LISTEN for THESE TRANSMISSION SOUNDS
Most people drive their
vehicles enough to know the different sounds it makes
when starting the engine, shifting the transmission into
gear, driving down the expressway, braking, stopping,
etc. These are the ordinary sounds that you are familiar
with. So, when you hear something different, you
need to take notice. By different, it could be a
completely new sound or one of the same sounds you
always hear but maybe its louder than before or it
happens more often than before. The bottom-line is
that these sounds may be a warning that something isn't
By knowing what the different sounds mean you can catch
problems early and possibly save yourself a great deal
of money and avoid dangerous and costly breakdowns.
Automatic Transmission Sounds You Might Hear
and What They Mean
Transmission Whining Noise
A whining sound coming from the
transmission area, or specifically from the front of the
transmission, is most likely the transmission oil
pump. A failing transmission pump will make
a whining noise in all gears when the engine is running,
including Park and Neutral. The whining sound of a
failing transmission pump will increase with engine
speed. As long as the pump is making a whining
sound, it is working but could fail at anytime. When it stops whining - it
means the pump has stopped working and the vehicle will
no longer move.
transmission oil pump will make a whining sound for one
or both of the following reasons; the pump is in the
process of failing and/or the transmission filter is
dirty and clogged/restricted causing the pump to work
extra hard to pump the fluid.
Information: The transmission pump is an
internal component so replacing it requires the
transmission to be removed from the vehicle.
caught early, replacing the transmission filter may fix
Transmission service, which consists of a fluid and
filter change. This is something most anyone can
do themselves and save money.
DIY Transmission Fluid and Filter Change
screeching or rattling noise coming from underneath the center hump in
a rear wheel drive vehicle or from the engine compartment in a front
wheel drive vehicle while the engine is running and the shifter is in
the Drive "D" position is likely a failing torque converter. A
torque converter going bad makes the most noise when the engine is
running and the transmission is in gear with the vehicle sitting
still. If you move the shifter to the Neutral "N" position and
the noise disappears, the torque converter is in the process of
failing. Also, if the noise decreases as the vehicle begins
rolling, the problem is almost definitely a failing torque converter.
Once a torque converter begins
screeching or rattling it is only a matter of time before the converter
fails. Sometimes, when a torque converter fails, it literally
explodes. There is no danger of injury, except you will feel it
in your wallet because when a converter explodes metal chards mix with
the fluid and enter the transmission. When this happens, unless
you can shut the engine off immediately the transmission will be
Repair Information: Replacing a torque converter
requires the transmission to be removed from the vehicle.
Replace the torque converter before it
completely fails. Doing so will likely save you
the problems associated with breaking down on the
highway and a higher repair bill since the failure of
the torque converter can cause serious internal
A growling or grinding transmission noise that
is accompanied by a vibration when driving is indicative of a cracked or
chipped gear. A growling noise that increases in pitch and/or becomes
louder as vehicle speed increases points to a problem with the
transmission's final drive gears. If the final drive gears are the culprit,
the noise will remain consistent even when the transmission shifts to the
next higher gear.
A transmission growling or grinding noise can
lead to complete transmission failure. If you continue to drive the
vehicle in this condition, you risk further damage to the transmission along
with a higher repair bill. There is no way of knowing how long the
transmission will last in this condition - it could last 6 minutes or 6
The transmission or transaxle must be removed
the vehicle and disassembled to identify the broken
or damaged parts.
Drive the vehicle easy until the transmission
can be repaired - it may operate in this condition for
awhile before complete failure.
Transmission Gurgling Noise
gurgling noise coming from the transmission area may mean the fluid
level is low or possibly overfilled.
Repair Information: Check
transmission fluid level immediately. If fluid
level is low, add fluid until the dipstick reads "Full"
or in the "Full Range". If Fluid level is
overfull, remove fluid until the dipstick reads "Full"
or in the "Full Range".
Recommended Action: If transmission
fluid level is low - look for and repair a fluid leak.
Low fluid can cause catastrophic transmission failure.
According to the Automatic Transmission rebuilders Association (ATRA),
approximately 90% of transmission failures are fluid related.
How to check transmission fluid level
Locating and repairing transmission fluid leaks
Transmission Banging or Clunking Noise
A banging or clunking noise coming from
the transmission or transaxle
when the shifter lever is moved from Park
into any gear
is likely an internal transmission problem. More
specifically, the clanging noise is probably a broken or chipped gear (or
other hard part damage).
A badly worn main shaft bearing can also make a clunking sound when the
transmission shifts gears.
If you are lucky, the clunking sound could be caused by a worn or
damaged U-joint in a rear wheel drive vehicle or CV axle in a front wheel drive vehicle.
We say "lucky" because a U-joint or CV axle can be replaced without having
to remove the transmission, so the cost is minimal compared to an internal