Four Terrifying Noises Your Transmission Shouldn't Make


Unless you drive an electric vehicle, your car likely makes a wide range of perfectly normal noises. Everything from road noise to engine noise is commonly heard inside the cabin of a typical passenger vehicle, but sometimes something just doesn't sound right. If your car is making an unusual noise and you think it may be coming from the transmission, then it may be one of these four frequent (and noisy) transmission issues.

Horrific Grinding

Grinding is most common on manual transmissions. If you drive a vehicle with a stick shift, then you should only expect to hear a grinding noise if you try to shove the gear selector into position without first depressing the clutch. If you hear a grinding noise even when the clutch is disengaged, then you may have an issue with your gear synchros, or the clutch itself may be worn out.

Grinding on automatic transmissions is an even greater cause for concern. If you notice that your automatic transmission grinds as it switches gears, then it's likely that the gear set within your transmission is toast. Expect a transmission replacement or rebuild in your near future.

Annoying Whining

Manual transmissions sometimes whine in reverse, but a whine from an automatic transmission is not a noise to ignore. To isolate this type of sound, try shifting into park or neutral while listening carefully. If the whine is only present when the vehicle is in drive, then the source is likely the transmission or the torque converter. There are many potential underlying issues that cause a whine while in gear, and they can range from relatively benign fluid leaks to significant problems with the torque converter or the transmission itself. Be sure to have this noise diagnosed as soon as possible.

Frightful Clunking

A properly functioning automatic transmission should glide relatively smoothly from gear to gear. It is not unusual to notice the shift points on a transmission that is operating correctly, but they should not be jarring. If your transmission engages gears with a noticeable thud or a loud clunk, then there is likely a problem. Fortunately, this may not be an indication of an internal problem with the transmission. Worn-out transmission mounts may allow the transmission to move as it shifts gears, transmitting a thud or clunk into the passenger cabin.

Dreadful Growling

Growling is another noise that is more common on transmissions of the manual variety. This sound is often most audible when the car is in neutral or is driving at relatively low speeds. In some cases, it may sound similar to a worn wheel bearing, although it is usually easy to distinguish since wheel bearings will not make any noise while the vehicle is stationary. As with most noises, there are many potential causes, but growling-like sounds are commonly the result of a low fluid level (or contaminated fluid) resulting in poor lubrication. It's a good idea to have your fluid flushed and replaced before moving on to a more thorough diagnosis.

While transmissions can make a range of different and worrying sounds, the moral of the story is straightforward: never ignore transmission problems. If you hear one of these disconcerting noises, your next stop should be a trusted transmission repair shop. Having problems diagnosed and repaired as soon as you notice them has the potential to save you thousands of dollars in the future.


12 November 2019

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