel it? If so, the first most likely causes are increased friction and heat within the transmission caused by low levels of transmission fluid or contamination of the transmission fluid. Some other possibilities include clogged fluid cooler lines, or that you have been towing excessive loads, especially in a hot climate.
In the more extreme circumstances, you might not sense the heat straight away but you might smell burning. This is the same circumstance, but it could be more acute and may suggest you have just or recently sprung a transmission fluid leak.
Solution: If the fluid is the problem, then it can be topped up, or flushed and replaced altogether. For the cooler lines, these can also be either flushed out or replaced if their structural integrity has been damaged in the process. If your overheating is coming about because of your towing or even just the surrounding hot climate, then you should invest in some transmission cooler.
5. Gear Slippage
As you’re driving, is the engine revving high while acceleration remains sluggish? This is a well-known condition usually called gear or clutch slippage. It can be caused by water intrusion into the transmission, or by low fluid levels. A more concerning worry, however, is that the gear slippage is being caused by worn-out clutch discs and related parts. This is a little more of a concern because it’s more complex to fix than just replacing fluid.
Solution: If slippage is being caused by a worn clutch plate or related component, then that component will have to be replaced. It’s complex work but it has to be done. There’s no other way to make a defective plate work other than to replace it.
6. You Get a “Check Engine” Light (CEL)
The CEL does cover many things, but it also checks the key components that govern your transmission. If it detects that the transmission solenoids are not working, or if the speed sensors are faulty, or virtually any component connected to the transmission, then there’s a chance that the CEL will illuminate.
Solution: The “Check Engine” light should always be checked out by a mechanic as soon as humanly possible, regardless of the problem, big or small. If the CEL illuminates in conjunction with one of the above-mentioned issues, then there’s a better chance that the problem is within the transmission.
We hope that the above content gives you some insight into the potential problems your automatic gearbox can run into and what you should do about them. It’s important not to panic, but hopefully if you have some idea what might be causing your transmission problems, you might be quicker to get the car to a professional who can put it right quickly and correctly.