Warning Signs That Your Automatic Transmission Is Going Out

Updated March 23, 2017

Automatic transmissions are very popular on U.S. roadways. Though some drivers prefer manual transmission, many find it easier to manoeuvre their car on city streets with automatic transmission. The transmission is a machine inside the vehicle, which means it is susceptible to breaking down like any other part of the vehicle. This is why it's important for drivers to know the warning signs that the automatic transmission is going out.

Car Jerks

One of the most notable signs that the automatic transmission in a vehicle is going out is when the car jerks while shifting gears. Drivers often feel the jerk as it pitches them slightly forward as the car shifts when driving down the road. This jerk becomes more frequent and pronounced when it occurs as the automatic transmission has a hard time shifting into the correct gear.

Vehicle Winds Up Longer

Each vehicle has a rhythm to its gear shifting which makes it possible for most people to predict when a car is going to change to a higher gear as they accelerate. Often a person feels the car winding up until it reaches a specific number of revolutions per minute (RPM) and shifts. When the automatic transmission is going out, cars spend more time winding up to a higher RPM when accelerating before they shift to a higher gear.

Losing Transmission Fluid

It's important to periodically check your transmission fluid and add more fluid as needed to keep your transmission in good shape and preserve it for as long as possible. However if your vehicle starts requiring a significant amount of transmission fluid, this may be a sign your automatic transmission is going out. If this is the case, first check to make sure that there isn't a leak in the hose or the reservoir for the fluid. If this isn't a leak, the chances are your automatic transmission is going out. Your vehicle is using more fluid to try and compensate for the additional grinding and jerking of the gears inside your transmission.

Hot Smell

Another warning sign about your automatic transmission is a hot, burning smell after driving the vehicle. The metal gears in your transmission have trouble shifting as they grind against each other. This creates a burning smell you may notice even after driving only short distances. This smell may be a result of something else wrong with your vehicle though, so it's important to have your vehicle checked out by a mechanic.

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About the Author

Allison Dodge has been a writer since 2005, specializing in education, careers, health and travel. She has worked at educational institutions for more than 10 years. Dodge has a master's degree in education administration.