Recognizing Transmission Problems in Vehicles

The transmission is a crucial function of a vehicle that delivers power from the engine to the wheels. A vehicle can have an automatic transmission or a manual transmission, where a driver must complete extra steps for the vehicle to operate smoothly.

If you own an automatic vehicle, repairing a defective transmission is more expensive compared to fixing a faulty engine. It means you’re better off paying attention to the symptoms of a defective transmission than ignoring them.

If your vehicle has developed a persistent transmission problem, you may be entitled to compensation under California lemon laws.

Consider hiring a trusted California lemon law attorney who can provide legal guidance on how to protect your rights.

Identifying the Symptoms of a Bad Transmission

Failure to Engage or Stay in Gear

The problem occurs when the vehicle stalls as the engine is running. The issue may also manifest when the transmission remains in the first gear. Several factors may cause your vehicle’s failure to engage or stay in gear:

  • Low transmission fluid due to a leak
  • Improper position of the shifter cable
  • Faulty sensors
  • Faulty clutch connections

Shaking, Jerking, or Grinding

The grinding of gears is typical in a manual transmission. However, an automatic transmission vehicle may have a faulty gearbox if it starts shaking, jerking, or grinding. A manual transmission may also grind when shifting due to low transmission oil or fluid.

Vehicle Lacks Power

If the vehicle has minimal or no power while the engine is running correctly, it may be having an internal transmission problem. There are additional issues behind the lack of power, including a faulty brake caliper or a systematic reduction of the car’s power to safeguard the engine.

A Leaking Transmission Fluid

When you notice a leaking transmission fluid, the vehicle doesn’t cool or lubricate properly. There are various causes of a leaking transmission fluid, including a damaged transmission pan gasket.

In addition to transmission issues, a leaking transmission fluid is a fire hazard if the fluid leaks on a hot pipe or any surface.

Burning Smell

A burning smell coming out of your vehicle could indicate a transmission problem. It could mean a leaking fluid, worn internal components or degraded protective chemicals. A substantial sludge accumulation in the gearbox may also cause a burning smell.

Slipping Gear

Your car’s transmission may have an issue if the gear doesn’t shift properly or stay in gear as you drive. Various reasons could be behind a slipping gear, including worn clutch plates, damaged solenoid packs or faulty transmission bands.

Common Misdiagnoses: Similar Issues Mistaken for Transmission Problems

If you notice a burning smell or any other symptom related to a transmission defect, the vehicle might have a different problem.

Here are engine problems that resemble transmission defects:

  • A damaged oil gasket leads to a burning smell
  • Engine hesitation mistaken for slipping gears
  • Strange sounds, such as whirring and hissing sounds due to engine trouble
  • Shaking because of a broken engine mount or cylinder misfire
  • Burning smell due to faulty brakes
  • Faulty fuel delivery may cause you to feel like you’re in the wrong gear

Common Transmission Problems

Here is a list of transmission problems to watch out for:

  • Damaged Clutch: Your manual transmission could develop issues if the clutch wears out and fails to work. When the clutch is worn out, you may encounter difficulty shifting gears.
  • Leaking Seals: Broken or worn-out seals cause a low transmission fluid because of the associated leak. If there’s too much transmission fluid leak, the transmission system works below par or incorrectly.
  • Dirty Filter: A vehicle requires regular change of filters to keep it in top shape. An old or clogged filter restricts the movement of transmission fluid.
  • Faulty Shift Solenoids: A transmission shift solenoid controls the movement of the transmission fluid. It works through a module that sends an electric signal, initiating the exact time to transfer the fluid in or out. A faulty shift solenoid may cause the vehicle to go into ‘limp mode’, where the vehicle begins to grow weak in power and ability to accelerate.
  • Worn-out Torque Converter: The role of a torque converter is to lock the engine and the transmission into direct drive. Even so, a worn-out torque converter can cause the vehicle to stay in gear even when the vehicle has come to a stop.

Transmission Problems and Lemon Law

Vehicle With Transmission Defects Covered by Lemon Laws

California lemon law covers the following new and used vehicles with the manufacturer’s new warranty:

  • Chassis cab, chassis, and drivetrain of a motorhome
  • Demonstrators and dealer-owned vehicles
  • SUVs, vans, cars, and pick-up trucks
  • Vehicles bought or leased for business purposes
  • Cars bought or leased for personal, household, or family reasons

If a manufacturer or dealer fails to repair a transmission defect after a reasonable number of repair attempts, the auto manufacturer must either:

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

Transmission Defects Not Covered by Lemon Laws

A vehicle is considered a lemon if it has a substantial defect that impacts its use, safety, and value. A substantial defect doesn’t have to make the vehicle immobile but has a significant effect on its functionality.

California lemon law doesn’t cover the following types of transmission defects:

  • Transmission faults caused by accidents
  • A transmission defect that doesn’t impair a vehicle’s use, value, and safety
  • Transmission malfunction caused by unauthorized repair or alteration of the vehicle
  • A transmission defect due to owner negligence

Speak to an Experienced Lemon Law Attorney to Obtain a Refund or Replacement

It is frustrating to own a vehicle with a defective transmission. If the vehicle has slipping gears, it may be a nuisance to drive for a long distance. Due to its numerous defects, you cannot rely on it for your personal or business errands.

A consumer who unknowingly bought a lemon vehicle deserves representation from an experienced attorney to obtain compensation for their losses.

Consider engaging a professional like LemonLaw123 with a proven track record in lemon cases.

Contact us online or at 657.529.5239 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.