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When your vehicle’s transmission slips, it can be an alarming experience. You might not even notice other transmission slipping signs like acceleration delay or an excessively high revolutions per minute (RPM). All you know is that when you shift gears, something feels strange. Is it real, or all in your head? What does a slipping transmission really feel like?

What Does It Feel Like When Your Transmission Is Slipping?

You’ll most often experience transmission slip as you change gears. Changing gears will be difficult and cause you trouble. The engine will rev during a gear shift and you’ll feel like you’re driving over ice. You might also feel like your gears are changing without reason, and the vehicle will feel underpowered. Sometimes, you’ll even be able to physically feel or hear the shifting in your vehicle.

What Does It Mean When a Transmission Slips?

Transmission slip is a problem that can plague both manual and automatic vehicles. The vehicle either doesn’t stay fully in gear while you drive, or it doesn’t shift smoothly from one gear to the next. Transmission slips often signify either internal damage to the transmission system or the need for some maintenance for either the transmission fluid levels, the filter, or the pan gasket.

Other Symptoms of a Transmission Slip

If you suspect your vehicle has a slipping transmission, there are other symptoms besides the feel of the shifter that you should look out for. These include the following:

Delayed Acceleration

A slipping transmission might cause your vehicle to feel sluggish as you drive. This includes a delay in acceleration while you cruise down the road.

Burnt Smell

Because low transmission fluids often lead to the transmission system burning too hot, a burning smell might accompany the slipping transmission.

Strange Noises and Vibrations

The sound of your troubled transmission system is about as noticeable as its feel. A slipping transmission will often make a grinding sound. It’s a familiar sound to those who’ve made a mistake while shifting in a manual transmission vehicle. If you’re sure that you shifted correctly but you still hear this noise when you shift, you know there’s something wrong.

Other sounds like whining might also occur when your transmission is slipping. Significant vibrations can accompany these sounds as well.

Excessively High RPM and Loud Engine Revs

An excessively high RPM of over 3,500 often happens along with a slipping transmission. The engine will also rev loudly as a result. The RPM gauge might read red when you press the gas pedal.

Gear Shifting Trouble

Other than the feel of the gears shifting being off, you might also notice your vehicle suddenly shifting into neutral in the middle of driving. This indicates that your vehicle is having a difficult time staying in gear.

Alternatively, you might be unable to shift between gears entirely on a manual transmission vehicle. This is especially alarming on the road and can easily lead to accidents.

Transmission Slip Causes

There are a number of possible causes behind transmission slips. These include:

Low Transmission Fluid Level

Low transmission fluid levels are the most common cause of a slipping transmission. Transmission fluid is important for transmitting engine torque to the transmission through the torque converter. The fluid also helps generate a certain amount of internal pressure for engaging various gears in the system.

Low Fluid Pressure

For automatic transmission systems in particular, there needs to be a certain amount of internal pressure to operate properly. A worn-out transmission fluid pump can cause this internal pressure to drop, leading to a slipping transmission. The same can happen with an obstructed fluid filter or pickup tube.

Faulty Pressure Regulation or Control

Because maintaining the right amount of pressure is important in an automatic transmission vehicle, faulty pressure regulators or control parts can lead to a slipping transmission. This includes the pressure regulator valve, control solenoid, and the thermometrics transmission fluid temperature sensor (TFT). Identifying the problematic part in this case will likely require the help of a professional.

Other Worn Transmission System Parts

Other parts of your transmission system can also wear out and lead to a slipping transmission. These parts include the following:


Both manual and automatic transmissions can suffer from clutch wear, which can cause the transmission to slip. Low or dirty transmission fluid can lead to a worn clutch.

Transmission Bands and Clutch Plates

Transmission bands that are worn or broken will often cause the transmission to perform badly. This is because the bands link the gears together in the automatic transmission. Any damage to the transmission bands will throw off the precisely regulated transmission system. The same goes for the clutch plates.

Transmission Gears

Worn transmission gears will lead to slips in your transmission system. They won’t engage properly and will slip in and out of sync. This is a rarer cause of transmission slip, but it can happen.

Torque Converter

The torque converter is in charge of changing the engine’s power into usable torque for the transmission. A worn torque converter can lead to problems all throughout the transmission system.

Can You Drive With a Slipping Transmission?

It isn’t safe to drive with a slipping transmission. Driving with a damaged transmission can cause the problems to worsen while also placing you and those around you in danger. Not being able to shift gears properly while on the road means that your vehicle is a safety hazard. Ask a professional to repair and inspect your vehicle’s transmission as soon as possible to avoid any accidents.

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.

File Under : Transmission , DIY
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