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Car suddenly leaked all transmission fluid

I have a 1998 Saturn with about 270,000 miles. Two weeks ago, I was shifting in and out of reverse and drive, trying to get out of a tight spot in my driveway. Suddenly, I heard some sputtering noises. The transmission started jamming and jarring, rather than shifting. I got out of the car and saw transmission fluid rapidly leaking all over the driveway. I put the car in park, turned it off, and haven’t done anything for about two weeks because I had to go out of town.

Now that I’m back at home, I’m trying to assess the situation. I’m not sure if I should spend any money for a mechanic to even diagnose this car because it’s only worth a few hundred dollars, if that. I figure that any diagnosis and repair work will probably far exceed the value of the car. I guess the worst case scenario is that the transmission is blown. I would not invest in a new or rebuilt transmission. I suppose the best case scenario is that this is merely a leak that might only require a $2-$300 repair. I don’t think I could justify spending upwards of that, $400 or more, on this car.

I’m wondering if someone might be able to help me assess the odds of what could be wrong and the chance that this could be a $2-300 repair. Once I know those odds, I would feel more comfortable deciding whether I should have AAA tow it to a mechanic, or whether I should simply get rid of it for good.

Any expert opinions are welcome!

Could be the axle shaft seal, that would be pretty cheap. It could also be one of the cooling lines, that would be even cheaper. A leak like that should have left quite a trail. You should be able to look at it and see where the fluid escaped.

Its hard to know where to start without knowing what you know. Do you know where the transmission is? You’ll need to locate those cooler lines (as keith mentioned), the axle entry points, look underneath at the transmission pan (not likely to create a sudden gusher of a leak tough), and be able to check the area where the transmission mounts to the back of the engine. If you’re not very knowledgeable about cars, do note that the engine is in the car sideways. The front of it is against the passenger side under the hood. So as you stand there with the hood open facing the car, the engine is on the left and transmission on the right. So the back of the engine isn’t toward the back of the car. It probably falls a bit right of center as you stand there looking under the hood (toward the driver’s side).

I seen a transmission pan gasket do this. It was Chevy Blazer that was in the shop. It just drop all the fluid out. Replaced the gasket and it was fine. Yours was running so it maybe damaged. If it more than a gasket or a seal. Time to get a new to you car.

Someone has to look under the car and see where the fluid is coming from. This happened to our Minivan past week. I had done a pan drop/ATF change a few weeks ago, then one day I noticed fluid all over the ground under the car. The gasket had one defective area in it that had given out. (My little one now says our car is getting old and is incontinent).

Raise the car and look. It could be as simple as a cooling line being broken.