Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

A transmission question

I know this will be a very broad question with no way to have a clear cut answer, but I figured I would give it a shot. My sister has been driving my dad’s 96 Dodge Neon. It has about 133,000 miles on it and is losing transmission fluid. Where and how can a transmission lose fluid? I have tried to convince my sister to get it to a transmission shopt, but she say’s she doesn’t have the “time”, so my money is she will lose the transmission soon and it will be moot, but as of right now what might be some areas that would cause you to lose about a half a pint of fluid on a 40 mile trip.

There are numerous areas where a transmission can leak,and many do not show up as patches on your garage floor.

Your sister’s car is on borrowed time if she keeping going the way she is. If you don’t have time right now, check the fluid (the proper way) and add as needed.

She should take it into an independent transmission shop (not a chain) and have the leak identified and fixed. That will likely not cost too much if the unit is OK otherwise.

If the transmission fails through lack of fluid, you can tell your sister that’s the end of the car, and she will be very busy moonlighting to pay for a replacement vehicle.

You’ve got half shaft/axle seals on both sides. There is a front seal where the transmission mates to the engine. There is the transmission pan at the bottom. And then there are cooler lines. Those are common leak points. Depending on the specifics there are plenty of others (side covers, solenoid packs…)

A transmission specialty shop is best, but lots of these things can be checked out by any decent mechanic.

Just dont go putting any stop leak in it. Tell her it needs to get fixed or she will be on the side of the road.


I have given up, I have told her that at some point it will just stop running, but she is convinced that if she just keeps adding fluid it will be okay.

She’s a big girl and can make her own decisions, hopefully she’s saving for the inevitable. That leak will eventually get worse. You did all you can do. She’s in for an expensive lesson.


As everyone has said, there’s a very good chance that she’s turning a cheap repair into a very expensive one. I’m trying to think of a nice way to say that this is a really stupid thing to do, but the right words are failing me at the moment.

In addition, does she think that being stranded by the side of the road, waiting for a tow truck, and lining up alternative transportation will somehow save time over making a scheduled visit to a transmission shop?

No she plans on traveling over to the local buy here pay her place and buying her a 2005 or newer car…

If she is really checking the trans fluid level and adding fluid, then this could go on awhile. I seem to remember someone nursing a Taurus with a bad head gasket for over a year. Chip off the ol block.

Yea but mine was not fixable at anywhere near a reasonable price, I gotta figure that fixing a leak is a bit cheaper then replacing head gaskets…:wink:

Found it was one of the lines that takes the trans fluid up to the radiator to be cooled had become lose, it was tighten up and now no leak…

How did you find out? Did she take it to the mechanic eventually?

For the interim watch the fluid every day, and refill as necessary. The leak needs to be found and repaired. Look up front under the radiator for red fluid and work your way back to the pan.

Life’s biggest lessons are the most expensive ones.

Let them all learn. The value of a 96 Neon fortunately is not much. The truth is unless it is simple and obvious the repair cost far exceeds the value of this car.

If it gets in maybe they will get lucky with something simple. Otherwise the car is likely done for.

I’ve had leaks in several areas. If the pan bolts work loose, you can get leaks out of the pan, or same thing for the side cover. I have also had leaks in the cooler return hoses. In some cases they are rubber, and other steel lines that can develop a crack in them. Fairly easy fix unless she toasts the trans. People usually only find time for the things that are important to them.

A lot of hasty reading going on. The OP posted several hours ago that a loose cooler line was found leaking and tightened. Leak gone.