Bottoming Out: What Happens When A Transmission Hits The Ground

Posted on: 6 October 2017

The phrase, "bottoming out" in the auto industry means that you have put untold force either down or up on the underside of your vehicle. It is usually the fenders and/or the shocks and struts that are affected. However, the transmission can bottom out, too. Here is what happens when your transmission bottoms out.

Hit the Ground Running

Okay, usually when you "hit the ground running" it is a good thing. For a transmission, it is definitely not a good thing. Your engine is revving, your car goes soaring over a bump, gains a little hang time in the air, and lands, still running and revving, with a thud and a smack. If your transmission and drive train do not go straight up through your car's floor, you are very lucky. You never want to do this to a car, but a lot of thrill-seekers do because the bumps in the road are so much fun. Unfortunately, those bumps are also going to cost you.

Cracked Knuckle Joint Casings and Busted Transmissions

Moving fast enough with enough power and landing really hard results in cracked knuckle joint casings, lost control over the wheels, and busted transmissions. Worse still, you could end up with the majority of your transmission, drive train, and knuckle joint dragging on the ground. That is hundreds, even maybe a grand or two, of repairs right there. Even if you do not end up with these parts dragging on the ground under the car, it is just a matter of time and another hard bump landing before it happens.

The Full Impact on the Transmission

The full impact of the downward bounce of the vehicle and the upward hit to the transmission does more than pop it loose and drag it on the ground. The transmission has several other components that will be badly damaged in the process. The problem is, these problems will not register until you begin having difficulties steering, shifting your car into gear, and/or driving in a particular gear (e.g., the car will move in 1st and 2nd gear, but not in overdrive, making it impossible to drive fast on the highway).

A transmission shop cannot simply replace the inner guts of a transmission. The entire transmission has to be removed and replaced. That will definitely cost you some big bucks, so you might want to lay off the bump bouncing if you want to keep your car in better condition.