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1st gear slipping after I first start the car

1997 Toyota Corolla 203,000 mi 3-speed auto.

After I first start the car, when I put it in 1st gear, the engine runs fine, but the power doesn’t seem to transfer to the wheels. It feels like reverse is doing the same. It feels like 2/3 of the power is lost somewhere. Everything is fine the rest of the time I drive. It only happens after I first start the car. I’m afraid I’m going to hop in my car some morning and not be able to get it in first. I wouldn’t mind if it stayed the way it is, but it seems to be getting worse very slowly. It started a few months ago.

Transmission gear brake? Torque converter?

The transmission fluid was replaced on 5/24/09 at 185,260mi using DexIII or Dex/Merc which I believe is appropriate for this transmission.

The fluid level is right on the “full hot” mark on the dip stick when the transmission is hot. The fluid smells and looks like new.

Is part of the tranmission failing? If so, what part? I’m not afraid to pull apart a transmission, even though I’ve never done it before.

I’ll have to run out and buy a new car to drive around while I pull the tranny, though :slight_smile:

You have done everything you should do so far, checking the fluid level and smelling the fluid. If you did not replace the fluid screen when you changed the fluid @ 185,260 miles (your car uses Dextron II, by the way) I’d give a new screen a shot and put in Dextron II before I tore apart a transmission.
If that doesn’t help, you do need a transmission. But don’t tear apart your existing transmission to try to repair it.
I suggest you check this link and decide for yourself if you can try to rebuild your transmission:

If you brought the car into a very good mechanic, he would send your core transmission out for a rebuilt transmission replacement and just plug that into the car. You’d get a limited warranty on the rebuild and likely be okay on that front for the remaining life of this car.
I’d tell you outright to just give up altogether on this car if it wasn’t a Corolla, and maybe you should. It’s long in the tooth even for a Corolla, even if it was meticulously maintained. But I had an 84 last 364,000 miles, and I drive an 87 with 135,000 round trip every day 50 miles. So it’s hard for me to advise someone else to give up on a car that has been so reliable and, really, easy and cheap to repair most of the time. But would I spend $1,200 on a rebuilt tranny that I would need to install myself? I don’t know what to tell you.
You might try a second-hand transmission, and test it the same way (before you buy it) you tested the existing tranny. Make sure there is a guarantee and get it in writing.

It might just be the time to move on. I drive a really old Corolla because I love it and it is simple to repair and it passes emissions because it’s older than me. But if I could afford a brand new one?

Thank you for the quick reply, kizwiki.

I did replace the screen at the last fluid change, even though the old one looked brand new. I’ll try the Dextron II, and if that doesn’t fix it, I’ll just drive it until first won’t go anymore (at the rate it’s going, it could be years). I will, eventually, end up taking apart the transmission and repairing it, even if it’s only to hang the replaced parts on my garage wall as a man trophy. haha

Thanks again.

A couple of things could be causing this. It could be a drainback issue where the fluid from the converter drains back into the bottom of the transmission. This would cause the converter to have to refill before the transmission would engage gears. Another problem could just be hardened clutch piston seals from age. The old hardened seals allow ATF to bypass the clutch drum and keep the clutch from applying. You can try pouring a can of Berrymans B-12 Chemtool in the trans and see if it makes any difference.


“I’ll have to run out and buy a new car to drive around while I pull the tranny, though :)”

That made me laugh. That’s why I NEVER use that term.