Signs Your Transmission Fluid Filter is Clogged (And What To Do About It)

Your transmission contains oil that can carry debris . Here's how to tell if your transmission fluid filters are clogged.

AAMCO  | 07/26/2019
Car Problems & Safety

Transmission Fluid FilterIn with the good, out with the bad.

That's the job of your transmission filter, and though it's a small component of your vehicle, it plays an important role. The filter works to keep contaminants from wearing parts from your transmission fluid. 

Often made of a screen or “felt-like material,” these filters aren't designed to last forever. 

Still cruising with your original one? There's a chance that it isn't doing its job as well as it could be. If you're noticing an issue with your car's performance, the filter might have started becoming clogged and is restricting fluid flow.

Today, we're sharing a few signs that transmission fluid filters could be on the brink and what to do about it. Ready to learn more? Let's go!

1. An Unexplained Rattle

Sometimes, you know exactly what's making your vehicle rattle. It could be a loose exhaust hanger a bad catalytic converter, rusted heat shielding or even worn-out brake pads, to name a few culprits.

Yet, if you've checked all the usual spots and you're still hearing what sounds like metal-on-metal or a jiggling rattle, your transmission may be to blame. This isn't a prank. It's time to turn the car off and pop the hood.

And, check the fluid level and condition. Chances are if the fluid looks thick and dark in color, the filter may be restricting flow as well.

If it is becoming clogged, It will create performance issues and may, in fact, damage your transmission.  

2. Whirs or Whines

In addition to (or in place of) a rattle, your car may also make a whirring or whining noise when you shift into gear. 

In a manual transmission, whining or whirring are the more prominent sounds.

It will sound like your engine is revving up in between gears. The only issue? It won't engage as fully or quickly as it should and is an indication that you have a clutch issue. 

In an automatic transmission, the sound is more of a high-pitched whine more so than a whir. It's the most noticeable when you shift from park to drive or reverse.

Your shifting process should be inaudible and smooth. Any time it becomes laborious or loud, something is amiss underneath the car or hood.

3. Leaking

Leaving a little puddle everywhere you park your car? It may not be your A/C leaking water. 

Your transmission includes a number of different seals and gaskets that can come worn or tear with mileage and constant wear. In addition, the part the seal rides on itself can be defective or a related bearing can become loose, causing the seal to wear and leak. When any of these issues occur, the transmission fluid can leak and ultimately cause serious damage to your transmission. 

The same goes for a clogged filter. If the fluid isn't flowing as it should, it may show up outside of your vehicle as it is forced through the vent tube. If you're noticing a trail behind your vehicle when you give your vehicle power, bring it in and let a professional take a look.

4. Burning Smell

When you have a partially clogged transmission filter, you may smell it before you see it or notice any other signs. 

That's because it doesn't take long for a fluid starved transmission to begin to run really hot once they've reached a place they never should have been. While you never want to smell smoke when you're behind the wheel, there are some instances in which the scent of something really hot is more worrisome than others. This is one. 

5. Problems Changing Gears

When there's nothing wrong with your transmission,  it will change gears with ease. Yet, when it's compromised or has a partially clogged filter, you'll notice hesitation or slipping when it tries to shift. 

If it feels or sounds unnatural, this can be a major sign that it's time to check your transmission fluid and filter.

If you have a manual transmission, you may notice that your gears seem to grind instead of shifting smoothly. You could hear the change, feel it, or both. While this could mean that you've worn out your clutch, your transmission synchronizers, and even the gears could also be to blame.

In some cases, a simple fluid change may solve the problem.

6. A Noisy Neutral

A  noise coming from your car is always a cause for concern. It could mean there's something wrong with your tires, suspension, brakes, axles, engine or transmission. 

However, it should raise your eyebrows even higher when it happens while you're sitting in neutral gear.

Your car should be almost silent during this time, so what's going on? It could be your fluid, prompting you to give it a change and replace your filter while you're at it. If you continue to hear the noise, it could mean that a more serious problem is at play.

Take Care of Your Transmission Fluid Filters

You've read this list and pinpointed the problem. You know it's probably time to replace the transmission fluid in your car, along with its filter.

The good news? This is our specialty.

We're transmission repair experts, and we'd love help. Keep your transmission fluid filters clean and Contact us today for professional maintenance services you can trust. Whether you need a new system or a quick fluid and filter change, we'll get you back on the road. 

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