Automatic transmission electrical whining/buzzing noise in neutral



Hi everybody!

I have a 2002 Saturn SL2 with automatic transmission. I have started to notice a buzzing noise in my car when going to neutral. Sounds electrical to me, definitely not a grinding noise. The car shifts fine and is quiet in park, reverse and drive. It is not related to RPM’s. I can hear it coming from the area behind the front driver side wheel.

When you go to neutral, it is almost as if something is “activating” or “engaging” and then the noise stays there until you shift to drive, reverse or park.

I couldn’t find anyone with the same problem anywhere, except for this person in the saturnfans forum. I don’t see this user posting anything more about this “problem” so is it safe to assume that this is normal? I have never heard an automatic transmission do this before, that’s why I am worried.

Link here

Any help is appreciated. Thank you.


Did you pull up the dipstick to check the level of the tranny fluid? Could be low or dirty.


When in neutral does the sound change if you rev the engine? If so my first thought belt tensioner or belt.


I pulled the dipstick, and I believe the transmission was overfilled. It was past the cross the “MAX HOT” area. There were also some bubbles on the dipstick. The fluid itself is clean. I drained the fluid but I am going to be changing the filter and the fluid tomorrow. I bought some blue Valvoline Dex/Merc ATF fluid and a PowerTorque filter. I am not sure how good this brand of filter is but there aren’t any other filters in stock right now.

Some people over the Saturn forums told me it might be a solenoid. Some say the noise is normal. Some even say bubbles are normal, I am confused.


Nope it doesn’t change when revving the engine. You can’t hear it at all unless you are idling or waiting in a drive through close to a wall or something.


Some automatic transmission are noisy. I had a small Honda Ridgeline pick-up that would whine and buzz all the time and it was normal behavior for that transmission. Go to a used car dealership and test drive a similar vehicule and see if it does it.


Oh okay I didn’t know that. I was thinking the same thing. I wanted to test drive another Saturn and see if it makes the same noise.

Well I already bought the ATF Fluid and the filter. Do you think I should get another filter or the PowerTorque is okay? I can’t find many reviews, if any at all on PowerTorque filters.


This is the one I found