What is Transmission Slipping?

Your car transmission slipping is one of the many issues that can arise in your vehicle. 

At first, it can seem like a minor annoyance, however, a transmission slipping can quickly become dangerous. 

It's imperative to understand what transmission slipping is, the key signs of a slipping transmission, and how to prevent a slipping transmission in order to stop dangerous driving situations. 

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What Is Transmission Slipping?

Your car transmission system is what takes the engine power and transfers it to the wheels in order to move the car. There are a few different types of vehicle transmissions: 

  • Manual Transmissions – A manual transmission requires a clutch and gear shift controlled by the driver to perform gear changes. 
  • Automatic Transmissions – An automatic transmission doesn't require a clutch pedal and is able to run through perform gear changes on its own. 
  • Continuously Variable Automatic Transmissions (CVA) – A CVA transmission type of automatic transmission that makes use of belts or chains paired with pulleys to create a smooth acceleration. 

Automatic transmission slipping is one of the more common transmission problems found in an auto transmission, but it can also occur in a manual transmission. 

Basically, when your transmission is slipping, it's not properly switching gears when you want it to, or it starts switching gears when it shouldn't be.

What Are The Key Symptoms That a Transmission is Slipping?

There are few key signs you can look out for if you're worried about your car transmission slipping. A slipping transmission will present the following symptoms: 

  • An unusually high RPM (over 3,000) 
  • Delays in acceleration 
  • Inability to reverse vehicle 
  • Difficulty switching gears 
  • Strange noises when performing a gear change 
  • Burnt or unusual smells 
  • Check engine light is on 

You Can Feel When a Transmission Slips

Along with the previous signs, you can generally feel when a transmission is slipping. 

When you're driving and the transmission starts slipping, you might feel a loss of power, reduced vehicle speed or some jerkiness in the controls. Overall, it can feel a bit like you're driving on ice. 

What Are The Causes of a Slipping Transmission?

There are many potential underlying problems that can cause transmission failure and slipping. The following are the most likely to be causing issues with your car transmission. 

Transmission Fluid Issues

There a multiple ways that transmission fluid could be causing your vehicle problems. 

First, your car could have low fluid levels. Since transmission fluid is in a closed system, your car shouldn't have low fluid levels unless there is an underlying transmission problem. Low fluid levels is a big sign that your vehicle may have a transmission leak. 

Secondly, your transmission fluid could be burnt. This issue occurs when your transmission fluid overheats. If this is the case, your vehicle needs to have its transmission fluid flushed and replaced.

Transmission Bands

Worn or broken transmission bands can also cause a transmission to slip. Transmission bands are what link the gears together in an automatic transmission, so if there's anything wrong with them, the bands will need to be replaced as well.

Worn Out Gears

The gears in your vehicle will go through normal wear and tear over time with regular use. Gears that are worn won't be able to properly link together, and this can cause your transmission to slip. 

While very rare, it's also possible to get malfunctioning gears in your transmission due to faulty construction.

Clutch Problems

Both automatic and manual transmissions make use of a clutch, so wear and tear in the clutch can cause slipping in either transmission type. 

The clutch relies on clean transmission fluid to work effectively, so any problems with the fluid can in turn cause issues with your vehicle's clutch.

Torque Converter Issues

The torque converter is a part of the car transmission that converts energy from the engine into torque. Over time, it's also possible for the torque converter to wear down. 

The torque converter is another piece of your vehicle that relies on transmission fluid, so if there are issues such as burnt or low transmission fluid, problems can arise. Torque converter problems can present many different symptoms, one of which is a slipping transmission.


This electro-hydraulic valve controls the flow of fluid throughout the transmission. Issues with the solenoid can result in the incorrect amount of transmission fluid being passed along, and that has the potential to result in transmission problems and slipping.

Software Mistakes

As with anything that contains software, there's always a chance that there might be a mistake in the way the vehicle is programmed. Mistakes in a car's programming have the potential to lead to a multitude of problems, one being a slipping transmission. 

How to Prevent Transmission Slipping?

The best way to prevent transmission slipping is regular maintenance. Mainly, you'll want to be checking your transmission fluid regularly to make sure it's not leaking and that it's not getting dirty or burnt. 

It is recommended that you have your transmission serviced by a transmission specialist such as Automatic Transmissions R Us every 50,000km.

Is Transmission Slipping a Safety Risk?

A transmission slipping is definitely a dangerous issue for your car to have and we do not recommend driving while this is happening. Not only is it a safety risk for your car to be unpredictably changing gears, but it will also make your car shaky and difficult to control.

Fix Transmission Slipping with Automatic Transmissions R Us

If you have any of the above signs and believe your car transmission is slipping, then that's something you need to get fixed as soon as possible. Come visit our service location in Balcatta for transmission maintenance! 

We are Perth's leading specialist in car transmission repair and maintenance, and we'll be happy to help! Contact us Automatic Transmissions R Us today by sending an online enquiry, emailing info@autotrans.com.au, or calling (08) 9240 5449!