Missions: Transmission failure

I tried to go out to visit the old Salinas missions today, and my transmission failed big time shifting into reverse as the gears slipped on my way up a hill in the middle of nowhere. I usually drive a stick, but my last 2 cars/trucks have been automatics – not by choice but by economic availability (<$660). My understanding is that ATs work with torque converters and not clutches. What I experienced was a big jolt although I still moved forward (I think in neutral). When I looked at the dash, the gear shift selector said I was in reverse. Maybe the solenoids saved me. I steered to the side, and then checked the truck to see of it would restart. I got it started and was in 1st or 2nd gear only for about 30 min. (max speed 10 mph) as I turned around. I tried manually selecting 3rd gear, but experienced jolts as the transmission failed to shift, so dropped it back into drive. After I stopped for a while and let the dogs out for a run, I was later was able to get it up to 45 mph – at which point I was careful to maintain speed. Obviously hills are going to be problematic – so I turned around and am looking for a used tranny in the area. They want $650 for the one that I found. It is pulled.

Looking for funds…

Trying to gauge the severity of the problem. I am able to drive around Albuquerque at 30-40 mph without incident – no shifting problems noted – although I am very very gentle when I accelerate. I am afraid to go to higher speeds.

Looking at the transmission fluid, it seems at a normal level, and in not too horrible shape. The picture is a pull, wipe, and redip with the engine running in idle. The fluid smells somewhat like rubber – but not really burnt. I was able to get it up to 45 mph with 1200 rpm, so I think that I can pretty safely say that I got 4th gear. At least 4 gears are ok. So, I am thinking a sensor/solenoid failed on the transmission, and the truck spontaneously shifted into reverse. The solenoids protected the shift, and although the gear shift indicator showed reverse, the truck continued to move forward in neutral, probably with engine stalling (I don’t actually know in the moment of panic). All of the torque on the gears (I’m guessing I was in 4th or 5th gear when this happened), goes into the hydraulics which heat up and cause the system to fail to shift out of 1st gear (the 1-2 clutch) for the next 30 min. After everything cools down, the system responds normally again. I can very smoothly drive it around at speeds below 45 mph. I am afraid to try higher. The sensor light is not on. So, the gears seem ok (at least up to 4th). The slip seems really opportunistic – correlated with other events (the words “Learn to Pray” on the radio), almost like an act of terrorism.

My truck is the fluid sample in the middle of the page. I checked a city truck’s transmission fluid at the top right (very pink) – they had had everything maintained last week. Power steering fluid is on the top left. I also did a check of the pH since I had some pH paper – I note the TLC like separation of the fluid on the paper, but it seems like a normal pH

According to this site, the sensors need to be checked. My truck is a C series – that is 2WD. This site details transmission problems. I think the transmission should probably be changed or rebuilt. A guy here wants $950 for a rebuild. With the $660 rebuilt transmission, I’m looking at some labor help to get it in. The last transmission I tried to fix (a manual), I got the half-axles out and the CV joints removed, and all of the bolts that I could find on the transmission, but I was clearly still missing a very hidden bolt. It was well below freezing outside, and the car was propped up on blocks outside of a junkyard. The cops towed it before I could finish the job.

This is a nice picture of a transmission replacement. It would likely take me at least 1 week to do this. I have to think about the dogs, and about the fact that I am sacrificing guaranteed mobility (<45mph) for a possilbe complete loss. It's a tough decision, but I am going to try to climb a mountain in the truck before I make a decision. The rest of this trip is kind of on hold until this problem is solved.

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