View Full Version : Tranny question
12-10-2003, 05:47 PM
1993 Volvo 850GLT, 4spd Auto
Just looking for general ideas here from those who might be in the know.
About 2 months ago, not seeming to be temperature (weather)related, but if the car sat for 12+hrs - overnight, upon starting and driving, it would take about 1 or 2 minutes before it would shift out of first gear. Sometimes it would work fine right out of the gate, and when it didn't shift, you could slide the shifter down to '3' and it would shift to 3rd (from first), move it back to 'drive' and it would be fine by the time you hit the stopsign to leave the street.
I had the car in for service (Volvo dealer) on some other maintenance and ran the issue by the service advisor, he didn't have an answer off the top of his head - I told him I'd worry about it later, and get the other things I was having done off the list first. At the time, the car seemed fine, it was just a small inconvenience that popped up on occasion. I did go ahead and have and flush/fill done on the tranny while it was there.
Now it seems to be getting progressively worse. My wife used to be able to leave work (after the car sat for 8hrs or so) and it would shift fine EVERY time, right out of the gate. This past week it has been giving her fits when she leaves work. Today after work, it wouldn't shift again, and now when it finally does (or after you force it into 3rd)....it takes about 5 minutes before you ever hit 4th gear (so to do 60 on the highway, she's plowing along at 3500-3700 rpm until the thing FINALLY shifts in 4th).
Thoughts? I REALLY don't want a $1000+ repair - it seems like anytime I've taken any of my previous cars and trucks in for tranny work - it's never pleasant news. Me personally, I'm DONE with auto's - stick all the way.
12-10-2003, 06:52 PM
Have you check the transmission fluid level?
If that is low, most defintly fill it up. Your owners manual should tell you what fluid you need to use.
As far as what else could be wrong, well, a bunch of things.
How many miles are on the car? Has the transmission ever been serviced? If so, did they change fluid and replace the filter inside the transmission?
The transmission is slipping and not shifting, we already determined that. Is the gear shifter hard to move? Does it take some wiggling to get it to move, kinda like it's jammed?
Now, from what I know so far, what could be wrong is a few things.
First off, it could be low on fluid and most likely is. If the fluid level is not high enough, there will not be enough fluid to support the pressure levels needed to change gears when needed. Check the fluid level with the dipstick that will be protruding rather conspicously into the engine compartment. If it isn't where it is supposed to be, get your self a funnel and the appropriate transmission fluid and start filling it up a little at a time. Careful not to overfill it. Then drive the car for a little bit to see if the problems still occur.
The pump inside the transmission that moves the fluid throughout the transmission could be on it's way out. That would cause a drop in fluid pressure and it would not be able to shift because fluid pressure would take too long to build up and the transmission would not be able to spin fast enough to build up pressure. This is an unlikely problem but possible. The pump is a simple pump and has very few moving parts. It is usually the very last thing to go bad.
The torque converter is worn/broken. If the torque converter is worn out or broken, it will affect how the transmission shifts. There are ways to tell but you have to get the transmission away from the engine and not too many people are keen on that task and for good reason too.
The valve body could be sticking. Inside the transmission there is a complex piece of metal with valleys, tubes and popet (sp?) valves (check ball valves really) and they can get gummed up with varnish and goo from dirty transmission fluid. That could be causing problems and is usually fixed by changing the fluid and filter.
The bands and clutch packs could be worn out. Inside the transmission there is a series of clutches arranged in packs. Those clutches are moved by bands and springs. They are what gets moved to shift the gears around inside the transmission. If the friction surfaces of the bands and clutch packs are sufficiently worn, they will not have enough grip to shift gears. That is usually what is happening when your transmission is slipping. That will defintly require a rebuild. It'd be cheap to get a new transmission.
You should take care of this as soon as you can. The slipping and excessive RPM levels needed to shift the transmission cause heat build up. Dirty fluid and excessive heat are bad things for a transmission.
What you can do yourself is not much. Number one, check that fluid level. This is going to sound weird but, put a dab of it off the end of the dipstick on your finger. Is it brown? Rub it, is it gritty or slimey? If it is brown, gritty and slimey, it should be changed along with the filter. You can do that yourself but it's messy and since there may be other problems, you might want a shop to do it and check everything out. Also, smell the transmission fluid. I know you don't know what to smell but just take whiff. Burned fluid stinks to high heaven with a very putrid odor. You'll recoil from the stench if it is burned. It smells like nothing else out there but you will know it when you smell it. Good fluid has a putrid smell too but it is no where near as strong and is only mildly offensive, kinda like new motor oil. If the fluid is burned then it needs to be changed. It may also signal bigger problems so get it checked out.
Beyond that, there is not much the average joe can do regarding transmissions. I will discourage anyone except the very experienced backyard mechanic from trying to do even minor service to a transmission. They are heavy and awkward and very difficult to work with. They are filled with little bitty parts that you can lose track of extremely easy. If you try to take it apart and screw it up, you will not only have to pay for the repair work to fix your screw up but you'll also have to pay for the tow to the shop and eat the cost of whatever parts you bought and screwed up. It is much easy, cheaper, simpler and smarter to just take it to a shop to begin with. So beyond checking the fluid, I'd take it to a shop. You can check the fluid and such yourself.
If you answer my questions I asked at the beginning I may be able to get a better idea of where the problem lies. Above all though, my advice is to check your fluid and then get it to a shop as soon as you can. The longer your run it in this condition, the worse it will get and the more it will end up costing to get fixed.
12-10-2003, 08:16 PM
Checked the fluid idling warm in park - right on the money. No grit, still has a nice redish-pink color. I've seen dirty fluid, so I know what you are talking about.
146K on the odometer, tranny serviced at recommended intervals - not sure if the filter was changed last time.
Doesn't shift hard, just doesn't shift at all (until x amount of time/driving has passed.
Doesn't slip at all, when it works, it runs and drives like new.
Gear shifter moves fine, not sticking or having to use force to move it.
I'll go ahead and park it, until I can get it to the shop then. Thanks for the 'lesson' regardless, I'll probably read it again and absorb for a few. So would you take it to Volvo, your local 'fix it all' shop, or straight to a Tranny-only specialist?
12-10-2003, 08:51 PM
Depends on who you trust the most really. The Volvo dealer will probably have an easier time getting parts than a trans shop. The Volvo dealer will be more expensive probably though.
If the fluid is good though and you don't have any other driveability problems other than the shifting then it's going to be a fairly expensive repair. At 146K on the odometer, it could very well need a rebuild or a new torque converter.
The only reason transmission work is expensive is labor. It takes alot of work to diagnose and fix a tranmission and it isn't easy at all. It is labor intensive and its the reason most dealers will jst replace teh transmission with a remanufactured unit rather than tear it apart themselves.
If you goto the dealer, they are most likely going to give you a remanufactured transmission. If you goto a transmission shop, they are going to try and fix the one you have. That doesn't always work and you can end up having chronic problems. So the decision to make is goto a dealer and pay out the nose with less of a hassle or goto a trans shop and pay out of only one nostril with the chance of never ending hassles.
Both usually come with a warranty too.
The third option is retire teh Volvo to a used car lot and get a new car.
12-10-2003, 10:23 PM
Well, we will see what pans out. It will get fixed, regardless - its way too clean, and the motor seems to be bulletproof. I plan to see it hit 200 - 220K before I even think of retiring it.
Good info though, I do appreciate you taking the time to lay it all out like you did.
12-11-2003, 12:15 AM
You might have more success in the Volvo forum.
12-11-2003, 07:52 AM
Definitely sounds like torque converter is due for replacement. Shouldn't be too terribly expensive.
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