Sunday, September 9, 2012

Top 10 signs of transmission trouble - part 1











Diagnosing car problems yourself may seem like an impossible task, but try to think of it in terms of your own body. For instance, if your stomach begins to hurt without warning, you'll probably start thinking of the last thing you ate in order to figure out why you're having the pain.

A similar type of thinking goes into diagnosing car trouble. The moment you start noticing something out of the ordinary, it's time to start considering the problem and finding a way to fix it.

Mechanical auto problems, as opposed to electrical auto problems, are usually coupled with distinct sounds and sensations that are key indicators that something isn't functioning the way it was designed to. Transmissions take a lot of use over the years, and after a while, they're bound to start having some problems. Transmission repairs can be expensive, so it's worthwhile to pay attention to anything that seems unusual.

If you think you may be having some car trouble or if you're just looking to learn more about potential transmission problems, check out these 10 signs of transmission trouble and stay one step ahead of your car.


10: REFUSES TO GO INTO GEAR

Believe it or not, there are still quite a few people out there who practice the fading art of shifting manually, with a foot pedal and a "stick" gearshift, and who do so willingly.

Despite their somewhat simpler operation, manual transmissions nonetheless have their share of things that can go wrong. One potential problem is that the transmission refuses to budge when you depress the clutch pedal and attempt to move the stick shifter.

It may happen when trying to get into first gear from a stop, or at any point up and down the assorted gears. Common causes include low transmission fluid, wrong viscosity (thickness) of fluid, or required adjusting of the shift cables or clutch linkage.

The nose knows when it comes to things being not quite right with your vehicle. Continue to the next item to find out how your olfactory sense factors into transmission diagnosis.

9: BURNING SMELL

If you get a whiff of burning transmission fluid, be advised it is definitely not the sweet smell of success. That's because it may indicate your transmission is overheating. Transmission fluid not only keeps the transmission's many moving parts properly lubricated, but it prevents the unit from burning itself up, by providing much-needed cooling.

In some vehicles, the transmission even has its own mini-radiator (an oil cooler) that circulates fluid to transport heat away from the transmission unit itself.

Common causes include low or inadequate transmission fluid, which can in turn indicate a leak or dirty fluid that needs changing.

If you thought your transmission was safe from wear at least while it was in neutral, the truth might surprise you. Look to the next item for the scoop on noises in neutral.

8: TRANSMISSION NOISY IN NEUTRAL

It seems intuitive that if you hear weird noises when the car should be shifting, that the transmission is acting up. But would you suspect it if things were going "bump" in neutral? Yes, it could be the transmission.

Such sounds could have a simple and inexpensive solution -- as with many of the problems on our list, adding or replacing the transmission fluid sometimes does the trick. Bear in mind that as is the case with engine oil, different vehicles do best with the specific formulation called for in the owner's manual.

Alternatively, lots of noises from the transmission while it's in neutral could signal something more serious, like mechanical wear that will need the replacement of parts. In this case, common culprits are a worn reverse idler gear or worn bearings, possibly coupled with worn gear teeth.

7: GEARS SLIPPING

In a normally functioning transmission, the car stays in the gear you designate, or that the computer designates for a given RPM range, until you or the computer initiate a gear shift.

But on a transmission in which the gears slip, the car can spontaneously pop out of the gear it's in while driving and (in a manual) force the stick back into neutral.

This is unnerving at best and potentially dangerous at worst: when you mash the gas pedal to avoid an out-of-control vehicle, the last thing you want is a transmission that doesn't get power to the wheels. No need to scratch your head over whether this is trouble or not: if it happens, you know it's time to have your transmission examined.

Our next trouble sign might seem like a real "drag" if it happens to your vehicle, but its fix is often not so complicated -- see what it is on the next page.

Losing control while driving is never a fun experience. Find out in the next item how a bum transmission could have a car "slipping" toward disaster if not repaired in time.

6: DRAGGING CLUTCH

Here's another transmission trouble sign that haunts manual transmission vehicle owners: the dreaded dragging clutch. A dragging clutch is one that fails to disengage the clutch disk from the flywheel when the driver pushes in the clutch pedal.

When the driver attempts to shift gears, he or she can't because the still-engaged clutch is still spinning along with the engine. The driver is abruptly made aware of this by the grinding noise that then ensues with each attempt to shift.

Fortunately, the most common cause for this problem is not that severe or costly to fix -- at least not compared to some other transmission issues. More often than not, the problem is too much slack in the clutch pedal. With too much free play, the cable or linkage between the pedal and the clutch disk doesn't have enough leverage to disengage the clutch disk from the flywheel (or pressure plate).

Some transmission trouble signs are plainly visible even to the lay person -- if that person knows what to look for. To learn about one of the most obvious ones, continue to part 2 of this series about transmission trouble. (Source: howstuffworks)