2012 Chevy Malibu slipping transmission

I think the transmission on my car is slipping. When I left work yesterday it would not accelerate past ~20mph and the RPM needle would go up past 3. I pulled over when I could, turned it off, and turned it on a few minutes later, and the car was driving normally again! This morning I was able to drive to work normally with no issue.

I am new to my area and looking for a local mechanic but wanted to ask for advice here.

My car is a 2012 chevy malibu, I bought it used in 2015 and have ~60,000miles on it. Regular oil changes etc every year. I mostly drive it around town and I drive out of state (several states, midwest) a couple of times a year.

I’d have to check paperwork to see if transmission fluid was changed, I’m pretty sure it hasn’t, and I know 60,000 miles is pushing it.

Could that be the issue or is it worse? I initially thought it was a torque converter but someone else told me they thought it was electrical because it worked fine when I turned it on again.

What would be the line between doing a repair and just trading it in for a new(er) car? Am I going to have to replace the entire transmission or could it be the fluid or a seal or something?

Was there a yellow light - the check engine light - on the dash showing? Was it flashing?

If either were there, it may not be a transmission problem but your mechanic should check the car for stored error codes. That should direct them to start to understand the problem.


Go and get it checked out by a mechanic before jumping onto the “need to trade in the car” bandwagon. That way you’re dealing with facts, rather than assumptions.

More than likely, it probably needs a transmission fluid change.

See where things go from there.

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That sounds like a classic description of the car going into Limp Home Mode in order to protect the engine and/or transmission from further damage. Take a look at this:

I would be very surprised if the CEL was not lit-up or flashing.
If it was… Why did the OP not mention that important detail?

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Just as a consumer, I have my trans fluid changed at 30K but still at 60K that is not your problem. Slipping could be either an electronic failure or a hard parts failure inside the transmission. If it’s hard parts, it’s a transmission overhaul. Go to an independent ATRA member shop not a chain like AAMCO. I have had limp mode but not slipping and that turned out to be the shift solenoids, but see a shop.


If the problem isn’t found to be elsewhere, if I had that problem I’d start w/a proper transmission maintenance service. Replace the fluid & filter as applicable. Auto-trans have to build up a really high pressure in the hydraulics to create the force needed to effect the gear change. If any of the seals aren’t holding pressure, b/c they have grown stiff with age & temperature for example, this could occur. New trans fluid will have fresh seal-conditioning chemicals which will help return some of the seal’s flexibility.

Sounds like an electronic or sensor problem to me. If it was a true hard part failure inside the transmission, I don’t think turning the key off and back on would have changed anything. It never worked for me on my old Dodge Ram, anyway!

Like mentioned, get it to a shop and have the codes read. 60k miles on the same fluid won’t kill a trans that wasn’t going to die early anyway. Most folks go a lot longer without changing the fluid and the trans makes it many more miles. I don’t recommend this maintenance routine, but my father in law’s truck has over 200k miles with original trans fluid, plugs, etc. Some glutton for punishment side of me really wants to do some maintenance on that truck just to see how well it responds! The trans fluid is as black as your soul and the engine knocks and pings and rattles. But…it still drives pretty decent :joy:

But you know as well as the rest of us, when it dies in 6 months, he’ll blame you.

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Oh yeah, I’m hoping to get a shot at getting it when he eventually gets rid of it. It isn’t driven much anymore. I’d be really hesitant to change the fluid while he owned it. If it was mine, I’d change it anyway. If it dies, it wasn’t long for the world anyway.