Transmission Slipping Symptoms, Causes, and Fixes | Rx Mechanic (2023)

Transmission Slipping is a common tranny issue that arises from time to time. At the early stage of transmission slipping, it’ll only be unnerving, frustrating, and inconvenient. But, if you disregard the problem and continue driving the vehicle for an extended period, it’ll cause catastrophic damage to the whole system.

This is why you need to run a thorough inspection on the transmission when it starts slipping. Is transmission slipping fix hard? Can I do it myself? Beat the worry and follow me religiously.

In this article, we’ll discuss at length the causes of a slipping transmission, signs you should watch out for, and how to fix it.

Wait, scratch that! Let’s get high.

What Causes Transmission Slipping

Transmission Slipping Symptoms, Causes, and Fixes | Rx Mechanic (1)

Transmission slipping means transmission not shifting between different gear ranges or even slipping off gear, which can be dangerous. Now the question is, why is my transmission slipping? Here are common reasons you have a slipping transmission.

Worn-out gears: Transmission gears are reciprocating components that start moving as you engage your gear lever. As the gears rotate, over time, they start chipping off metallic shavings as a result of normal wear and tear or defective gears. Frayed or worn gears slip from the gear teeth while linking with other gear sets. And this causes a bumpy gear shift.

Clutch problems: Both automatic and manual transmissions are designed with clutch systems. Manual transmissions have a clutch moon, drive plate, and other clutch components that can fail and cause transmission slippage.

On the other hand, automatic transmissions have torque converters that can fail due to low fluid levels.

Defective solenoids: A transmission solenoid is an electro-hydraulic valve that regulates fluid flow in the tranny unit. A lousy solenoid can transport inadequate or too much transmission fluid within the unit, causing issues in the system unit.

Broken or worn transmission band: Transmission Bands are essential parts that link automatic gears together. Over time, they can wear out and cause your tranny to slip. A defective band will need to be adjusted or replaced for a seamless driving experience.

Defective torque converter: A torque converter is an essential component in automatic transmissions that transmit or increase engine power to a moving force. It is also a fluid coupling that allows the passage of transmission fluid to take place. If it fails, it’ll start displaying automatic transmission slipping signs, which I’ll explain in the following few paragraphs.

Burnt fluid: If you experience automatic transmission slipping when accelerating, examine the state of the transmission fluid. The results of burnt transmission fluid usually cause it.

A burnt fluid will change to a black or dark brown color or smell like burnt toast. It occurs when a transmission overheats. So, whenever a transmission overheats, quickly change the fluid or consult your mechanic for a thorough inspection.

Low fluid level: Transmission fluid performs several functions in a tranny. This includes conditioning gaskets, reducing high operating temperature, and enhancing cooling functionalities, accelerating rotating speeds, cleaning and protecting metal surfaces from wearing off.

As the fluid performs several functions, low fluid levels can cause transmission overheating, reducing the hydraulic pressure required to engage the gears.

If you notice any of these transmission slipping symptoms, do not resist checking the fluid level via the dipstick in the engine bay. Transmission fluid is stored in a closed crankcase and should remain at the appropriate level; a low fluid level indicates a leak in the system.

Transmission Slipping Symptoms

As with other automotive issues, you need to fix slipping before it escalates to expensive repair jobs. That’s why we’ve outlined the symptoms to watch out for, so you can fix them at an earlier stage without breaking your budget.

Transmission Slipping Symptoms, Causes, and Fixes | Rx Mechanic (2)

Unresponsive clutch: If you own a manual transmission and nothing happens when you depress the clutch pedal, or the transmission slips the moment you step on the pedal, it’s an indication of a damaged component in the clutch assembly or there’s a problem that needs professional attention in the transmission unit itself.

Engine revving noise: In some cars, slipping transmission sounds like a loud revving engine noise. A notable sign of a slipping transmission is a strange noise like you step on the gas pedal, or the RPM goes high, yet the vehicle doesn’t accelerate accordingly.

Sluggish movement: If the vehicle doesn’t accelerate accordingly when you feed it gas, as usual, the transmission is slipping, or other system problems need immediate attention.

Sudden gear shifts: This is common with manual transmissions, and it can happen in several ways. It could be your car shifts into neutral while driving or shifts to a lower gear. This means the transmission is finding it difficult to stay in gear, and it’s worth getting a professional assistant.

Loud Strange noise/vibration: Vibrations are a common sign of manual transmission slipping when accelerating, and most times coupled with a loud grinding noise. It can also give a strange whining noise when driving.

In any case, vibrations can indicate several other problems in your car, such as loose exhaust brackets, brake issues, transmission mounts, engine mounts, suspension systems, etc. Hence, it is essential to consult your mechanic when you notice a strange noise from your baby ride.

Hard gear shifting: This occurs in both manual and automatic transmissions. If you are finding it difficult to shift between different gears or the transmission is not entering any gear at all, it’s an indication of transmission slipping or issues with the clutch or internal transmission components. Low fluid levels usually cause this.

How To Fix A Slipping Transmission

As a car owner, DIYer, or entry-level mechanic, you can quickly fix slipping transmissions if the culprits are transmission leaks, burnt fluid, or low fluid levels. You can rectify it by either checking the fluid state and status and topping or replacing it (if needed) or by fixing the leaks.

On the flip side, issues like replacing gears, adjusting or replacing transmission bands, and adjusting or replacing clutches will require bringing down the transmission unit for overhauling or replacing clutches.

It requires complex procedures and experience. Hence, it’ll not be easy to guide you on fixing a complex job in an article like this. Unless you’re a transmission expert or gearhead, you’ll need to consult an expert mechanic to fix your tranny.


Q: How much does it cost to fix a slipping transmission?

Most times, transmission issues can be resolved by topping or replacing the fluid, which will cost a few hundred dollars.

In other cases, the issue may arise from the clutch assembly or internal transmission components. Resolving such problems requires dismantling the transmission and will cost you a fortune.

Consulting an expert for proper inspection to accurately track down the cause and fix it will cost $800 to $3,000. This is just a rough estimation; the vehicle make, model, location, and defective components will determine the actual replacement cost.

Q: How long will a transition last after it starts slipping?

All automatic transmissions have some level of slippage. People tend to say they have slipping transmission only when they start feeling it. The slippage becomes a significant concern when you start feeling it, and again, to what degree.

Automatic transmissions use a torque converter, which functions with fluid pressure. That said, fluid leak or inadequate fluid level will cause slippage. A noticeable slippage denotes a failed tranny. And it can travel less than 200 miles or as far as 10,000 miles.

Q: Can you still drive a car if the transmission is slipping?

Yes. But while it’s possible to drive with a slipping transmission, don’t do it because it’s only a matter of time before the transmission will keep you stranded on the road.

Take my advice; whenever you experience slipping transmission, check your fluid condition and level, and replace it if needed. If that doesn’t fix the problem, consult your mechanic for thorough inspection and fixes.

Q: Why is my car slipping when I accelerate?

Transmission slipping when accelerating or decelerating is typically caused by normal wear and tear, burnt transmission fluid, fluid leaks, clutch problems, and worn or broken bands. These can cause the transmission to go out of sync and slip while driving.

Q: What is the best additive for a slipping transmission?

Is your transmission acting strange? Is it shuddering while you accelerate and drive? Beat the inconvenience by purchasing prolonged super lubricant PSL1500. It is a popular name and one of the best additives for a slipping transmission. It fights sludge buildup, slippage, shuddering, and fluid leaks.

Q: What happens if you don’t fix a slipping transmission?

The moment a slipping transmission becomes obvious, it is vital to identify the cause and fix it. Driving with a slipping transmission will overheat, causing catastrophic system component damage.

A significant sign of catastrophic damage to the transmission is you aren’t able to give the car gas. This means an unresponsive gas pedal. The vehicle will continue running slowly, even when depressing the accelerator pedal to the floor.

Final word:

Having seen the causes, signs, and how to fix transmission slipping issues, if you notice any of the symptoms, check the fluid conditions and level; if the color is dark brown or black, you have a burnt fluid that needs to be replaced. And if the level is low, top it up and see if it will fix the problem.

In any case, if you are not a DIYer or you are unfamiliar with the underhood components, consult a certified transmission expert to figure out and fix the cause of the transmission problem.


How do you fix transmission slipping? ›

In manual transmissions, slippage is frequently caused by a worn-out clutch. Replace the clutch, and often the problem goes away. For automatic transmissions, damaged or worn clutch plates, transmission bands, or solenoid packs are often the culprit and one or more of these need to be replaced.

Will replacing transmission fluid fix slipping? ›

If your transmission fluid needs replacing, you may experience a slipping transmission. To prevent this, it's a good idea to get a transmission fluid flush done regularly, according to the schedule in your owner's manual.

What sensor can cause a transmission to slip? ›

The Transmission Range Sensor tells the PCM the position of the transmission shifter. The PCM uses this information to control which gears of the transmission to enable or disable. When the TR sensor fails it can cause wrong gear starts, no upshifts, or what feels like a falling-out-of-gear condition.

What causes a transmission to start slipping? ›

In an automatic transmission, slipping can be caused by wear and tear on numerous different parts. These include damaged or worn clutch plates, transmission bands, and solenoid packs. If your automatic transmission has been slipping, it's likely a technician will replace some or all of these parts to fix the problem.

How long does it take to fix a slipping transmission? ›

Most repairs are fairly quick. Flushing the fluid, sealing, and recalibration can be done within a day. Replacing the shift solenoids takes a day or two. A full rebuild, however, is very time and labor-intensive and will typically take three to four days.

Can a slipping transmission be adjusted? ›

Transmission bands can wear out and cause slipping.

To fix this problem, the defective bands should be replaced. Sometimes the bands are fine and only need adjustment. The clutch plates might also need to be replaced or adjusted.

What are the signs that you need a transmission flush? ›

6 Signs Your Transmission Fluid is Bad and Needs Changing
  • Dirty transmission fluid.
  • Transmission whining noise.
  • Gears slipping.
  • Can't go into reverse gear.
  • Slipping out of gear.
  • Engine running hot.
  • Grinding noise.
Jan 25, 2021

Can a dirty transmission filter cause slipping? ›

When the transmission fluid isn't clean or is blocked by a clogged filter, the internal components won't have the lubrication they require to function properly. This could lead to shifting issues, grinding gears, slipping transmission or other common symptoms of transmission problems.

How much does it cost to replace a slipping transmission? ›

How Much Does Transmission Repair Cost? Transmission problems are expensive. The average cost to replace transmission can cost around $2,600, but ranges from $1,800 to $3,400. Repairs are a bit less expensive, averaging $900, but might be anywhere from $300 to $1,500 depending on the issue.

Can a bad o2 sensor cause your transmission to slip? ›

For example, in some situations an oxygen sensor can cause poor shifting in your transmission - if the engine isn't running correctly, the transmission control module may misinterpret when and where it's supposed to be shifting, causing erratic behavior at the transmission.

What are the symptoms of a bad transmission speed sensor? ›

Common signs include harsh or improper shifting, cruise control not working, and the Check Engine Light coming on.

How do I know if my shift solenoid is bad? ›

Signs of a Bad Transmission Shift Solenoid
  1. Delay shifting upon acceleration and deceleration.
  2. Your transmission is stuck in neutral.
  3. Rough shifting.
  4. Engine revs loudly even when you apply the brakes.
  5. Your transmission cannot downshift and the engine is loud.
Jun 26, 2019

What happens if you keep driving with a slipping transmission? ›

Every time you drive it after you feel your transmission slip, it is a risk. The more you drive a damaged transmission, the more you will be harming it and other parts of your vehicle. The longer you allow it to slip, the more junk there is circulating through your transmission.

Should I sell my car if the transmission is slipping? ›

Regardless of the condition of your vehicle you can sell a car with bad transmission or other major issue. If your car reaches a point when the major repair costs more than the actual value of the car, you need to sell it. Some major problems include a blown engine, leaky gasket head or transmission failure.

What does transmission slipping sound like? ›

The unmistakable "grinding gears" sound is the most common noise you might hear to let you know there is a transmission issue (or that you are not shifting properly in a manual transmission vehicle). There may be other sounds like whining or significant vibrations that can be signs of transmission problems.

How do you diagnose transmission problems? ›

What Are the Transmission Failure Symptoms?
  1. Refusal to Switch Gears. If your vehicle refuses or struggles to change gears, you are more than likely facing a problem with your transmission system. ...
  2. Burning Smell. ...
  3. Noises When in Neutral. ...
  4. Slipping Gears. ...
  5. Dragging Clutch. ...
  6. Leaking Fluid. ...
  7. Check Engine Light. ...
  8. Grinding or Shaking.
Mar 16, 2017

Will I notice a difference after a transmission flush? ›

Transmission Flush

As a result, your transmission should run cooler and receive maximum protection against wear to clutches, gears, and bearings. You'll also notice smoother, more consistent shifting since the new fluid will provide more effective frictional properties.

How do I know if I need a transmission flush or new transmission? ›

If a transmission has too much dirt or sludge in the fluid it can cause a sluggish response when shifting gears. It may be time to flush the transmission fluid in an automatic if the car changes gears too quickly or too late. Manual transmissions that need a flush may be hard to shift at all.

How do I know if I need a new transmission? ›

If you're noticing that your car isn't shifting gears as smoothly as it used to, then your transmission might need some work. If you feel like the gear changes are starting to happen too slowly or not at all (like when accelerating from a stop), this could indicate that something is off with your car's gearbox.

Can a torque converter cause slipping? ›

When the torque converter starts malfunctioning, you may feel shuddering and even slipping in overdrive. You usually notice your car shuddering because it feels like it's vibrating. Your car will vibrate even when you're not going very fast. The shuddering makes the car lag and is very noticeable.

How do I know if my transmission cooler is clogged? ›

Signs Your Transmission Fluid Filter is Clogged (And What To Do About It)
  1. An Unexplained Rattle. Sometimes, you know exactly what's making your vehicle rattle. ...
  2. Whirs or Whines. ...
  3. Leaking. ...
  4. Burning Smell. ...
  5. Problems Changing Gears. ...
  6. A Noisy Neutral.
Jul 26, 2019

How many miles does a transmission filter last? ›

Although every vehicle has its own maintenance schedule that can usually be found in the owner's manual, the transmission filter and fluid should be replaced every 30,000 to 100,000 miles.

Is it cheaper to fix a transmission or replace it? ›

These factors include if it is automatic or manual, the age of the transmission and its parts, the extent of damage, and the type of vehicle. A transmission rebuild cost averages $3,000. In comparison, a transmission replacement cost averages $6,500.

Can catalytic converter cause transmission to slip? ›

The catalytic converter has very very little to do with the transmission. The catalytic converter will keep the engine from being able to "exhale" and can cause engine problems and damage if faulty, but it wont cause direct transmission issues.

Can a clogged catalytic converter affect transmission? ›

For the most part, anything that affects the engine performance will lead to trouble shifting gears in your car. A clogged catalytic converter makes the engine work harder, which in turn makes it difficult to shift the transmission.

Can bad gas make your transmission slip? ›

Rough or delayed shifting is a sign that your manual car may have a transmission issue and need maintenance. When it comes to symptoms of bad gas, sputtering and even unintentional gear shifting could also mean that your gas quality has been compromised.

How do you test a transmission sensor? ›

Disconnect the sensor from the housing on the transmission, as indicated in the repair manual for your car. Disconnect the sensor's wire coupling. Using the multimeter's voltmeter connect the probes to the ground and reference wires in the connector. If no voltage is received, the sensor is faulty.

What causes a transmission sensor to go bad? ›

Over time, the transmission speed sensor can go bad due to wiring issues or just outright failing due to it constantly being used every time you are driving your vehicle. If the sensor is magnetic, it can go bad from iron sticking to the tip of the sensor, which will cause an inaccurate reading.

How much does it cost to replace a transmission speed sensor? ›

Depending on the vehicle year, make and model, a speed sensor can cost as little as $7.92 or as much as $100. For most vehicles, the cost for a speed sensor is between $25 and $45.

Can a fuse cause transmission problems? ›

But a blown fuse No. 38 becomes a likely candidate causing a loss of power to the transmission solenoids.

What is the 5 five common problems for solenoid? ›

Rusting, power failure, irregular pressure, missing equipment, an incorrect amount of voltage or current, dirt stuck in the system and corrosion are some of the possible reasons why a solenoid valve may not properly close or open.

Will seafoam help a slipping transmission? ›


An easy and effective way to diagnose or minimize transmission shifting problems is to use Sea Foam Trans Tune. Trans Tune helps fluid systems work smoothly and last longer, restores shift quality, cleans solenoids, and dissolves varnish residue and deposits.

Can you put Lucas oil Stabilizer in automatic transmission? ›

Since Lucas Heavy Duty Oil Stabilizer is 100% petroleum, it can safely blend with all other automotive lubricants including automatic transmission fluid, mineral oil, petroleum oils, and synthetic oils. As an added benefit, it can be used with every oil change and safely extends oil life 50% longer.

What can happen if you overfill your transmission? ›

Transmission fluid will become foamy if there is too much fluid. Excessive fluid prohibits proper lubrication and cooling and slows the rotating crankshaft, similar to the effect of running through water.

Why does my transmission slip after fluid change? ›

If you go and replace the fluid after they are already worn out. this can cause slipping. The old fluid had contained particles that actually helped shifting, making it grittier to allow better gripping. New fluid doesn't contain this material and may not grip as well, causing slippage.

What does transmission slip feel like? ›

Typically with transmission slipping, it may feel as if your gears are changing for no logical reason. Your engine may start to create a whining sound or pitch when it occurs. Alternatively, it may feel like you haven't got enough power to drive at the desired speed.

What are the signs of a slipping transmission? ›

A slipping transmission will present the following symptoms:
  • An unusually high RPM (over 3,000)
  • Delays in acceleration.
  • Inability to reverse vehicle.
  • Difficulty switching gears.
  • Strange noises when performing a gear change.
  • Burnt or unusual smells.
  • Check engine light is on.

Is it worth it to fix a transmission? ›

If the price of a new transmission is no more than 40% to 60% of your car's value, then it's probably worth the cost of repair. If your transmission is in good condition, there are benefits to repairing it rather than scrapping it entirely.

How does a car act when transmission is bad? ›

Clunking, humming or whining sounds are signs of automatic transmission problems. Faulty manual transmissions will also give off loud machinelike sounds that seem to come out of nowhere. A clunking noise when you shift gears is a telltale transmission situation. Have a mechanic look it over.

Why is my car slipping when I accelerate? ›

If your tires are slipping, the first thing to check is the tread. Low tread can reduce tire traction and cause your wheels to slip, especially in wet conditions or when accelerating from a stop. Particularly worn treads can even lead to tire slippage in dry conditions!


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