Transmission Stopped Working Then Started Again – Causes And Fixes

What may have been the reason why your transmission stopped working then started again?

Have you ever experienced that heart-stopping moment when your car’s transmission seems to throw in the towel, only to miraculously recover just when panic sets in? We’ve all been there – a sudden loss of power, a worrying stall, and then, almost like a magic trick, it’s back in action.

In this post, we’re diving into the curious case of transmissions that decide to take an unexpected break, only to get back to business as if nothing happened. We’ll explore the common reasons why your transmission stops and then start working again. Could it be a glitch, a sensor misfire, or something else entirely? All the answers to those questions – and more – in today’s blog post!

transmission stopped working then started again

Why Your Transmission Stopped Working Then Started Again

Modern vehicles are complex machines, integrating a plethora of mechanical, electrical, and electronic components to create a seamless driving experience. Among the key components, the transmission system holds a pivotal role in ensuring the proper distribution of power from the engine to the wheels. 

However, there are instances when the transmission suddenly stops working, only to mysteriously resume functioning again. This phenomenon, though puzzling, can often be attributed to a combination of factors. Here are the various causes that could lead to the intermittent failure and recovery of a transmission system.

1. Electrical Glitches and Sensors Malfunctioning

The integration of electronics in modern transmissions has brought unprecedented efficiency and control. Yet, these components are susceptible to electrical glitches or sensor malfunctions. Sensors play a crucial role in monitoring variables like speed, temperature, and pressure, which in turn regulate the transmission’s operation. 

A faulty sensor can send incorrect signals to the transmission control module (TCM), leading to erratic behavior. Such intermittent issues might result in the transmission stopping abruptly and then, without any apparent reason, resuming operation as the sensors correct themselves or re-establish connection.

2. Fluid Level and Quality

Transmission fluid is the lifeblood of the system, responsible for lubricating, cooling, and facilitating smooth gear shifts. Insufficient fluid levels or poor-quality fluid can impede the transmission’s proper functioning. 

In some cases, the fluid might be depleted enough to cause the transmission to stall, only to regain normal operation when the vehicle is parked and the fluid level equalizes again. Regular maintenance, including checking and changing the transmission fluid as recommended by the manufacturer, can help prevent such issues.

3. Overheating

Excessive heat can wreak havoc on a transmission system. Overheating can cause the transmission fluid to break down, leading to reduced lubrication and increased friction. This can result in intermittent transmission failure, where the system might shut down temporarily to prevent further damage. 

Once the temperature drops to a safer range, the transmission might start working again. Addressing overheating issues by ensuring proper cooling mechanisms, avoiding heavy towing under extreme conditions, and maintaining a healthy transmission fluid can prevent these intermittent failures.

4. Mechanical Failures

Internal mechanical failures within the transmission, such as worn-out clutch components or damaged solenoids, can lead to unexpected transmission stoppages. These issues might arise due to wear and tear over time, manufacturing defects, or inadequate maintenance. 

Depending on the severity of the failure, the transmission might halt its operation temporarily to prevent further damage. Once the system is able to reset itself or the problematic component shifts, the transmission might begin working again, at least temporarily.

5. Software Glitches and Adaptive Learning

Modern transmissions are often equipped with software that adapts to driving patterns and conditions to optimize performance. While adaptive learning is designed to improve efficiency, it can sometimes lead to unexpected behavior. 

If the TCM’s programming encounters a glitch or misinterprets certain driving conditions, it might lead to temporary transmission failure. These glitches can sometimes self-correct, resulting in the transmission functioning normally again.

Troubleshooting and Fixing Intermittent Transmission Failure

Experiencing a transmission that stops working and then starts again can be a frustrating and confusing issue for any vehicle owner. This comprehensive guide provides step-by-step instructions to help you troubleshoot and potentially resolve the problem of intermittent transmission failure.

Note: It’s important to exercise caution when working on your vehicle’s transmission. If you’re not comfortable or experienced with automotive repairs, it’s advisable to seek professional help.

Step 1: Safety First

Before attempting any repairs, ensure that your vehicle is parked on a level surface, the engine is turned off, and the parking brake is engaged. Wear appropriate safety gear, such as gloves and safety glasses, to protect yourself during the troubleshooting process.

Step 2: Check Transmission Fluid

Start by locating the transmission dipstick under the hood. Refer to your vehicle’s owner’s manual for its precise location.

With the engine warmed up, pull out the dipstick, wipe it clean, reinsert it, and then pull it out again to check the fluid level.

Ensure that the transmission fluid level is within the recommended range. If it’s low, add the appropriate type of transmission fluid as specified in the owner’s manual.

Step 3: Inspect for Leaks

Examine the area where you park your vehicle for any signs of transmission fluid leaks. Leaks can contribute to low fluid levels, which in turn can cause intermittent transmission problems.

If you find any leaks, identify their source and severity. Consider repairing or replacing damaged gaskets, seals, or transmission lines.

Step 4: Check Electrical Connections and Sensors

Many modern transmissions rely on sensors and electrical components for proper operation. Check for loose or corroded electrical connections around the transmission and the transmission control module (TCM).

Inspect the wiring and connectors of sensors responsible for monitoring speed, temperature, and pressure. Clean or replace any damaged components.

Step 5: Address Overheating Issues

Overheating can cause the transmission to malfunction intermittently. Ensure that the cooling system is functioning properly by checking coolant levels, radiator, and cooling fans.

If you often engage in heavy towing or driving in extreme conditions, consider adding an auxiliary transmission cooler to prevent overheating.

Step 6: Perform a Transmission Flush

If your transmission fluid is discolored or has a burnt smell, it might be a sign of degraded fluid. Consider performing a transmission fluid flush to replace the old fluid with new, clean fluid.

Follow your vehicle manufacturer’s recommendations for the appropriate interval for transmission fluid changes.

Step 7: Seek Professional Help

If the above steps do not resolve the issue, or if you are not comfortable with DIY repairs, it’s time to consult a professional mechanic or a transmission specialist.

Explain the symptoms and the steps you’ve taken so far to the mechanic. They can perform a thorough diagnosis using specialized equipment and techniques.

Step 8: Software Updates and TCM Reset

Some intermittent transmission issues might be caused by software glitches or adaptive learning. Consult with your vehicle manufacturer or dealership to inquire about any available software updates for your vehicle’s transmission control module.

If appropriate, the mechanic may also perform a TCM reset to recalibrate the transmission’s adaptive learning parameters.

Dealing with an intermittent transmission failure can be challenging, but by following this comprehensive guide, you can systematically troubleshoot the issue and take appropriate steps to address it. Remember that safety is paramount, and if you’re unsure about any aspect of the repair process, it’s wise to seek professional assistance. Regular maintenance, attentive driving habits, and staying proactive with repairs can help prevent such issues from recurring in the future.

Is It Safe to Drive with Intermittent Transmission Failure?

Intermittent transmission failure refers to a situation where a vehicle’s transmission system experiences temporary malfunctions that cause it to cease functioning unexpectedly, only to resume normal operation later. These disruptions can manifest as sudden shifts, loss of power, or even complete transmission shutdowns while on the road. The causes for this phenomenon can range from mechanical issues to electronic glitches, making it a perplexing challenge to diagnose and address.

Driving a vehicle with intermittent transmission failure entails several potential risks. For instance, sudden transmission failure can lead to a loss of control over the vehicle, increasing the risk of accidents, collisions, or loss of life.

Additionally, if the transmission fails in a remote or unsafe location, you could find yourself stranded without assistance, which can be both inconvenient and dangerous.

Intermittent transmission issues could worsen over time, potentially causing further damage to the transmission or related components, leading to more costly repairs.

And lastly, the unpredictability of intermittent transmission failure can catch other drivers off guard, posing a threat to the overall safety of road users.

Driving a vehicle with intermittent transmission failure is a situation that demands careful consideration. While the decision ultimately depends on various factors, safety should always be the top priority. If you’re uncertain about the safety of driving your vehicle, it’s advisable to seek professional assistance, as experts can provide accurate assessments and guidance tailored to your specific situation. 

Wrap Up

The intermittent failure and recovery of a transmission system can be perplexing, leaving vehicle owners bewildered and concerned about their vehicle’s reliability. However, this phenomenon is often a result of a combination of factors, ranging from electrical glitches and sensor malfunctions to fluid-related issues, overheating, and mechanical failures. The interconnected nature of modern vehicles means that one seemingly minor issue can trigger a series of events that cause the transmission to temporarily stop working and then resume operation unexpectedly.

Regular maintenance, attentive driving habits, and seeking professional assistance at the earliest sign of trouble can go a long way in preventing such intermittent transmission failures. As vehicles continue to incorporate advanced technology, understanding these complexities becomes essential for drivers and technicians alike, ensuring a smoother and more reliable driving experience.

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