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The transmission is a crucial part of any vehicle, as it delivers power from the engine to the wheels. However, whether you drive with a manual or an automatic transmission, there might be times when it would feel off.

If you’ve noticed your vehicle’s transmission shuddering or feeling jankier than usual, there are a few culprits worth keeping an eye out for:

  • Contaminated transmission fluid
  • Damaged clutches
  • Insufficient transmission fluid
  • Malfunctioning torque converter

If you’re keen on learning about what can cause the transmission to shudder, what to do to fix it, and what steps you can take to prevent it from happening again, read on.

What Can Cause the Transmission to Shudder?

It’s helpful to familiarize yourself with the various factors that can cause your transmission to shudder. The most common culprit is old or contaminated transmission fluid, but there’s also the slim possibility that your vehicle might have some damaged parts worth investigating.

Here are some of the problems that could lead to shuddering transmission systems.

Contaminated Transmission Fluid

Transmission fluid goes bad over time, but it degrades faster if foreign substances contaminate it.

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Transmission fluid should retain its pink hue when you check it with a dipstick. On the other hand, transmission fluid that’s gone bad (either due to age or contamination) is darker, looking more brown or dark red than pink.

Transmission fluid typically gets contaminated by water and metal particles from the vehicle.

If your transmission is shuddering, it’s a good idea to check your transmission fluid’s condition before examining various parts of your vehicle.

Damaged Clutches

The transmission often shudders when the clutch plates lock up inside the transmission system, resulting in a lot of unwanted vibrations and friction. This could weather and wear out the clutches, and when clutches sustain too much damage, they lose their holding.

If you’re worried damaged clutches might be a problem, it’s a good idea to bring your vehicle to a mechanic. A professional can examine your vehicle, identify the problem, and replace any broken parts.

Insufficient Transmission Fluid

Much like how bad transmission fluid causes the transmission to shudder, having insufficient transmission fluid will lead to the same problem.

For the transmission system to work, it needs fluid to lubricate the bearings and ensure each part moves without grinding or getting friction damaged.

Transmission systems that don’t have enough fluid typically break down, causing metal particles to contaminate what little fluid is left. That leads to even more damage to the transmission system.

Malfunctioning Torque Converter

The torque converter allows the engine to spin independently of the transmission. In other words, your engine can run even when your vehicle’s at a complete standstill.

If the torque converter fails, the transmission will shudder — and, in some cases, overheat. If your transmission shudders and overheats at the same time, it might be a good idea to check the torque converter.

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How to Deal With a Shuddering Transmission

It depends on what’s causing the transmission to shudder. The fix is simple if the culprit is related to the transmission fluid.

For example, if the transmission shudders because of contaminated transmission fluid, flushing out the fluid and replacing it with a fresh batch would help. Likewise, If the problem is due to insufficient transmission fluid, topping it up should fix it.

However, if the problem has nothing to do with the transmission fluid, fixing a shuddering transmission becomes a lot more complicated. If there’s something wrong with the transmission itself, your best bet might be to bring your vehicle to a professional to have certain components repaired or replaced.

A mechanic could run diagnostics on your vehicle to pinpoint the problem, fix it, and give you recommendations on how to prevent it.

The best way to minimize automotive problems of any kind is regular maintenance, so be sure to get your vehicle checked and serviced at least once a year.

How to Prevent Your Transmission From Shuddering

Here are some handy tips to prolong the life and quality of your vehicle’s transmission system.

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Don’t Drive With Too Much Cargo

The less your car weighs, the less pressure your vehicle’s transmission will be under while you drive. Consult your vehicle owner’s manual to see the recommended load and avoid going over that.

Driving with a heavy load doesn’t just damage your transmission. Overloading also makes it difficult to drive because it slips more frequently and struggles to shift.

Get Your Vehicle Serviced Regularly

Regular maintenance is the best way to minimize any complications with your vehicle — transmissions included. By immediately replacing damaged parts and regularly replacing the transmission fluid, you can prevent your transmission from shuddering or even breaking down.

With the transmission in great shape, your vehicle will last even longer and you’ll save yourself a lot of time, stress, and money on repairs and part replacements.

Use High-Quality Transmission Fluid

Last but not least, an effective way to prevent your transmission from shuddering is to use high-quality transmission fluid.

Using fluids that are endorsed or recommended by your ride’s manufacturers is a must if you want to prolong the life and quality of the transmission. You can also ask your mechanic for recommendations.

About The Author
CarParts Research Team
Written By Research Team

Automotive and Tech Writers

The Research Team is composed of experienced automotive and tech writers working with (ASE)-certified automobile technicians and automotive journalists to bring up-to-date, helpful information to car owners in the US. Guided by's thorough editorial process, our team strives to produce guides and resources DIYers and casual car owners can trust.

Any information provided on this Website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace consultation with a professional mechanic. The accuracy and timeliness of the information may change from the time of publication.

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