The transmission is one of the most vital components of any vehicle, and Jeeps are no exception. Responsible for transferring power from the engine to the wheels, the transmission plays a pivotal role in the performance and functioning of your Jeep. Over time, however, due to wear and tear or lack of maintenance, the transmission may start to show signs of trouble.
Knowing if your Jeep transmission is bad involves recognizing common signs such as slipping gears, leaking fluid, a check engine light, a burning smell, grinding or shaking, odd sounds, inability to shift into gear, stalling, or noise when in neutral.
In this article, I will explore the signs that indicate a potential transmission problem in your Jeep. By identifying these warning signals, you can proactively address the issue and ensure your Jeep stays in top-notch condition. Stay tuned to learn more about how to know if your Jeep transmission is bad.
Symptoms to Know if Your Jeep Transmission is Bad:
In the case of Jeeps, particularly models like the Cherokee, Grand Cherokee, Compass, and Wrangler, there have been numerous reports of transmission issues over the years.
Jeep owners have faced it all, from abrupt shifting to complete transmission failure. In fact, certain models have even been subjected to recalls by the manufacturer due to widespread transmission problems.
This highlights the necessity for Jeep owners to be well-versed with common transmission issues and their symptoms.
Here, let me explain the most common symptoms of a faulty Jeep transmission:
1. Gear Slippage:
Gear slipping occurs when your Jeep spontaneously slips from one gear into another without you initiating the change. For example, you might be driving in the third gear, and suddenly, without input, the vehicle slips into the second or fourth gear.
This is not just annoying, but it can also be hazardous. If your vehicle unexpectedly changes gears while driving, it can cause you to lose control, especially at high speeds or in heavy traffic.
There are different reasons for the gear slippage issues, including:
- Stalling of engine
- Delayed or retard shift response
- Low levels of transmission fluid
- Problems with the solenoid
When the transmission fluid is low, it can lead to a lack of hydraulic power needed to keep the gears engaged. Worn or damaged gears can cause slipping because they no longer have the necessary grip to maintain their position.
A faulty solenoid can affect the flow of transmission fluid, impacting the gear engagement. A malfunctioning transmission band, which wraps around the gears to keep them engaged, can also cause slipping if it becomes loose or damaged.
How to Fix:
Fixing a slipping gear issue can range from relatively simple to quite complex, depending on the root cause of the problem. Here are some steps to follow if you experience gear slipping in your Jeep:
- STEP 1- Check the Transmission Fluid: This is always the first step when addressing any transmission-related issue. Ensure the transmission fluid is at the proper level and in good condition. If it is low, replenish it to the appropriate level. It might be time for a transmission fluid change if it is dirty or smells burnt.
- STEP 2- Inspect the Transmission Bands: The transmission bands can become loose or damaged over time. Have a professional inspect them and adjust or replace them if necessary.
- STEP 3- Check the Solenoids: The solenoids control the flow of transmission fluid throughout the transmission. A malfunctioning solenoid can lead to gear slipping. Have a professional inspect the solenoids and replace them if necessary.
- STEP 4- Examine the Gears: Worn or damaged gears can cause slipping. This is a more severe issue that requires a professional assessment and potentially a complete transmission overhaul or replacement.
2. Failed Gear Shifts:
If you are facing the problem of delayed gear shifting in the vehicle due to automatic transmission, it indicates bad transmission in your vehicle. There are mainly 2 scenarios while shifting the gear:
- The movement from 1st to 3rd gear
- The movement from 3rd to 4th gear
No specific symptoms like check engine light and others are observed in these cases, so it becomes difficult to identify the problem.
How to Fix:
Different components in the engine, transmission, and overall Jeep are linked with the gear shifting. The problems with these components can cause delayed gear shifting in which the worn-out solenoid affects the first and third gear shifting and prevents the maintenance of fluid pressure.
Similarly, a worn-out sensor having poor wiring can give away incorrect measurements. A worn solenoid in a vehicle affects the fourth gear and causes overdriving.
Other than this, dirty filters and low fluid in transmission are also causes for delayed shifting, which can be fixed by replacing the fluid and cleaning the filters. You can inspect these components; if they are damaged, you can replace them through mechanical assistance.
3. Issue of Fluid Leakage:
Transmission fluid is crucial for the proper functioning of your Jeep’s transmission. It lubricates the moving parts inside the transmission, keeps them cool, and helps to transmit power from the engine to the wheels. Therefore, any leak in the transmission fluid is a serious concern that needs immediate attention.
Leaking transmission fluid is a common sign of transmission problems. The fluid is typically bright red clear and has a slightly sweet smell when in good condition. Over time, it may become darker and have a burnt smell, indicating that it needs to be changed.
If you notice fluid under your Jeep or spots on your driveway or garage floor, inspecting your vehicle for a leak immediately is essential.
How to Fix:
- STEP 1- Locate the Leak:
The first step in fixing a transmission fluid leak is to locate the source of the leak. Common areas for leaks include the transmission pan, gasket, fluid lines, torque converter, and seals.
Start by cleaning the transmission and then start the engine and let it run until it reaches operating temperature. This will help to circulate the fluid and make it easier to identify the leak. Use a flashlight to scrutinize the transmission and surrounding areas.
- STEP 2- Replace Damaged Parts:
Once you have located the leak, the next step is to replace the damaged parts.
- If the leak is coming from the transmission pan or gasket, it may be necessary to replace it.
- If the leak comes from the fluid lines, they may need replacement or tightening.
- If the leak is coming from the seals or the torque converter, it may be necessary to replace them.
- STEP 3- Replace the Transmission Fluid:
After fixing the leak, it is essential to replace the transmission fluid. Drain the old fluid, replace the filter, and then refill the transmission with the appropriate type and amount of fluid as specified in your Jeep’s owner’s manual.
How can you check the transmission fluid level?
You can inspect the transmission fluid level by checking its dipstick. To prevent fuel leakage, it is recommended to warm the engine and inspect the dipstick. The dipstick will be up to its mark if there is enough fluid. But if not, then it indicates leakage.
You can follow the steps below for inspecting and dealing with the issue of fluid leakage in the vehicle:
- STEP 1: The first step is to park the vehicle at a low level on the ground.
- STEP 2: Next comes the opening of the vehicle’s hood and locating the area where the transmission dipstick is present.
- STEP 3: Remove and clean the stick and re-insert it in the vehicle’s transmission.
- STEP 4: Insert the dipstick and inspect its marking to check the fluid level. If the level is below the maximum and minimum point, then the transmission fluid is low in level.
- STEP 5: Carefully add the transmission fluid to the mark, manually select the vehicle’s gears, and drive the Jeep for about 15 minutes.
- STEP 6: Repeat the same process till the transmission warms up and the fluid level reaches its higher marking.
4. Check Engine Light:
The ‘Service Engine Soon’ light, also known as the ‘Check Engine’ light, is a critical indicator on your Jeep’s dashboard. This light can illuminate for various reasons, including issues related to the transmission.
Modern vehicles, including Jeeps, have an onboard diagnostic system (OBD) that monitors various aspects of the vehicle's performance, including the transmission. When the OBD system detects a problem that could affect the vehicle's performance or emissions, it triggers the 'Service Engine Soon' light.
While this light can indicate many issues, some specific transmission-related problems might trigger it. For example, the OBD system might detect a problem with the transmission’s operation, such as slipping gears, or an issue with one of the transmission’s electronic components, such as a malfunctioning sensor or solenoid.
How to Fix:
- STEP 1: Use an OBD Scanner:
To determine the cause of the ‘Service Engine Soon’ light, you will need to use an OBD scanner. This device can be plugged into the OBD port, usually located under the dashboard on the driver’s side.
Once connected, the scanner will display a code (or codes) corresponding to a specific vehicle problem.
- STEP 2: Interpret the Codes:
The codes displayed by the OBD scanner will give you an idea of the problem. For example, a code beginning with ‘P07’ typically relates to the transmission.
Refer to your Jeep’s service manual or an online database of OBD codes to interpret the codes and understand the potential issues.
- STEP 3: Address the Issue:
Once you have interpreted the codes, you can address the issue. Depending on the problem, this may involve replacing a faulty sensor or solenoid, changing the transmission fluid, or making more significant repairs to the transmission.
If the problem is beyond your skill level, it is advisable to consult a professional.
- STEP 4: Reset the Service Engine Soon Light:
After addressing the issue, you will need to reset the ‘Service Engine Soon’ light. This can usually be done using the OBD scanner. Follow the instructions provided by the scanner to reset the light.
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5. Presence of Burning Smell:
A burning smell is never a good sign and should be addressed immediately. This smell can indicate several issues, but when it comes from your vehicle while driving or shortly after parking, it could be related to your transmission.
The transmission fluid in your Jeep serves several crucial functions; it lubricates the transmission’s internal parts, keeps them cool, and helps to transmit power from the engine to the wheels.
If the fluid becomes too old or contaminated, it can lose effectiveness and cause the transmission to overheat, producing a burning smell.
Over time, transmission fluid can break down due to heat and friction. When this happens, the fluid can no longer protect the transmission as effectively, leading to increased wear and tear on the transmission's internal components and, ultimately, transmission failure.
The burning smell could also result from a transmission fluid leak onto hot engine parts.
How to Fix:
If you observe a burning smell in the vehicle, it is recommended to look at the transmission fluid; if it is old and stinky, replace it immediately. There is a certain capacity of the vehicle to travel up to a specific area with transmission fluid.
When the traveling limit exceeds normal, fluid in the transmission requires change, which can cause issues. Other than this, if the problem was due to an accumulation of debris or dirt, clean the transmission and dislodge the accumulated sludge for better working.
6. Grinding, Jerking, or Shaking:
Grinding, jerking, or shaking while driving are common signs of transmission problems. These sensations can be particularly noticeable when shifting gears, accelerating, or decelerating.
This is often felt in the pedal and can be heard as well. It usually happens when you change gears, indicating that the gears are not synchronizing properly.
This can be due to worn gears, a worn clutch, or a problem with the transmission fluid.
A jerking movement during gear changes or when accelerating or decelerating is often a sign that the transmission is not smoothly transmitting power from the engine to the wheels.
Various issues, such as a malfunctioning torque converter, worn clutches or bands, or problems with the transmission fluid, can cause this.
This is a less common symptom but still indicates a significant issue. It can be felt throughout the vehicle and is often accompanied by a loss of power.
This can be due to problems with the torque converter, transmission mounts, or other internal transmission components.
How to Fix:
- STEP 1: Check the Transmission Fluid:
As with many transmission issues, the first step is to check the transmission fluid. It should be at the correct level and a clear red or pinkish color. It must be replaced if the fluid is dirty, brown, or has a burnt smell.
- STEP 2: Replace or Adjust the Clutch (for manual transmissions):
If the grinding occurs during the gear change, the clutch may be worn out or need adjustment. The clutch plate may need to be replaced, or the clutch may need to be adjusted to ensure it is fully engaging and disengaging.
- STEP 3: Inspect and Replace Transmission Mounts:
Transmission mounts hold the transmission in place and absorb vibrations. If they are worn or damaged, they can cause the vehicle to shake or jerk. Check the mounts for any signs of wear or damage and replace them if necessary.
- STEP 4: Inspect the Torque Converter:
The torque converter is a hydraulic pump that transfers power from the engine to the transmission. If it is malfunctioning, it can cause jerking or shaking. It may need to be replaced or rebuilt.
- STEP 5: Inspect Internal Components:
If the above steps do not resolve the issue, there may be internal damage to the transmission. This could include worn gears, clutches, or bands. It is recommended to have a professional inspect the transmission to determine the exact issue and repair it.
You can also refer to the following video guide:
7. Strange Sounds from the Jeep:
Transmission issues often manifest as odd sounds coming from your vehicle. These can include whining, humming, clunking, or buzzing noises.
- Whining or Humming:
These noises can occur when the vehicle is in motion or at a standstill. It can be a sign of a failing pump or a clogged filter.
The transmission pump circulates fluid through the transmission to keep the internal components lubricated and cool. If it's failing, it may produce a whining noise.
- Clunking or Banging:
Hearing a clunk or bang when shifting gears clearly indicates a problem. This can be caused by worn or damaged internal components, such as the gears or shift forks. It can also be due to excessive play in the driveshaft or differential.
This noise can indicate a lack of transmission fluid or a clogged filter. It can also be caused by worn or damaged internal components.
How to Fix:
- STEP 1: Check the Transmission Fluid:
As with many transmission issues, the first step is to check the transmission fluid. It should be at the correct level and a clear red or pinkish color.
If the fluid is dirty, brown, or has a burnt smell, it will need to be replaced
- STEP 2: Change or Clean the Filter:
A clogged filter can cause a lack of fluid flow, leading to whining or buzzing noises. The filter should be replaced or cleaned if it’s clogged.
- STEP 3: Inspect and Replace Damaged Components:
There may be damaged internal components if you hear clunking or banging noises. These will need to be inspected and replaced by a professional.
- STEP 4: Check the Driveshaft and Differential:
Excessive play in the driveshaft or differential can cause clunking or banging noises. These components should be inspected and repaired if necessary.
- STEP 5: Inspect and Replace the Pump:
If you are hearing a whining noise, the pump may be failing. It will need to be inspected and replaced if necessary.
8. Refusal for Going into Gear:
The Jeep owners have also complained that their gears show problems while driving and refuse to go into gear mode. The occurrence of this problem indicates that the transmission of the Jeep is bad and needs replacement or repair.
This problem can arise due to the accumulation of fluids in the gear cable shifting or problems with the clutch. The errors in the electrical or computer can also be a major culprit, which can be fixed through reconnecting.
How to Fix:
If your vehicle refuses to go into gear mode, you can check the transmission and get it repaired or replaced with the help of an automobile mechanic.
It can cost you around $4,000 to replace the entire transmission (including the labor).
On the other hand, if the issue is minor, it can cost you an average of $1000-$1500 to repair the entire transmission, including the labor. You can seek mechanical help from the local workshop to install the new transmission.
9. Issue of Stalling:
Stalling is another concerning symptom that can indicate a bad transmission. While this can occur for various reasons, it is essential not to overlook the transmission as a potential cause.
A Jeep might stall for various reasons, including issues with the throttle, sensors, fuel pumps, and fuel tanks. Moreover, components like vacuum hoses and braking boosters can also cause stalling in the Jeep.
Different symptoms can indicate the presence of stalling in the vehicle, including the warning lights of electronic throttle control and the presence of a whirring noise. These are crucial signs to be aware of, as they can help diagnose the problem early and prevent further damage.
How to Fix:
- STEP 1: Observe for Unusual Sounds:
Pay attention to unusual sounds such as whining and grinding noises. These indicate that there might be stalling issues in the vehicle.
- STEP 2: Check Warning Lights:
Monitor your dashboard for warning lights, especially the electronic throttle control light. This can provide a clue as to the cause of the stalling.
- STEP 3: Inspect the Fuel System:
Check the fuel pump and fuel tank, as issues with these components can cause the vehicle to stall.
- STEP 4: Inspect the Vacuum Hoses and Braking Boosters:
Damaged vacuum hoses and faulty braking boosters can also lead to stalling. Ensure they are in good condition and replace them if necessary.
- STEP 5: Seek Professional Help:
Due to the complexity of the issue and the variety of potential causes, it is recommended to seek mechanical help to detect the root cause as it becomes difficult to address the problem fully. A professional will be able to diagnose and fix the issue accurately.
10. Overdriving Issues:
If you are facing the problem of over-driving or abrupt torque converting clutch problems in your Jeep, it also indicates bad transmission in the vehicle.
Different causes can lead to overdriving issues in the vehicle, including:
- Presence of a damaged cover plate
- Presence of damaged throttle position body sensor
- Presence of damaged input and output speed sensor
- The presence of damaged pressure solenoid
These causes can cause overdriving issues in the vehicle and trigger the check engine light in the vehicle, leading to storing a different code in the ECU memory.
How to Fix:
It is recommended to inspect the root cause of the problem and deal with it simultaneously.
Issue of damaged cover plate
Issue due to faulty sensors
Issue due to damaged solenoid
11. Noisy Transmission in Neutral:
A noisy transmission in neutral is a common sign of transmission problems. This issue occurs when there is a problem with shifting the transmission towards the neutral gear.
The noise you hear can vary from a slight humming or buzzing to a more noticeable clunking or whirring sound. The front-wheel drives in the Jeeps often show an unexpected shift towards the neutral state in those models with an automatic transmission.
This is often due to worn-out bearings, gear teeth, or the reverse idler gear. Over time, these parts can wear down and cause your transmission to make noise even when it’s in neutral.
Another cause can be the lack of or contaminated transmission fluid, which is essential for the smooth transmission operation.
How to Fix:
The signals for the neutral shifts are often given by the transaxle range sensor's defects and poor wiring. This led the ECU to detect false signals and transmission shifts towards a neutral state, leading to inappropriate code saving.
It is better to inspect the root cause, and if the problem is due to the range sensor, fix the issue to deal with the delayed shifting.
Check-out the video guide below:
12. Poor Response from Transmission:
The effective response from the transmission is also necessary for the proper functioning of the suspension and engine in the vehicle. If you are experiencing poor response from the transmission, it also indicates the presence of bad transmission in the vehicle.
The poor response can indicate a jerking noise from the engine and a delay in shifting followed by an RPM surge. Other than this, poor performance by the clutch can also indicate this issue.
How to Fix:
The only solution for dealing with the poor transmission response is to get it inspected by a mechanic or an automobile expert. You can select the option of repairing or replacing the entire transmission.
Inspect the transmission and clean the internal components properly before rebuilding the whole transmission.
Realtime Reported Jeep Transmission Issues:
Here, let me address some reported transmission problems experienced by owners of various Jeep models:
1. 2015 Jeep Cherokee:
- Transmission Failure:
Many owners have reported complete transmission failure, sometimes with less than 20,000 miles on the vehicle. This often requires a complete transmission replacement, which can be costly.
- Rough Shifting:
Another common issue with the 2015 Cherokee is rough or erratic shifting. This can occur at any speed and can make for an uncomfortable driving experience.
2. 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee:
- Difficulty Shifting:
The 2016 Grand Cherokee owners have reported difficulty shifting gears, both in automatic and manual modes. This can occur at any speed and can be dangerous in certain situations.
- Transmission Leak:
There have also been reports of transmission fluid leaks in the 2016 Grand Cherokee. This can lead to transmission failure if not addressed promptly.
3. 2016 Jeep Compass:
- Transmission Overheating:
The 2016 Compass has been reported to have issues with transmission overheating, especially during long drives or in hot weather. This can lead to transmission failure if not addressed.
- Delayed Shifting:
Delayed shifting or the transmission not engaging properly is another common issue with the 2016 Compass.
4. 2017 Jeep Wrangler:
- Clutch Issues:
Many owners of the 2017 Wrangler with manual transmissions have reported issues with the clutch, including difficulty engaging gears and a squeaking noise.
- Automatic Transmission Slipping:
For those with automatic transmissions, slipping between gears is a common issue.
Proper Maintenance Habits to Avoid Transmission Issues:
1. Regular Fluid Checks:
The transmission fluid is the lifeblood of your transmission. It is essential for lubrication, cooling, and cleaning. Check your transmission fluid level and condition regularly, at least once a month.
The fluid should be at the proper level and clean and clear, not brown or black. It must be changed if the fluid is dirty or has a burnt smell.
2. Change Transmission Fluid Regularly:
The transmission fluid should be changed according to the manufacturer's recommendations, usually every 30,000 to 60,000 miles.
However, you may need to change the fluid more often in case you operate in rough conditions, such as hot weather or off-road.
3. Use the Recommended Fluid:
Ensure to use the transmission fluid advised by the manufacturer. Using the wrong type of fluid can cause damage to the transmission.
4. Avoid Excessive Heat:
Heat is the enemy of your transmission. Avoid excessive heat by not towing more than your vehicle’s capacity and not driving aggressively.
Consider installing an auxiliary transmission cooler if you frequently drive in hot weather or tow heavy loads.
5. Don’t Overload Your Vehicle:
Overloading your vehicle stresses the transmission and can lead to overheating and other problems.
Make sure to stay within your vehicle’s towing and payload capacity.
6. Regular Inspection:
Regularly inspect your transmission for signs of wear or damage. Check for leaks, unusual noises, or vibrations.
If you notice anything unusual, seek professional help immediately.
7. Service Your Vehicle Regularly:
Regular servicing of your vehicle according to the manufacturer’s recommendations is crucial for the longevity of your transmission and other components.
Make sure to follow the recommended service schedule in your owner’s manual.
8. Don’t Ignore Warning Signs:
Do not ignore these signs if you notice any unusual noises or vibrations or if your transmission is not shifting properly.
Seek professional help immediately. Ignoring these signs can lead to more serious and costly repairs down the line.
Recognizing the signs of a failing transmission early on is crucial to prevent more severe and costly issues down the road.
Regular maintenance, prompt attention to warning signs, and immediate corrective action can significantly extend the lifespan of your Jeep’s transmission.
Remember, your Jeep is an investment, and its performance and longevity are in your hands. Stay informed, stay proactive, and enjoy the adventures your Jeep takes you on.
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):
How can you notice that their transmission has gone bad in their Jeep?
There are some signs which indicate that transmission has gone bad, including:
- The presence of a knocking sound in the engine
- The presence of a burning smell
- The shaking sound during gear shifts
What are some of the common symptoms that indicate the transmission issues?
The common symptoms indicating the transmission issues are as follows:
- Poor response from gears
- The presence of odd sounds
- Presence of leaking fluids from transmission
- Presence of a burning smell from transmission
- Presence of shaking noise from transmission
How can you know that their transmission has failed?
You can detect the failed transmission in their vehicle, including loud noise from the transmission. This sound indicates the trouble in shift gearing.
How do you experience the weak transmission in your Jeep?
You experience the weak transmission as rough in your Jeep. The gear shifting becomes hard in such vehicles, a common sign that the transmission has gone bad.
How can you test the transmission?
You can test the transmission by stepping onto the clutch pedals and shifting it to the first gear. If there is a grinding or shaking noise while shifting the gears, it indicates a bad transmission in the Jeep.
Is driving with a bad transmission in the Jeep a good option?
No, driving with a bad transmission in a Jeep is not a good option. It is recommended to consult your local mechanic to fix the transmission.
This is Surya. I am an experienced off-roader. I have been off-roading for many years across several terrains. I am passionate about 4×4 driving and want to share my knowledge and experience with others.
My goal is to provide you with the most comprehensive and unbiased information about off-roading.
I curated this article through my personal experience and expertise, and I hope it helps you with what you are looking for.