Transmission - transfers energy from engine to wheels

A car™s transmission is essential in helping the car begin and continue moving because it transfers the energy/movement from the engine to the wheels.  It is a complex set of gears and without a properly functioning transmission the car is not drivable.  Generally, transmissions do not require much maintenance, but listening and feeling as the transmission shifts as well as checking and understanding the importance of transmission fluid can keep your transmission from having problems.  Transmission fluid is essential because it lubricates and cools the transmission to keep it working properly.   When your car is shifting gears, be sure to listen and feel for a smooth transition between gears because a transition that is not smooth can mean problems for your transmission.  If you suspect a problem in gear shifting or with the transmission sound, take your car to a car care professional for inspection before the problem gets worse as repairs can be very costly if not addressed early.  

Consult your owner™s manual regarding transmission maintenance as each OEM has very specific requirements including the type of ATF (automatic transmission fluid) to be used and the frequency of changing the ATF.

Manual vs. Automatic Transmission





Cheaper initial purchase (average around $1000 less)

Requires more service over the life of the car than a manual transmission and repair cost, if any, are much more expensive.


Cheaper to maintain, easier for auto technicians to work on

Transmission fluid is KEY and needs to be changed more frequently than manuals.  Maintenance, if needed, can be very expensive.

Operation (Driving)

A manual transmission requires the driver to learn how and when to change gears.  The clutch must be pressed and released at correct times when shifting gears to keep the car from stalling. 

Generally considered easier to drive.  No need to physically change gears and no knowledge of the clutch or gear shifter are necessary.  Does require the brake to be held when stopped to avoid rolling forward.  Majority of cars today are automatic.


Drivers have more control with manual transmission

Drivers generally do not have control over the gear shifting as gear shifting is pre-set by the manufacturer

Fuel Efficiency

Consume 5-15% less fuel

Consume 5-15% more fuel

Heavy Traffic

More difficult and requires a lot of shifting in heavy traffic

Much easier to drive during heavy traffic

Cruise Control

Manual transmissions do not have a cruise control

Automatic transmission cars do/can have a cruise control which can be set at a certain speed and maintained


Transmission Fluid

-        To check transmission fluid.   Generally, with the engine running, remove the dipstick and wipe it off with a clean, lint-free white cloth (similar to checking your oil).  Replace the dipstick and pull it back out.  Look at the transmission fluid with the following in mind:

-        Low fluid level may be a sign of a leak.  Observe under the vehicle for signs of a fluid leak.  Note that, unlike engine oil, transmission fluid does NOT œburn and reduce in quantity so a low ATF level should be checked by a professional.

-        Burnt fluid may be a sign of overheating and should be examined by a professional

-        Varnished fluid may mean your transmission has overheated and should be checked

-        Particles in the fluid may be a sign of trouble and should be inspected by a professional

-        Manufacturer™s recommendations on changing transmission fluid vary widely.  Check your owner™s manual for the recommended mileage/interval for your car and take it to an auto care professional for the service.  

Signs of Transmission Trouble (which should be examined by a professional)

-        Car Refuses to go Into Gear (Manual) “ May be due to low transmission fluid, incorrect fluid viscosity (thickness), or improperly adjusted cables 

-        Burning Smell (Transmission Fluid) “ The transmission fluid provides the necessary cooling to keep the transmission from burning itself up.  This burning smell may mean your transmission is overheating which is may be caused by low or incorrect transmission fluid.

-        Noisy Transmission in Neutral “ Could signal a worn reverse idler gear or worn bearings, possibly coupled with worn gear teeth.

-        Gears Slipping (Manual) “ Gears that do not stay in place are dangerous and you should have your transmission examined by an auto technician.

-        Dragging Clutch (Manual) “ This means that the clutch fails to disengage the clutch disk from the flywheel when the clutch pedal is pushed.  The problem may be caused by too much slack in the clutch pedal which can be a relatively cheap fix.

-        Leaking Fluid “ Spots on the driveway or low fluid levels are a good indication that you are losing transmission fluid

-        Check Engine Light “ Could be unrelated to the transmission but attention should be paid whenever this light comes on.  Take it in for examination by an auto technician.  Many repair facilities will provide a free diagnostic of Check Engine Light conditions, so ask.

-        Grinding or Shaking “ Anything other than a smooth transition between gears may mean your transmission requires attention.

-        Whining, Clunking, and Humming “ May be related to the transmission and should be checked out immediately. 

-    Lack of Response Transmissions should change gears quickly and without hesitation.  Transmissions that are unable to do so should be checked immediately. 

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