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2005 Dodge Neon transmission

My Neon tranny has been acting up lately with the cold weather. When I first put it in gear, if I do not keep it at a near idle sometimes the transmission will go into a total neutral mode. You have to just stop, wait a minute or two, and then begin to take off very slowly. Once I get couple blocks it works fine. The temps have been in the 30’s lately. Will get colder. I have been letting it warm up for about 5 mins before I drive it. I think it may help more if I leave it run longer, maybe 10 mins. The fluid level is full.

Could it have something to do with the fluid being cold? If so, would letting it idle for a very long time, 10 - 15 mins solve this problem?

Does anyone know what is causing this? What can be done?

When was the last time that the transmission was serviced and it got new fluid???

Have you checked the fluid level???


When my Ford truck’s C4 automatic transmission got that exact symptom – cold weather refusal to go from neutral to 1st gear in drive and start moving --it was in for a rebuild a few weeks later. I had to wait an increasingly long time between starting the engine and driving away when it was cold as a work-a-round. If you have the same cause I had, this won’t get better by itself. It will get worse, and eventually the transmission won’t shift into gear at all.

On mine, the clutches inside the transmission just plum wore out. Eventually the transmission pump just can’t muster enough force to push those worn clutches together and they start slipping. And when they start to slip, they wear faster, so its a loosing battle at that point.

Yosemite’s idea to check the fluid level and do a proper transmission service is a good one. That’s where I’d start. You might get lucky. If that doesn’t work, post back as there are some other things you or a transmission shop can try before succumbing to a complete rebuild.

This car requires ATF+4, it will not work well if other fluids are added to it.

The fluid level is good. I got the car not much more than a half year ago, so do not know when fluid was changed last. I never did add fluid to the car as it is full. It does take a special fluid this I know, it is very expensive. I have a bottle in the trunk.

The colder it gets the harder it is to get the car to keep moving. Drove it a couple days ago, weather in the teens, and it was very hard to get the car to keep moving. Once I got a couple blocks it worked perfect. Luckily I have a beater car, I may keep this car parked for another week until it is suppose to warm up.

I think the tranny will be fine as long as I keep it parked in these extreme cold weather days. Will not drive it until the temp is at least above freezing. It seems to be ok if in mid 30’s and perfect if above 40.

My guess is that this will get progressively worse until the car is not drivable. I’d follow Yosemite’s suggestion above.

I want you to do a quick test.

Take white a paper towel. Remove the dipstick from the transmission and let of some transmission fluid drip onto the towel.

Now take that new bottle of transmission fluid from out of the trunk and place a few drops on the paper towel next to the transmission fluid from the dipstick.

Does the transmission fluid from the dipstick have brown/black color compared the red color of the new fluid?

If so, the clutches in the transmission are slipping and the transmission is overheating.


If you don’t know when the fluid was changed, I’d change it now to see if that helps. Regardless, chances are that the transmission is on the way out, so be prepared for it to die when you’re out driving.

So you do not think that the cold weather is the only reason for the trouble? Why would it work so perfect when the weather is above 40 degrees? Could it not be that the trany is fine but that the fluid is to thick because of the cold and not getting around inside the tranny like it should until it warms up a bit, And the tranny itself is fine?

What about adding some additive to help out?

Trans fluid and filter change may fix it.

Your Neon is 11 years old. How many miles on it (hope the odometer has not been reset)? If mileage is high, the cheapest route for now is to buy a transmission filter and gasket and the correct automatic transmission fluid (ATF) for your car (type and quantity is listed in the owner’s manual). When the transmission is hot, do a ATF and filter change. Since you are concerned about the expense of ATF, be advised that Walmart has excellent ATF under their brand name of SuperTech and it’s the lowest priced (I have never worked for WalMart). I have used their automotive fluids for decades - no problems. Inspect the transmission oil pan and ATF for peculiar debris and clean it. You may find a small amount of very fine sediment (almost like mud) on the pan floor - some of it may have accumulated around a magnet on the bottom of the pan as I have seen in the past. It should not be a large amount. If you have a auto-knowledgeable friend or trusted mechanic, show him what you found in the pan. He may further advise you. This is not very difficult job and if it operates better after this service, that’s a good thing.

A little over 150, 000 miles. I did a color test like suggested. The new fluid is pink. The fluid in the car is a dark red to slightly brownish.

I got a new filter and some Citgo tranny atf 4 fluid. Plan to change it next week. Easy job, just have to do it outside.

Just to make it clear that everyone understands what is happening. When it is cold, below 40. When I first take off, the car sometimes will go into a neutral like condition and stop moving coasting to a stop. All gears are neutral. Wait a minute, put it back in gear and it goes again. It may do this a few times, depending on how cold it is. Helps to take off really slow letting it go at almost a idle until it starts shifting through the gears. After about a block she works perfect.

You should only use the exact transmission fluid specified by the manufacturer. Using something else may make things worse.

Automatic transmissions are hydraulic devices. They require hydraulic pressure to engage clutches and operate servos. Throughout the transmission there are seals that prevent internal pressure losses (read leaks).

As transmissions age the seals and o-rings harden. When they harden they no longer seal well, and allow pressure leaks, especially when they’re cold. After they warm up they seal a little better.

What you’re seeing in your transmission is the beginning of the end of its operating life. A high mileage transmission fluid can sometimes restore some of the vitality to the leaking seals, but eventually they’ll fail completely.

Start planning for a transmission overhaul.

It sounds like the low/reverse drum seals are failing. If the filter was plugged you would get a “loss of prime” fault.

I am using the right trany fluid, ATF 4. Plan to change fluid/filter tomorrow.

I was told by a service place that it could be a sensor inside trany going bad also. I did have the check engine light go on one day a few weeks ago. Didn’t flash on and off, just was solid. Then it went off and was not on since. Was told that the sensor could have caused that.

What do you mean by “loss of prime”? Fault? What is that? Do you mean the check engine light coming on?