Sluggish acceleration on Buick Century

I am having some trouble with my 02 Buick recently. The acceleration from a stop is very sluggish and gear changes come slowly, although they still seem to shift smoothly. The first thing I did was check the fluid levels and I can find nothing wrong there. The trans fluid was last changed 3 years ago, but the level, color, and smell are all normal so surely that couldn’t be the culprit?
Unfortunately, that about exhausts my diagnotic skill. I’d take the car to the shop if I could afford to, but I can’t so I hope with some kind help from you fine folks I might be able to understand the problem at least, even if I am unable to rectify it.

Does the car have a tachometer?
If it does…Is the tach showing higher revs than it used to for a given amount of acceleration?
Or…if you don’t have a tach, does the engine sound like it is revving at a high rate while accelerating slowly?

If your answer to either of these questions is, “yes”, then–yes–your trans is slipping.

If the engine is not revving at a high rate while accelerating slowly, then you should look to basic maintenance, such as…spark plugs, fuel filter, air filter. When were these things last changed?

No there isn’t a tachometer but yes the revs go up while accelerating slowly and takes ages before changing into higher gear.

I guess that means it’s probably going to be a costly repair? Rebuild the gearbox or something?

My recommendation is to take the car to an independent trans shop in your area for diagnosis, and–maybe–you will luck out with something less than needing to rebuild the trans.

Whatever you do, do NOT go to AAMCO, Lee Myles, Cottman, Mr. Transmission, or any other chain, unless you want to be told that you need a new/rebuilt transmission–whether you really do or not.

The old joke is that AAMCO stands for, “All automatics must come out”, and while it is a joke, it is not far from the truth. The chain operations invariably give diagnoses that are more dire than reality, charge more, and deliver bad workmanship. Even their, “Nationwide Warranties” usually include enough weasel clauses for them to escape having to honor the warranty.

Ask friends, neighbors, co-workers, and relatives for recommended independent trans shops in your area.

Thank you very much for your help. I know a good local shop just down the street. Sadly with my current financials, even a simple and cheap repair will still cost dearly. You know how it is, best laid plans of mice and all.

No check engine light or other lights?

No, there’s a fault with the lights that I’ve never gotten around to having fixed. So no cel/ses lights. I don’t even know the mileage is anymore because the ticker part of the same lighted display.

A code reader may shed some light on the source of your problem, free scan for codes at many auto parts stores, post them here if you can.

Assuming check engine light isn’t on, and routine engine maintenance is up to date.

Sorry you are having this car worry. Frustrating. One thing I might suggest, be sure to follow exactly the owner’s manual method for checking the transmission fluid level. It isn’t a simple thing to do with modern cars, and car owners often don’t take the time to do it correctly, and have problems as a result. Usually there is a procedure you have to follow to the T, like drive it a minimum number of miles, coolant temp up to normal, then park it , push on the brake, and go through all the gears in a specific order, return to Neutral or Park, and only then check the dipstick, either with the engine off or on, depends what they say, making sure to look at both sides of the dipstick. The side with the lowest level is the one to use.

All that said, it wouldn’t be that unusual for an automatic transmission to begin to show signs of failure at the 10 year mark. Transmissions are so complicated very few driveway amateurs would attempt to do any serious repair or diagnosis of a modern automatic transmission beyond a simple, proper service, which means to drop the pan, clean/replace the filter, and refill with the proper fluid.

There’s a possiblity this isn’t the transmission at all of course. It might be the engine isn’t working correctly. A mechanic could probably take it for a drive and tell you with some certainty if the problem is in the engine or transmission. If all else fails, and the mechanic thinks it is indeed the transmission, maybe risk the expense of a proper service. Not a flush. A proper service, as described above.