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2003 Nissan Sentra gear issues

I have a 2003 Nissan Sentra with aboout 108k on it. I have been noticing a little squeek when it changes gears for about a month and a half. Now it has a difficult time changing gears. The engine revs to 4rpms and is really loud. Going up hills I can’s seem to get it above 35 even with the pedal to the floor. I checked the air filter and it is clean, my fluid levels are good, that’s about the extent of my car knowledge. I can take it to a shop, but would like to have an idea what it could be before I go. Any thoughts would be appreciated!

Sounds like a transmission problem. If you have an automatic transmission, have you checked to make sure it has the proper level of transmission fluid? There should be a dipstick under your hood and a procedure to check the level in your owner’s manual.

If it is low on fluid, then filling it might fix it, but you may also have a fluid leak that would need to be looked at. If the fluid level is fine, it might be worn out and need changing. If there are already mechanical problems with the transmission, changing the fluid won’t fix them but it but should stop any further damage from occurring and might delay the eventual repair or replacement of the transmission that you might need.

Although you failed to tell us what type of transmission you have, I am going to assume that it has an automatic trans.

If I am correct, you have transmission problems which have undoubtedly been aggravated by driving the car like this for over a month.

The first step is to check the transmission fluid. If it is low, then you need to replenish it with the correct spec fluid before driving it again. However, that is not the end of the story. Since transmission fluid does not evaporate, low fluid indicates a leak that needs to be fixed a.s.a.p.

When you check the fluid, it if appears to be any color other than a reddish-pink, and if it has a “burnt” smell, this is very bad news. These symptoms mean that you have cooked your transmission–most likely by continuing to drive for many weeks with the problems that you described.

When all is said and done, you need to get this car to an independent transmission shop (NOT a chain like AAMCO, Lee Myles, Cottman, Mr. Transmission…) for evaluation. If you are VERY lucky, it might just need to have the transmission fluid changed. If you are not lucky (and if the trans fluid has never previously been changed), you will probably need to have your transmission rebuilt.

Some lessons for the future:

Check all fluids regularly and replenish as necessary
Change your transmission fluid every 3 yrs or 30k miles (whichever comes first). Those who don’t do this can look forward to trans failure any time after 90k. Your car, with 108k on the odometer, is right on schedule for trans failure if the fluid was not changed on the above-noted schedule.
Never ignore new problems such as high engine revs and failure to accelerate properly, as this results in more damage to that very expensive transmission. If symptoms like this are attended to promptly, repair costs tend to be much lower.

Allow me to correct your statement… the engine revs to 4,000 RPM when changing gears.

When you said “my fluid levels are good” did you also mean your tranny fluid?

Bottom line: your engine is no longer being connected to your driveshafts by your transmission. You need to go pronto to a reputable tranny shop. Your tranny is probably toast, but I’m hoping a good tranny shop tells you I’m wrong.

When I checked the fluids I did also check the transmission fluid. It was a low, but not empty. I filled it but it isn’t really helping the issue. I bought my car 4 years old, so I have no idea how it was taken car of before I got it. I have been diligent about upkeep, however this car has made three trips across country the last of which I figured was the last leg for her. I took the car into the shop at about 100k just before I made the last trip across country and they said everything was fine. Well I guess nothing lasts forever and I am happy to live in a city with good public transportation. The last question I have then is how long do I likely have? Are we talking a week ( I realistically only drive about twice a week) or a month or two?

Unfortunately, nobody can tell you how much longer the transmission will continue to function–even in its current state. By continuing to drive it in its current state, this is analogous to asking a person with arterial bleeding to run a marathon. He/she/she won’t get to the finish line, but nobody can say exactly how far he/she will go before he/she drops dead.

As long as you don’t mind being stranded in an inconvenient location (including the left lane of an expressway, or the middle of an intersection, or the most dangerous part of town) and at an inconvenient time (the middle of the night, or during a torrential downpour, or on the way to a very important appointment), then…yes…you can continue to drive it. However, you should be prepared (with a cell phone and towing coverage) for the inevitable death of the transmission.

If I were you, I would assume hours, rather than days, for the total demise of this transmission.

Consider this:
It will not cost any less to rebuild/replace the transmission later, rather than sooner.
And, in fact, it will likely cost you more–in terms of both money and inconvenience–if you defer the inevitable repair.

Thanks for the advice. I fortunately have aaa and the ability to walk most places I need to go. I called a few places today and can get it looked at this week, but with just having moved who knows when I will realistically be able to afford the repair. Hopefully the news won’t be terrible as I have only driven twice since the acceleration issue started.