How to spot transmission trouble

Gearboxes are not only complicated, but also extremely hard-working. The full power of your engine reaches the wheels only through the delicate machinery of your gearbox. Needless to say, it is also one of the most expensive components to repair or replace. Spotting issues early might help you avoid calamity, or at least prepare you for it.


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Any of the following symptoms should prompt you to have your gearing checked out.

Noise or vibration

Most of us know the horrible grating noise of a slipping clutch. Clutch problems lead quickly to gearbox problems. Banging sounds when you’re in neutral suggest loose parts in either the clutch or gearbox.

In automatics, humming or whining often mean an issue with the torque converter. New vibrations apparently from the engine can also be a warning.

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Gearbox and axle issues are not something to DIY, especially in a commercial vehicle. For example, the Iveco Eurocargo Tector service manual has a contents listing that runs to 664 lines, almost half of which relate to the gearbox and axle assembly. Clearly, repairing an Iveco Eurocargo axle or gearbox is a major undertaking. (Get support for the Iveco Eurocargo axle from

Engine lights

Even if you don’t notice vibrations, the vehicle’s sensors might. “Engine” lights can be a generic indicator of other problems and your transmission could be one.

In any event, never ignore an engine light. If there are no other immediate problems, drive on carefully to a garage where it can be investigated.

Burning smells

Check your oil and transmission fluid levels. Gearbox and differential fluids shouldn’t need changing often, but check your service log to see if they have been maintained. You can also lose fluid rapidly due to a leak. Insufficient or exhausted transmission fluid is the most common cause of gearbox failures.

Small particles of soot in your fluid are a very bad sign. Gelatinous consistency also means you need fresh fluid quickly.

Clutch problems

Stiff or grating clutches lead quickly to gear problems if not fixed quickly. It also works the other way – damaged gears can make the clutch difficult.

In automatics, worn gearing can cause the ratio to slip when it shouldn’t. You’ll notice warnings from the RPM indicator.

Many clutch and gear problems can be repaired cheaply, but only if dealt with quickly!

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