Automatic transmissions detect changes in speed in order to supply the necessary power to your wheels. When your transmission is working as it should, your car shifts gears smoothly as you accelerate or slow down.

Transmission slipping refers to when the car slips into a gear that does not correspond with the current speed. It's a common transmission problem, and it's a good idea to understand its causes, know how to detect it and learn what to do if you experience it.

What Are the Signs to Look Out For?

Transmission slipping isn't always obvious, so it's crucial to pay attention to subtle signs. Look out for the way your car shifts gears when you change speeds. You may notice that when you increase speed, your transmission attempts to change gears but falls back into the previous gear. This may feel like your car momentarily slows down when you attempt to increase the speed.

In other instances, the transmission may refuse to upshift altogether. You'll notice that when you press on the gas to increase the speed, nothing happens and your speed remains the same.

Sometimes the transmission may change gears, but instead of a smooth transition from one gear to the next, you'll experience a rough jerk. The gear may change for a few seconds before falling back into the previous gear.

All of these are signs to look out for when trying to detect transmission slipping.

What Are the Causes?

A transmission fluid leak is a common cause of transmission slipping. The fluid provides the hydraulic pressure your transmission needs to change gears. When a leak occurs, the fluid level becomes too low, preventing the transmission from shifting gears appropriately.

A bad torque converter is another cause of transmission slippage. In a vehicle with an automatic transmission, the torque converter does the job of the clutch. It allows the engine to rotate independently and uses hydraulic pressure to transfer rotational energy to the transmission. If your torque converter fails, the transmission will stall or slip.

How Do You Check Your Fluid?

While it will take a trained mechanic to diagnose complex transmission problems, you can check things such as the transmission fluid yourself. Take a look at your owner's manual if you're unsure of where the dipstick is for your transmission fluid. To get an accurate reading, most vehicles need to be idling when the fluid is checked.

Checking the transmission fluid is similar to checking the oil. You'll remove the dipstick and check to see if the fluid is within the Full range.

You'll also want to check the color of the fluid. Burnt fluid will appear very dark, almost black. Normal fluid should appear bright red in color. If your fluid is low or very dark, you can take your car in to have it filled or changed.

What Are Your Repair Options?

If your transmission randomly slips once, it may just be a fluke that doesn't require attention. However, if you notice that your transmission is regularly slipping, it's best that you don't ignore it. Bring your car in to an auto repair shop, preferably one that specializes in transmissions like Huntington Beach Transmissions.

Transmissions are complex car components. A trained technician will need to closely evaluate and diagnose your problem. Transmission slipping isn't necessarily a sign of major problems. The repair may be as simple as replacing a bad rubber seal that is allowing fluid to leak.

If your transmission is having other problems and is near the end of its life span, however, you may need to replace it with a rebuilt or new one.

Take your vehicle in to a repair shop when you detect transmission issues. Waiting could cause more damage; it's better to be safe than sorry.