Signs Your Car is About to Die

Hello, my name is Roy. For many years, I drove a 1976 Ford estate car around Sydney. The car had belonged to my grandpa. It was passed down to me when I had just passed my driving test at the age of 18. That was in 1986 and the car was already in a pretty bad condition then. Fast forward to 2006 and I was now aged 38 and still driving the same car around. Sometimes the car wouldn't start, white smoke came out of the exhaust and the gearbox made a terrible sound. I did my best to patch it up, but eventually, I had to scrap the car and buy a new one. I decided to start a blog to encourage others to service their cars.

4 Ways to Tell Your Transmission's Planetary Gears Are Worn


If you drive a vehicle with an automatic transmission, it's likely your car uses planetary gears. As the name implies, planetary gears are made up of a central drive gear with multiple gears surrounding it, much like a sun with planets around it. Since planetary gear sets save on space, they are ideal for use in automatic transmissions.

However, the extreme amount of power that gears must handle whenever you're behind the wheel can lead to wear over time. When your planetary gears start to wear out or sustain damage, it's vital to have them repaired or replaced as soon as possible to ensure you can maintain control over your vehicle and reduce the risk of further issues.

With that in mind, here are just four ways of telling your planetary gears may be worn.

1. Slipping Gears

You've probably heard about slipping gears, but you might not know what it actually means. Put simply, slipping gears refers to shifts happening for no reason and without matching your engine's current RPM. When this happens, you'll often feel your vehicle isn't providing the right level of power. It's an issue often associated with worn planetary gears since worn gears will not be able to grip as effectively as before.

2. Abnormal Sounds

Strange sounds are a common sign of transmission problems. If your planetary gear system is no longer working properly, you're likely to hear grinding as shifts are made. This indicates metal-on-metal contact that will only grow worse if the issue is ignored. When planetary gears are to blame, sounds will often be unpredictable rather than forming a constant background noise.

3. Jerky Performance

A healthy automatic transmission should provide seamless performance and barely perceptible shifts. However, this cannot happen when the gears begin to wear down. If you suddenly find your vehicle is jerking, shaking, or otherwise hesitating when shifts are made, worn planetary gears could be the problem, especially when such performance is accompanied by the abnormal sounds mentioned above.

4. Visual Indications

If you are reasonably familiar with the workings of your vehicle, you can always open your transmission's gear hub to check for visual signs of damage. Worn planetary gear teeth will often appear pointed rather than squared. You may also notice that some are bent. Further visual signs of wear will include cracking, which usually starts towards the centre of gears, and other types of surface damage, including pitting and scuffing.

For more information, contact a mechanic who offers auto transmission repair.


12 April 2023