How to Diagnose a Failing Outlander Transmission

Outlander transmission problems are nothing to scoff at. When your transmission fails, your car simply can’t move. Also, fixing or replacing a transmission can run you up thousands of dollars.

The best way to save money on transmission repairs or replacements and to keep your Outlander in good working order is to know the symptoms of a failing transmission and to be able to diagnose the issue as soon as you notice the symptoms.

If you own an Outlander, this diagnostic guide will come in quite handy.

Common Symptoms of a Failing Transmission

Fluid leak

The symptoms listed below are indicators that something may be wrong with your transmission:

  • Delayed shifting from Park or Neutral to Drive
  • Vibrations at highway speed
  • Inability to shift into Park or Reverse
  • Illuminated check engine light or transmission light
  • Fluid leaks
  • Transmission slips

Engine Issue or Transmission Issue?

Before rolling up your sleeves and thoroughly checking the transmission, you might want to see if the symptoms aren’t attributed to an engine or accessory problem first. Sometimes it may seem that the transmission is going out, but the engine or accessory is really the root of the problem. The best way to determine whether your Outlander is plagued by a transmission problem or engine problem is to take your car out on a test drive.

Test Driving the Vehicle

To ensure that you’re dealing with a transmission issue instead of an engine issue, take your Outlander out for a spin and keep a keen eye out for the following signs:

  • Burning smell: it could be either the transmission fluid or engine oil. Transmission fluid has a sweeter smell. If you smell something, try to figure out if it smells more like transmission fluid or engine oil. If you’re still not sure, check under the car and look for leaks so you can easily determine which fluid is leaking.
  • Hesitation on acceleration: If you feel hesitation when you accelerate, it’s an engine issue (probably a clogged air or fuel filter).
  • Sounds: You can differentiate between engine problems and transmission problems just by listening. If your transmission is on the fritz, you’ll probably hear whining, buzzing, or humming noises. If it’s the engine, then you’ll probably hear hissing, whirring, or backfiring.
  • Hard shifting: If you feel jerking when the transmission changes gears, then the transmission is likely the issue rather than the engine.

Checking the Transmission

If you’ve ruled out engine issues, it’s time to focus on the transmission. Here’s how you can check it.

Checking the Transmission Fluid

Check fluid

Image Credit: Dan Vo

Like motor oil, the transmission fluid can tell you a lot about the state of the transmission. So it’s worth taking the time to check the fluid. To do this:

  1. Park your Outlander on a flat surface to ensure that you get the right reading on the dipstick. Leave the engine running. You want to make sure the engine remains hot so you can properly observe the transmission fluid.
  2. Check the dipstick. Wipe it clean, take note of where the level marks are, and then dip it into the transmission fluid reservoir.
    1. The fluid should be nearly clear and pinkish. If the fluid is brownish and smells like burnt toast, then it's no longer good, as it can't dissipate the heat as well anymore. An Outlander transmission overheating leads to complete transmission failure sooner or later.
    2. What's the fluid level? It should be between the two marks on the dipstick, either marked "full" and "add" or "hot" and "cold". If it's too low, then there might be a leak somewhere.

Checking for Leaks

Another easy way to diagnose a failing transmission is to check for leaks. Get underneath your Outlander and check the transmission cooler lines, the transmission itself, and anything else related to the transmission for leaks.

Checking the Transmission's Performance

It's common for the mechanism in an Outlander CVT transmission to fail. As a result, it fails to apply enough pressure to spin the belt. The best way to see if there's something wrong with one of the gears is to do this:

  1. Start your Outlander.
  2. With your foot on the brake, shift the transmission between park, drive, reverse, and so on and pay attention to the way the gearshift feels. If it feels hesitant, then the gearshift or the shift linkage components might be on the fritz. If you feel grinding or vibrations upon gear changes, then something is wrong with the transmission internally.
  3. Take your Outlander out for a spin. At several instances, accelerate the car while observing the RPM values on the tachometer. If the vehicle doesn't seem to accelerate as quickly as the RPM's climb, then the internal CVT pulley system might be the problem.

Finding a Replacement Transmission

The Mitsubishi Outlander transmission replacement cost can be pretty high, but you can save quite a bit money by ordering an OEM one online. At, we offer genuine OEM transmissions at rock bottom prices. For example, this CVT transmission for 2016-2018 Outlanders is over $2K cheaper than regular price. If you bargain hunt a bit, you'll end up saving thousands of dollars on a transmission replacement. Find your replacement OEM Mitsubishi transmission today!