How to Spot Common Gear Problems

Almost since the dawn of the automotive era, gearbox problems have persisted to be one of the most stressful and expensive vehicle problems to tackle.

Keeping an eye on the health of your car is important for you to get the most out of your time using it, without it constantly costing you what could be thousands of dollars at a time.

Let’s look at the facts. To keep your vehicle safely operating on the road and your gearbox performing as it is supposed to you, need to know what issues to look for. Transmission issues in both automatic and manual vehicles can cause a plethora of further damage over time, so let’s run through some of the most common things to spot, and how to spot them.


A Lack of Maintenance

One of the leading causes of transmission failure simply comes down to not properly adhering to manufacturer maintenance recommendations such as changing the fluids and filters consistently. Without proper transmission fluid changes, the fluid will no longer lubricate properly leading premature failure, overheating and a host of other mechanical issues.


The Check Engine Light

When the check engine light comes on it could mean a range of different issues dependent on your type of vehicle. When the light comes on – even though it’s seemingly referring to the engine, it may not necessarily mean the issue is just about the engine itself. It could be the brake system, air conditioning, transmission or any other system in play. Keep in mind if the check engine light is flashing, it could very well be quite a severe problem that needs immediate attention.


Slipping Gears

Does your engine seem to rev higher than it should and there doesn’t seem to be enough power? It’s likely your gears are slipping. A few other things to look for in regard to this problem are:

  • The transmission is having a tough time shifting through gears
  • Strange sliding sounds changing gears
  • A burnt fluid smell
  • High RPM
  • Check Engine light is on

To prevent a slipping transmission, regularly maintain your fluid levels and check for leaks.  While fluid issues are often easily fixed, other issues such as replacing clutches, bands or other internal parts require a trusted mechanic.



Transmission leaks are also common transmission issues that could do quite a lot of damage. Leaks can occur in the axle, pan gasket, driveshaft seal or cooling line. Spotting leaks early will avoid overheating and costly damage that can’t be just fixed by fixing the leaks themselves.


That Burning Smell

Burning smells are often related to transmission leaks. As previously mentioned, checking your fluid levels regularly will help avoid these leaks leading to other major car issues.


Solenoid Issues

Your solenoids are components that control the up and downshifting while driving. Worn solenoids can lead to a damaged gearbox. If you feel you are having gear shifting delays, slipping, or it won’t go into gear, take it to a specialist to get the problem diagnosed.


Manual Specific Gearbox Problems: What Not to Do

It’s easy to get relaxed when driving a manual, but over time, especially with performance cars, manual gearboxes can easily get worn due to things like high mileage, abuse, or lack of proper maintenance as stated earlier.

Most manual gearbox problems do not originate with the transmission itself, but from connected parts such as the clutch assembly, linkage, or driveline: ie- the parts that transmit turning power from the transmission to the wheels.

Let’s take a look at some bad habits you can avoid when it comes to driving your manual vehicle.


Keeping the Car in Gear When You’re Stopped

Keeping your car in gear when you’re stopped can damage your manual gearbox. It is much better for your transmission if you shift to neutral when you stop so that you are not keeping your clutch engaged.


Leaving Your Hand on the Gearshift

By leaving your hand on the gearshift (although it feels natural) means you may unintentionally put pressure on your shifter which can cause the selector fork to rub against the shift collar and wear it down.


Using the Clutch as a Footrest

Similar to the logic above about leaving your hand on the gearshift, resting your foot on your clutch is not good for your transmission. While you may not be intending to, resting your foot on your clutch can apply pressure to your clutch. This pressure keeps your clutch engaged which is detrimental to your throwout bearing.


Riding the Clutch

By riding the clutch, you’re keeping it close to engaging with the engine but not allowing it to actually engage. The pressure put on your clutch from holding it in this state of limbo causes damage to your clutch disk. However, nowadays, many modern manuals have a brake hold system that can help minimise this problem.


Shaking and Grinding? – Time to see a Professional

Many manual transmissions can have shaking and grinding gear shift issues. This could be the result from damage to the gear system, bearings or a clutch issue. See a trusted technician when you first start noticing it to avoid further damage.


The Cure for Most Transmission Problems

Most common transmission problems are easily solved. If you know what to look for you’re half-way to handling the problem. Contact MTA and RAC approved S&G Gearbox Exchange today for all your transmission issues. Their combined towing and fitting service means S&G are also a one-stop automotive repair shop for customers. Contact the transmission specialists in Perth by using our contact form, or call (08) 9356 9988.