Car Question - Transmission Fluid

Discussion in 'Off-Topic' started by jeff0514, Feb 11, 2014.

  1. jeff0514

    jeff0514 Member

    Apr 12, 2006
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    I have an old 2002 Chevy Malibu and the transmission just went bad. The shop I had it towed to said that the fluid was low/empty. From what I understand the transmission system is sealed, so it requires some extra work in order to check the transmission fluid level. I had the car regularly serviced and was always told that all vital fluids were being checked. Is anyone familiar with the 2002 Chevy Malibu and whether this is accurate? Do most service shops check the transmission fluid when there is not a dipstick to check it with? Thanks.
     
  2. isufbcurt

    isufbcurt Well-Known Member

    Apr 21, 2006
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    Most do not check the transmission fluid unless you pay for them to change the fluid. Having no transmission dipstick is the dumbest thing the car makers ever did IMO (my Mountaineer is the same way and it drives me nuts)
     
  3. jeff0514

    jeff0514 Member

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    Unfortunately, this was a high miles car and never thought about having the transmission fluid changed after it passed 100,000 miles. Probably could have gotten some more miles out of it if I had done so... I assume the transmission failed because of the low fluid level. My previous car had a dipstick to check it myself, which i did. Guess I just sort of took it for granted that the level was fine with this car. And no dipstick to remind me about that.
     
  4. besserheimerphat

    besserheimerphat Well-Known Member

    Apr 11, 2006
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    I'm surprised you didn't start seeing symptoms before - engine lights due to high trans temp, bad shifting, etc. I wonder if the trans had a fluid level sensor? I understand the trans is sometimes sold as a "sealed component" but that fluid had to go somewhere - stains on the driveway, etc. I'm not saying it's your fault, just it's odd that the transmission could run fine without any indication of failure if the cause is chronic low fluid.
     
  5. jeff0514

    jeff0514 Member

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    I never noticed any transmission fluid leaks nor any sensors came on. At least this finally forced me to find something more reliable. It was leaking/using a lot of oil... at least 2 qts between oil changes (every 6,000 miles). It had also been losing some coolant as well.
     
  6. Die4Cy

    Die4Cy Well-Known Member

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    Oh well. Craigslist is full of "real deal" mobiles. Just find another one. Don't spend another dime on that one. Cars are engineered to be thrown away these days.
     
  7. ImJustKCClone

    ImJustKCClone Well-Known Member

    Jun 18, 2013
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    Heh - I'm still driving a 2001 Lumina (very similar to the Malibu)...155K miles on it. Routine maintenance performed, and replaced the tranny about 5 years ago, but Elmer is a reliable little four cyl with plenty of gumption. I'm figuring we'll make it to 200K, maybe 250K. The only thing that might stop that is gravel roads - enough paint has come off that he's starting to get little rust spots.
     
  8. cmjh10

    cmjh10 Well-Known Member

    Dec 5, 2012
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    You name your cars as well? I thought my mom was the only crazy one in this world. :wink:
     
  9. psychlone99

    psychlone99 Well-Known Member

    The sealed transmission concept is a load of crap. Basically a scam to try and force the owner to take the car to the dealer for all tranny checks/service. I've owned two vehicles that claimed to have sealed transmissions. Do enough research and you'll figure out where they hide the dipstick or cap to access the fluid since your owners manual won't tell you.

    If you can find it, be sure to check it with the engine warm and running. Tranny fluid in good condition will typically have a reddish tint and kind of a sweet smell. Fluid that needs to be replaced will be much darker, brownish black, and will have more of a burnt smell.

    For future reference, I would recommend a drain/fill instead of a mechanical/power flush if your car is over 100K. A lot of high mileage cars can have issues with a power flush as the process often stirs up debris within the transmission. Buy a case of fluid. Gravity drain as much as you can, measure and fill with an equivalent amount of new. Drive around and repeat until you've added the case of new fluid. Obviously, you'll be draining partially new fluid each time, but as it mixes the fluid should become more red and you'll have 70-80% new fluid in your tranny when finished without the risks of a power flush.
     
  10. Heilsqauvador

    Heilsqauvador Active Member

    Aug 21, 2011
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    I'm pretty sure an 02 Malibu is the same as my 03 Grand Am. There is a plug on the side of the reservoir you remove and observe if fluid runs out. If it doesn't you need to add until it does. You have to make sure the vehicle is warm and running, just as psychlone said. You basically need a pit or lift in order to do it.
     
  11. ImJustKCClone

    ImJustKCClone Well-Known Member

    Jun 18, 2013
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    Yup. I got the trait from MY mother. I learned to drive in her Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser station wagon, Gussie. :)

    Elmer is a sturdy old grandpa car. The car I had before Elmer was Baby. Now SHE was sweet...1982 Datsun 280 ZX, 6 cyl with a turbo boost, black with tan interior. I LOVED that car!
     
  12. DJSteve

    DJSteve Member

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    Not positive if an '02 is the same, but my ex gf had an '04 Classic (same body style) and when I changed the fluid and filter in that I'm pretty sure I had to refill based purely on volume--and had to take some stuff out to even get to the fill hole. IIRC there was a port on the side of the transmission, but it was basically impossible to get to in that vehicle. Stupid. One of the reasons I'm no longer much of a GM fan (although having paint peel off my Express cargo van in sheets with no recourse was the real "last straw").
     
  13. SenorCy

    SenorCy Well-Known Member

    Aug 29, 2010
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    People don't name cars?
     
  14. kingcy

    kingcy Well-Known Member

    Sep 16, 2006
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    If you have your oil changed they should check all the fluid levels. The key word in that is should. If it is hard to get to or do I bet they just didn't do it. The report you get when you change your oil should tell you what they did and didn't do. Changing your transmission fluid is something most people don't think about but should do, depending on your driving.
     
  15. jeff0514

    jeff0514 Member

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    Thanks for the comments everyone. I have been having the car serviced at Big O Tires, since I purchased the last set of tires there. The invoice I receive each time says that all vital fluids are checked. However, I called them yesterday and they said that they don't check the transmission fluid if there is no dipstick. Guess I should have done more research about this earlier and not taken it for granted.
     
  16. jeff0514

    jeff0514 Member

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    We also have a newer vehicle that we have serviced at one of the major dealers. Just looked at my inspection report and theirs does specifically state what fluids were checked and notes that transmission fluid is checked only if equipped w/ dipstick. Their report also states that they checked engine, transmission, etc. for any visible leaks. Would have thought Big O would have at least noticed a leak, even if they didn't specifically check the fluid level.
     
  17. jeff0514

    jeff0514 Member

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    #17 jeff0514, Feb 12, 2014
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2014
    On a related note... I am trying to decide how to dispose of this vehicle. The repair shop where its at has apparently used a salvage yard that will pick up the car and generally pays $200-300 per vehicle. My Malibu appears to be worth in the $2-3,000 range based on KBB and Edmunds... but that's probably optimistic and only if in decent condition. Given that a transmission repair will cost around $2,500, I figure I should just cut my losses and let them pick it up. I am doubting it would be worth my time to tow to my house and see if someone else would pay more?
     
  18. Die4Cy

    Die4Cy Well-Known Member

    Jan 2, 2010
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    Sounds about right on the salvage value, maybe a little short. I salvaged a car for around $400 awhile ago, but I delivered it to the yard, too. It probably isn't worth the extra hassle. Look in the newspaper under auto salvage. There are usually several guys in there who will pick up your vehicle for no charge, and you at least get a true comparative price. They will want to part it out, so you might do better than you think.
     
  19. jeff0514

    jeff0514 Member

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    Thanks!
     
  20. kingcy

    kingcy Well-Known Member

    Sep 16, 2006
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    Call around to different salvage yards. If the only thing wrong with the car is the transmission they may give you a little more than the $250 scrap price for it.
     

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