Transmission vs. Engine Trouble: How Those with Auto Mechanic Certification Can Tell The Difference

As a driver, there’s nothing worse than hearing or feeling something unfamiliar in your car. That’s usually when we send our cars to an auto mechanic for a quick diagnosis. As most auto mechanics know, there can be a number of different issues that cause a car to sound or move differently. Grinding gears, delayed acceleration, and burning smells are common indicators of a transmission or engine malfunction. The trouble is differentiating between the two, and locating the source of the problem. 

If you’re pursuing a career as an auto mechanic, your skills will likely be required to identify the symptoms of engine and transmission trouble, and to make the appropriate repairs. 

Read on to find out some of the most common ways to tell the difference between transmission and engine malfunction. 

Listening to the Car

Often, identifying the root of an issue isn’t entirely straightforward, as many auto problems have multiple causes. Strange sounds coming from a car can be the result of either engine or transmission problems. Luckily, there’s a slight difference in the sounds of the two, which can help solve the problem. If you’re taking auto mechanic courses, it’s important to listen for the variation in noises when diagnosing a vehicle. Problems that indicate an engine malfunction tend to sound like hissing, popping, or whirring. Those sounds often come at short intervals. On the other hand, if the transmission is the problem, you’re more likely to hear a whining, humming, or clunking noise that lasts longer. When a driver hears any of these sounds, it’s important for them to take their car to an auto mechanic who can isolate the source. 

Learn how to diagnose engine and transmission sounds with auto mechanic courses

Hesitation and Shifting Problems Explained for Those in Auto Mechanic Courses

When there’s a problem with the transmission, a driver might feel their car hesitate right after shifting. In many cases, it will feel like gears are slipping, especially when switching from park to drive. However, it’s important to note that hesitation and shifting problems can equally indicate an engine problem. Any problems with the engine of the car will likely lead to problems shifting the gears. For example, if the catalytic converter is clogged, the engine will run into overdrive and make it harder to shift the transmission. To distinguish engine trouble from transmission trouble, take a look at the car’s acceleration. Those studying for an auto mechanic certification will learn that if a car has trouble accelerating all the time, there’s likely an issue with the engine. Blocked or dirty fuel filters are typically the cause of engine hesitation.  

Understand the causes of hesitation and shifting problems

Burning Smell  

Burning smells typically have numerous causes when it comes to cars. Oil leaks usually occur after an oil change, and could be creating a burning smell by dripping onto the car engine. A loose oil filter or faulty oil plug are good indicators of an oil leak. If the oil leak is due to the transmission fluid, it would likely give off a sweeter burnt smell. This is a good indicator to check the levels of transmission fluid in the car. 

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