What Is Transmission Slipping?

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January 3, 2024

When you push the gas pedal, your vehicle is designed to move forward at a smooth pace. In an automatic transmission, the car will shift gears on its own to match your desired speed. Manual vehicles require you to change gears with a gear shift as you accelerate or decelerate. 

With either type of vehicle, transitions between gears should be smooth. Transmission slips happen when your car changes or skips gears without your input. Keep reading to learn about the common causes of transmission slipping and how to fix this issue. 


How Do You Know When Your Transmission Slips?

If your car suddenly accelerates or decelerates, you may be experiencing transmission slipping. When everything is configured correctly, your vehicle should move at the pace you tell it to. If you notice a difference between the input you’re giving the car and how it’s responding, you may have an issue with your transmission. 

Here are a few other signs that your transmission may be slipping: 

  • The RPMs in your tachometer go up, but your MPH in the speedometer stays down. 
  • You put your car in drive, but it keeps reverting to neutral. 
  • You’re having trouble accelerating.

Both automatic and manual transmissions can experience slipping. If you have a manual car, you may notice these issues faster because you’re used to giving your vehicle specific directions. Transmission issues worsen over time if they’re not taken care of.


What Causes a Transmission to Slip?

Both automatic and manual transmissions have many moving parts, and damage to any of them can interfere with a smooth transmission. Here’s more about each part and what causes a transmission to slip:

  • Low transmission fluid: The fluid that runs through your transmission is responsible for the sealed hydraulic pressure that causes the solenoids to move and your gears to shift. If your transmission fluid is too low or too high, you may experience a slipping transmission.
  • Worn-out clutch or bands: In manual vehicles, a worn-out clutch can impact the transition between gears and cause transmission slipping. On the other hand, both manual and automatic vehicles use bands to operate their transmissions. Loose or worn bands can create issues with smooth gear shifts as well.
  • Transmission overheating: if the transmission overheats, it can become damaged and stop performing well. Overheating can be caused by low or dirty transmission fluid, a fluid leak or internal damage. 
  • Faulty solenoids or sensors: The solenoids in your vehicle use electricity to create mechanical energy and help you shift gears. If even one of your solenoids is dirty or broken, it can affect your transmission and cause slipping. An issue with your transmission control module (TCM) could also create a communication and transmission problem. 
  • Transmission fluid contamination: If your transmission fluid gets dirty, it may also cause issues with slipping. It’s essential to change this fluid regularly to ensure the best performance for your vehicle. 
  • Torque converter problems: The torque converter gives rotational energy to the transmission as soon as your engine turns on. If there’s something off with the converter, you might have issues with your transmission functioning properly. 
  • Engine-related issues: Sometimes, an issue with your engine may cause your car to avoid shifting into higher gears. If there’s a problem with your engine, your vehicle should alert you with a warning light.

Because your transmission is an integral part of your vehicle, it can be impacted by many different factors. A good rule of thumb is to start troubleshooting by changing your transmission fluid — this simple fix may be all that’s wrong. 


Impact on Vehicle Performance

If your transmission is slipping, it will impact your car’s performance. The first thing you’ll notice is trouble with acceleration and reduced power from your engine. You may even experience jerky movements while driving, starting or stopping your vehicle. 

Issues with your transmission will also impact your car’s fuel efficiency. For example, you could be using the normal amount of gas to power your engine, but your vehicle may be moving much more slowly than usual. 

If you continue driving with transmission issues, they will worsen and could seriously damage your car. In general, waiting to get your vehicle serviced will mean higher repair bills. For your safety and the longevity of your vehicle, you should have your car looked at sooner rather than later.


Diagnosing Transmission Slipping

When your transmission slips, it shouldn’t take long to realize something is wrong. If you’re uncertain, take your vehicle to a long stretch of road and experiment with accelerating. Watch your tachometer and speedometer to see if they both increase together. 

It’s important to get professional help quickly if you suspect you have a transmission issue. Although fixing your transmission may be as simple as filling up the transmission fluid, it could be as complicated as a faulty solenoid or sensor system. 

If you’d prefer, you can use an OBD2 scanner to identify what trouble codes come up for your vehicle. These codes can help you determine what’s wrong, but they aren’t always super specific. In most cases, it’s best practice to take your car to a trusted mechanic for a transmission slipping issue. 


Preventing Transmission Slipping

The best way to prevent manual and automatic transmission slipping is to get regular maintenance for your vehicle. You should check your transmission fluid about once a month so it doesn’t run low. Following maintenance best practices should help you catch any engine or other issues before they affect your transmission.

If you drive a manual transmission, it will also help to use your clutch as smoothly as possible. Avoid riding your clutch, and disengage it completely between gears. Wearing down your clutch could lead to transmission slipping and other issues down the road. 


Repairing a Slipping Transmission

The total cost of transmission repairs will depend on what’s wrong with your transmission. Replacing transmission fluid is inexpensive, while pulling apart your transmission, replacing solenoids or working on the torque converter could be more costly. 

To avoid a hefty bill and damage to your vehicle, have your car checked as soon as possible. Drivers who have time and experience on their hands may want to have a look inside themselves before calling a professional. However, for most people, professional service is the way to diagnose your issue and get your car back on the road quickly. 


Choose Hot Shot’s Secret Products to Safeguard Your Transmission

At Hot Shot’s Secret, we develop and carry products specifically designed to help your transmission run smoothly. Our transmission additive was designed to protect and clean your transmission. It reduces temperatures, eliminates corrosion and supports smooth gear changes. 

We also offer a range of transmission fluids to keep your transmission lubricated and running smoothly. Whether you’re racing, driving a personal vehicle or taking heavy loads through a mountain range, we have a transmission fluid to support your vehicle. Browse our products today!