Identifying Transmission Problems By Sounds Or Smells

Posted on: 9 November 2015


Most of us just drive our cars without thinking about it too much. The main way that the large majority of people are going to be keyed into a problem is when a strange sound or smell occurs. Here are a few examples of sounds and smells out of the ordinary that indicate that you may have a transmission issue.  

Burning Smell

Obviously transmission fluid overheating isn't the only cause of smelling burning in your car, but it's a common one. There's an easy way to check to see if the transmission fluid is the cause in this case and that involves looking at the transmission dipstick.

You'll want to make sure the engine is off first, and also have some white paper or white cloth available. Pop the hood and take out the dipstick for your transmission fluid. It will sometimes say transmission on it, but it's usually in the back left corner and it has a gear symbol on it. Take out the dipstick and hold it over something white to make sure you get the color right. It should be red. If it's blackish and the burning smell is strong, then you've found the culprit.

Grinding Noise

If the grinding noise is happening with an automatic transmission, it's less likely that the transmission is to blame than if you have a manual. When it comes to automatic transmissions, this often sounds more like a shaking or banging noise. If this is happening enough, it's worth taking the car in no matter what since there's likely going to be an issue one way or another.

When your transmission is working normally, it should just transition from one gear to another without any noise or problems at all. If it's sticking or making noise, this is when there's a cause for worry.

Whirring Sounds

Some people may also think of this as a hum or even a buzz or whine. But regardless of your terminology, this will usually be recognizable as a new sound that wasn't present when you first started using the car. It's going to have more of a machine sound on manual transmissions, and if the sound more towards a thumping or "clunking" sound this is almost always due to a transmission problem, especially if it sounds like it's coming from underneath your car.

If you have any of these sounds or smells, it's a good idea to bring the car in to be checked out by auto transmissions repair professionals. The sooner you do this, the less damage you're going to sustain in your transmission.