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Common Signs of Clutch and Automatic Transmission Problems

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The clutch is an essential component of any vehicle. It connects and disconnects the engine from the driveshaft. As a result, it deals with a huge amount of pressure and friction and will wear out over time.

Besides everyday wear and tear, there are a number of other factors that can damage a clutch. Inexperienced drivers riding the clutch, heavy towing and regular heavy acceleration are just some of the factors that can lead to increased wear on your clutch.

These days, most cars have automatic transmissions, which means you don’t need to manually operate the clutch like you would in a manual transmission. This can make spotting clutch problems a little more difficult. To help, we’re going to run through a few of the common signs of automatic clutch problems.

If you notice any of these signs, it’s important to get to a mechanic as quickly as possible. Clutch issues tend to get worse quickly and if not dealt with early, major clutch repairs can end up costing thousands of dollars.

The gear won’t immediately engage

If you put the car in drive and notice a hesitation between when gear is selected and when the car starts to move, this can be a sign of clutch problems. Likewise if the transmission does not engage at all. These can be caused by slipping clutch packs or insufficient fluid pressure due to low fluid levels or a defective pressure pump.

Grinding sound or rough gear shifts

Gear changes should be smooth and with an automatic transmission they should be barely noticeable. However, if you’re hearing grinding sounds or feeling shuddering or shaking during gear shifts, you may have a clutch problem.

Gears slipping

Gear slippage is a clear sign of clutch problems and a serious safety issue. It could be that your car is slipping in and out of gear while you’re driving or that the car doesn’t seem to be appropriately responding when you accelerate. Slippage can be a mechanical problem caused by wear and tear or a fluid leak. But in an automatic transmission it can also be an electrical problem.

Noises in neutral

If you’re hearing grinding, clunking, whining or humming noises when the car is in neutral, this is a clear sign that something is wrong with your transmission.

There are a number of potential causes of these noises. It could be due to a leak in transmission fluid. This can affect lubricating properties, and cause low fluid level or loss of fluid pressure.

It could also be a mechanical issue, such as worn bearings or other rotating components. Whatever the cause, you’re best off getting your car to a mechanic as soon as possible. A “wait and see” attitude here won’t go well.

Burning smell

Any burning smell coming from your car is not a good sign. In the case of your transmission, a burning smell could be caused by the transmission fluid overheating. This can happen as a result of old fluid or if the fluid levels are too low or too high. It could also be due to a build up of sludge or debris in the transmission causing excessive friction.

Overheating can also occur when you exceed the transmission’s rated load. This can happen when towing heavy loads or when over-accelerating.

Leaking transmission fluid

If you are noticing any leaks from your transmission, this has the potential to be a major problem. If your transmission is leaking it could be losing pressure and will likely have low fluid levels. This can result in increases in transmission friction and overheating. If you’re noticing any transmission leaks, you should get your car to a mechanic as soon as possible.

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