Transmission slipping

Transmission slipping DEFAULT

You will know your vehicle has experienced a transmission slip when you can hear the engine revving during a gear change. For a moment, it may feel as though you are driving over ice. At first, it may seem minor and easy to shrug off. However, without proper maintenance, the issue can escalate, and you will be looking at much more severe transmission problems.

What Are Other Symptoms of Transmission Slipping?

The symptoms for transmission slipping can also be indicative of other unrelated issues. Your transmission may not necessarily be slipping, but it could be experiencing problems in another way. There are a lot of ways your transmission can wear down, and the best thing to do is take your vehicle to a mechanic to get it checked out. The following symptoms are generally symptomatic of a slipping transmission:

  • Delay in acceleration
  • Burnt or other unusual smells
  • Excessively high RPM, over 3,500
  • Trouble shifting gears
  • Harsh response any time you are able to shift gears
  • Check engine light constantly turning on
  • Strange noises coming from the transmission

None of these are good. You want to get your car inspected immediately before the problem progresses.

What Are the Usual Causes for a Slipping Transmission?

There are a few ways your transmission can break down in this manner. Perhaps the most common reason is that your transmission is experiencing low fluid levels. You should check your vehicle’s fluid levels somewhat frequently. When you check, make note if it is lower than recommended. You may just need to refill the fluids, but if the problem persists, then there may be a leak in the system.

Another cause is the various parts found within your car’s transmission. Over time, these parts can break or wear down. If not corrected soon, it could very likely lead to transmission failure.

Finally, your car’s transmission may be experiencing problems with the clutch. This is the most common culprit for transmission slipping in vehicles with a manual transmission. The only way to correct this is to replace the broken or worn out clutch. However, most vehicles are designed to have resilient clutches. Depending on the exact car you drive, you will need to replace the clutch anywhere between 20,000 and 200,000 miles.

How Do You Fix Transmission Slipping?

The remedy for this problem ultimately comes down to what the exact problem is. It could be something as simple as adding more transmission fluid if your car is running low. However, if the current fluid is badly burnt the transmission likely has internal damage that needs to be inspected. Parts, such as the clutch or other gears, may need to be swapped out. One possible solution to this problem may be to simply get an entirely new transmission system installed. This is the most expensive option, but it may be the only way to get your car up and running again. To reduce the likelihood of a total replacement, get your car inspected as soon as you notice problems.

Should You Drive While the Transmission Is Slipping?

The short answer here is no. It is not safe to drive with a transmission system that is not working correctly. Your car could unexpectedly switch gears while you are driving and pose a dangerous situation. You are going to experience problems with accelerating, which is something you do not want to contend with on the road.

You will be aware when your car’s transmission is wearing down. Take note of any specific problems you experience so you can explain the situation effectively to a professional mechanic.


Dealing with a slipping transmission can be a significant problem with any car; especially those with automatic transmissions. This is one of the many issues with your auto that can begin as a minor issue and then quickly worsen, becoming more expensive. You should never delay repairing a slipping transmission.

Auto Repairs Are EXPENSIVE


There are multiple potential slipping transmission causes, and although maintenance is always required, the severity of the problem can vary greatly. Remember that the transmission slipping indicates that you need a mechanic’s assistance, regardless of the severity.


Signs of a Slipping Transmission: What Does a Slipping Transmission Feel Like?

Signs of a Slipping Transmission

If you are unsure how to tell if your transmission is slipping, be on the lookout for some of the more common transmission slipping symptoms. The following are among the most common slipping transmission signs:


  • Your check engine light is on
  • An rpm of over 3,500
  • Acceleration delays
  • Burning or unusual smells
  • Inability to reverse
  • Problems shifting gears
  • Harsh responses or strange noises when shifting gears
  • The reverse does not engage


If you’re wondering what it means when your transmission is slipping or what transmission slipping is, these transmission slipping signs should give you a good idea. There is no clear definition of exactly one thing that signifies a slipping transmission, as the problem is mostly defined by its symptoms and causes. As such, your best course of action is to watch for the above signs and, if you encounter them, begin to look at your repair options.


Any of the above signs your transmission is slipping may point to a range of problems, not limited to the transmission slipping. However, they do all require maintenance, so if you notice any of those symptoms, you will want to visit your mechanic.


You should also be on the lookout for other potential signs of transmission problems, which may or may not include slipping. Your mechanic can help you with how to tell if transmission is slipping or you have another problem.


Leaking Transmission Fluid

If you notice red fluid underneath your auto, then there is likely a transmission leak from a seal, gasket, or cooler line. This is damaging for the transmission and dangerous if the fluid happens to leak onto a hot surface. You can check the transmission fluid with the dipstick. Keep in mind that some of the other fluids in the transmission must be checked by a professional.


Burning Smell

The potential burning smell is usually the result of low fluid or a fluid leak. Catching this problem early is crucial to being able to fix the transmission.


It Won’t Stay in Gear or Engage

This type of problem may indicate issues with your automatic transmission valve, the shifter cable, the shifter, or a fluid leak. You may even need to have your mechanic check your auto’s computer system to see if there are trouble codes, since the computer lets the transmission known when it should go in gear on newer autos.


No Power for the Car

When your engine runs properly but your auto has minimal or no power, it may be from the computer limiting power, internal transmission problems, or the brakes dragging from a faulty brake hose or caliper.


Shifts Miss Gears or Delay

These problems can be due to low transmission fluid, which could be from water intrusion, lack of maintenance, contamination, or a leak. If you do not take care of this problem, it can lead to overheating that causes serious internal damage. Missing gears or delayed shifting can also be due to engine problems that make the computer prevent the transmission from shifting to a higher gear.


Odd Noises

If you hear a humming, clunking, or buzzing sound from the transmission, this usually indicates an internal problem, such as bad bearing or planetary gear damage. Buzzing might also be due to a leak causing low transmission fluid, a seal, or poor internal sealing surfaces.


Remember that anytime you are unsure of how to determine whether your transmission is slipping, you should consult your mechanic to get an evaluation as well as a fix transmission slipping cost estimate.


Slipping Transmission Causes – Why Is My Transmission Slipping?

As mentioned, there is a long list of potential reasons that your transmission is slipping. Some are more common than others, and most of these are more likely to occur in automatic transmissions.


Low Fluid

Of the various slipping transmission causes, the most common is having low fluid levels. This comes from the vast ways in which low fluid levels can negatively impact your car, from not producing enough hydraulic pressure for engaging gears to overheating.


To check whether low fluid levels are causing your problem, you can just look at the dipstick in your engine compartment. Remember that the system for the transmission is closed. As such, it should never have low levels. If there are low levels, you may be dealing with a leak.


Burnt Fluid

Sometimes, the transmission slipping is due to the fluid burning instead of being low. If the fluid is black or you notice a smell similar to burnt toast, then this is the likely culprit. Burnt fluid can happen when the transmission overheats. In this case, you will need to quickly swap out your transmission fluid. After that, you will need to have a technician inspect your transmission to ensure there is no further damage.


Clutch Problems

Both automatic and manual transmissions use clutches, and while manual transmission slipping is most likely due to clutch issues, it is also a possible cause for an automatic transmission slipping. In an automatic, the transmission and torque converter have clutch plates that can burn or become worn out due to insufficient transmission fluid.


In manuals, the clutch relies on brake pads and other friction material to grab the engine flywall, helping separate the transmission and engine as you change gears. If this material gets worn, the clutch will not fully engage or switch gears, requiring a replacement.

Worn Gears

As your car ages, your gears will begin to wear out. This is completely natural and occurs due to wear and tear. Gears can also wear out from malfunctions. If the gears are frayed or worn, they will not link together properly, leading to bumpy shifting.

Solenoid Issues

Your auto’s solenoid is an electro-hydraulic valve that is responsible for controlling fluid flow in the transmission. If this component has electronic issues or suffers damage, it will not dispense the appropriate amount of fluids, leading to issues like transmission slipping. You can use an OBD2 scanner for trouble codes to help you figure out which solenoid to replace.


Problems with the Torque Converter

The torque converter converts the engine’s power so it is torque, which is the form of power that the transmission can use. Over time, the torque converter can wear down. When functioning properly, fluid will flow through your torque converter. If the fluid does not flow properly, the transmission can misbehave in a variety of ways, including slipping.

Damage to Transmission Bands

It is also very possible for your transmission bands to become broken or worn over time, leading to the transmission slipping. The bands are responsible for connecting your automatic transmission’s gears together. You can overcome this cause by replacing or adjusting the defective band(s).


In Manuals: Grinding Gears When Shifting

If the manual transmission grinds as you shift gears, this usually indicates the clutch is not releasing, the transmission’s shift synchronizer rings are broken or worn, there is an adjustment problem, transmission fluid is low, or the shifter is worn.


In Manuals: Clutch Pedal Grabbing High or Low

Your clutch pedal engaging extremely high or low in your manual can also be transmission-related. Grabbing high may be due to worn pressure plates, worn clutch discs, or adjustments. Grabbing low is usually due to the hydraulic or linkage system experiencing problems.


Can You Drive with a Transmission Slipping?

Can You Drive with a Transmission Slipping?

It is not smart or safe to drive with a slipping transmission. Similarly, you should not drive the car at any point that the transmission does not work properly; this could lead to the auto unexpectedly changing gears as you drive. You would also likely notice acceleration problems.


Transmission Slipping Fix – How to Fix a Slipping Transmission

In the case of transmission slipping due to minor problems, such as low fluid levels, ineffective or burnt fluid, or a leak in the transmission, you may be able to fix the problem yourself. Most people should be able to check the fluid themselves and many will feel comfortable changing it as well. You would likely want help from a mechanic to fix a transmission leak.


The fix becomes significantly more complicated with the other causes. If you need to adjust or replace your clutch, adjust or replace the bands, or replace the gears, you are in for a bigger repair. In this case, you will likely need to dismantle the transmission to resolve the issue. It should come as no surprise that this is not something that a novice should take on. As such, you should expect to pay a mechanic to inspect and repair the transmission.


The key here is that the solution will depend on the cause of your slipping transmission.


From Low Fluid Levels

If the problem was due to low fluid levels, check the fluid levels and top them off if necessary. Ideally, you should check the levels at least monthly. This is a very quick-fix slipping transmission solution.


From Worn out or Burnt Fluid

In this case, you need to drain and change the fluid. This is a bit messy and requires some mechanical knowledge, although many home mechanics can do it themselves.


From Fluid Leaks

This type of problem requires finding the source of the leak and fixing it.



Transmission Slipping Prevention – How to Stop Transmission from Slipping

The best way to prevent your transmission from slipping is to stay on top of regular maintenance. At the very least, follow the transmission maintenance outlined in your owner’s manual. Ideally, you should regularly check your transmission fluid. You may also want to make sure that you flush it and install a new filter every 30,000 miles, although the recommended interval for this maintenance depends on your auto.


Are Repairs the Only Option? Consider Selling Your Car

Depending on the severity of your transmission slipping problems and their causes, you may find that it is impractical to make the necessary repairs. Sometimes, they will be very expensive, especially if the transmission needs to be disassembled and assessed. In this case, you may have to deal with a situation where:


  • You cannot afford the repairs
  • Your vehicle is worth less than the cost of repairs
  • You do not want to pay that much for repairs on an aging car
  • You do not want to pay that much for repairs on a car you were planning to replace


No matter the reasons that you do not want to proceed with repairs on your car, there are still other options available. The best choice in this scenario will likely be to sell your car.


You could try to find a private buyer who wants to buy your car with its transmission slipping, but they would likely want a discount for the price of the expected repairs. This would go against the point of selling the car instead of making the repairs in the first place.


You could also try junking the car and bringing it to a scrapyard. However, these junk yards are notorious for giving poor prices and only valuing the car based on the weight of the metal, regardless of how many functional and reusable components it has. You would also have to get the car to the scrap yard.


We Will Buy Your Car – Even with a Transmission Slipping

What is Stalling a Car? – It’s a Good Time to Sell it to CashCarsbuyers

The easiest option will likely be to sell us your car. We buy cars in any condition, even with slipping transmissions. We always offer a fair price for your car and are up front with the quotes. Once you agree to our offer, we will come pick up your vehicle quickly; this way, you do not have to keep storing a useless car in your driveway. Our efficiency also ensures you get the money for your car quickly, giving you the chance to figure out your next mode of transport.


Contact our team or fill out the form for an online quote. We will offer a fair price for your car based on its make, model, year, and condition. Once you accept our offer, we arrange to pick up your auto and give you cash in exchange for it, without hidden fees.

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FAQs About a Slipping Transmission

You have the questions, The Drive has the answers!

Q. What Does a Slipping Transmission Feel Like?

A. A slipping transmission is easy to recognize if you know what you’re looking for. Symptoms of a slipping transmission include sudden losses of power, jerkiness, hesitant upshifting, and high revving.

Q. Can You Drive A Car With A Slipping Transmission?

A. Technically, yes, the car will run with a slipping transmission (until it goes bunk), but we advise immediately driving home to your garage or to a shop where you can diagnose the issues. The longer you drive with a slipping transmission, the higher likelihood you will damage its internal components.

Q. How Much Does It Cost To Fix A Slipping Transmission? 

A. If a fluid change or refresh resolves your issues, the bill stops at the cost of the fluid. However, if your transmission is slipping because of damaged parts, you’ll be out thousands of dollars for a transmission rebuild or replacement.

Q. Can a Transmission Flush Fix Slipping?

A. Yes, your fluid might be the issue, whether it’s contaminated, too high, or too low. However, a flush is typically done with a professional machine at a shop, so it’s not an easy home garage job.

Featured Products 

Red Line API GL-4 Manual Transmission and Transaxle Lubricant, 1 Quart

ACDelco Professional Dexron Synthetic Automatic Transmission Fluid, 1 Quart

Castrol Transmax Dex/Merc Synthetic Automatic Transmission Fluid, 1 Gallon

Got a question? Got a pro tip? Send us a note: [email protected]

Slipping Transmission Easy Fix

Is Your Transmission Slipping?

Signs Your Transmission is Slipping

If your car’s automatic transmission is showing signs of slipping, then you should have it checked right away.

image of transmission open, cross-section so you can see internal workings.

What might seem to be a minor annoyance can turn into a bigger, more expensive problem down the road. Transmission slipping does not always mean your transmission is going to fail, but it is a signal that maintenance is required. Because your car’s transmission is one of its most complicated systems, it is important to accurately diagnose the cause of the symptoms.

If your transmission is slipping, be aware of the signs.

There are some common signs that you can look for. Signs of slipping can appear in a number of forms when you are driving, or even sitting at idle. Signs include:

  • Engine revs or chugs
  • Slow, weak or delayed acceleration
  • Difficulty shifting gears or hard shifting
  • Grinding, whining or other strange noises
  • Won’t go in reverse
  • Burned or strange smells
  • Check engine light

What does it feel like when the transmission is slipping?

When the transmission slips, it might feel like the vehicle is slow to respond. Sometimes it doesn’t respond at all when you press the gas pedal. The noticeable change in the transmission’s performance might be accompanied by a noise or change in pitch as it changes gears. If your car changes gears suddenly without any reason or action on your part, it’s time to take it to a mechanic, because this situation can be dangerous.

Is it safe to drive with a slipping transmission?

If your vehicle unexpectedly shifts gears while you’re driving, you should get to a mechanic as soon as possible. This is a potentially dangerous situation because the vehicle has become unreliable. If it starts to shake or become difficult to control, please pull over and get to safety. Many AAMCO Utah service centers will assist with towing.

If you experience any of these issues, your car is probably showing signs of a transmission problem. Knowing the signs is half the solution. Your next step is to book an appointment with your local Utah AAMCO transmission and total car care service center. Have a technician inspect your vehicle (usually a free diagnosis). This way you avoid causing more damage to the transmission and possibly costing a lot more money.

Here are some reasons your transmission is slipping.

If your transmission is slipping, grinding, making loud sounds that you know are just bad, chances are it needs a thorough diagnosis.

  • Low, worn out or burned transmission fluid
  • Solenoid problems
  • Worn or broken transmission bands
  • Clutch problems
  • Worn out gears
  • Torque converter issues

Most transmission problems are a result of low, worn out, or burned transmission fluid.

Transmission fluid is the most important component to a healthy transmission.

image of hand pouring transmission fluid through funnel as for the good car maintenance.It is the number one thing you can easily take care of. Check and change the transmission fluid as directed by your vehicle’s manufacturer. Transmissions don’t last forever, but they can last a long time and run well if you take care of them. With minimum effort and not much maintenance you’ll probably get about 100,000 miles out of it. That might seem like a long time, but it only takes five years to put 100,000 miles on your car, at an average of driving 20,000 miles per year.

If your car seems sluggish and just doesn’t drive right, check the transmission fluid. If the fluid is low, worn out, or has burned, you should consider getting a fluid flush. Take of the transmission fluid and your transmission will operate for a really long time.

A defective solenoid can cause the transmission to slip.

What’s a transmission solenoid?

A transmission solenoid is an electro-magnetic component used to control the flow of transmission fluid in the transmission.

Every time a gear is shifted, the car’s computer – Engine Control Module (ECM) or Transmission Control Module (TCM) – actuates a transmission solenoid, which pushes transmission fluid into the valve body to engage the right gear.

Through this process the transmission solenoid regulates how much fluid is passed through the transmission. If the solenoid malfunctions, not enough fluid is pumped into the transmission, which will result in the transmission overheating and slipping.

A defective solenoid has to be replaced. A thorough diagnosis of your transmission slipping issues should be able to find the faulty solenoid, but sometimes the electrical system can be the issue. Either way, the solenoid should be checked if all other issues have been addressed and your transmission still slips.

Transmission bands can wear out and cause slipping.

What are transmission bands?

Transmission bands and clutches must engage and release in precisely regulated time for the transmission to perform optimally. Transmission bands can become worn or broken, which will cause the transmission to slip. Bands are what link the gears in the automatic transmission together. 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. Bands and clutch plates throughout the transmission and in the torque converter may become worn or burned out from inadequate transmission fluid.

Here again the importance of transmission fluid becomes obvious. Take care of your transmission fluid and you’ve won half the battle against transmission wear and expensive breakdowns.

Clutch wear can cause manual and automatic transmissions to slip.

Automatic and manual transmissions both make use of clutches, but…

image of a torque converter internal.An automatic transmission has a torque converter instead of a main clutch. The engine and transmission connect at the bell housing, which contains the torque converter for automatic transmissions, as opposed to a clutch for manual transmissions. The torque converter joins the engine and the transmission so the wheels will turn. Torque converters and clutches rely on clean transmission fluid delivered on time at the right pressure to shift gears and make the transmission perform efficiently.

Transmission gears wear out and start slipping.

Low or burned out transmission fluid is a major cause of gear wear and tear.

Over time gears can wear out – especially if they have been running hot and inefficiently due to lack of or worn out transmission fluid. Slipping gears are usually due to normal wear and tear, which causes them to not engage properly and to slip in and out of sync. It is rare, but there might be a malfunctioning set of gears in the transmission, which is usually due to bad original manufacturing. Worn or rounded out gears don’t properly link together so this can cause a bumpy shift and slippage as you accelerate and drive.

Torque converter issues will cause the transmission to slip.

The torque converter changes the engine’s power into torque that the transmission can use.

It’s a hard working, important component to the overall operation of the transmission. Without the torque converter, the wheels don’t get power or turn. Torque converters, like most other parts in a slipping transmission, become worn over time. Transmission fluid must flow through the torque converter at the right times and amounts – if it fails, the transmission will not only start slipping, it might display other problems, such as just not going into gear, burning, smoking, jumping gears while driving, or blowout.

How much does it cost to fix a slipping transmission?

AAMCO Utah Transmission Repair Centers Can Help

image of AAMCO mechanic greeting with a smile, tip of the hat.Only a trained, qualified technician can really get to the root of the matter when it comes to an automatic transmission. Oftentimes your car’s transmission problems can be solved with a fluid change or our proprietary Power Purge® service, and that is what we will do. Taking the time to accurately identify the cause of the problem will save a lot of trouble in applying the right solution.

The AAMCO Transmission service centers of Utah specialize in diagnosing and fixing transmissions of all makes, models, and configurations, from manual to automatic, CVT, AWD, FWD, and 4x4. We run diagnostics and do a complete inspection to find the issues affecting your transmission. We recommend only the work that needs to be done and won’t do anything until after we’ve discussed your options with you and determined the best, most reliable course of action to fix your car and get you back on the road.

Call or book an appointment online to get started.



Slipping transmission

My Transmission Is Slipping

How to Fix Transmission Slipping

You can solve transmission slipping yourself if it’s simply low fluid, burnt or ineffective fluid, or transmission leaks. This will often require you to either check the fluid, change the fluid, or fix the transmission leak.

On the other hand, problems such replacing or adjusting clutches, replacing or adjusting bands, and replacing gears will require you to dismantle the transmission. These procedures are complicated to explain and will require experience. If you are a novice with transmissions, it’s best to have them done by an expert here at AAMCO.

How to Prevent Transmission Slipping

To prevent your transmission from slipping, you need to regularly maintain your vehicle. This means that you should check the fluid often for any signs of problems, such as leaking, low, dirty, or burnt fluid. Any of these signs can lead to transmission slipping. We recommend that you have your transmission flushed and a new filter installed at least once every 30,000 miles.

If you have any questions or need more information, feel free to submit a question on our Ask A Mechanic section.

4 signs of a Bad Automatic Transmission failing Symptoms Slipping makes Whining Noise

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