When buying a new car, it’s a no-brainer to take a look under the hood and see if anything looks amiss. But when you’re taking a new or used vehicle out for a test drive, how often do you take a look at the car transmission to make sure you’re not signing up for any long-term issues? Checking a vehicle’s transmission before you buy is a good habit to get into as a driver. Some dealerships will even let you have your car inspected by an expert auto repair service before you put down any money. However, if you’re just interested in making sure everything’s running smoothly, there are a few easy ways you can check for problem signs yourself. Even if asking a lot of questions feels invasive or annoying, don’t worry about it: Being well informed about the vehicle you’re about to purchase is far better than ending up with a car that spends half its time in the shop. During your test drive, keep your eyes and ears open for these telltale signs of a troubled transmission.
Listen for Gear Changes
Going out on a test drive isn’t just a nice way for you to get used to the look and feel of your car. It’s an important opportunity for you to make sure the car you’re buying as actually in good shape. Whether you’re buying used or getting a brand new vehicle, you can tell a lot about the state of a car’s transmission simply by paying attention during the test drive. Listen for any out-of-place sounds or stalling between gear shifts. When on the road, most automatic car drivers stay in Drive and don’t tend to shift around all over the place. On your test drive, try shifting to a few different gears just to see how the transmission reacts. If everything is smooth, your car has passed the test. However, if you’re noticing even the slightest delay, that’s the time to start asking your dealer questions. You’ll also want to look under the hood to check the transmission fluid. Any car that’s ready to sell should be full of new oil and fluid, so you’ll definitely want to take the opportunity to check both your oil level and the state of your transmission fluid, which should be bright red. If you’re seeing a brownish, burnt color, the fluid needs to be changed and you might be dealing with a car with transmission issues.
Check for Rough Shifts
The whole purpose of an automatic vehicle is to provide a smooth, seamless transition on the road. Unlike standard shift vehicles which are known for stalling and bucking after a missed gear shift, automatic cars are able to glide between gears without any issue. However, the sign of a bad or unreliable transmission is a delay or stalling point between gears. You’ll also be able to tell there’s a problem if you feel a slight “bucking” when shifting from park to drive, or back and forth from drive to reverse. While there is such a thing as changing gears too fast, doing your average 3 point turn shouldn’t cause any issues or glitchiness with your transmission if it’s healthy. While you’re on your test drive, try to check the RPMs you’re getting during shifts to see if there’s any noticeable change. A brand new car and even a used car in good condition shouldn’t bring about a ton of fluctuation on the road.
There’s nothing worse than buying a car only to find out it’s a lemon. What’s more, the cost of a broken, faulty, or failing transmission is never cheap. Your car’s transmission is a huge part of what makes it go, and you can’t afford to be dealing with problems right from the get-go. To avoid this, ask questions about the vehicle you’re buying, especially if you’re getting it second-hand. In addition to researching common issues with the make and model of the car, find out from the dealer what the car was used for in the past, and if it’s gone in for any major repairs in the past few years. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to have your car looked at by a technician of your choosing before you buy. If not, do your best to check both under the hood and under the car itself for any evidence of transmission leaks (a bright red dripping fluid, or a Pepto-Bismol colored fluid in some cases) before signing on the dotted line.