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Automatic Transmission Problems

One of the more common problems encountered with automatic transmissions is a delayed engagement. 

Does your car experience morning sickness?

Better known as delayed engagement, it is one of the most common problems in the automatic transmission. The problem is characterized by a long notable delay (approx. 1.5 to 2 seconds) from the moment you make your gear selection (D or R), to the moment you feel the transmission engage. Often, it is most noticeable on the first drive in the morning.

This is a strong indicator that there is a problem with the transmission, which could be as simple as low fluid to more serious internal concerns.

What causes delayed engagement?

Extreme temperatures are normally to blame, although it can happen at any time. Essentially, a delayed engagement is a type of slip in the automatic transmission. The clutches or bands, which allow the vehicle to move, do not operate instantly. Often, this occurs when the internal seals wear or become hard from infrequent fluid replacement.
Seals on the engaging mechanisms allow fluid pressure to flow past, so rather than applying the clutches or bands, the fluid returns to the pan. After a delay, the fluid pressure applies the mechanisms and our vehicle moves.


How to avoid the problem

  • Avoid racing the engine when a delayed engagement occurs. Increased engine speed produces friction and can damage the clutches and bands.
  • Allow time for the transmission to engage to prevent needless damage.
  • Check the fluid level. Consult your owner’s manual for correct filling and checking procedure as this varies with different manufacturers.
  • Unfortunately there as some models that do not provide a means for you to check the level. In this situation, it is best to contact your local Mister Transmission and seek expert advice.
  • If you are able to check your fluid level, remember it is very important to use the correct fluid type. The wrong fluid can lead to problems with shifting, torque converter clutch application, or ultimately cause transmission failure.

Again, consult your owner’s manual for the correct fluid type. One key point to remember, if your fluid level is low, you will likely have a leak somewhere.

Today’s transmissions are very complex systems with complicated components that require expert service. With a delayed engagement, eventually the seals must be replaced, hence acting sooner than later to limit other types of damage.



If you suspect you have a problem with your transmission, call your local Mister Transmission and book an appointment for our FREE 21-Point Multi-Check Inspection.