Like many other components on your car, the transmission is monitored by a series of sensors that are used to detect problems with the system's operation. Most newer model cars are even equipped with warning lights on the dashboard to alert you when there's a problem with the system. The owner's manual for your car will tell you which light indicates transmission problems, but usually it's either a dedicated transmission light, the traction control light or the overdrive warning light. Here's a look at what you should know about what the transmission warning light might mean.
While you might automatically think of that warning light as solely an indication of trouble, it can actually be a precautionary tool. In fact, most warning lights on your car, including the oil indicator and the 'Service Engine' light, are designed to notify you when it's time for mileage or time-mandated maintenance. The transmission light is no exception to this. If your car's mileage just turned to a round number like 50,000 or 100,000, there's a chance that the light could be little more than a reminder that the transmission is due for service, such as a flush or an inspection.
Low or Dirty Fluid
Another common reason for a transmission warning light to come on is due to problems with the transmission fluid. If your fluid is too low or is dirty, your transmission sensor may trigger the warning light. If your car's odometer hasn't turned a significant mileage number, you may have a problem with the transmission fluid. If your transmission has a dipstick, it'll be located under the hood. You can check the level of the fluid with that dipstick to determine if there's enough fluid in the transmission. While you're at it, wipe the dipstick on a white paper towel so you can examine the condition of the fluid. It should be somewhat clear and reddish in color. If it's dark or has any particles and debris, you need to make an appointment with a mechanic to flush and refill the transmission.
Even if you're not seeing signs of trouble such as slipping gears or hard shifts, your transmission may still need attention. Understanding these two common reasons for the transmission light to come on will help you to address it and keep your transmission working at its best. Talk with your automotive repair technician right away if you have any questions about your transmission condition or the warning light.