Is it the T word?

Hi folks, I think the guys answered a similar question awhile back: I have a 1996 Saab with an automatic transmission. Recently, it has been very reluctant to go into reverse when the nose of the car is pointed downhill. Otherwise, reverse works just fine. I seem to remember something about the ‘hill hold’ feature possibly being the problem. Does this make any sense, or am I just looking at the first symptoms of a transmission problem? All wisdom welcome, with thanks!

Have you checked the transmission fluid level yet?

“Go in to reverse” meaning… you can’t physically shift it to reverse, or you can shift it, but the transmission doesn’t engage?

Sorry–good question. I can physically shift it to reverse, but the transmission doesn’t engage. And again, this is only when the nose of the car is facing downhill. Thanks!

Back to Craig’s comment about checking the fluid level. Nose down may be allowing a slightly low fluid level to slosh away from the pickup.

Thanks for all these helpful comments. I asked the attendant to check the fluid the last time I got gas, and he said it was fine, but on the strength of your suggestions I think I’ll just request that it be topped off. I’ll be so grateful if it’s this simple (and inexpensive!)

Just bear in mind that the guy at the gas pump may be as unknowledgeable as the service people at Jiffy Lube and its clones. If the person who you ask to “top off” your transmission doesn’t know what he is doing, it is very possible to wind up with:

  • Transmission fluid of the wrong type

  • An over-filled transmission

  • Transmission fluid poured into the engine, rather than the transmission

If you don’t know how to check and (if necessary) fill the transmission yourself, I would suggest that you stop at a place that has a real mechanic, and have him do it for you.

NOTE: DO NOT go to AAMCO (apparently this means “All automatic transmissions must come out”), Lee Myles, Cottman, or any other chain transmission shop. Also, do not go to Midas, Monro, Meineke or Sears. Go to an independent mechanic. You may wind up saving yourself a lot of $$ by avoiding the scam-artist chain operations.

There is, of course, the possibility that you will need a new or an overhauled transmission. But, if you go to a well-reputed independent transmission shop, you are likely to get a much more honest diagnosis and a lower price quote for whatever work you may need.