4 Symptoms of a Bad Speed Sensor (and Replacement Cost)

There are two types of speed sensors available for a vehicle. There is the engine speed sensor and the transmission speed sensor.

The engine speed sensor detects how many revolutions per minute (RPM) your engine’s crankshaft is spinning in real time. The transmission speed sensor detects how fast your car is traveling on the road.

When you look at your dashboard, you can see the tachometer representing the engine speed and the speedometer representing the transmission speed. Both sensors are constantly communicating with the engine control unit of the vehicle.

The information the engine control unit receives from these sensors will allow it to take the appropriate actions with the functioning of the engine and transmission. All the sensors are equally important and have an indirect impact on other components of the vehicle.

Faulty Speed Sensor Symptoms

The transmission speed sensors are built into the wheel hubs of your vehicle. This is how the speed and movement of the vehicle get calculated by these sensors. However, the transmission of your vehicle depends on both types of speed sensors in order to function properly.

If either or both sensors were to malfunction, then you would experience a wide variety of symptoms from your vehicle. These are not symptoms that you could tolerate for very long because they will gravely impact your ability to drive safely.

Below are the top 4 symptoms of a faulty speed sensor that you should watch for.

1) Malfunctioning Cruise Control

The transmission speed sensors need to be functional if your cruise control mechanism is going to work properly. If the engine control unit cannot receive the proper information about the vehicle speed, then your cruise control will never be able to maintain the same speed.

The engine control unit will be able to detect this problem, so it automatically prevents cruise control from being used until the problem is fixed. If you do not normally use cruise control but you expect your speed sensors are faulty, test them out by attempting to use cruise control and see what happens.

2) Check Engine Light

When the “Check Engine” light illuminates, this could mean almost anything. But if you have malfunctioning cruise control and a Check Engine light coming on, this is a clear indication of a faulty speed sensor.

After all, the engine control unit depends on having valid speed information regarding the engine’s crankshaft. If it does not receive this accurate information, it will signal to the driver by automatically illuminating the “Check Engine” light.

3) Long Shifting Intervals

The engine control unit communicates with the transmission. If the transmission speed sensors end up failing, the unit won’t be able to properly manage the gear shifting actions that you make.

As a result, you may notice the timing of your shifting will be off. This means there will be a small waiting period between each shift that you make.

4) Difficulty Shifting

Along with the shifting intervals that you will experience, shifting the stick will be more difficult in general. You may notice the stick shift either feeling rougher as you try to change gears, or it will feel too fast.

In order to be a safe driver, the shifting experience needs to be smooth. It should not be too hard or too easy.

Read also: Coolant temperature sensor problem symptoms

Speed Sensor Replacement Cost

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We recommend PartsGeek.com or BuyAutoParts.com for the best prices and selection.

The replacement cost of the average speed sensor will be between $20 and $50. Sometimes there are speed sensors as cheap as $8 while others go up to $100. Then you need to consider the labor costs on top of that which is another $50.

Although this is not much money, they can add up if you have multiple speed sensors go bad.

12 thoughts on “4 Symptoms of a Bad Speed Sensor (and Replacement Cost)”

  1. I need help,my Lexus is250 speedometer is not working perfectly and now the car won’t start, please can someone tell me what to do to make the car start, do I need to change the speedometer before it will work?

    • Hello Shaffer, I would start by having the battery tested. I am skeptical that a speedometer failure would prevent your car from starting.

  2. The battery has been tested already but still the car won’t start and is not showing the necessary light on the speedometer and right from time the speedo mileage is not working, i need help what should i do?

    • I would take your car to a qualified mechanic for an in-person diagnosis. This type of thing is pretty tricky to diagnose over the internet.

  3. Buick 2003 3.1 century has a long shift from 1st to 2nd gear after starting the car. No problem putting it in gear (drive) . It will take about 10 minutes before it get s into 2nd with s hard shift then holds a while then 3rd afterwards it’s smooth sailing and warmed up by then but once stopped and parked for a while it starts over again unless it’s not parked long.

  4. I have a 1990 c2500 the shift timing is off and I’m getting a code of speed sensor fault. Yesterday in the middle of driving it wouldnt shift out of 1sst gear. Reverse works. But I have noticed emissions issues and improper shift timing. No slippinng,it just wont shift.

  5. I have a 2004 Chrysler Pacifica I find myself driving then car goes into auto stick and it drives roughly and don’t pick up speed could you tell me the problem I was thinking speed sensor

  6. Hie, I have a Toyota Sienta Cvt automatic transmission. It just failed to go foward whilst I was driving. I diagnosed the problem and found that it had damaged the drive seal and the clutches. I have replaced the drive seal and clutches and the car now has forward drive but the problem is that it won’t shifting into high gears. What could be the problem causing it to behave in that way? ?

  7. I bashed up over a curb the other day. This morning the speedometer isn’t responding, the car won’t shift out of, I think it’s second, it’s max speed is 24mph according to my cell phone, and the power steering has disengaged. It was interesting to read that there’s a sensor down near the wheel because that’s what got knocked around under the tire, you could feel it amidst the jostle. I’m taking it to an automechanic tomorrow morning but are these symptoms generally consistent with a faulty sensor or do you think the steering and transmission are related to something else? I was thinking, it seems like it could be a safety feature to prevent people from getting away with driving without the governor engaged in assessing speed – like preventing a loophole for people to get away with driving without having a governor. Is that what’s probably happening or is it more likely multiple issues? I am driving a 2006 Saturn Ion that has been corrected for all of the recalls.


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