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06 Saturn Outlook shifting problems

Start noticed this on Sunday, the engine had a hard time shift into 2nd and 3rd gear. It always did shift, just later than usual and at a higher RPM. And the shift come accompanied with a little jolt. No problem once the speed is above 40 mph.

I brought it into the shop. They came back telling me the tranmission needs to be rebuilt, at ~$3500. ouch. I had to get a second opinion with that price tag. So i drove it home.

Surprisingly the problem had went away on my way home. I tried drive it soft or tough but the car drove almost fine. I say almost because i can still feel the shift but that might be me really paying attention to it. i can’t honestly say it’s worse than usual.

I did my research, most people say the problem is likely caused by losing transmission fluid pressure (which could be a leak, pump problem or blockage). But it could be the prelude to some real tranmission problems too.

What should i do? to rebuild or flush or something else?


If this shop you went to was one of the transmission chain places replace is their standard practice. I would just drive and look for an independent shop for a second opinion.

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i was reading this: Shifting problem-auto

I forgot to mention that when the car has the problem, the tachometer needle tends to jump wildly. I need to watch it carefully to make sure if it is reflecting the true RPM of the engine or if it is acting up. If the latter is true then it could also be a bad tachometer/sensor, which will be good news for me.

More than likely, this is simply a case where one of the speed sensors needs to be replaced.
It would be typical of a chain-operated transmission shop (Lee Myles, Cottman, Mr. Transmission, or–God forbid–AAMCO) to tell a car owner that he/she needs a transmission overhaul when the problem is merely the need to replace a sensor or two.

Yes. But hard to say whether that applies in your case via an internet diagnosis of course. When my truck exhibited a similar symptom, it would take a long time to shift into drive from neutral on cold mornings even though the lever was in D, well, it was in the shop within a week for a complete tranny rebuild. Which fixed the problem straight away.

If I had the same problem first thing I’d do is take the car in for a proper transmission service. Drop the pan, change the transmission filter (if applicable), and refill w/fresh fluid. If that improved things, I’d probably do it again, about a week later. It’s not possible to get all the old fluid out with just one drain and refill. It can be done w/a flush machine too, but if you go that route, make sure they also drop & clean the pan, sieving what comes out & inspecting for metallic debris, and change the filter as part of the job. Depending on the configuration of your transmission, a shop may be able to measure the pressures inside by attaching a pressure gauge. That can be useful info towards a diagnosis. Best of luck.

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A year or so ago I had a very similar problem with my 1999 Dodge Durango. I took it to a small locally-owned transmission shop. Was told I needed to have the transmission rebuild or get a new one. I asked the girl behind the counter what brought them to this conclusion and could I talk to the mechanic that evaluated the problem. Was told that the mechanic was busy with another job and because I already did everything at home that they would have done to the transmission, it needed a new one. That’s not what I wanted to hear.

Took the car home, done more research and ended up replacing the pressure sensor and solenoid myself. That was a year ago and the car runs just fine.

My experience is that even small businesses do a lousy job and can’t be trusted, just like nation-wide stores can’t be. Do your home work before taking it to just ANY independent mechanic.

kurtwm2010, well said. The shop i went to is a local small shop. I used to send my cars to that shop for all types of maintenance and repairs.

When I asked why they need to redo the transmission. The lady behind counter simply said: “i have guys that work on this for over 30 years and i trust their judgement”. What i learned later in the conversation is that they didn’t do any work on the car. They sent it to another transmission shop to run the diagnostic. That kills any desire for me to let them fix my car.

It’s sad to see this kind of changes in a small shop but i guess changes are un-evitable sometimes.

Just curious is all. If you aren’t going to let them fix your car, how are you planning to get your car fixed then? Or do you think it fixed itself now?

no i don’t have the tools or skills to fix it. i just wanted to learn enough to know if the mechanics is knowledgeable, trustworthy or merely talking craps. i know it’s hard but i have a $3500 incentive for me to do my best.

i will not bring my car back to the same shop. i payed the diagnostic fee and get the service. fair and square. I don’t want to give my car to a shop that send it to somewhere else. I think that part is also understandable.

now i am trying to find another local shop to do the full 60K maintenance and watch closely what the transmission fluid looks (thank you for the advice) like before decide on what to do next.

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Back from shop. the transmission is flushed, the oil looks pretty dirty. they were not able to “drop the pan” as there’s no pan in the bottom. one will have to take the car apart if they were to do anything beyond a flush. this is what it looks like:

At least the shift is now impeccable. I will drive it for a week or so before check transmission fluid again, which i can do it myself.

Thanks for all the suggestion and information.

With luck you got it fixed now.

no luck. the car works fine for 3 days. and the shifting problem is back on Sunday. By Monday morning it won’t shift into 3rd gear at all. Reverse is still good.

I checked the transmission fluid, it looks and smells fine. After some google research, i found a GM bulletin: This may not be my car’s problem but at least it sounds similar.

I dropped the car off at the dealers. They won’t be able to look at it till Wednesday but i don’t want to drive it around at 2nd gear and 4K RPM.

Now the only thing left for me to do is pray.

Oh oh, the problem returned … hmmm … well, the link below might help you communicate w/the shop about the best way to address the problem anyway.

dealership called and told me they did find that broken wave ring so they are going to fix it for free.

Lessons learned: “do your homework”. I’ve shelled out several hundred $ for the diagnostics and changing transmission oil. Money that can be saved if i find out about the wave plate problem sooner.

Sounds like your Google research paid off. Good for you. Thanks for posting the result.