My transmission smells like a burnt cake

So I took off my radiator today to replace it and while disconnecting the transmission line I noticed the coolant smelled burnt but also maintained a red glow. My transmission shifts hard quite often. Should I flush the fluid? Just change it? Replace the transmission filter?

My car has 160 miles.
My car has an automatic transmission.

Experienced mechanics share their insights in answering this question :
Hello, thank you for writing in. It sounds like the engine and transmission have either gotten pretty hot or it is possible that the transmission cooler was leaking into the cooling system. If the coolant and transmission fluid both smelled fairly burnt then I would change the fluid completely in both. If you need to have your coolant and transmission fluid serviced, consider YourMechanic, as a certified mechanic can come to your home or office to replace these fluids.

How to Identify and Fix Common car Problems ?

Our sources include academic articles, blog posts, and personal essays from experienced mechanics :

The burning smell is usually an indication that a vehicle`s transmission fluid is old and needs to be changed. Having the vehicle`s transmission fluid changed will eliminate the burning smell and allow your vehicle`s transmission to shift more smoothly.
Burning Smell

If you notice the odor of burning plastic, smoke, or melting wires, this could indicate that your transmission is overheating or that the transmission fluid is burning. Worst case scenario, this smell could lead to an electrical fire, which is incredibly dangerous for you and other drivers on the road.

One major sign of low transmission fluid is overheating. If there`s not enough fluid to cool everything down, you may notice a burning smell or see smoke coming from your car.
While you can always check for a leak, transmission fluid has a unique odor that you can also identify it by. This fluid has a slightly sweet or tart odor and often attracts animals. If you start to notice a burning odor, this is the time to schedule (quickly) your next fluid change.
An overheating transmission usually means there is already some sort of internal damage or a transmission fluid issue, such as a leak, low fluid level or just old/dirty fluid running through the system. It can also happen with too much transmission fluid, which causes excess pressure within the transmission.
An overheating transmission can quickly lead to transmission failure. That`s why it`s so important not to push it if you suspect your transmission is overheating. The sooner you get your car to a transmission expert, the more likely it is you can avoid paying for a nasty transmission repair or replacement.
Shaking and jerking are good indicators of transmission trouble. Gear grinding is a common symptom in manual transmission vehicles. Automatic transmission failure often begins with some hesitation during gears shifting. Some might describe this a “slipping,” as well.
Does something smell amiss when you`re driving? It could be burning transmission fluid you`re smelling, and it`s one of the major warning signs that your vehicle`s transmission may be overheating. Regardless of the cause, a burning smell coming from your vehicle`s engine is never a welcome sign.
Foul-smelling transmission fluid or opaque in color can be a symptom of a bad torque converter. Faulty torque converters can severely damage your transmission if left untreated.
Odor: Transmission fluid usually smells like petroleum. If the fluid needs to be changed, it will smell burnt. Consistency: Transmission fluid will look/feel oily and slick like engine oil or brake fluid.
Low fluid levels can cause gears to miss, which will result in a grinding sensation. The occasional slipped gear might seem like a small issue at first, but it`s always a good idea to have the transmission looked at when this occurs to avoid costly repairs in the future.
Driving with a Cracked Radiator

Continuing to drive your car can cause your engine to overheat, which can cause major damage, including catastrophic transmission and engine failure.

External coolers are highly effective in keeping your transmission cool or at a regulated temperature, irrespective of the increased stress. External coolers will also work to minimize friction to the transmission, another cause of severe damage.
Symptoms of a bad transmission fluid temperature sensor:

Check engine light displays in the dash. The torque converter will not operate correctly. Harsh or delayed shifts. The vehicle goes into limp mode.

Did you know that an overheating automatic transmission can cause the engine to overheat? In cars with automatic transmissions there is a separate transmission radiator cooler which sits inside the radiator tank. Transmission fluid is processed through this separate tank and cooled.
Shaking and jerking are good indicators of transmission trouble. Gear grinding is a common symptom in manual transmission vehicles. Automatic transmission failure often begins with some hesitation during gears shifting. Some might describe this a “slipping,” as well.
Transmission fluid is flammable, although it requires high temperatures to ignite automatically, as do many other extremely viscous flammable compounds. Many scientists believe it is more combustible rather than flammable due to the high temperature necessary for its flammability.
If the fluid has passed its best before date, or if there`s a leak in your transmission and you don`t have enough fluid in it, the fluid will overheat and begin to burn.

Relevant Questions and Answers :

the most relevant questions and answers related to your specific issue

My transmission smells like a burnt cake
ANSWER : Hello, thank you for writing in. It sounds like the engine and transmission have either gotten pretty hot or it is possible that the transmission cooler was leaking into the cooling system. If the coolant and transmission fluid both smelled fairly burnt then I would change the fluid completely in both. If you need to have your coolant and transmission fluid serviced, consider YourMechanic, as a certified mechanic can come to your home or office to replace these fluids.

my engine is louder than usual it seemed to be overworking today it was vibrating then while driving I smelled strong burnt like s
ANSWER : Hello, thank you for writing in. The vibration is coming from the engine not working correctly. The cause of this is the focus of our attention. The white smoke is a sign that a fluid of some sort is being burned with the air/fuel mixture in the combustion chamber. With that being said, there quite a few components that may be at fault. We want to find out what type of fluid is being burned, and if it is the cause of the engine misfiring. Check all of your fluids (oil, coolant, transmission fluid) to see which ones are low. If oil or coolant is low, you may have a bad head gasket or valve cover gasket. Also check your spark plugs to see if any fouling has occurred. Further testing will help steer you in the right direction. For more diagnostic help, contact our service department to schedule an appointment.

I’ve been told I have leaking valves. Burning rubber smell, no external leaks but dripping noises, car not overheating
ANSWER : Hi there. It sounds like the valve cover gaskets are what is leaking. The gasket is made of rubber and can become hard and brittle over time and start leaking oil. The leak may not be one where it is literally leaving a puddle, but more along the lines of seeping out. The rear valve cover tilts toward the cab of the vehicle and when it leaks oil, this oil makes its way onto the very hot exhaust manifold. Both valve covers can leak enough oil at the corners toward the transmission to run down the engine block and end on the hot exhaust center pipe under the oil pan. Both of these pipes will literally burn the oil and produce the smell and sometimes smoke or what looks like steam. The condition will not go away on its own and will only get worse with time and use. I suggest having a qualified technician perform an inspection to confirm the leaks and avoid replacing unnecessary parts. Your Mechanic has several technicians available that can assist you with an oil leak inspection.

I have a strong burnt metal smell.
ANSWER : Most of the time, bad smells indicate leaks. Oil, coolant, or brake fluid can leak onto hot surfaces and cause some really potent eye burning type smells. But in your case, I’m suspicious of the brakes. If you have a brake caliper that is sticking, it can cause the car to pull in the direction of the bad caliper. It will also cause the brake lining to overheat and produce a really acrid smell as the binders in the lining burn off. You can check for this if you have a non-contact thermometer. Drive the car for a while and then check the temperature of the front wheels. One of them might be hot. If you want some help with this, you can Contact Your Mechanic. They can send a technician to your home or office to check out your bad smell and tell you what it means and what can be done about it.

What’s wrong when the starts and runs than starts sputtering and the car smells like burnt oil
ANSWER : You need to check the oil and coolant to see if the coolant is low and oil is contaminated with coolant. This engine is known to have intake manifold coolant leaks into the engine and the head gaskets leak coolant. Also the intake and heads get corroded and can leak. I would recommend having the engine checked for overheating and coolant in the oil by a mechanic like one from YourMechanic.

went from starting quick to running like crap and sound like crap also has a small back fire noise like say B with ur lips silnt
ANSWER : Hello there. If the fuel tank is contaminated with debris, it should be either replaced or completely cleaned out. However, the problem with older fuel cells is they are metal, and likely have a lot of rust in the fuel cell; which will contaminate the fuel and lead to the "running like crap" issues. It is also possible that you have an exhaust leak which can create the same type of sound and backfiring problems.

When I turn on my A/C it smells like transmission fluid
ANSWER : The first thing to check is to see if you have any kind of engine or transmission fluid leaks that the air conditioner could be drawing in the smell of the oils into the A/C air intake. If you have any kind of oils leaking onto the exhaust could be the cause of the smell. Try to run the A/C on max air only to see if the smell is reduced or goes away? This blocks most of the intake air from the outside from getting in the truck. If smell is reduced then the problem is an oil leak in the engine or transmission. Have a mechanic like one from YourMechanic come and locate the cause of those leaks for you.

2013 Ford Focus Transmission Issue. Is it worth keeping the car?
ANSWER : Hi There,
This is a known issue in this generation Ford Focus and some Fiestas with the "Power Shift" transmission and there have been numerous recalls and lawsuits. Although, it is would be difficult to determine how much longer your transmission will last given the fact that you have many new parts, I would not recommend junking the car as it may still provide some valuable life left for you. I would recommend taking it to the dealer to see if these parts may be covered under the recall.