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Thread: Is my transmission dead?

  1. #1
    Join Date
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    Default Is my transmission dead?

    Hi,

    I have a 2005 XC70 with 117,000 miles. We purchased it as a CPO in 2008. Several years ago, around 100,000 miles, I noticed that on occasion if you accelerated on the highway, when the car dropped gears there would be a little shudder before it engaged in the lower gear. It initially had the sensation of that extra torque causing the tires to slip before finally regaining their grip, but I knew that was not likely the case.

    After researching on this board I discovered the manufactures recommendation that the transmission fluid didnt need to be changed wasnt accurate. I therefore began to perform multiple dump and fills with Mobil 3309 at each oil change until a full case had been changed. The fluid at the first few changes was pretty dark. It would tend to shift a bit smoother after the change, and then Id return to getting the occasional shudder when downshifting on acceleration, or when going up hills. Id also get the occasional thunk when coming to a stop.

    A few other notes on the car shortly after we first bought it wed go through coolant, with no noticeable leak. Brought it to the dealer a couple times the did nothing the first time, and then the second they said the radiator had some type of internal leak and needed to be replaced. They claimed the car had no warranty, which we told them was BS (still in the CPO period) and they finally conceded it was covered. It was good for several years, and recently Ive noticed it goes down where the expansion tank needs to be topped off every so often. However recently Ive noticed a small puddle in the garage under where the expansion tank is, so assume this is more of a traditional leak. One other thing to note, the ABS/Traction control message has been on for some time, typically coming on after driving for a bit, then going off over night. Im told it needs a new brake control module, and I planned to send it out to be rebuilt.

    Yesterday before leaving the house for about an hour drive, I figured I would check the oil and top it off, and do the same with the coolant. Shortly thereafter while going up a hill I experienced the shudder, but much worse, and noticed the Check Engine light flashing during this time. At the top of the hill the Check Engine light went off, but the shudder continued. Id manually shift the gears but for the most part, the shudder remains to the point where its really not drivable. I dont have tools with me (long screwdriver) to check the fluid while its running, but was able to jimmy the dipstick out while its off and see the fluid, dark red/brown covers the word Cold. I know checking it cold is pretty useless so will check again hot when I can get the screwdriver and a long shirt.

    I was going to drop it off to the independent mechanic tomorrow, but I assume the transmission is shot. Perhaps at some point the coolant leak got into the transmission, or perhaps it was something else. While I tend to keep cars forever, my wife doesnt think its worth it to put $4-5,000 into a new transmission and thinks we should let it go. I just thought Id ask if any of the things Ive read about on the board (B4 servo, valve, etc.) are something to check for, or just assume its toast.

    Thank you very much,

    Brian

  2. #2
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    Feb 2011
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    Default

    If you had a flashing check-engine light, there are likely stored codes that could be read with the DICE diagnostic tool that may help uncover the problem.

  3. #3
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    Default

    So what was the fluid level when hot?

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by AKAMick View Post
    So what was the fluid level when hot?
    Thanks. Prior to the issue, I "thought" I had the level correct - drove the car at highway speeds for a half hour, used a transfer pump to take what seemed a few excess ounces out, etc. I think I had it at the right level on the hot end of the dipstick, but concede it's possible I didn't have it correct. I'm somewhat stuck with checking only at the Cold level now as I can't really drive it enough to get it hot in its current condition.

    If it shows on a regular (non VIDA) reader, I'm going to try to pull any codes in the morning.

  5. #5
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    Apr 2017
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    San Diego
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    So the engine is running fine? And, this "shudder" you describe is completely transmission related? Is the transmission slipping? Is that what you're calling a shudder? I can't get a feel for what you mean. Maybe you can be more descriptive. Does it shift into park and reverse smoothly? Or, is there a delay and harsh clunk when shifting into gear?

    Generally, if you can convince yourself that the transmission is holding the gears OK once it gets into a gear (i.e. it isn't slipping), then I'd say there's a good chance a valve body swap will fix it.

    I'd get any codes cleared (simple OBDII device or VIDA/DICE) and try to run it some more and see what codes come back. ViDA/DICE is probably best to see if there are codes in the TCM (transmission control module).

    Brett

  6. #6
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    Why do you think it is the transmission?, ABS/ traction control, message on?, could be related, no "Transmission Service required" message in the message window?,

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brett San Diego View Post
    So the engine is running fine? And, this "shudder" you describe is completely transmission related? Is the transmission slipping? Is that what you're calling a shudder? I can't get a feel for what you mean. Maybe you can be more descriptive. Does it shift into park and reverse smoothly? Or, is there a delay and harsh clunk when shifting into gear?

    Generally, if you can convince yourself that the transmission is holding the gears OK once it gets into a gear (i.e. it isn't slipping), then I'd say there's a good chance a valve body swap will fix it.

    I'd get any codes cleared (simple OBDII device or VIDA/DICE) and try to run it some more and see what codes come back. ViDA/DICE is probably best to see if there are codes in the TCM (transmission control module).

    Brett
    Brett, I cant be certain the engine is running ok, just that what lead up to the issue it sure seemed transmission related. For some time Ive been getting what I can only describe as a slipping or shudder when shifting (downshifting on acceleration on the highway, or going up hills) and occasional thunk when coming to a stop. The shudder is the sensation of the wheels briefly spinning as if they are trying to get traction. The last time I drove it a couple of days ago, I had just topped off the oil and coolant. About a mile into the trip, with the cruise control set, while going up a large hill, the car started shuddering very similar to how it has in the past when downshifting. This time the Check Engine light went on. Normally once the gear has shifted, or I switch to manual, the shudder goes away. This time, however, it kept shuddering as if it was still going up a hill, and kept shuddering for a few miles as I crawled to the driveway where I left it until I could try to get a better handle on the problem. As I was already in Drive, once I was in the driveway, I put it into Park. I have not tried to move the shifter since, but throughout I have not yet had a problem shifting it into Drive or Reverse. Im hopeful that gives a better description. Thanks.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by AKAMick View Post
    Why do you think it is the transmission?, ABS/ traction control, message on?, could be related, no "Transmission Service required" message in the message window?,
    That's a good question. It has just seemed transmission related, particularly the occasional thunk when coming to a stop. The issue going up a hill coincides with downshifting, so also assumed that was transmission related. Maybe they are two separate issues. I have not had a "Transmission Service Required" message. I guess I didn't think the transmission would necessarily alert me via message if it had an issue (didn't think something so mechanical as the transmission had the same type of diagnostic sensors. I'd be thrilled if it was anything but the trans, including traction control. That just seemed wishful thinking.

  9. #9
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    Jun 2013
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    You did the right thing to drain and fill the ATF but if you didn't get the level correct when refilling with 3309 you can have shifting issues. You gotta verify the level is correct before you move on to other trans issues.

    My valvebody went on my 02 little by little. The first problems with shifting happened only when I went up steep hills. Eventually I started getting CELs and TRANSMISSION SERVICE REQ'D messages. Next the car was going into emergency "limp mode" - staying in 3rd gear with no shifts. Finally at its worst, the car would shift fine for the first 5-10 minutes of driving then once the ATF warmed up, I would get terrible, scary slippage when shifting.

    I would try to see if I could just drive it around the neighborhood or the block - stay away from hills - and see if it shifts okay. Now drive it long enough to heat up the ATF so you can get a good reading. I think the fluid warms up faster if you're shifting up and down thru the gears than if you're just cruising in 5th gear on the highway but I could be wrong. Some people have used IR thermometers that they shoot at the trans casing and get a quick reading that way but I'm not familiar with this approach. If you can get ahold of a laptop with VIDA/DiCE, it will give you a temp reading for the ATF. Installing and using VIDA has a learning curve so be forewarned.
    2007 XC70, 206,000 miles
    2002 V70XC, 130,000 miles, parts car

  10. #10
    Join Date
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    With any of these types of issues, you have to eliminate the obvious first.

    I don't understand what you mean by "long screwdriver" to check the fluid level.

    While the hot level is more accurate, in my experience, you can do a cold level check.

    Idling, on dead level ground, run it through the gears, put it back in park, pull and wipe the dipstick, re-insert. pull and read. No screwdriver required.

    Report back with that result and let's go from there.

    The fact that you have a problem when going uphill suggests that the level is off...
    Current Fleet:
    2016 Tundra Crewmax 4WD 1794
    2005 MB S600 (100K, Michelin AS3+, M1 0W40)
    2002 V70-XC (238K, Castrol Edge 0W40)
    2002 V70-T5 (195K, IPD bars, Bilsteins)
    2001 V70-T5 (76K)
    1932 Packard Sedan (straight 8, dual sidemounts, original paint and interior, Shell Rotella 15W40)

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