Transmission Slipping Symptoms, Causes, and Fixes

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 manual

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 automatic

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.

Osuagwu Solomon

Osuagwu Solomon is a certified mechanic with over a decade of experience in the mechanic garage, and he has over five years of experience in the writing industry. He started writing automotive articles to share his garage experience with car enthusiasts and armature mechanics. If he is not in the garage fixing challenging mechanical problems, he is writing automotive repair guides, buyer’s guides, and car and tools comparisons.

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