Automatic Transmission Slipping

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Signs Your Transmission is Slipping

One of the most common and simplest causes of a transmission slip is when there is low automatic transmission fluid. Another cause is when the transmission band is worn out or broken. With this type of problem, you will not only have to deal with the transmission slipping but a multitude of engine troubles, including worn out transmission gears. Automatic transmission slipping is where the gear fails to set correctly when you accelerate. This is a dangerous situation, as it will be difficult to drive your vehicle. It could also lead to the breakdown of the part. Here are some ways causes to look for and ways to fix transmission slipping. Your transmission is slipping. If your vehicle feels like it’s trying to change gears on it’s own and you can’t stop it, that’s a classic sign of a bad transmission. Automatic transmission fluid must reduce friction enough to prevent wear and control temperature while at the same time allowing some friction to prevent the internal clutch material from slipping. A slipping transmission is usually characterized by a change in RPM without a change in speed. You'll notice it when you go to accelerate but you don't actually speed up. A 'slip' is when RPMs climb followed by a clunking sound and a jerking sensation when the transmission finally engages.

If your car’s automatic transmission is showing signs of slipping, then you should have it checked right away.

What might seem to be a minor annoyance can turn into a bigger, more expensive problem down the road. Transmission slipping does not always mean your transmission is going to fail, but it is a signal that maintenance is required. Because your car’s transmission is one of its most complicated systems, it is important to accurately diagnose the cause of the symptoms.

If your transmission is slipping, be aware of the signs.

There are some common signs that you can look for. Signs of slipping can appear in a number of forms when you are driving, or even sitting at idle. Signs include:

  • Engine revs or chugs
  • Slow, weak or delayed acceleration
  • Difficulty shifting gears or hard shifting
  • Grinding, whining or other strange noises
  • Won’t go in reverse
  • Burned or strange smells
  • Check engine light

What does it feel like when the transmission is slipping?

When the transmission slips, it might feel like the vehicle is slow to respond. Sometimes it doesn’t respond at all when you press the gas pedal. The noticeable change in the transmission’s performance might be accompanied by a noise or change in pitch as it changes gears. If your car changes gears suddenly without any reason or action on your part, it’s time to take it to a mechanic, because this situation can be dangerous.

Is it safe to drive with a slipping transmission?

If your vehicle unexpectedly shifts gears while you’re driving, you should get to a mechanic as soon as possible. This is a potentially dangerous situation because the vehicle has become unreliable. If it starts to shake or become difficult to control, please pull over and get to safety. Many AAMCO Utah service centers will assist with towing.

If you experience any of these issues, your car is probably showing signs of a transmission problem. Knowing the signs is half the solution. Your next step is to book an appointment with your local Utah AAMCO transmission and total car care service center. Have a technician inspect your vehicle (usually a free diagnosis). This way you avoid causing more damage to the transmission and possibly costing a lot more money.

Here are some reasons your transmission is slipping.

If your transmission is slipping, grinding, making loud sounds that you know are just bad, chances are it needs a thorough diagnosis.

  • Low, worn out or burned transmission fluid
  • Solenoid problems
  • Worn or broken transmission bands
  • Clutch problems
  • Worn out gears
  • Torque converter issues

Most transmission problems are a result of low, worn out, or burned transmission fluid.

Transmission fluid is the most important component to a healthy transmission.

Automatic Transmission Slipping

It is the number one thing you can easily take care of. Check and change the transmission fluid as directed by your vehicle’s manufacturer. Transmissions don’t last forever, but they can last a long time and run well if you take care of them. With minimum effort and not much maintenance you’ll probably get about 100,000 miles out of it. That might seem like a long time, but it only takes five years to put 100,000 miles on your car, at an average of driving 20,000 miles per year.

Automatic Transmission Slipping When Hot

If your car seems sluggish and just doesn’t drive right, check the transmission fluid. If the fluid is low, worn out, or has burned, you should consider getting a fluid flush. Take of the transmission fluid and your transmission will operate for a really long time.

A defective solenoid can cause the transmission to slip.

What’s a transmission solenoid?

A transmission solenoid is an electro-magnetic component used to control the flow of transmission fluid in the transmission.

Every time a gear is shifted, the car’s computer – Engine Control Module (ECM) or Transmission Control Module (TCM) – actuates a transmission solenoid, which pushes transmission fluid into the valve body to engage the right gear.

Through this process the transmission solenoid regulates how much fluid is passed through the transmission. If the solenoid malfunctions, not enough fluid is pumped into the transmission, which will result in the transmission overheating and slipping.

A defective solenoid has to be replaced. A thorough diagnosis of your transmission slipping issues should be able to find the faulty solenoid, but sometimes the electrical system can be the issue. Either way, the solenoid should be checked if all other issues have been addressed and your transmission still slips.

Transmission bands can wear out and cause slipping.

What are transmission bands?

Transmission bands and clutches must engage and release in precisely regulated time for the transmission to perform optimally. Transmission bands can become worn or broken, which will cause the transmission to slip. Bands are what link the gears in the automatic transmission together. To fix this problem, the defective bands should be replaced.

Sometimes the bands are fine and only need adjustment. The clutch plates might also need to be replaced or adjusted. Bands and clutch plates throughout the transmission and in the torque converter may become worn or burned out from inadequate transmission fluid.

Here again the importance of transmission fluid becomes obvious. Take care of your transmission fluid and you’ve won half the battle against transmission wear and expensive breakdowns.

Clutch wear can cause manual and automatic transmissions to slip.

Automatic and manual transmissions both make use of clutches, but…

An automatic transmission has a torque converter instead of a main clutch. The engine and transmission connect at the bell housing, which contains the torque converter for automatic transmissions, as opposed to a clutch for manual transmissions. The torque converter joins the engine and the transmission so the wheels will turn. Torque converters and clutches rely on clean transmission fluid delivered on time at the right pressure to shift gears and make the transmission perform efficiently.

Transmission gears wear out and start slipping.

Low or burned out transmission fluid is a major cause of gear wear and tear.

Over time gears can wear out – especially if they have been running hot and inefficiently due to lack of or worn out transmission fluid. Slipping gears are usually due to normal wear and tear, which causes them to not engage properly and to slip in and out of sync. It is rare, but there might be a malfunctioning set of gears in the transmission, which is usually due to bad original manufacturing. Worn or rounded out gears don’t properly link together so this can cause a bumpy shift and slippage as you accelerate and drive.

Torque converter issues will cause the transmission to slip.

The torque converter changes the engine’s power into torque that the transmission can use.

Automatic transmission symptoms and causes

It’s a hard working, important component to the overall operation of the transmission. Without the torque converter, the wheels don’t get power or turn. Torque converters, like most other parts in a slipping transmission, become worn over time. Transmission fluid must flow through the torque converter at the right times and amounts – if it fails, the transmission will not only start slipping, it might display other problems, such as just not going into gear, burning, smoking, jumping gears while driving, or blowout.

How much does it cost to fix a slipping transmission?

AAMCO Utah Transmission Repair Centers Can Help

Only a trained, qualified technician can really get to the root of the matter when it comes to an automatic transmission. Oftentimes your car’s transmission problems can be solved with a fluid change or our proprietary Power Purge® service, and that is what we will do. Taking the time to accurately identify the cause of the problem will save a lot of trouble in applying the right solution.

The AAMCO Transmission service centers of Utah specialize in diagnosing and fixing transmissions of all makes, models, and configurations, from manual to automatic, CVT, AWD, FWD, and 4x4. We run diagnostics and do a complete inspection to find the issues affecting your transmission. We recommend only the work that needs to be done and won’t do anything until after we’ve discussed your options with you and determined the best, most reliable course of action to fix your car and get you back on the road.

Call or book an appointment online to get started.

As you can imagine, having an automatic transmission slipping during acceleration can be very frustrating – and dangerous. You have been driving your car for a while and you know how your car should be running, so when it is not running correctly, it should be easy to feel. If you go to pass someone or you go to power up a hill and it is not working correctly, you might hear your engine rev but your vehicle not accelerate like it should. This can be caused by a slipping transmission, a gear slip, or engine slipping.

Automatic transmissions work very differently than manual transmission, not just because they use automatic properties, but because they use a completely different system and mechanics to change gears to work efficiently. To help understand why the automatic transmission is slipping when accelerating, it is key to diagnose the issue and find out the warning signs.

Reasons why transmission slips during acceleration

We all know that the automatic transmission is a key component of your vehicle. It is in charge of converting power from your engine into power that translates to your wheels and forward motion. Keep in mind, that this is not just from the transmission power – the process involves plenty of hydraulic fluid, gears, and clutches that help to move the car.

Automatic transmission slipping videos

If you do not know why the automatic transmission slips when accelerating, then there is usually an answer – and it can sometimes be very severe, requiring you to repair or replace certain parts to fix the issue. The cause of the automatic transmission slipping when accelerating will depend on the kind of transmission that you have in your vehicle. There are three main types of transmission – automatic, standard or manual, and CVT – continuously variable transmission.

Why is the automatic transmission slipping when accelerating?

Low fluid

If you have an automatic transmission and you notice that the transmission is slipping while you are driving, the most common cause of this issue is low transmission fluid. The transmission fluid is necessary to lubricate the parts and keep your car running correctly. If your transmission slips, this means that the car engine revs, but no power is transferred to the wheels to move the car. If the sleeping is caused by low transmission fluid, it will only get worse as the transmission overheats and friction builds during use.

Burnt fluid

Sometimes, the automatic transmission slipping when accelerating can be due to the transmission fluid burning instead of just being at a low level in your car. If the fluid is not the right color, like black instead of red, or you notice a burning smell, then this is likely the culprit. Burnt fluid can occur when the transmission overheats and there is too much friction. In this case, you need to swap out your transmission fluid.

Clutch problems

Both automatic and manual transmission use clutches, and although the issue is more common in manual cars, the automatic cars can still succumb to clutch issues. These clutch issues can cause the automatic transmission slipping when accelerating. In an automatic car, the transmission and the torque converter have clutch plates that can become worn out and damaged due to insufficient transmission fluid.

Torque converter issues

The main function of the torque converter is to transfer the engine’s power into torque, which is the type of power that the transmission can use. Over time, the torque converter will break down and become damaged. When teh converter is functioning correctly, the fluid will flow through the torque converter, but if it is damaged, the transmission fluid will not be able to flow and it can cause the automatic transmission slipping when accelerating.

Transmission bands

Along with the previous issues that occur from automatic transmission slipping when accelerating, it is also possible for the transmission bands to become broken down, worn overtime, and damaged. These issues can cause the transmission to slip, since they are in charge of connecting your gears together.

Worn gears

The gear set is the main reason why the automatic transmission can start slipping. The gear set in your vehicle requires various clutches and bands that change the gears and affect the speed of the changes. The bands in the automatic transmission are usually the key issue when it comes to slipping, if the fluid is not the issue, as slipping can be a sign of a worn band. The worn out band and damaged band can allow parts of the transmission to continue to rotate for a few seconds after you change gears.

The continuation of the rotation after you change gears causes the gears to feel sloppy, meaning your engine will rev during a gear change and the automatic transmission slipping when accelerating.

Solenoid issues

Along with a worn band and low transmission fluid, there are other reasons for your transmission problems. The gear changes in the automatic transmission are actually sparked by the transmission solenoids that convert the automatic transmission fluid into the various components in your transmission to cause things to move and the clutches and bands to disengage from the system.

The problem with having the automatic transmission slipping when accelerating is that it can be hard to determine what exactly is going on inside of the automatic transmission without special tools at a mechanic’s office or without tearing the transmission apart to look for worn or damaged parts. The computer controlled transmissions have error codes that you can determine from diagnostic tools, similar to how your engine might notice the check engine light is on.

As the owner of a vehicle that might be having issues with the automatic transmission slipping when accelerating, the only thing you can do to fix the issue is to diagnose why you have a slipping transmission and check the fluid level and the transmission condition. The transmission repairs can be very costly, aligned with full replacements of the transmission.

How to check your transmission fluid level

In order to figure out the reason why the automatic transmission is slipping when accelerating, you need to learn how to check your transmission fluid level. In many cars, you can do this very easily by using a dipstick in the engine bay. The dipstick will look like the oil dipstick, but will be red in color. The transmission dipstick is usually located near the engine bay by the firewall, with the transmission fluid level needing to be checked while the engine is running and warm.

When you pull out the transmission dipstick, you need to take note of a few different things – the color, the color it should be, and the fluid condition. If you are having trouble looking at the fluid, you can hold the transmission fluid up to a bright light and look for any debris like metal shavings, in your transmission. Any debris or shavings can indicate internal transmission damage.

After this, if you need to change the transmission fluid, you need to have a look at the transmission filter and make sure it is not clogged and free of debris, making sure it can perform the function of siphoning out particles and cleaning the fluid in your transmission to keep the part working correctly and smoothly.

Can low transmission fluid levels cause the automatic transmission slipping when accelerating?

It might be a long shot, but it can happen. You need to check the transmission level as a low fluid level that can cause low pressure in your transmission that can lead to the slipping transmission while operating your vehicle. If you analyze the transmission and determine that the transmission fluid level is too low, you should top it off with the fluid that your manufacturer recommends.

In addition, the only way that your transmission fluid level is low can be due to an oil leak that needs to be fixed before you lose any additional transmission fluid. You can quickly and easily seal the fluid leak by adding sealer to your transmission fluid to prevent the automatic transmission slipping when accelerating.

Signs of the Automatic Transmission Slipping While Accelerating

Dealing with a slipping transmission can be daunting and difficult. It can also be a huge problem with any car, especially those with automatic transmissions. This is a minor issue that needs to be taken care of right away before it worsens over time. To deal with the issue as soon as you see it, you need to notice the signs and symptoms of the transmission slipping.

Leaking transmission fluid

If you notice the red transmission fluid leaking underneath your car, then there is most likely a transmission leak occurring from one of the seals, the gaskets, or the various lines in the transmission. This is not only damaging for the lifespan of the transmission, but it is dangerous if the transmission fluid leaks onto a hot surface. You need to check the transmission fluid without a dipstick to see the level and determine if it needs topping up or changing.

Burning smell

Automatic Transmission Slipping Signs

Burning smells or any odors coming from your car are a clear warning sign that something is wrong. Determining where the smell is coming from is key to diagnosing the issue. The potential burning smell is usually the result of a transmission fluid leak and low transmission fluid levels. Catching this problem early on before there is too much of a leak is crucial to fixing transmission.

Unable to stay in gear

This kind of issue may indicate other problems with your automatic transmission valve, the shifter cable, the shifter, or a transmission fluid leak from one of the seals, gaskets, or lines. You might even need to have the mechanic that you bring your car to check your car’s computer system to see if there have been any diagnostic trouble codes using a diagnostic scanner. This will appear since the computer lets the transmission know when it needs to go into new gears.

Loss of power

When your engine is running correctly and smoothly, but your car has very low or no power, it might be from the car’s computer, the engine control unit, limiting the power to the engine. It can also be due to internal transmission problems, or the brakes dragging due to faulty parts, like the brake hose or brake calipers.

Missing gears

These problems can be due to a low amount of transmission fluid, which can be from water getting inside of the transmission, lack of maintenance, fluid contamination, or a transmission fluid leak. If you do not fix this issue and let it get worse over time, it can lead to engine overheating, too much friction, and serious damage that can lead to engine replacements.


Missing transmission gears or delayed shifting in the transmission can also be due to additional problems besides the transmission, like the engine, that makes the engine control unit prevent the transmission from shifting into a higher gear and performing correctly.

Strange Noises

If you hear certain noises in your car, especially if they are coming from under the hood, like humming, clunking, or buzzing, then this usually shows that there is an internal issue, like a bad bearing or planetary gear damage that can harm the transmission over time. These issues can cause the automatic transmission slipping when accelerating. Buzzing can be also due to a low transmission fluid level, a broken seal, or internal surfaces that have become damaged over time.

What are my options when my transmission is slipping

If you do not want to pay the money to repair the transmission slipping or replace the transmission if the problems have gotten worse, you need to figure out what to do about the automatic transmission slipping when accelerating. Depending on the severity of your transmission slipping and their causes, you might find that you do not have the money or the means to make the repairs.

Automatic Transmission Slipping Fluid

Sometimes, these repairs can be expensive and your car might be old and used – it might not be worth it to repair the car. In this case, you might not be able to afford the repairs, your vehicle is worth less than the cost of the repairs, you do not want to pay for an old car, or you do not want to pay money on a car you were planning on replacing soon.

Signs Of Automatic Transmission Slipping

In this case, you have a few options. However, your best option is to sell your car to a local and reputable junk car buyer that can give you cash in hand, contains reputable and trustworthy agents, and will give you the best deal possible.