Car wouldn't change gears

I have a 2004 C70 Volvo. One day I noticed a sizable puddle of oil underneath the car that came out of the transmission box. The car turns on fine, but when I put it in drive and press on the gas pedal, I hear the engine roar but the car doesn’t move an inch. It is as if the gears were on neutral. I tried reverse and the same happens; I just hear the engine roar with no movement at all.

I asked one mechanic and they said I need a new transmission- which is very expensive- but they didn’t give me an explanation. They just said ‘it happens’… Are there any suggestion for a cheaper fix, and also can someone explain to me what is wrong specifically (just out of curiosity)? As far as I know this was a sudden problem. The car was working fine the previous day then the next day, I see the puddle of oil and the transmission doesn’t feed at all.
Is my only option is buying a used transmission (costs around a couple of grands)?


It’s too early to say if you need a new transmission. You need to start by fixing the leak, getting the fluid to the correct level, and seeing how the transmission behaves after that. Has the fluid been at the correct level recently, until this leak happened?

You should bring the car to a good local transmission shop (not a chain). Although you might be able to get it there by filling the transmission now, it would be safer to have the car towed.

From a distance, nobody can diagnose the problem for sure, but here is my best guess:

I think that the transmission may have been leaking for some time, and then the leak increased to the point that the transmission ran dry–at which point you noticed the leak.

How often did you check the level/color/odor of the transmission fluid prior to this problem?
If the transmission was run on a very low (and declining) level of fluid for an extended period, it is very likely that the transmission has been trashed.

Yes, a new/overhauled transmission is very expensive, but before you commit to anything, I would suggest that you have the car towed to an independent transmission shop in your area for examination. DO NOT go to AAMCO, Lee Myles, Cottman, Mr. Transmission, or any other chain operation unless you want to be sold more expensive repairs than you really need.

Yes, the car was leaking oil before. I took it to a shop and they said it is from the engine and I got it fixed. A few days later, the leak started again. Now that I think about it, maybe the transmission was leaking all along. I toed it to a Volvo dealer and they asked for a LOT of money just to look at the car. That is when I toes it to another shop that simply took one quick look and told me I need a new or used transmission. The price they gave me ranges between a little over $3000 (for a new one) to around $2000 (for a used one). O_o

No oil in the car ever ran completely dry. Maybe some of the fluids go a little under the minimum line if I don’t notice them in time, but never empty or anything like that.

Would it be a good try to refill the oil in the transmission to see if it’ll budge? It’ll create another big puddle of oil, I’m assuming, but if there is a chance to see if the transmission can be salvaged, I’ll do it.

Yes, find out where it is leaking, fix it and fill it up and then try to move the car. The leak might be something that would require a tear down. That’s adifferent story.

Would it be a good try to refill the oil in the transmission to see if it'll budge?

You might gain a little data by doing that, but then you’d have a bigger spot of “oil” (transmission fluid) under the car, and you would have spent $10 or $20 in the process. However if you have the ability to search for the leak yourself and potentially fix it if it’s a external line for instance, then it might be worth the attempt. Whatever you do, do NOT allow anyone under the car if it’s supported only by the jack. If you don’t have jackstands or a very solid substitute to support the vehicle after it is jacked up, please don’t get underneath!

If you can’t actually do the repair, I don’t see an advantage in filling it yourself just to see what happens. Just get it towed.

And to reinforce others above, do NOT go to a national chain company like Aamco or the others mentioned. Open your yellow pages and look for transmission shops which are definitely local independent businesses. I’d suggest that you use another vehicle to visit one or two or more of these shops and speak with them about your problem. Among other things, you want to get some sense of how the shop feels to you, whether you feel you can trust them to be competent and honest. Of course you’ll also get some sort of price comparison (cheapest is not necessarily the main criteria). In the process, you’ll also be determining which one you prefer to hire to resolve your problem before you have your car towed.

I hope your problem is not serious, but it could be. Good luck!

Thank you for the advice, everyone.
Yup, I did have it towed before to a shop that I did NOT like (after the fact) and it did NOT go well at all. checking a place in person before hand my seem as an obvious thought, but when you are in the midst of things, you sometimes over look the obvious. >_<'
Also, I didn’t know to keep away from chain shops either. That is good to know. I don’t know anything about cars and I don’t drive that much. I usually take my car for long trips and weekends and stuff like that- which is why I don’t want to pay an arm and a leg for repairs if the car isn’t used most of the time anyway.

I’ll see how it goes. fingers crossed

when you are in the midst of things, you sometimes over look the obvious

Don’t feel bad. When a issue like this appears, it’s not easy to make all the right choices regarding something we have little experience with. If you have the opportunity and inclination, post back here with what you hear from shops before you have to decide to go ahead - someone here may have key advice to help you decide how to proceed.

At this point pour 3 quarts of transmission fluid in and see if the car will move. If so while the engine is idling check the dipstick to see if more fluid is needed and when the fluid is at the bottom of the cross hatch marks you can attempt to drive a very short distance to see if the transmission will shift. If it functions normally when full of fluid call around and find a shop that sounds as though they have some interest in checking the leak out for you prior to pushing for a new transmission. However… When full the transmission might work fine and a shop may repair the leak for a reasonable charge yet the transmission can totally fail on your way home from the shop.

I’ll post how it goes just in case.