How Do You Know if Your Transmission is Going?


It’s never a good day when your mechanic tells you that you need a new transmission. However, part of why the news feels like such a blow is because it often catches us off guard.

While knowing the signs and symptoms of a failing transmission may not be able to stop the inevitable, it can at the very least, help. If you know what to look out for (or listen for), you can perhaps do preventative maintenance in the interim to help prolong the life of your transmission. Thus, buying you much more drive time on your current vehicle.

Top 10 Signs Your Transmission is Failing

As a vehicle ages, they often bring with it new and varying sounds, driving “quirks”, and little signs that the vehicle is getting older. Things like gas mileage becoming less efficient, and vehicles needing an alignment are often some of the first noticeable symptoms of a car getting older.

Although we can change the way we drive to conserve gas, and take our car in for regular vehicle maintenance to prevent our steering from pulling one way or the other, is there much we can do to prevent our transmission from failing? Possibly.

Just like everything in this world, a car’s transmission only has a specific shelf life before it needs to be replaced. So, while you can’t stop it from one day dying, you can definitely do some critical things now to help get the most out of the transmission you currently have in your vehicle.

First, let’s talk about what we should all be looking out for when it comes to driving a vehicle with an older transmission…

What Signs & Symptoms Should I Look Out For?

1. A Distinct Burning Smell


If you live in BC, chances are that at one point or another, you’ve driven on the Coquihalla. Not only is a winding road, it’s a steep climb for a good distance.

If you happened to notice the vehicle in front of you smells like it’s burning, that’s probably due to the punishment their transmission is currently taking. And when your tranny is anything but solid while driving up a mountain like the Coquihalla, you’re going to notice it.

If you notice a burning smell coming from under your hood, it could be a sign that your transmission is in need of a check-up. This will usually occur while driving up a steep grade, but it can happen at any time. If you’re not putting too much of a load on your vehicle when you’re noticing the burning smell, get your car into a professional. People like our good friends at Stan’s Transmission can diagnose the cause of the burning smell, and tell you what your next steps should be if they feel it’s your transmission that’s the culprit.

2. Fluid Leaks or Low Level of Transmission Fluid

We’ve all noticed a little oil spot or two underneath our aging vehicles, but if you happen to notice that the colour of the fluid is pink, not black, it could be your transmission fluid.

Changing your transmission fluid isn’t required as often as an oil change. Also, unlike when you change your oil, the vehicle needs to be running while it’s changed.


That’s why it’s best to use a professional mechanic to have your transmission fluid checked or changed instead of attempting to do it yourself.

3. Your Check Engine Light is On


Your check engine light can be an indicator of almost anything; literally. Often times though it can be something small that doesn’t affect the way your vehicle operates. From something simple like your gas cap not closing properly, to something massive like your engine misfiring, the check engine light is all encompassing.

However, if your check engine light is on, and you’re noticing a decrease in performance with your vehicle, along with any other signs or symptoms of a failing transmission that’s listed in this blogpost, it could be signaling for you to get your transmission checked.

Don’t wait until your vehicle stops running altogether either. Heading any potential problems at the pass is the best way to prolong the life of your vehicle’s transmission, and save yourself an even bigger bill at the mechanic.

4. Abnormal Looking Transmission Fluid

Aside from being on the lookout for things like leaking fluid or low levels of fluid, you should also keep an eye out for transmission fluid that doesn’t appear as it normally does.

Healthy transmission fluid is usually transparent with a pinkish hue. Fluid that needs changing looks burnt, contaminated, and possibly filled with debris (metal shavings in particular). When bits of metal show up in your transmission fluid, that means your transmission is experiencing way more wear and tear than it should, and you need to get it serviced asap.

If your transmission fluid has a milky appearance to it, it could be a sign of a coolant leak that is contaminating the transmission fluid. Either way, you should get your car into a mechanic to have it assessed.

5. Unusual Noises

Anytime that your vehicle starts making noises that aren’t typical for it, that’s a sign to get it into the shop. Although every vehicle starts to take on different little noises and quirks as it gets older, the sounds your vehicle may make when the tranny is going is noticeably different than just the usual sounds of an older car.

If you notice a constant hum or whine, get it into the mechanic right away. It could be an indication that your transmission pump is failing, or that your transmission filter is clogged. Both can result in a catastrophic repair, so don’t put off having your car checked out if your notice either of these two sounds.

6. Sluggish Performance

Have you been noticing your gas mileage getting worse? Or perhaps your vehicle losing the get-up-and-go it once had? Or maybe even the response time when shifting between gears or passing vehicles on the highway at higher speeds? If it’s a yes to any of these scenarios, it could be a symptom that your transmission is in need of some love.


If you notice any hesitation while accelerating, or feel like it’s slower than usual, even though you’re driving at regular speeds, have it looked at right away.

The sooner you get it assessed, the sooner you can decide on your next course of action. And with a failing transmission, there’s no telling how much time you have until it goes.

If your transmission does need replacing, and you’re considering scrapping your car as a result, talk to our team of dedicated scrap car removal specialists before speaking to anyone else! We can almost always offer MORE cash for scrap cars than any other scrap car buyers in the Lower Mainland.

7. Grinding, Shaking, or Other Vibrations

This one can be a bit tricky, as so many things that can go awry on a vehicle create unusual vibrations, grinding, and shaking. However, as mentioned before, if you notice any of the preceding symptoms of your transmission failing alongside of new vibrations, it could mean your transmission is shot.

If you drive a manual transmission, or “stick shift”, the sensation you’ll be most likely to notice is grinding. This is due to the transmission’s clutch wearing out, which creates metal on metal grinding from rubbing gears.

However, if you drive an automatic vehicle, you’re most likely to notice shaking and vibrating. This is because you are more likely to experience a linkage issue, or the transmission is unable or struggling to shift into gear.

8. Difficulty Shifting

This next symptom touches on the previous. However, it’s an important telltale sign.

If you’re having a tough time shifting your vehicle into gear, whether automatic or standard transmission, there’s a 95% chance your transmission is on its way out.


Changing gears, even something as simple as moving the shifter from park to drive, should be easy. If you notice a clunk sound, a hard shift, a delay once put into a specific gear, or any other kind of shifting issue that isn’t part of your vehicle’s normal habits, you are probably on the tail end of your transmission’s life cycle.

9. Slipping Gears

This is another telltale sign that your transmission needs replacing. If you notice that your vehicle is revving much higher than it previously has, that means it’s likely slipping in or out of gear. This occurs primarily on an automatic transmission.

Although, if you drive a manual transmission, you’re more likely to notice that your car literally pops out of gear while driving or shortly after shifting. This is not only hard on the vehicle itself, it poses a huge safety risk for you and other drivers on the road. Nobody wants to be turning left at an intersection when they need to figure out what gear they’re in as their vehicle randomly slipped out of gear, do they?

10. Surging While Driving

This is another one that is not only inconvenient, it can pose a safety risk to you, your family, and other drivers around you.

If you’re driving along peacefully on Highway 1 on your way to work, and notice that your car suddenly lurches forwards when you haven’t depressed the gas pedal any more than you currently were, it could be your tranny.

Similarly, if you are parked at a red light, and upon lifting your foot off the brake, notice a sudden jolt forward, no matter how minimal, it could mean there’s trouble on the way for you with your transmission.

What Should I Do if My Transmission is Failing?

First and foremost, if you are experiencing anything unusual with your vehicle, get it in to a professional. Additionally, if you are having any signs or symptoms of your transmission failing as noted above, get it in to a professional transmission specialist, like our friends at A&B Transmissions.

Mechanics have all the proper tools and diagnostic equipment to ensure that their determination of what is ailing your vehicle, is the correct one. Furthermore, they can help you decide on what your next steps should be. Whether it’s doing some minor preventative repairs, or more involved repairs, or even replacing the transmission altogether.

Can I Sell My Car if the Transmission Needs Replacing?


Yes, you can! More Cash For Scrap is always happy to buy vehicles of every make and model, and in ANY condition. Even vehicles that need a new transmission. Whether it’s a dead engine, a blown transmission, or any other major repair, we’ll buy your car and offer you MORE cash than any other scrap car removal company in the Lower Mainland.

Get MORE Cash for Cars with Mechanical Issues

If you’re seriously deciding to scrap your car due to a transmission replacement, or any other major repair, talk to our team first. Our scrap car removal specialists can help determine the value of your vehicle, so that you can make a more informed decision before deciding to scrap your car for cash.

Provide us with the make, model, year, and condition of the car. If there are mechanical problems, vehicle damaged, or electrical issues, let us know specifically what that is as well. Then, let us know where your vehicle is located (sometimes it’s on the side of the road, or parked at a different location than your home).

Our friendly and dedicated scrap car buyers will make you an instant cash offer right over the phone. If you decide to accept our offer, we’ll arrange a day and time for our free towing service to come collect your car. This can often be done the same day, and sometimes within an hour, depending on your location.

Contact Our Team of Scrap Car Buyers Today

It only takes a simple call, text, or email to our scrap car removal specialists to start the process. They’ll be able to tell you how much cash you can get for your scrap car, truck, SUV, or van, right over the phone. That way, you can decide your next steps for yourself, while having all the information you need to do so.

If you choose our junk car buying services, we’ll provide free scrap car towing from anywhere in the Lower Mainland. Plus, we can usually do this the very same day. In addition to the prompt and professional service we provide, we’ll also pay you MORE cash than any other scrap car buyers in Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley.

Call us today to find out why we’ve been the #1 scrap car removal company in BC since 2005.

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Since 2005, we've specialized in turning our customer's scrap cars into quick cash. We buy vehicles in ANY condition and with ANY issues. We pay MORE cash for scrap cars, trucks, SUVs, and vans than any other scrap car removal company in Metro Vancouver, the Fraser Valley, and Vancouver Island. If you want MORE cash, same day free junk car towing, and a reliable scrap car buying service, you want More Cash For Scrap.