Automatic Transmission Slipping When Accelerating (SOLVED!)

automatic transmission slipping when accelerating

Having your automatic transmission slipping when accelerating can be a frustrating and potentially dangerous issue.

It is crucial to identify and address the problem as soon as possible to prevent further damage to the transmission, maintain safe driving conditions, and ensure the longevity of your vehicle.

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the common causes of transmission slipping, the warning signs to look for, and the various ways to address and resolve these issues.

Causes of Automatic Transmission Slipping When Accelerating

There are several reasons why your automatic transmission might be slipping during acceleration. Some of the most common causes include:

Low Fluid Levels

One of the primary reasons for transmission slipping is low transmission fluid levels. The fluid is essential for lubricating the various components within the transmission and ensuring its smooth operation.

If the fluid level is too low, it can result in insufficient pressure within the transmission, leading to slipping and other performance issues.

Burnt Fluid

Another possible cause of transmission slipping is burnt transmission fluid. If the fluid has become burnt due to overheating and excessive friction, it will become less effective at lubricating the system and may contribute to slipping problems. This issue can typically be resolved by replacing the burnt fluid with fresh, clean fluid.

Clutch Problems

Both automatic and manual transmissions rely on clutches to engage and disengage gears. Although clutch issues are more common in manual transmissions, automatic transmissions can also experience problems with their clutches.

In automatic transmissions, the torque converter and transmission contain clutch plates that may become worn or damaged due to insufficient transmission fluid or other issues, leading to slipping.

Torque Converter Issues

The torque converter is a crucial component of an automatic transmission, responsible for converting the engine’s power into torque that can be utilized by the transmission.

Over time, the torque converter may become worn or damaged, affecting the flow of transmission fluid and potentially causing slipping issues.

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Transmission Bands

Transmission bands are essential for connecting the gears within an automatic transmission. When these bands become worn or damaged, they can cause the transmission to slip. In many cases, replacing or adjusting the affected bands can resolve this issue.

Worn Gears

Another possible cause of slipping in an automatic transmission is worn or damaged gears. The gear set within a transmission relies on various clutches and bands to engage and disengage gears effectively.

If the bands and clutches become worn or damaged, they may not engage properly, leading to slipping and other performance problems.

Solenoid Issues

Transmission solenoids are responsible for controlling the flow of transmission fluid within the system, engaging and disengaging gears as needed.

If a solenoid becomes faulty or damaged, it can affect the flow of fluid and contribute to slipping issues.

Warning Signs of Transmission Slipping

To address transmission slipping issues as early as possible, it’s essential to recognize the warning signs that may indicate a problem. Some common signs to look for include:

Leaking Transmission Fluid

If you notice red fluid leaking from beneath your vehicle, it may be an indication of a transmission fluid leak. This can result from damaged seals, gaskets, or transmission lines and may contribute to slipping problems if left unresolved.

Burning Smell

A burning smell coming from your vehicle may be a sign that your transmission fluid is burnt or overheating. This issue can lead to increased friction within the transmission, potentially causing slipping problems.

Difficulty Staying in Gear

If your vehicle is having trouble staying in gear or experiences delayed shifting, it could be a sign of a transmission issue. This may be due to problems with the transmission valve, shifter cable, shifter, or a fluid leak.

Loss of Power

A loss of power while the engine is running smoothly may indicate a problem with the transmission or another component of the drivetrain. This can manifest as the engine control unit limiting power to the engine or as a result of internal transmission problems.

Missing Gears or Delayed Shifting

Missing gears or experiencing delayed shifting can be a sign of low transmission fluid, fluid contamination, or a fluid leak. This issue can lead to engine overheating, increased friction, and severe damage to the transmission if left unaddressed.

Strange Noises

Unusual noises coming from your vehicle, such as humming, clunking, or buzzing, may indicate an internal transmission issue. This can result from a bad bearing, damaged planetary gear, or other problems within the system.

How to Check Your Transmission Fluid Level

One of the first steps in diagnosing a slipping transmission is to check the fluid level. In many vehicles, this can be done easily using a dipstick located in the engine bay. The transmission fluid dipstick is typically red and located near the firewall in the engine compartment.

To check the fluid level, follow these steps:

  1. Ensure the engine is running and warmed up.
  2. Locate the transmission fluid dipstick and remove it.
  3. Wipe the dipstick clean and reinsert it fully.
  4. Remove the dipstick again and check the fluid level, color, and condition.
  5. If the fluid is low, top it off with the manufacturer-recommended transmission fluid.

How to Address Transmission Slipping

Depending on the cause of your transmission slipping, there are several potential solutions to resolve the issue:

Top Off or Replace Transmission Fluid

If your transmission fluid is low or burnt, topping off the fluid or replacing it entirely can help resolve slipping issues. Additionally, ensure there are no leaks within the system that may be causing the fluid level to drop.

Adjust or Replace Transmission Bands

If damaged or worn transmission bands are causing slipping, adjusting or replacing the bands may resolve the issue. This should be done by a professional mechanic to ensure proper adjustment and installation.

Address Clutch and Torque Converter Issues

If your transmission slipping is due to clutch or torque converter problems, these components may need to be replaced or repaired. Consult a professional mechanic to diagnose and address these issues.

Replace Worn Gears

If worn gears are contributing to slipping issues, they may need to be replaced. A professional mechanic should inspect the gear set and recommend the appropriate course of action.

Repair or Replace Faulty Solenoids

If slipping is caused by faulty solenoids, they should be repaired or replaced to restore proper fluid flow within the transmission system.

Can I drive with a slipping transmission?

No, you should never drive your vehicle if you suspect there may be an issue with your transmission. If your transmission is slipping, it is crucial to have it repaired immediately and to avoid driving the vehicle until it is fixed.

Driving with a slipping transmission can cause damage to both the transmission and other parts of the vehicle, as well as put the driver and surrounding vehicles at risk. Symptoms of a slipping transmission include gear changes when they shouldn’t occur, changes in pitch, unreliable acceleration, difficulty changing gears smoothly, and delays between shifting from park to drive and the vehicle moving.

A low fluid level is a common cause of a slipping transmission, but other symptoms that indicate a failing transmission include delays when shifting, strange noises, and unusual colors below the car.

It is important to have a slipping transmission checked out before it causes further damage.

Will transmission slip if low on fluid?

Yes, a low transmission fluid level can cause the transmission to slip. To check the fluid level, the engine should be idled until the transmission fluid temperature reaches at least 105°F and the fluid vent cap and transmission oil level control plug should be removed to check the fluid level.

If the fluid level is low, it should be topped up with the recommended fluid for the vehicle. However, if the transmission is slipping, it may not necessarily be due to low fluid levels.

Other causes of slipping may include a bad transmission valve or the need for a full rebuild. It is best to have a professional diagnose and fix the issue as driving with a slipping transmission can cause damage to the transmission and other parts of the vehicle, as well as put the driver and surrounding vehicles at risk.

How much does it cost to fix a transmission slip?

The cost of fixing a slipping transmission can vary depending on the cause. However, the cost for fixing common causes of a slipping transmission are as follows: low fluid – about $8; worn clutch – around $1,200 or more; burnt fluid – flush and replace costing about $120 under average conditions; worn gears – $100 to $250 per gear; torque converter failure – about $700 on average; and shift solenoid failure – $150 to $500 to replace a single shift solenoid.

Replacing a transmission could cost between $1,400 and $5,800, while rebuilding a transmission can cost around $1,000 to $3,000.

On average, the cost of a transmission repair may range from $1,800 to $3,400 depending on various factors.


Transmission slipping can be a frustrating and potentially dangerous problem, but identifying the issue early and addressing it promptly can help prevent further damage to your transmission and ensure the longevity of your vehicle.

By understanding the common causes of slipping, recognizing the warning signs, and taking action to resolve the issue, you can maintain your vehicle’s performance and safety.

Steve P.

Steve is an automotive technician, technical writer, and Managing Editor. He has held a lifelong passion for cars, with a particular interest in cars like the Buick Riviera. Steve is based in Boise, Idaho.

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