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automatic transmissions

Why Do Automatic Gearboxes Fail?

Transmission fluid drives automatic gearboxes, so it is no surprise that if you have experienced a burning smell, gear slipping or being unresponsive, it is most probably due to a transmission fluid problem.

The Mechanical Workshop has put together a guide of the most common symptoms, potential failure causes and recommended courses of action to help you through an automatic gearbox malfunctioning. It is crucial to take proper care of your vehicle’s automatic transmissions, not only for safety purposes but also because if it completely breaks down it is actually going to be more expensive to replace than the engine.

Automatic Transmissions Malfunctioning

SymptomPotential Causes
Course Of Action
Makes unfamiliar noises– Low transmission fluid due to a leak;
– Internal damage.
Look for signs of a physical leak near the drain plug or seal between the transmission and the engine. If there is a leak, you will potentially find a red liquid (colour can vary) and immediate action needs to be taken to prevent any permanent damage.
Burning Smell– Low transmission fluid due to a leak;
– Overheated fluid which diminishes its lubricating abilities;
– Inserting the incorrect brand/type of fluid.
Find the transmission dipstick, pull it out, wipe it and reinsert it into the tube. Then, pull it out again and check if the oil level and condition meets the manufacturer’s guidelines.
If the fluid has lost its lubricating abilities the increased friction will end up building debris that may clog the filter consequently causing the fluid to overheat.
These are things to keep an eye on, however, if you notice a burning smell it is never a good sign, so you should always take your vehicle to a specialist.

Slow or lack of response when in gear

– Low transmission fluid due to a leak;
– Degraded transmission fluid;
– Computer system problem.
If it is a computer system problem, you can try disconnecting the battery for approx. 30 minutes to reset the system. However, it is always better to get the computer system checked for any trouble codes, by a specialist.

If you’ve noticed this symptom looking for a physical leak and reading the level and condition of the transmission fluid can also help you to understand the problem better
Engine light is on– Sensors have picked up anything unusual in your vehicle’s transmissionA starting point would be having the trouble codes retrieved to see where and what the problem is. This will tell your local mechanic how to go about fixing the problem.
man holding a set of car keys

If you feel like the symptoms you have experienced are not featured in the table above it may not a gearbox problem. However, we recommend that you get in touch either way to prevent further damage and unexpected costs. At The Mechanical Workshop, we are automatic transmissions specialists and we offer a comprehensive service from automatic transmissions repairs to gearbox diagnostics. Call our expert team today on 0116 2863896 for further information.