What to do When Your Transmission Light Comes On

When the transmission light comes on it is important to pay attention to your vehicle. If your car or truck is still driving properly, it is not the time to panic.  We’ll help you determine what is wrong with your transmission, and why the light is on.

Transmission Light Diagnosis

Here are a few simple steps that you can do to determine what is going on with your transmission:

Check The Transmission Fluid

While the transmission light being on could mean anything from a sensor being out to a bad torque converter.  I always recommend looking in a place that you’ll only need a napkin to check.

Automatic transmission fluid (ATF) is one of the most neglected parts of the vehicle.  When was the last time that you checked it?  If you never have here’s a quick write up on how check automatic transmission fluid.  There’s really not much to it at all.  Just make sure that you are on a flat surface and have the vehicle up to the proper operating temperature.

Now it’s time to take a look at the transmission fluid color.  You can learn a ton from examining it.  Most transmission fluid is pink or light red, depending on what you see when you look at that color.  A transmission light can come on if dirty fluid has begun to affect the operation of the transmission itself.

If the fluid is really dark or cloudy, it may be time to have the transmission serviced.  You can certainly look up how to change your own fluid on YouTube.  It’s really not that difficult on most cars.  If changing oils a 3/10 in difficulty, than changing transmission fluid is going to be about a 5/10.

If you do end up changing bad fluid, give the transmission light a bit to turn itself back off.


Has Your Vehicle Felt Different?

Though the powers of observation, you can determine a lot about what is going on with your transmission, and why the transmission light might be on in the first place.  It’s like eating bad food “the nose knows”.  You should know your car enough to know too.

Has the engine felt like it’s been revving faster as you go down the road?  That’s a pretty good indication that the transmission is low on fluid.  It’s important to know the signs of low transmission fluid.

If it feels like the engine could be revving ever so faster going down the highway, but the transmission fluid level is just fine, than you could be looking at the torque converter lock being messed up.

Theres’ a second brake light switch that serves to lock the torque converter.  It is typically the culprit in situations like this.  It’s very easy to change.


Maybe It’s Nothing (Maybe it’s Not)

Your transmission light will come on when the complex set of sensors in the cars computer tells it that something is operating out of spec.  Sometimes it’ll give a false positive and trigger the light.

I don’t recommend ignoring it.  You don’t want to end up stuck somewhere when the transmission inevitably gives out.  At the very least, take the car up to Autozone and have them do a code scan.  They can tell you what the car says is wrong.  If it’s something like a speed sensor, and the speedometer still works, it’s probably nothing.

What you don’t want to avoid are the signs that your transmission is going out.  These signs are clunking, slipping, and otherwise operating in a way that doesn’t feel normal.  If that seems to be what is going on with your transmission, get it repaired before your on the side of the highway or you get stuck in limp mode.


Conclusion:  Transmission Light

The transmission light can help you fix the problem before the transmission destroys itself.  It’s a really great idea to go ahead and have it looked at before the repair bill explodes.