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2003 toyota corolla manual transmission problem

I dropped my car off at a national chain requesting only to have the oil changed (2003 corolla 81,000 mi.)planning to pick it up after work.

The service desk called me a couple hours later to ask me if I had ever changed the transmission fluid and I said I had not and they said that they recommended I have that done. So I gave my permission and picked up the car after they performed the work. I noticed the following day a noise I didn’t have before (only when car was driving–not idling.It seemed like a “rough” sound, not the usual sound my car has. I took the car back and told them the problem and they checked it out and said it was an engine knock, and that I needed a new clutch also. My clutch seemed fine to me and I had no repairs made. I have driven for 2 months and have had the nagging suspicion that it didn’t seem consistant with an engine noise. I recently took the car to 2 other mechanics from other shops for profesional opinions and both have said that the noise is from the transmission and that I need a new transmission. I did not have the noise before the fluid was changed. Is it possible that the ruined transmission could result if the mechanic who changed the fluid replaced it with an incorrect “transmission fluid” rather than the synthetic gear oil that Toyota specifies? The repair ticket from the national chain stated “N 75W90 Manual Transmission Fluid” was used. The recent mechanic showed me a sample of the fluid which has been in my transmission since then (2 months). It is black and watery-thin with little bits of metal from my gears (according to him).He says it wouldn’t look this way after just 2 months if the correct gear oil had been used. I would like to have your feedback re: could using the wrong fluid have ruined the transmission, and also is changing the gear oil at 80,000 miles considered regular maintenace for a Toyota Corolla with manual transmission? What I have since read seems to indicate not.

Thank you.

Get the fluid tested. Even burnt, they can determine what type of fluid it is. I’ll bet it is not 75W-90 gear lube. Black is severely burnt, but gear lube doesn’t go watery thin unless super hot. Other fluids would be watery thin, and would cook this transmission.

I hope this was not a quick lube, or a Walmart type store. They are notorious for goofs like this. And they probably owe you a transmission.

I fear you have just provided additional testimony for why we strongly recommend not using national chains for even simple oil changes. 

Sorry I can't offer anything better or more hopeful that Busted did.  

Good Luck.

“is changing the gear oil at 80,000 miles considered regular maintenace for a Toyota Corolla with manual transmission? What I have since read seems to indicate not.”

If the source that you read was the Toyota Maintenance Schedule, then what you read is correct. If you have not been using the Toyota Maintenance Schedule as your guide to maintaining this car, then that is a major error on your part. Using a “national chain” for car maintenance is an even bigger error.

That being said, most people can drive their car for far longer distances than you did without changing the manual transmission oil, and without experiencing problems. My suspicion is that this “national chain” did use the wrong fluid and did damage your transmission.

They do indeed owe you a new transmission if you can prove that the wrong fluid was used by them. However, fighting the massive legal staff of a national chain can be more expensive than paying for a new transmission yourself.

My advice is to have a used (junkyard) transmission installed by a trusted mechanic, and to consider this to be a lesson learned the hard way. As both Busted Knuckles and Mr. Meehan correctly stated, there is no national chain with a good reputation for car maintenance. In the future, use a trusted local mechanic and ALWAYS use the car mfr’s maintenance schedule as your guide to what needs to be done at any particular mileage interval.

Personally, I change my manual transmission oil every 30,000 miles. Rather than buy manual tansmission fluid, I use synthetic oil, but I use the viscosity recommended in my owner’s manual.

I have two theories, and they are not mutually exclusive. My first theory is that they used the wrong transmission oil. My second theory is that after six years and 80,000 miles, your transmission oil was worn out. The damage you now have is probably from a combination of the two factors.

Let me relate to something I did when I was young and stupid.

I used to own a '75 Civic. One day the clutch started to shudder and chatter when engaged. Although I did most of the work on this car myself (oil, points, plugs, bondo, etc.) I stupidly took it to Aamco for the clutch.

They told me that besides the clutch the tranny bearings were making noise. They said they could do just the clutch but there would be no warranty. I was left with the choice of getting it back unrepaired for the $190 estimate fee or paying $770 for the clutch and tranny rebuild. I stupidly let them do the whole repair.

I come back, pay the bill and go to drive away. It’s a cold day, maybe 40F. I crank up the car and (intend to) let it idle a few seconds before I drive off. Those CVCC engines don’t like the cold. I’m sitting there and the thing pops into gear by itself! Luckily there was space in front of the car and I had the parking brake on.

I go back in and complain. Turns out they filled the tranny with gear oil instead of the Honda recommended 10W-40.

Nothing would surprise me regarding AAMCO. They are simply incompetent crooks.

Thank you all for your feedback. Yes, it is a lesson learned the hard way. I do have one final question re: bustedknuckles suggestion. Do you have any idea how I would go about finding a lab to test the fluid? (one that isn’t a national chain, that is)–ha ha --just laughing to keep from crying.