How to Check a Used Car Transmission

Buying a used car is a rewarding experience, but all used cars come with a history. One component to look at before you drive off the lot is the transmission, since this is crucial to the car’s performance.

To help Indianapolis, Plainfield and Bloomington area drivers with their used car buying experience, Andy Mohr Automotive put together this quick guide for how to check a used car transmission during your test drive.

Give the Used Car a History Test 

The easiest way to look for any past transmission issues is to run a vehicle history report (VHR) through a service like CARFAX®.

The VHR uses the vehicle identification number (VIN) to provide a snapshot of its entire life. This includes any past transmission issues or failures. If any problems come up on the VHR, you may want to keep shopping around.

How to Check an Automatic Transmission in a Used Car

When test driving a used vehicle with an automatic transmission, it’s important to check for three signs:

1.Delayed Engagement

As you initially shift gears from park to drive, pay attention to how long the car takes to respond. If it has to think it over a bit before shifting, it may have transmission issues.

2.Harsh Shifting

When you shift, does the transmission make a clunking or grinding sound? If it does, that’s the sign of a problem.


As you’re out on your drive, try to accelerate. If you press the gas, the engine makes noise, the tachometer is climbs, but the car doesn’t move any faster, the transmission may be slipping.

CVT in a Used Car

In addition to the warning signs to look for in an automatic transmission, you sh

ould also be on the lookout for the following if you’re considering a car with a continuously variable transmission (CVT):


Take the car out on a long stretch of road and test it at a speed over 60 MPH. If you notice any shaking or bucking, this may be a sign of transmission malfunction.

2.A Burning Smell

After your test drive, stand near the car. If you smell burning, this can be the cause of an overheating transmission or fluid leaking into the exhaust system.

Checking A Manual Transmission

In a car with a manual transmission, the clutch does a lot of the work, so pay attention to it during your test drive, as well as several other problem indicators.

1.Clutch Failure

If the clutch has been abused by previous drivers, it may have issues staying in gear or engaging higher gears. If this is the case, there is probably a major transmission issue.

2.Clanging Noises

While the car idles, have a listen. Do you hear clanging noises? This may be loose gears and clutch parts banging together and a sign of a weak transmission.

3.Difficulty Shifting

If the clutch is operating properly but you’re still having difficulty shifting, or you’re not able to shift gears at all, this may be a sign that the transmission transaxle assembly is off.

Check the Used Car Transmission at a Service Center

Of course, the best way to check a used car transmission is to have a knowledgeable service center technician look at it.

Visit Andy Mohr Automotive today to find a service center local to you in the Indianapolis, Plainfield, or Bloomington areas.