Imagine this—you start your car and put it into gear, but it won't move. You push down further on the gas peddle and hear a grinding noise. Your car could have a problem in the transmission. Automatic transmissions take 60 steps to replace, which is why replacing one is one of the most costly repairs that can be made to a vehicle. This mini-guide will give you an idea of what could be wrong and what to check.
Check the transmission fluid
The transmission works hard and generates a lot of heat due the amount of friction that it takes to make your car go. To keep the temperature of the transmission from getting too hot, and to keep all the internal mechanical parts running smoothly, transmission fluid is necessary. Locate the dipstick for the transmission fluid and check to see if there is enough fluid in the reservoir. There should be a line on the dipstick to show you if the fluid level is correct. If it's not, you will need to have more fluid added to it.
It's also important to check the condition of the fluid. Wipe the fluid from the dipstick onto a lint-free white towel. Smell the fluid to see if it has a burnt odor. Look for signs of metal shavings in the fluid. If you smell an odor and/or see shavings, these are indicators that your fluid may need flushed. Excessive metal shavings can signify that the mechanical parts inside the transmission are worn. When in doubt, call a tow truck to take your car to the mechanic instead of trying to drive it there yourself.
Check for damage if you drive on rough roads
Driving on rough roads that have a lot of potholes or washed out gravel can damage your car. Rocks and gravel can get into the mechanical parts and cause gears to bend and damage electrical connections and wiring. You may have a rock stuck in the arms and levers, which will cause them to not be able to move.
You may not be able to position yourself to see rocks and gravel that may be stuck in the moving parts of your engine and transmission. Have a mechanic run a diagnostic check on your car. If you drive your car with these types of issues, the rock or gravel could cause further damage.
Troubleshoot if the problem is in the transmission or the transaxle
Here's a quick test you can do to narrow down if the cause is in the transmission, transaxle or shifter. However, this test should be done on level ground. With the engine off and the parking brake released, put the car into gear. Physically push on the car. If it moves when pushed, you may be dealing with internal mechanical problems such as with a transaxle. The transaxle is the axle and the differential gear, which uses the power from the transmission to turn the axles and, thus, the wheels.
If the car doesn't move when pushed the problem is likely somewhere within the transmission system, which may involve the clutch or shifter. Remember to do this test in gear and not in neutral, because neutral gear will disengage the transmission from the engine.
It's safest to not try to drive your car to a mechanic. Even if the problem seems to be intermittent, there is still a problem that may cause you to lose the ability to control the speed of your car through traffic. If you do have a problem with the transmission and are limited on funds, ask your mechanic to install used transmissions.
Are you preparing to put your teenage son or daughter behind the wheel of a car for the very first time? Is your car ready for that? Having gone through this myself three times, I have created a checklist of things to inspect on my vehicles before allowing my kids to learn how to drive in them. I have worked with my mechanic to create a pre-driving inspection that can ensure that my kids are as safe as possible as they learn how to drive. Take a moment to visit my site and learn a few tips that can help keep your teenager safe while learning to drive.