1-year new transmission dying AGAIN? Or is it something else? Toyota Minivan

We have a 1998 Toyota Sienna minivan with automatic transmission. A year ago the car started revving in Drive and in second. We took it to one place that said the transmission fluid was dirty and then we took it to a transmission repair place who said the tranny was gone. They replaced it with a new one. $5K. A year later-now-our car is doing the SAME thing… revving on drive and in 2nd gear both. I don’t know what to do. I am wondering if either a) It was never a new tranny that was needed, but rather something that is interfering with the fluid quality? Or-was it indeed the tranny and the place did a temporary fix and charged for a full replacement. Or, they put in the world’s worst transmission–one that only lasts one year. I’m wondering if anyone has guesses - and/or some knowledge to share with me about the possibilities and how you would handle this? e.g. go to two places – one to ask whether it’s a new tranny and what’s wrong and the original place-to see what they say?

I need help urgently. We just had $6K in dental expenses and just can’t afford $5K a year for new transmissions!



Was the transmission repair place that you patronized last year part of a chain operation (Aamco, Lee Myles, Cottman, etc.)?

If so, it is very possible that you did not get good quality work performed, or that unnecessary repairs were done (poorly). Where was this repair work done?

Have you verified that it has the correct amount of transmission fluid in it now? That’s a biggie. Also, look at the fluid and see if it has that dark/brownish sooty look to it. That’s an indicator of overheating and that kind of heat is murder on a transmission (or a sign of a transmission murdering itself).

If the level is okay, take it somewhere and have the transmission flushed. If that doesn’t do anything for you, take it back where you had the work done and ask them what gives. They should stand behind their work after only a year.

Just for our information, you didn’t take it to a AAMCO, did you?

How long was the van driven with a slipping tranny before it was looked at?

Did a warning light come on the dash at any time? Get Autozone or another shop to check for codes in the computer.

OH NO. Yes, it was Aamco. This bites. I was going to go to a local place, but my really good general auto place (small, local) said I’d be better off going to Aamco. Well…I’m in publishing/media and I have no problem suing and threatening bad press if they don’t fix their shoddy work. So–if you were me, you’d get a third party local/indie tranny place to check the work/tranny and give their opinion, right?

Hi. Last year, it was driven just locally for a few weeks, but it was very little-like 5-20 minutes a day. Just around town. This time it’s been driven maybe 2 hours total. Only because the problem only appeared on two of the past 4 days and not at all on the other days. My next drive is to the shop. I had a sick daughter and couldn’t walk home w/her from a shop this week.

No light came on though. Last time or this time. Last time the fluid was dirty. That’s all I knew before going to–yes, sadly I see, Aamco.

Thank you for replying. I really appreciate it. I wouldn’t know who to ask without this site.

Did the replacement trans come with a warranty?

The warranty was 90 days. My small, local and usually reliable repair place sent me to Aamco “because they will give a warranty.” If it’s so well known that Aamco is so awful-I wonder why they didn’t know that. Ugh. … Today the fluid was checked. There was enough and it was clean. How can that be, when it just keeps revving in D and 2??? :frowning:

I’ll have the suggested computer test at Autozone (or someplace like it if I can’t find one here) and have it flushed. But any opinions in the meantime still very much appreciated!

Follow-Up Details & Question:

The fluid was full and clean BUT there are scraps of metal IN the transmission. Now–let me back up for a moment. A few months before the tranny went last year, someone hit the front of my car. They damaged the fender and bumper and knocked a front light out. My car never drove the same–even after repairs. Is there any way that something from the accident could have damaged the first transmission and is now damaging the second/new one? I’m asking because if that’s the case I need to get my insurance company back involved rather than suing Aamco (or insisting on a new and free repair). Thanks.

Broken engine and/or transmission mounts? That could have taken place even in a low-speed collision. Get your local independent shop to take a look-see to determine if that might be the cause. Then go from there. Most body shops don’t do very much mechanical work. The body shop may have just overlooked this but Aamco should have found this and counseled you accordingly.

So… are you saying that

  1. The broken engine or transmission mounts would be shedding metal into the transmission? Or…

  2. That if they are broken–one or the other–that would cause poor alignment and deterioration of the transmission’s bushings and planetary gears–which is where the metal is coming from?

Does it sound like a rebuild is my only hope now? Ugh. I wonder how hard it would be to get insurance to pay for this so long after the accident. I already tried to get them to pay for the tranny but they said it wasn’t related. … Do you feel Aamco is responsible for not seeing one or both of these things broken (if that’s the case) and that this argument would hold up in court? Just your opinion-you best guess. :slight_smile:


I see from research that a broken engine or tranny mount would put undue wear on the tranny–so I guess that’s the answer. But please do add to that if there’s more I should know! I need to go after either Aamco OR my insurance company or both about this. Someone screwed up.


Here’s a likely scenario; your trans took a dump and put metal shavings into the fluid stream. The repair shop took out your old trans and installed the new/rebuilt unit. They did not flush the transmission cooler, external to the trans and located in the radiator, before starting and running your new transmission. The garabage that accumulated in the cooler was now coarsing through your brand new transmission and led to its early demise.

Would a standard “transmission flush” have gotten rid of those old-tranny shavings? Because we went to a really well-trusted (cartalk recommended) place for a full tranny flush last year. Only when that didn’t help did we go to Aamco for the replacement.

I called today’s mechanic back. He’s looking to see if either of those things are broken. Thanks.

Just a question for clarification. When you cannot get forward drive in Drive and 2nd, can you get drive in 1st? You will have to get a transmission technician to diagnosis the failure. The transmission could be losing line pressure for any number of reasons; you could have a valve body problem; or you may have a hardware problem (mechanical failure in the transmission).