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4 Common Gearbox Problems

4 Common Gearbox Problems

Automotive transmissions are not simple. Your transmission is a collection of gears, wheels, cogs and bearings spinning happily and smothered in lubricants.

Until it breaks.

The issue with complex machinery is the sheer amount of parts that can break, wear, snap or seize. Like most motoring issues, early identification and intervention can save you hassle, stress and a whole pile of money. To make identification of problems easier, we have compiled four of the biggest red flags that your transmission is unhealthy.


Different models, different manufacturers and different problems make different noises. The one thing we can be certain of, you will notice the noise.

Transmissions are designed to operate smoothly, creating no noises out of the ordinary. But what types of noises can a transmission make? And what do they mean?

  • Whining and howling are the terrible sounds of metal rubbing fast against metal. This is often symptomatic of a lubrication issue. Either you have not enough transmission fluid and the gears are rubbing together (causing the whine), or there may be water in your transmission fluid, causing corrosion and abnormal wear or pitting on the gear teeth.
  • Rumbling or growling can be indicative bearings are on their last legs. As a bearing is contaminated with solids like metal shavings or dirt, they stop moving freely. This can cause accelerated gear wear, or worst-case scenario, the bearing can seize or shatter.
  • Buzzing, hissing, banging or clunking are normally a symptom of issues outside the transmission case. They could be worn rubber mountings, loose bolts or bent shift rods.

ANY of these noises ignored can accelerate wear on other, more expensive components.

Gear Change Issues

Tactile feelings through the gear shifter (manual) or delays in gear selections (automatic) may be simple to fix, or indicative of synchroniser issues.

Simple issues may just be insufficient fluidity or lubricative properties of your transmission fluids.

The synchroniser is a brass ring gear that spins freely and has tapered teeth. If these teeth are worn from rough shifting or gear grinding over time, your transmission will struggle or even fail to get into gear.

Leaking Fluids

Transmission fluid isn’t consumed like engine oil under normal circumstances. If you have a leak, your transmission can quickly develop issues of excessive wear, shifting resistance or total failure.

If there is a spot of liquid under your car, transmission fluids are normally red, translucent and smell sweet. Should you find something you think fits this description, bring it in immediately so we can stop the leak before it causes long term damage.


Like most transmission issues, overheating transmissions are a sign something is amiss with the transmission fluid.

In automotive transmissions, fluids lubricate, moderate temperatures, and condition seals and gaskets. Over time, these properties slow down, old fluid turns black, collects sludge and runs hot. This results in wear, burning smells and eventually a seized transmission.

Luckily, most issues with your transmission are avoidable with preventative maintenance and early intervention. If you hear, feel or smell any of these signs, call Coastals 4×4 immediately, Perth’s best team for gear box repairs.