Can a transmission just repair itself? (2001 Chevy Metro LSi)

So, I own a 2001 Chevrolet Metro LSi. It’s got the 1.3L original Suzuki engine and the original transmission in it with about 300,000 miles on both. I bought it about a year ago for $1000 and has treated me well ever sense. However, two nights ago something intriguing happened. I pulled up to a fuel station to fill my little car up (doesn’t take much). When I was finished fueling, I pulled out of the gas station, up a small and short incline a heard a big thud. While in drive, I just rolled backward and that, i thought, was the end of my transmission. When I put it in reverse, it would make a whining/grinding noise, same for drive, and I had to put the emergency break on for it to sit still in park. Regardless, I had to walk the 6 miles home in 19 degree weather with about 30 pounds of groceries. Anyway, the next day I called a mechanic and had them come pick me up so they could tow the car to their shop. I got to their shop and they left to go get the car. To my surprise, they pull up about 20 minutes later DRIVING the car as if nothing was wrong. They pulled up to me, put it in drive, reverse, park and everything worked fine. They guy told me that when they were pulling it, (redneck pulling with a chain), he decided to try to put it in gear and give it gas pretty hard, and the gears just “caught” as he described it. He still recommended that I get a new transmission or just sell the old car, but I don’t really have the money to get a new one, or replace the transmission, as most of us dont. Anyway, I need a second opinion. Is this type of occurance common, or is it it one of those once in a lifetime freak accidents? Either way, I’d like to know if i’m safe to drive it as it (it drove fine back home from the mechanic shop)? I’ve always only used it about twice a week just for bills/groceries/doctors appts, so It’s always lightly used. Thank you for your potential response and opinions.

UPDATE I posted this to another forum last month so I need to add that I have been easing the car around the town I live in only going to places I need to go once or twice a week. The transmission still seems to be shifting out smoothly and I am constantly checking the fluids. Everything seems good. I have the money now to get a good used transmission if I need to, but it’s going to run about $750 for the used transmission and the labor, so the question is still relevant. Should I worry about getting one and having it replaced?

At 300,000+ miles I would likely get the transmission serviced and keep up all normal service and drive it until it dies. It might not last another week but then it might run another year.

Red Knox, your opinion does make sense. I’ve been thinking of purchasing a backup transmission in case mine goes out and just driving the one that is on there until it dies completely. Yet, I’m worried about getting stranded somewhere and this concern makes traveling anywhere too far from home something that I just don’t want to do.

I am curious still if anyone knows anything about the actual event that occurred? It does seem really strange that it happened and just suddenly started working again the next day. Is it possible that the cold might have had something to do with it?

Something must have “stuck” and then “unstuck” (as opposed to something breaking). The real head-scratcher to me is why PARK ever stopped working.

The one failure, that would present with all the conditions that you described, would be a half axle shaft pulling out of the transaxle. When the serviceman towed the Metro with the wheels turning and straight ahead the axle stub might have worked its way back into engagement with the differential side gear.

You might have your serviceperson check the retention of the half axle stubs (right and left) in transaxle. They are held in place by a snap ring that could be weak or broken. Easy fix if that is the case. The design of that transmission is fairly robust and simple. But, getting 300K miles out any automatic transmission is very lucky and demonstrates an easy driving style.

Good luck on this.

Could have been something as simple as a tiny piece of debris getting caught in the valve body causing a valve to momentarily stick then working it’s way out. It may never happen again. I would just drive on. (But not too far for a while).

researcher, I appreciate your advice on this… Is this something that I could check without painfully paying my mechanic $100 to just put it up on ramps and use his eyes?

When an axle shaft disengages from the transaxle it is usually because one or more engine mounts are failing. If you watch under the hood while someone shifts from neutral to reverse, back to neutral and then to drive and find that the engine is tipping front to rear a mount is failing. Although that’s a long shot it is certainly worth a close inspection.

Usually when the axle shaft has disengaged oil will leak out when attempting to drive.

If that happened to my Ford truck (w/an automatic) , the first thing I’d do is drain the transmission fluid, remove the pan, and look for any metal debris sitting in the bottom of the transmission pan. If nothing, I’d replace the transmission filter, install the pan, and refill w/fresh fluid and hope for the best.

No new work, definitely not. For that price you can buy two cars like the one you have, maybe. On the good side; it looks like an easy job and I know you can find an engine if it should fall apart after the transmission gets fixed. With your car, you have options.

No, a transmission cannot repair itself. The problem is still there waiting for you, get it checked by a transmission guy. rocketman

To check the axle shaft engagement into the transaxle, you will have to get under the front of the car to visualize the axles as they exit the transaxle. The inboard end of the axle should be almost touching the case of the transaxle. Using a pry bar or large screw driver, you should not be able to move the axle end away from the transaxle. Don’t get too forceful as you can extract the axle end from the side gears. Try again with the front wheels turned to the far right and far left. There should be no sign of movement.

If there is movement, try to push that end back in. You might feel the end ‘snap’ into place and remain locked in place.

BTW, did the presenting condition occur with the steering wheel cranked hard over?

Hope this helps.

Save your $750 for the next car purchase not a transmission. Putting a new transmission in a 300k transmission is risky as there is another elephant in the room the 300k+ engine.

Drive on and hope for the best which is what you do anyway with a 300k car with unknown prior owners.

Exact same thing happen to me but Idk, what the hell to do and I live in my car. What get a tow truck or put on jacks and gun the gas hoping it will get unstuck and then drain&change the transmission fluid?..God help me oh God why why why why why (God echoes)

what are you trying to say?

Do you also drive a 2001 Chevy Metro LSI . . . ?

Because if not . . . you’d better open up another discussion