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Is the transmission really going?

Hi, we have a '96 Toyota Camry with about 126K miles on it. We knew the original owners and they did great upkeep on it. We noticed a fluid was leaking at the same time the car wasn’t “shifting” very well (it is automatic). One mechanic changed the oil pan and said that nothing was wrong w/ the transmission. Then we brought it to the place we always go to (they had been closed) and we were told that the transmission was going, and it didn’t seem worthwhile to replace it. They did say that we were leaking trans fluid, and that we needed it, so they refilled it. Well, as long as we keep it full of trans fluid, (1 qt/week), it runs great. We don’t like that trans fluid is leaking all over the street, and we tried a pan, but that doesn’t do much, and so we asked how much to fix the leak, and again were told that it wasn’t worth it, as they would have to take the transmission out to do it, and that would cost like $700. What do you think??? Could it possibly be that it just needs the trans fluid that is leaking out, and that really it is fine? Or is this just wishful thinking…

Where is it leaking from? The seals that usually leak like this are the pan seal (already done), the axle seals, and the front pump seal. Only the front pump seal would require that the transmission be dropped. The axle seals can be done by first removing the CV joints. Other leak possibility are the transmission cooler lines, and these can be done without removing the transmission as well. Have them show you where the leak(s) is(are).

Also, if it is the front seal, you may want to try a transmission leak sealer. It may or may not work, but a lot cheaper than dropping the transmission.

Thanks-- we’ll bring it back and ask!

I think you should find a good independent transmission shop and have them evaluate the transmission. If your Toyota isn’t rusted out and has had good maintenance, it would seem to me that the repair would be worthwhile. This car should certainly be worth way more than $700. In today’s prices, $700 is not an expensive repair.

If the transmission is leaking and can be fixed for $700, I’d fix it. The car will last a long time. $700 is not the end of the world.

Goodness, this car is worth more than that. Fix it and stop having transmission fluid leaking all over the place!

This car is good for 200k+ miles, so $700 (if that’s the right amount) is very little to pay for another, say, 70,000 mile - a penny a mile. Older cars need this kind of repair.

Sorry to have to ask this question, but what is an independent transmission shop? Would that be what I would search for on a search engine?? We would gladly do the repair if we thought that it would be all the car needed and the transmission wasn’t actually “going”. Right now $700 is a fortune to us (just had twins and my husband lost his job). So… I guess what you are saying is that there are ways to evaluate the transmission, and we should have this done. I agree!

Independent (also known as “Indy”) means a shop that is not related to a Dealership,also avoid a “chain” shop (a corporation that has franchises) find a mechanic that owns and runs his own shop. Use judgement in selecting your mechanic ,I pay attention to shop cleanleness as one factor in deciding to employ a mechanic.

The problem with repairing the leak is that the transmission has obviously been leaking for awhile and by your admission; “wasn’t shifting well”.
It’s possible this not shifting well is caused by slipping clutches/bands.

Point being is that you could spend 700 bucks fixing the leak(s) and the transmission could give up next month or 6 months from now.

You can perform a converter stall test and this will at least give you a handle on whether the repair is worth it or not.
Set the park brake, hold the foot brake, and try to rev the engine while in LOW gear. Do this very quickly and do NOT hold the accelerator down. The engine should stall at around 1800-1900 RPM and not rev any higher.

Allow it to idle for a couple of minutes and repeat this in SECOND gear.
Allow it to idle for a couple of minutes and repeat this while in DRIVE.
You should get the same results as far as engine RPMs each time.

Do NOT perform this process repeatedly. If you discover the engine is revving higher (say 2400, 2600 RPM, etc.) then the transmission is going.

Yes, the possibility of the transmission giving up in the next 6 months worries me as far as the repair goes. And yes, it wasn’t shifting well, but only for a couple days, and then the fluid was replaced, and after that, it ran great (until it leaked it out again). So it sounds like this is a test we can do ourselves. Sounds like some good information to have. Thank you!

With an automatic transmission a couple of days of shifting problems is an eternity.
A hour or less can do it in, depending.