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Tranmission Noise (after fluid change) on 05 Vibe, 80k

Car Talk readers, I appreciate any opinions. I am posting about a 2005 Pontiac Vibe with 80k miles.

While doing a valve cover gasket replacement, a mechanic recommended a transmission fluid change. I said yes. Now, my car makes a whining noise after cold starts that eventually goes away. To try and keep this short, I’m curious if I should replace the fluid again with older and specifically recommended brad/type from the manual. (Not that the mechanic put in incompatible fluid).

Some details:

  • Here is a 10 second clip of the noise. https://vocaroo.com/d9wAzXnjldP The end noise is me shifting into reverse (very audible).
  • The noise goes away after five minutes of driving.
  • The car shifts and drives fine (for now).
  • The car has a bad motor mount or two which creates excessive vibration at idle but is likely(?) unrelated to this current problem–it was not making the noise before the transmission fluid change.
  • The noise appeared two weeks or so after changing the fluid, not immediately.
  • The fluid level is, according to myself and also three mechanics, perfect.

I took it to a couple different shops. All confirmed it was a transmission noise. One speculated it was the torque converter. The majority of opinion was to continue to drive it while one mechanic suggested I do another fluid change and use the manual’s recommendation for oil.*

Any thoughts? I don’t know how fluid has changed since the car was made. I also have a few questions and thoughts:

  1. Is putting in the OEM fluid a waste of money or will it make the issue worse?
  2. Could the bad mount(s) be causing or exacerbating the issue?
  3. Is it significant the noise goes away? It seems to be worse the colder it is but my sample size is small.

It makes me hopeful that – and I don’t understand transmission well – perhaps the Type IV fluid from 2005 will be thinner and heat up quicker upon ignition, lubricating everything and preventing the noise. Am I crazy?

Thanks!

The T-IV is the correct ATF whether GM (AC Delco) or Toyota.

Your recording is pretty useless, there is six seconds of you starting the vehicle, 2 seconds of the bendix winding down after start and maybe one second of the actual sound. Next time start the engine first and then start recording for at least 10 seconds while it is making the noise.

Now, what exactly did the mechanic use? Compatible is NOT a good answer, need specific brand and grade. Next, did he just drain the pan and refill or did he “flush” the transmission. Sometimes a flush, if not done right can do more damage than good.

I would recommend that you have either three drain and refills with the correct ATF done a day or so apart, or at least with a couple of minutes of driving between the changes. The mechanic could drain/fill, start the engine, cycle through the gears, shut down, repeat the sequence two more times.

Or the mechanic could drain, drop the pan and clean it and the filter, reinstall the pan and fill with 4 qts of T-IV. The hook up the flush machine or fluid exchange machine and cycle at least 4 more qts of T-IV through the transmission. The second way is the best but it HAS to be done exactly like this, not just hooking up a flush machine and running it.

It would be best if this was done at a dealer where only the correct ATF has ever been used in the fluid exchange machine.

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Thanks for the response.

I’ll make a better recording tomorrow. From 6 seconds on the buzz you here is the whine I am talking about. The 1 second of actual sound is the noise (being exacerbated by) shifting into reverse. I mean that from seconds on that buzz/whine was not there at all. I’ll try to make a comparison clip tomorrow.

  1. I’m not sure what he used and he couldn’t tell me either. The receipt just shows MV-ATF and he was less than helpful showing me the actual bottle–I’ll try again tomorrow and ask what he would use.

https://my.gm.com/content/dam/gmownercenter/gmna/dynamic/manuals/2005/pontiac/vibe/2005_pontiac_vibe_owners.pdf ). Thanks for clarifying that the “T-IV is correct ATF”. I’ll likely buy the Toyota ones after a bit more research.

I appreciate your help and time thus far Keith.

If your transmission is making noise after changing the fluid and filter, and this noise wasn’t there before, there are only 3 possible explanations:

  1. An incorrect fluid was used, such as a “universal” ATF, which supposedly works with many types of vehicles.
  2. The fluid level is incorrect, either too high or too low (you already ruled this out).
  3. The filter is either poor quality, or not installed properly. Some automatic transmission filters snap into place, but most are held in place with bolts. Some use O-ring(s), which can fall off or be damaged by improper installation.

#1 is most probable. You should use only the correct licensed fluid, which for your Vibe is type T-IV. Do not use Dexron/Mercon, or any so-called “universal” ATF.

That is Multi-Vehicle ATF. Many oil companies offer Multi-Vehicle ATF, most meet T-IV specifications, if you can find out the brand used you can check if it meets specs.

I don’t know that MV-ATF means multi-vehicle but it does make sense. I have used Valvoline’s Multi-Vehicle ATF in a 2003 Corolla with no ill effects.

The big difference between Dexron-III and T-IV is an anti-foaming agent. The Toyota, and many newer automatic transmission, run hotter than their older counterparts and would cause the Dexron to overheat and foam up.

Very important questions to ask here:

Did he drop the pan?

If he dropped the pan, did he remove the filter?

If he removed the filter, did he clean it or replace it?

If he replaced it, did he use a new filter from Toyota or an aftermarket filter?

These are very important questions because if he replaced the filter with an aftermarket, it has been my experience that the aftermarket filters DO NOT fit properly. If he used a Toyota filter, it would have added at least $55 to your bill, it is a very expensive filter, but it is a lifetime filter that is meant to be cleaned and reused.

The transmission has a drain plug so it is not necessary to drop the pan unless you are going to flush the filter and clean the pan, which should be done at about 90k. Drain and refills are fine every 30k. If done on that schedule the transmission will probably never need any other service as long as the car exists.

Hi again!

Sorry for the late reply – everything going on, etc. I hope everyone is playing it safe.

I (finally) put in some Toyota-IV fluid as well as a new filter. The transmission drained just over 4 quarts and, aside from nearly using a FT-LB torque wrench instead of an IN-LB(!), everything went smoothly.

Both the oil pan and filter inside were quite dented and I had to punch out the pan a bit to get it to rest flush with a new filter. I saved the OEM one and will consider switching it at some point with another OEM one in the far future but for now it is aftermarket.

Here is a quick video comparing before and after. The audio skips because of my phone and not another issue with my car. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZnJWRNflQV4

The whine is greatly diminished or non-existent! The weather is warmer, however, so I am curious if I will still hear the noise come a cold morning. I am cautiously optimistic I will not but the temperature did seem to affect the duration and loudness.

I appreciate everyone’s help! Next up is to tackle the transmission-engine mount and possibly drain another 2 quarts + refill to try and get rid of most/all of the other fluid.

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