Transmission Warning Light Symbol – Does It Signal Problems?

The check engine light is crucial for all drivers to identify problems with the car engine system. Each car will have different lights depending on the vehicle’s type and model.

Besides, a few cars provide a transmission warning light symbol, and you may be unaware that certain vehicles feature it to signify your transmission problem.

However, knowing about this symbol can help you in some cases. Let’s find out more about it to check whether your car has this symbol or not and what meaning when it glows.

What Is The Transmission Warning Light Symbol?

transmission warning light symbol

What Does A Transmission Warning Light Look Like?

As mentioned, a transmission light symbol is not available in all automobiles. However, the light’s specific appearance will vary with the model and year of the car.

Some vehicles may flash the overdrive light or display text strings in the information center to warn of a transmission malfunction.

The most common symbol for this warning light is a gear with a thermometer or an exclamation point.

When a warning light displays on the vehicle’s dashboard, examine your owner’s manual to see what the light might imply.

Transmission Warning Light Symbol Meaning

The check engine light will often turn on alongside the transmission warning light. Also, the car can automatically turn into a “limp” or fail-safe mode when the transmission light turns on.

This warning light signals that your vehicle’s transmission or related parts are malfunctioning. Automatic transmissions can be a continuously variable, traditional, or dual-clutch item.

Some cars only illuminate this warning light when the transmission is suspected of overheating. Other automobiles utilize it as a warning that can signal various transmission-related issues.

7 Common Causes Of Transmission Warning Light Symbol

While the transmission or any related components has problems, the transmission light on dashboard will light on to warn the drivers about the recent issue. 

Some causes include low fluid levels, failed shift interlock, overheating transmission, bad torque converter, malfunctioning valve body, and internal transmission failure.

Low Transmission Fluid Level

The most-seen reason is the problem with transmission fluid. When the fluid is at a low level, some internal damage can happen due to transmission performance problems.

The technology may detect anomalous vehicle operation and turn the transmission warning light on.

Thus, your vehicle cannot burn through the fluid, which can lead to serious problems with the car’s operation.

Any decrease in transmission fluid should be addressed since it might indicate the presence of a leak.

You must carefully follow the guide to change the fluid if you don’t want the transmission to slip after that.

Failed Shift Interlock

In some circumstances, the transmission warning light may not signal a problem with the transmission. It could suggest that anything else related to the powertrain is malfunctioning.

Let’s take BMW cars as an example. These cars include a shift interlock system that prevents you from shifting out of P (Park) unless you first depress the brake pedal.

If this mechanism fails, the transmission warning light can also illuminate.

Hot Transmission Temperature 

Apart from the low fluid level or an internal transmission issue, the warning light will turn on if the car transmission becomes overheated.

Heat is the leading trigger of premature transmission failure. So, ensure you always have enough transmission fluid and that your cooling devices are operational.

A clogged cooler is the first to blame for an overheating transmission.

In case you transport overly heavy loads on your vehicle, the transmission may overheat. Similarly, if the car is running continually during the hot summer months and performance appears to be bad, it’s a clue that something is wrong.

If your warning lights come on, or if there is even a faint odor of burning, look it out immediately. In either case, you should treat it in the same manner as an overheated engine and car not starting.

First, immediately stop driving until the transmission cools down.

When you attempt to drive in this condition, your vehicle may suffer serious damage, affect driving performance, and pose a danger to you.

A Malfunctioning Torque Converter

A torque converter is utilized in the majority of automatic gearboxes. This component is a fluid coupling mechanism that connects the transmission to the engine.

Under certain conditions, a lockup clutch located inside the car converter gives a mechanical link between the transmission and the engine.

The torque converter can wear out due to heavy use or old age. This can result in trembling and gear slippage.

A faulty converter can disassemble and infect the car transmission with many debris, making the transmission warning light to illuminate

Electrical/Computer Malfunction

The transmission is managed by a control module that gets data from numerous sensors.

A data network connects the module to other modules for effective communication. Yet, any of these electrical links and sensors can fail anytime.

Module, sensor, and data network faults can illuminate the transmission warning light.

Other electrical problems, including damaged wiring or a bad shift solenoid, can also be the recipe to glow this warning light.

Malfunctioning Valve Body

A valve body is found in most continuous variables (CVTs) and traditional automatic transmissions.

The valve body comprises valves that guide the fluid flow through the channels so that it may be transferred to the transmission when needed.

Modern valve bodies frequently come with the TCM (transmission control module) and associated electronics.

The transmission might fall victim to a problem with the valve body, switching on the transmission warning light.

Internal Transmission Failure

With various internal elements trying to keep the transmission working, almost anything may go wrong. For example, the transmission houses the clutch packs, gear sets, and other components.

The system may detect an anomalous vehicle operation when any component fails and illuminate the warning symbol.

How To Solve The Problems When The Transmission Warning Light Turns On

transmission sign on dashboard

Stop Driving To Check

Due to the importance of transmission to control the vehicle, you should not overlook the transmission sign on dashboard. When it turns on, it’s better to pull over and assess the situation before proceeding.

Here are a few quick steps you can take to self-diagnose the problem. Stop driving, turn off the car engine, and wait a few minutes.

Then, take off the transmission dipstick to check the oil level. If the oil is only halfway up the dipstick, the transmission fluid is probably not the issue. In any event, you should have your vehicle towed.

Even when there are no obvious signs of a problem, you must thoroughly inspect. Otherwise, transmission damage could be more serious.

For instance, if the engine system is low on fluid and you try to drive, you may require a new transmission. Instead, you can stop and add some fluid.

Scan Codes

You may view what warnings are set in the system using a suitable OBD-II code scanner. Connect the code scanner to the OBD-II through the port to find out what’s wrong and check the DTCs.

Should there be many codes to sort through, it’s better to reset the warning light and drive the car.

After a few minutes, the light might turn back on, letting you get only the codes that are related to the current problem.

Find Help Of A Professional Or A Qualified Repair Shop

You should consult a mechanic once the codes do not give you the necessary information to solve the problem. When you contact them, be prepared to discuss anything strange you notice and the trouble codes.

In some circumstances, it’s advisable to go to a shop specializing in transmission repair. This is perfect when you wonder about a serious problem that may need a transmission rebuild or replacement.

Should You Continue To Drive With A Transmission Signal On Car? 

No, you shouldn’t do that. Don’t drive with the transmission warning light illuminated. The transmission is one of the most expensive sections of the vehicle.

Any problem with this component can lead to danger if you try to continue driving. You don’t want to play with flaws that could end up with irreversible damage.

Because the transmission warning light can activate for many causes, some of which are serious issues, experts recommend not driving your vehicle while it is glowing.

To avoid further damage to the car, you (or your mechanic) should immediately detect and rectify the problem.

Maybe you check and realize there’s only a minor problem, like a slight leak. Then, you might fill the system and continue driving while keeping an eye on the issue.

However, if the transmission is overheating or there is an internal issue, you should not delay. You may let the leak run for a while, but it could become a much greater problem at any time.

For these reasons, rectifying the issues as soon as possible is preferable. You want to solve the problem and prevent a transmission breakdown from occurring.

Otherwise, you may find yourself stranded on the roadside. You will also need to replace your transmission, which might cost from $1,700 to $3,500 or more.


If the transmission warning light symbol lights up, you must pay attention and stop the car to check as soon as possible.

As mentioned, many reasons will turn this warning light on, ranging from minor issues (lack of fluid) to more serious problems.

In addition to expensive repair, continuing to drive with a defective part also degrades your vehicle’s performance, possibly endangering you.

You may find the car is still operating normally, but if you go longer distances, the severe aftermath is waiting for you.

So never ignore the warning light on the car dashboard!

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