Can I Drive My Car if the Transmission Light is On?

close-up of a modern car gearshift

What Does the Transmission Do?

What is the purpose of the transmission in a car? A transmission enables the gear ratio between the drive wheels and the engine, which makes your car move, slowing it down or speeding it up. If all else is looking okay with your car, check the transmission fluid. If it is full, then you need to schedule an appointment for a possible car transmission repair

Where is the car transmission located?

It will depend on whether your car is a front-wheel-drive or rear-wheel-drive car, but generally, it is just below and somewhat under the engine. It will be mounted to the motor on either side or level position with the oil pan. In a rear-wheel-drive car, the transmission is positioned just behind the engine, near the dashboard.

What are the types of car transmission?

There are 4 types of transmission in a vehicle. Those types are: 

  • The Manual Transmission: This is the oldest type around and it is the simplest, and most trustworthy. It uses a friction clutch that is modulated by the driver pressing a pedal that is connected to the rotational energy of the engine. 
  • The Automatic transmission: Universally, automatic transmission is the most common today. It has a highly complex torque converter that transmits the rotational energy of the engine as it shifts gears which are controlled by a computer. 
  • CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission): The CVT is like an automatic transmission but uses a different mechanism that doesn’t have any gears. Instead, it uses belts and pulleys and produces an endless range of ratios with the computer deciding how the pulleys need to adjust to create the best ratio for the situation. 
  • Semi-automatic and DCT (Dual-Clutch Transmission): Semi-Auto and DCT transmissions are the cutting-edge transmissions, and the most expensive and commonly used in high-end sports cars and race cars. 

Just like checking the oil, every car owner should know how to check car transmission fluid too. By checking the transmission fluid level, and noting the color and smell, you can often tell that you need car transmission repair or just more transmission fluid. The dipstick for the transmission fluid is like the dipstick used for checking the motor oil. Start by making sure your car is parked on a level surface and then proceed: 

  1. Star the car and leave it in the park gear. Let it run for a few minutes to warm the engine and transmission. This allows the transmission fluid to expand for an accurate result. 
  2. Locate the transmission dipstick. On a front-wheel-drive car, it is usually toward the front of the motor and for a rear-wheel-drive car, it is near the back of the motor. Most manufacturers will use a colored handle in pink, red, or yellow.
  3. With the engine still running, pull the dipstick out, and with a clean rag, wipe the dipstick clean, and put it back into the transmission reservoir. 
  4. Remove the transmission dipstick again, and using the imprinted indicators on the stick, read the level markings. 
  5. If the dipstick shows full, replace it in the reservoir. If it shows low, either add transmission fluid yourself or take it to a car transmission repair show and have them add fluid. 

Can transmission problems cause a car not to start?

It can be a problem in newer cars. In older cars, the gears were cycled by putting the car in neutral or pushing the neutral switch. In cars today, that is disabled when the car is in gear. You can bypass that by unplugging the start circuit while in neutral or park.

Can a bad transmission cause a car to jerk?

It isn’t a common problem, but yes, your car could have a jerking reaction due to the transmission control module malfunctioning. This will happen as your car is shifting gears, causing delays in the shifting process. It is certainly worthy of making a car transmission repair appointment to have it checked out. 

How much is it to repair car transmission?

For a domestic manufactured car, a car transmission repair job can cost between $1500 and $5000. With newer transmissions having computer chips, these repairs can take longer and may cost more than these prices due to a chip shortage in the car industry during 2020 and 2021. 

How much does it cost to replace a car transmission?

Well, this will depend on the make, model, and year of the car as well as what type of transmission the car has.  The ballpark cost runs between $2,000 and $3,500 for a brand-new transmission. If the car transmission repair shop offers a rebuild, that could save you a few hundred dollars. Either way, there is the additional cost of labor that can start around $100 and reach $200 or more.

close-up of a car's engine

In Closing – The Expense of Car Transmission Repairs! 

Like a new roof on your home, you’d like for your homeowner’s insurance to pay for the cost, same is with the transmission on your car.  So, will car insurance cover transmission repair? Sadly, the answer is no, basic auto insurance, including full coverage, will not cover a car transmission repair job.