Transmission Light – What Is It? And What Does It Mean?

Cars are designed to be user-friendly, and that’s why they’re equipped with numerous helpful features. Some of those features can tell you something is wrong with your vehicle. That’s the case with the feature known as the transmission light.

The transmission light inside your car will turn on for different reasons. The main reason it lights up is that issues affect your transmission. Your vehicle’s check transmission light may also turn on because there is some overdue maintenance you must take care of.

It’s easy to lose track of everything going on with your car amidst the numerous things you must deal with regularly. Carmakers are aware of that and have included features designed to help you stay on top of things better. All you need to do is pay attention when your car tells you something’s wrong.

Read on to learn more about the significance of the transmission warning light and what you should do if it turns on while driving.

What Is the Transmission Light

transmission light

Signals Transmission Issues

The transmission light in your vehicle can alert you to issues that are harming your transmission. It may also light up as a reminder to conduct overdue maintenance.

If you take good care of your car and maintain it regularly, there’s a chance you’ve probably never seen your transmission light turn on before. After it activates one day, you may just be confused by that unfamiliar symbol that has popped up on your dashboard.

Because you don’t recognize that strange symbol, you are more likely to ignore it. That would not be ideal.

With all that in mind, let’s take this opportunity to discuss the importance of that transmission light.

Does Not Have a Universal Symbol

First, you should know that the transmission light does not have a universal appearance.

Some drivers may see an illuminated depiction of gear with a thermometer inside of it. Others may see an exclamation point instead of the thermometer. The warning may even be presented as illuminated text flashing on your screen.

Symbol Depends on the Vehicle Type

The point is that your transmission light may be different from what we’re describing here. How it looks will depend on the type of vehicle you have. The light may have also changed over time, so even similar models may display different symbols if made in different years.

Check the Car Manual

Open your car manual and check if it says anything about a check transmission light. There may even be a depiction of the symbol there that you can reference.

Why Does Your Transmission Light Come On?

You now have a general idea of what the transmission light looks like. That means we can now turn our attention to its significance.

A car’s transmission light turns on for two main reasons. It will either turn on because of an issue with your vehicle’s transmission or because you need to perform critical maintenance.

Let’s dive deeper into those reasons to understand better what the transmission warning light is trying to say:

1. Transmission Issues

The illuminated transmission light can indicate issues currently affecting your car’s transmission. Go through the bullet points below and find out what those issues are:

Debris in the Transmission

Debris may fall into the transmission fluid because there’s something wrong with your torque converter. It could be an issue you can fix, but old torque converters may be beyond repair. You’ll have to replace your torque converter if you want the transmission warning light to shut off again.

Malfunctioning Valve Body

The valve body’s job is to organize the flow of different fluids. Thanks to the valve body, your transmission will receive the needed fluids. If that valve body is not working correctly, your car will notify you by switching the check transmission light.

Other Busted Components

Numerous parts must work together to ensure that your transmission is functioning properly. You’ll know if one of those parts is malfunctioning because your car will tell you immediately.

2. Car Requires Routine Maintenance

The appearance of that bright transmission light does not always mean that something is wrong with your car. It can also be a reminder that your vehicle needs to undergo maintenance.

Below are the specific instances wherein the transmission light may activate to tell you that maintenance is overdue:

Transmission Fluid Check

When was the last time you checked or changed your transmission fluid? You may have forgotten about that while tending to various errands. Expect the car to offer you a reminder if you haven’t checked on your transmission fluid lately.

Routine Check-Up Reminder

Routine check-ups are recommended for your car so you can prevent potential issues. You can avoid a costly expense if you regularly take your vehicle to the mechanic. The transmission light may activate to remind you that maintenance is already overdue.

Why Is the Transmission Light Blinking?

transmission light meaning

It’s hard to miss the check transmission light since it will glow brightly on your dashboard. You may be able to ignore it, but you probably won’t miss it.

However, there are times when the light will not always emit a steady glow. Instead, you may see the light blink continuously to signify something is wrong.

The blinking light does not mean that the transmission light itself is faulty. It’s just telling you that your transmission is overheating. A car’s transmission may overheat for different reasons:

Driving in Warm Weather

The weather outside can affect the condition of your transmission. If you’re driving in warm conditions, your transmission will be more prone to overheating. Avoid driving in those conditions, or at least shorten your trip, so you don’t have any transmission issues.

Malfunctioning Solenoid

A malfunctioning solenoid can cause your vehicle’s transmission to overheat quickly. That’s because the solenoid is likely impeding the proper movement of transmission fluid inside your vehicle.

Overused Transmission

The way you drive your vehicle will also impact your transmission. Braking and hitting the accelerator too often can be problematic. Your transmission will wear down faster due to those bad habits of yours.

Again, what does it mean when your transmission light comes on? When the transmission light is on, your car has transmission issues. Nowadays, a car’s transmission is traditional, has a dual-clutch design, or is continuously variable.

Can You Drive Your Car with Transmission Light On?

You look at your dashboard and see the check transmission light glowing. Upon seeing that, you may start to feel anxious. You’re wondering if you need to stop driving immediately or if you can keep going for a while.

So, what should you do? The problem is you don’t know the issue affecting your vehicle’s transmission then.

There’s a chance the transmission light is on because it reminds you to perform maintenance. You haven’t checked your transmission for some time, and you need to do something about that. It may also be time for you to add some transmission fluid.

Conducting that routine maintenance is essential, but it can wait until you get to your destination.

Things are different if the transmission warning light is active because it has issues. You shouldn’t be driving around with your vehicle in that kind of condition.

Cut your journey short and look for the nearest mechanic instead if the light comes on.

Even if it turns out that you only need some maintenance, stopping was still the right decision. If something’s seriously wrong with your vehicle, things could have easily gotten worse, and your car may be out of commission for a while.

The unexpected expense is not ideal, but it’s better than paying for costly repairs or a new car.

What do You Do When Your Transmission Light Comes On?

transmission light symbol

Do not panic when you see the transmission light turn on. Remember that it’s there to help you out. It’s not too late to do something about your transmission, but you must take action as soon as possible.

Detailed in this section are the steps you must take if your car’s check transmission light comes on:

1. Stop Your Car

Stop your car as soon as possible if you see the transmission light turn on. Let your transmission cool down, so pull over when you can. Wait a few minutes before hopping back into the driver’s seat.

2. Look for the Nearest Mechanic

Grab your phone and look for the nearest mechanic in your current area. Upon finding a said mechanic, set a route there so you can reach them quickly.

Looking up the nearest mechanic before driving again allows you to reduce the amount of time you need to spend on the road. Given the current condition of your car, that would be immensely helpful.

3. Carefully Drive to the Mechanic

Now that you know where the mechanic is, you can hop back into your car and start driving again. Make sure to drive carefully. You don’t want to unnecessarily strain your car’s transmission until it gets checked out.

4. Stop Your Car If the Transmission Light Turns Back On

The transmission warning light should have been turned off after you stopped your vehicle and allowed it to cool down. You need to stop if it lights up again while you’re driving. Let your car cool down again before you resume driving.

Driving like that can be tedious and annoying. Still, that’s better than having your vehicle break down.

5. Call a Towing Service

Your car may be so rough that even the short trip to the mechanic is too much for it. In that case, your only option may be to call a towing service. Ask them to take your car to the mechanic so it can get checked out.

Are All Vehicles Equipped with a Transmission Light?

Earlier, we mentioned that the transmission light could differ from one car to the next. What we haven’t mentioned yet is that some vehicles may have no transmission lights at all.

Does that mean that those vehicles will not alert you to transmission issues? That’s not the case, either.

Instead of dedicated transmission lights, those vehicles will use other lights to send warnings. They may use traction control or overdrive lights to draw your attention to your car’s transmission-related problems.

Your car’s manual should be able to clear things up. It should tell you how your vehicle approaches transmission-related issues so take the time to read it.

Conclusion: Transmission Light Meaning

Pay attention to your car, so you can tell if there’s something wrong. Car manufacturers have even included features that are specifically designed to draw our attention to emerging problems. The transmission light is one of those features.

The appearance of the transmission light on your dashboard is a clear sign that your vehicle needs your attention. Heed the warning you’re given and take action immediately. Doing so can potentially save your vehicle from severe damage.