The Most Common Transmission Problems

Transmission is a vital feature that acts as a medium for transmitting power generated by the engine to the wheel via gears and gear trains. The presence of defects in the transmission feature triggers acceleration issues and the inability to engage higher or lower gears.

Although it is expected for a vehicle to develop transmission defects, some are persistent and difficult to fix. Effectively, a car may become a lemon due to a transmission defect that impacts its value, use, and safety.

California lemon laws protect consumers who buy new or used vehicles with the manufacturer’s new vehicle warranty that develop persistent defects.

Consult a trusted Anaheim, CA lemon law attorney for legal advice on pursuing compensation from the manufacturer.

How to Know When Your Car Is Having Transmission Problems

There are a few signs you can look for that can signal when your vehicle is experiencing transmission problems.

Here are a few signs to look out for:

Clunky Sound

If you notice new sounds that you’re unfamiliar with, your vehicle might have transmission defects. Have your transmission checked if you hear strange sounds like humming, buzzing, or rattling.

For instance, there may be a rattling sound when changing from a higher to a lower gear. Instead of a smooth shift, the transmission thuds or drops into the next gear.

Check Engine Light

A faulty transmission will trigger an engine diagnostic code, triggering a check engine light alert. A check engine light may also be on if the engine overheats because of a faulty transmission. Transmission problems like slippage or faulty solenoids may also trigger a check engine light.

Burning Smell

If your vehicle produces a burning smell, it could have a transmission defect. The strange odor indicates that your transmission is overheating or the fluid is old and burnt.

Leaking Fluid

An obvious sign of a transmission leak is a paddle of transmission fluid underneath your car. You can distinguish a transmission fluid leak by its color and consistency; it tends to be red and slippery with an oily smell.

When left unattended, a transmission leak becomes bigger. Eventually, the transmission component doesn’t perform as it should. Reduced lubrication may lead to other problems, like delays during shifting.

Noises When in Neutral

If you notice strange noises coming from your vehicle when it is neutral, clearly something is wrong with the transmission component. In a minor case, noises during neutral may indicate the need for a new transmission fluid.

Sometimes, noises in neutral may indicate the need for a complete overhaul of the transmission component.

What Are The Most Common Transmission Problems?

Consumer laws hold manufacturers accountable for persistent vehicle defects that impact their reliability. According to California lemon laws, if a manufacturer or dealer can’t repair a substantial warranty defect after a reasonable number of repair attempts, the manufacturer must either:

  • Replace the vehicle
  • Refund its buying price—whichever you prefer

Here are the common transmission defects:

Difficulty Shifting Gears

Difficulty shifting gears is a typical transmission defect in many vehicles. The problem manifests differently depending on the type of transmission in your car. Grinding noises or resistance during shifting is common in cars with manual transmission.

On the other hand, you can experience hesitation, jerking, and slipping between gears in automatic transmission vehicles.

Low Fluid Levels

Low fluid levels and leaks are additional examples of transmission defects. The reasons behind the defect include a leaking pan gasket, faulty transmission cooling line, or leaking driveshaft or axle seal.

A leaking transmission fluid leads to overheating, burnt or low fluid, and severe damage. Fluid leaks or low fluid levels often result in slow shifting and gear slippage.


Shuddering is another common transmission defect that involves high-speed vibrations, vibrations on acceleration, and vibrations during braking. The transmission may start to shudder when bands and clutches are faulty.

Many factors cause shuddering, including improper computer signals, dirty or low fluid, and worn-out clutches.

Slipping Transmission

Slipping transmission occurs when the transmission component fails to maintain a consistent connection between the engine and wheels, resulting in loss of power. The slipping transmission defect may also trigger the inability to accelerate or maintain speed.

Damaged bands or faulty transmission fluid pressure may contribute to the problem of slipping transmission.

What Are The Most Common Transmission Problems?

Recent Car Models With the Most Transmission Problems

Some of the recent car models with transmission problems include:

2018 GMC Terrain

The typical transmission defects with the GMC Terrain include:

  • The vehicle parked itself in the middle while making a left turn at an intersection
  • The transmission component failed, and the vehicle owner was unable to acquire a replacement
  • The car lost propulsion while driving in the rain at 25-30 mph
  • The turbine shaft in the transmission broke without a warning

2020 Nissan Altima

Here are the common complaints related to the transmission component:

  • The transmission component became inoperable after 145,000 miles
  • As the vehicle was in motion, it came to a complete halt, accompanied by hesitation and shudder
  • A vehicle owner of a 2020 Nissan Altima noted a loss of power during acceleration

2019 GMC Acadia

A few transmission issues with the 2019 GMC Acadia include:

  • Powertrain error while attempting to shift to the park
  • At 30,461 miles, the transmission started to slip and park without prompt
  • The transmission flares when going in and out of the second gear
  • Shift to park malfunction
  • A ‘shift to park’ warning message makes shutting or leaving the vehicle difficult.

Additional vehicles with transmission defects include:

  • 2021 Honda Pilot
  • 2022 Volkswagen Golf GTI
  • 2022 Toyota Tundra
  • 2022 Ram 1500 Classic Crew Cab

Get in Touch With an Experienced Lemon Law Attorney in California

If you bought a vehicle with a transmission defect that makes it challenging to drive effectively, the car may be unreliable, causing major inconvenience and expense.

You should have representation from an experienced lemon law attorney in California who will protect your right to compensation. LemonLaw123, lead attorney Valerie.G.Campbelll has a 99% success rate, and you want us on your side. Contact us online or at 657-256-4741 for a free case review.

Valerie G. Fernandez Campbell

Valerie G. Fernandez Campbell, known as The Lemon Law Lady, has dedicated her entire legal career to the specialized field of Lemon Law, a journey that began immediately after her
graduation from UCLA School of Law.

With a 99% success rate and a policy of no fees unless you win, her practice stands as a testament to her expertise in California’s Lemon Law, her commitment to her clients, and her unwavering dedication to justice and consumer rights.

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This page has been written, edited, and reviewed by a team of legal writers following our comprehensive editorial guidelines. This page was approved by attorney Valerie G. Fernandez Campbell, personally handled over 500 lemon law cases and settlements.