Home / Blog / How to Fix A Hard Shifting Automatic Transmission: Tips And Tricks From The Pros

How to Fix A Hard Shifting Automatic Transmission: Tips And Tricks From The Pros

How To Fix Hard Shifting Automatic Transmission

While the engine generates inertia to propel your car ahead, the transmission decides the speed depending on the driver’s preferences and distributes power to the wheels to maintain or increase the pace. When everything is working properly, the shift between gears in an automatic gearbox should be barely noticeable, especially if the transmission is a CVT.

When the gearbox jerks between gears or shifts quickly, it’s a sign that your transmission needs to be repaired. It’s time to inspect a transmission if it’s shifting hard or slipping. An expert inspection will determine if the problem can be solved with a simple fix or if major repairs are required.

Symptoms of a hard shifting transmission

There is a slew of signs that indicate the transmission isn’t performing as well as it should. The following are the most prevalent symptoms of transmission issues:

Unusual noises

The fluid pump is the most noisy part of your transmission. When fluid is low or unclean, the fluid pump, which provides the high pressures in your transmission that impact shifts, might become noisy, similar to your power steering pump. If the pump fails or if there is a clog somewhere in the system creating exceptionally high pressures, the pump can become noisy.

If your pump is making noises, change the fluid and listen for the noises to alter. A damaged bearing is another noise to listen for. Transmission bearings, like wheel bearings, can create humming and vibrations that vary with vehicle speed and gear changes.

Dark fluid

Transmission fluid, like engine oil, becomes contaminated with wear and foreign materials over time. If your transmission fluid is turning dark faster than usual, it could signal that your transmission is experiencing excessive wear.

This rapid degradation could be caused by a faulty bearing or a clutch/band on its final legs. If you notice dark fluid, change your gearbox fluid more frequently than your owner’s handbook suggests.

Burning smell

Extremely hot transmission fluid has a distinct, bitter odor that resembles burning rubber rather than burning oil. Burning transmission fluid signals a leak spilling onto hot engine parts or very unclean fluid that has to be emptied and replaced.

Running your automobile with polluted, old transmission fluid is just as bad for the engine and transmission as not changing the oil at all.

Jerky transmission mid-shift

If your car struggles to shift gears, jerks when shifting, or generally switches in unexpected ways, especially from first to second or second to third, it could mean something is wearing out or failing. An inconsistent shift in today’s computer-controlled transmissions could potentially be caused by a faulty sensor or shift solenoid.

When plugged into your automobile, a transmission or factory scan tool that can check pressures and solenoid operation can often be used to diagnose these issues.

Slipping gears/ won’t go into gear

Transmissions that are in good working order keep your car in one gear until you wish to change it. When your transmission “slips,” it may show an RPM of 3500+ or coast slowly. Additionally, when you push the gas pedal, your vehicle may appear to take longer to accelerate, indicating that it is not delivering enough power to the engine’s internal combustion portion. Broken or worn-out bands can also cause transmission slippage.

Low transmission fluid can prohibit your car from engaging drive or reverse gear, indicating that a leak is present anywhere along the transmission lines. If a vehicle with a manual transmission engages and crashes, it could be a symptom of a worn clutch plate.

Automobiles that don’t simply shift into gear, regardless matter how minor the problem is, require prompt care from a competent mechanic.

Faulty check engine light

You may not hear weird noises or see a pool of red transmission fluid under your car, but when your “check engine” light illuminates, you must follow the instructions and get your engine and transmission professionally inspected.

Although newer automobiles have extra-sensitive sensors that may detect even the tiniest engine anomalies, all instances of the “check engine” light going on require a transmission professional to fully diagnose. Check this article on how much does it cost fully inspect your car.

Symptoms specific to automatic transmissions

Sensor problems

Most modern automobiles have a variety of sensors, including those that control how and when your vehicle’s transmission shifts. Shifting issues can occur if the sensors do not receive the necessary signals and data.

A sluggish sensor or one that is transmitting erroneous information from the engine can cause hard shifting. A defective speed sensor could be to blame for the car appearing to be moving slower or faster than it actually is.

Vacuum problems

Hard shifting has been linked to problems with a transmission’s vacuum lines. The pressure in the transmission is affected by clogged, damaged, or disconnected vacuum lines, which can cause harsh shifting.

Error codes

Transmission trouble codes are stored in your car’s transmission control module. You can take your vehicle to a transmission service professional to have these problem codes scanned if you’re having trouble determining why your transmission is shifting so hard. These codes should help you figure out why your transmission is shifting so slowly and how to fix it.

Common causes and solutions for a hard shifting transmission

hard shifting transmission

With automatic gearboxes, hard shifting is a regular issue. However, there could be a variety of causes at the root of the problem. Each one necessitates a somewhat different approach.

Low fluid level

A low transmission fluid level could be the source of your automatic gearbox’s difficulty shifting. The fluid in your gearbox does more than just lubricate things; it also generates hydraulic pressure to move the clutches and bands that let you shift. A low fluid level caused by a leak can result in a low pressure scenario, which can cause shifting issues.

If you notice a low fluid level in your transmission, top it off with the manufacturer’s suggested type of transmission fluid, or you may find yourself back where you started.

Old transmission fluid

A hard shifting automatic gearbox can also be caused by old, inaccurate, or worn out transmission fluid. The materials used in transmission construction are chosen for their interaction with the transmission fluid. When the improper materials and fluids are combined, too much friction is created, resulting in harsh shifts. Low friction and clumsy shifts could also result.

Over time, the lubricating and friction-modifying qualities of your transmission fluid will deteriorate. The shifting in your transmission will alter as these variables change. This will lead to the issue you’re having.

Worn-out transmission

Your transmission may just be worn out in the worst-case situation. Over time, the bands and clutches that control gear changes wear down. As a result, their surfaces smooth out and lose their ability to keep things together. Unfortunately, to test this, you’ll have to remove your transmission. You might as well replace your transmission at that time.

Transmission repairs can be extremely expensive. Before you take your automobile in for gearbox servicing, be sure you have a comprehensive diagnosis of the problem. It’s also a good idea to acquire a second opinion before embarking on any large project.

Faulty torque converter

A torque converter could possibly be the source of your vehicle’s slippage. This component connects the engine to the transmission and functions similarly to a clutch in a manual transmission vehicle.

If your car’s transmission starts to slip, it could be a sign that the fluid isn’t being maintained properly, and you’re having torque converter problems. A faulty torque converter might give you the same sensation as slipping gears.


Transmission troubles are one of the most serious and costly car problems to fix. Transmissions can cost up to a thousand dollars to repair and, if not working properly, can render a car immobile and unusable.

To avoid significant damage, a transmission should be taken to a transmission expert and serviced as soon as possible when it begins to show signs of trouble. Early detection of a transmission problem can sometimes avoid transmission failure.

Check Also

The Best Minivans With Stowable Seats

With all the different types, looks, and styles of minivans out there, choosing the right …

One comment

  1. I find it surprising that a vehicle’s transmission is susceptible to wear and tear, affecting its overall efficiency. I heard from my uncle that he’s thinking of reviving his old muscle car for personal use. Maybe we should look around for an auto service expert that can repair his transmission whenever necessary!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.