Transmissions are complex systems that are absolutely vital to the health and performance of your car. Certain maintenance tasks like flushing transmission fluids, replacing filters or changing worn seals can be done on your own if you have the right tools, knowledge, time and patience. The best way to avoid problems is to have your transmission serviced regularly by professionals (check your owner’s manual for recommended transmission service milestones).

Still, the transmission is the most overworked part of any car. The more you drive, the more wear and tear it experiences. We’ve compiled a list of the 5 most common symptoms car owners should look for. If you are experiencing any of these, you might have a problem with your transmission.

1. Warning Light

This is a pretty obvious one. The “check engine” light may not indicate a transmission-specific problem, but it is a sign that something is wrong with your car and you’ll want to get it checked out. Newer cars will give more specific warnings and some of the latest on-board computers can send detailed alerts directly to your phone or dashboard display. With older cars, it’s more of a general warning that likely requires professional service. And if your check engine light goes on in conjunction with any of the symptoms below, then the problem is likely somewhere in your transmission.

2. Leaking Fluids

Unlike motor oil that burns up and lessens with use, the amount of lubricating fluids in your transmission should remain constant. You can check your transmission fluid level with a dipstick (again, consult your owner’s manual). It is typically bright red in color and looks very different from oil or antifreeze, so if you notice any under your car you likely have a leak. Any number of things can cause a leak, such as worn gaskets and seals, damaged bell housings, a loose transmission pan, a leak in the pan itself, a drive shaft that is out of balance, or worn axles.

3. Burning Smells

Again, if you smell a slightly “burnt” smell while driving your car, it could be a number of different things. Transmission fluid generally has a slightly sweet or tart odor. If your transmission fluid is getting burnt up, it means it is losing its viscosity and could be doing further damage to your engine. Get it checked out before it’s too late!

4. Delayed Reaction

Transmissions are very sensitive pieces of machinery and can be problematic if not performing correctly. If you notice any delays in switching gears or the car doesn’t seem to be accelerating normally, you might have a worn-out clutch, gear, torque converter or something else inside the transmission that needs to be addressed. It doesn’t matter if your car has an automatic or manual transmission. If something feels “off,” it’s worth getting checked out.

5. Unusual Sounds

In a manual transmission, a “grinding” sound can be a sign of a transmission problem. You may cause the grinding yourself while shifting, and the damage can add up over time if you have poor technique. If you still hear grinding sounds when the car is already in gear, it likely means your clutch is getting worn out. In an automatic transmission, a transmission problem could be apparent if you distinctively notice any shifts in gears. You will notices shifts are not smooth or it may be making a whining, humming or buzzing sound.

These are just a few of the most common symptoms car owners can easily recognize. If you think you might have transmission problems, it is best to consult an expert like Ralph’s Transmission. You can call us any time with questions or come in for an appointment. We’ll diagnose the problem for free and we handle all regular transmission service, transmission repairs or transmission rebuilds with the utmost care and professionalism.