97 Maxima Transmission Problem

My Maxima has 144,000 miles and has an issue where the automatic transmission only shifts from 1st to 3rd or 4th (I’m not sure which ca. 3,000 rpm at 60) and only between those two gears. I have a check engine light apparently for the knock sensor but no other errors which will be replaced for NY inspection. Also, the overdrive button on the shifter functions and the light turns on and off when depressed but it doesn’t do anything (like downshift) when the light comes on. Can anyone help with this? I have seen threads online about the VSS and shift computers but I’m not getting those errors, at least I’m told that I’m not. I am thinking about taking it to Autozone and having them read the error codes for me as opposed to the local shop for a 2nd opinion.

Also, this car is from my father-in-law whose car maintenance is summed up by “I don’t change the oil, I only add it when needed.” Yes, I have since changed the oil! Transmission fluid perhaps?

Any ideas/help with this one?


-Kurt from tropical Long Island.

If your father-in-law never changed the oil, then certainly he did not bother to change the transmision fluid. At 144k on the odometer, a car that has never had its trans fluid and filter changed is a candidate for trans failure at any time.

Don’t succumb to the temptation to have the trans flushed, as this can be the kiss of death if it is not done expertly. You might want to try having the trans pan dropped in order to clean out the sludge in there, followed by fresh fluid and a new filter, but don’t expect miracles. It may help in the short term but there is likely enough damage from FIL’s no-maintenance policy to mean a quick death for the transmission no matter what you do at this point.

For future reference, transmission failure is likely any time after ~90k miles if transmission fluid and filter are not changed every 3 years/30k miles. You might want to show this to your FIL, but you would probably just be wasting your time if you attempt to educate him.