If you're like most drivers, you tend to ignore the subtle signs that there might be something wrong with your car. Admittedly, many sounds are the result of vibrations, uneven road surfaces and relatively minor issues like loose bolts or hoses. Unusual smells can be the result of picking up a foreign substance from the road. However, there are a few sounds, smells and other signs you need to pay attention to carefully as these are likely an indication that your transmission needs to be serviced immediately.

1. You car is leaking transmission fluid. Unlike your other car fluids, transmission fluid is a bright red color, which makes a leak easy to identify. This fluid has a slightly tart smell and its appearance on your driveway can indicate a crack in your transmission fluid pan, worn gaskets and even damaged bell housings.

2. Unusual sounds. Grinding noises when you shift a manual transmission are an easy sign to notice (and an indicator that you need to see a mechanic as soon as possible.) However, with an automatic transmission, the sounds of a failing transmission aren't quite so dramatic. Listen for a whining, whirring or humming sound when your car changes gears. You may also feel a slight shimmy or vibration when your transmission shifts into a new gear.

3. Pauses. Another sign that you likely have a problem with your transmission is if your car hesitates slightly before it goes into gear. Such a delay not only indicates a transmission problem, but can be a safety issue as well. Best to call your mechanic right away.

4. Odors. A slightly burnt odor coming from your engine can indicate a number of engine issues. However, one of the most common is your transmission fluid burning, often a sign of overheating gears.

5. Jerking. If your car has an automatic transmission, it should shift from one gear to the next easily and without a lot of excess motion. If your car is jerking when it changes gear, you likely have an issue with your transmission and should have your car looked at by a mechanic.

While many car noises and vibrations are nothing to worry about, you should make an appointment with a mechanic immediately if you notice a red puddle of transmission fluid on your driveway, feel a shimmy or hear a whir when your transmission shifts gears and/or experience a pause before your car goes into gear.

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