Transman, Please Help - My Transmission Hates the Cold

(Reposted and reworded for clarity)

I drive a 2001 Chevy Cavalier with about 117,000 miles on it. The weather has recently turned extremely cold (i.e. 10 degrees F), and now the car has been giving me some problems on cold mornings. The engine starts fine, but when I put it in gear the transmission slips badly - The engine will rev but the car barely creeps forward. After the car warms up for a while it runs perfectly fine and seems to run well for the rest of the day, even after the car sits for 8 hours while I’m at work. If I let the car sit and warm up for 10 or 15 minutes in the morning before putting the car into gear, I have -at worst- only slight slippage. This has only been going on for the past week or so.

(I live in Kentucky and it has been unusually warm around here for the past couple of years - I honestly don’t remember this ever happening before, but it’s been a VERY long time since I’ve had to drive the car in 10 degree weather.)

I had my transmission serviced (just a fluid exchange at Valvoline) AFTER my slipping troubles began on the recommendation of a friend, but it doesn’t seem to have alleviated the problem. I have no obvious transmission leakage and the car doesn’t really sound or run any differently than usual except for right after the first start on a cold day.

It was much warmer later in the week (around 45F) and the car gave me no problems whatsoever, but today the temperature has dropped again (around 20F) and once again it slipped badly after start-up, albeit temporarily.

Because my car is fairly high-mileage and I’m a bit of a hypochondriac, I’m concerned that my transmission is damaged. Is that likely, or could it simply be the case that my car is getting older and is less able to handle the cold? Am I being too optimistic in thinking that a serious transmission problem would cause it to act up constantly rather than just in extremely cold weather?

Any comments from folks who are more knowledgeable than myself (that would be almost anyone) would be greatly appreciated.


Any chance your transmission fluid level is just a little low? Check the level according to your owner’s manual.

Since the problem is temperature related, the clutch piston seals are most likely the culprit. You can pour a can of Berrymans in the trans and see if it softens up the seals enough to get it rolling when its cold. I use this stuff on transmissions all the time when hardened seals are suspected and it works very well. It also cleans the valve body. Try it and see if it works for you. You can buy it at Wal-Mart, Pep boys or Auto Zone. Its a metal red, white and blue can and says “Berrymans B-12 Chemtool” on it.


Thanks for the suggestion. I have a sealed transmission, though - not even a dipstick - so I’m not really sure how I could pour anything into the transmission. I know -very- little about cars, so is there any chance that I can get Pep Boys or Auto Zone to do it for me, or am I likely to be on my own since the Berryman’s is generally a fuel treatment?

You DO NOT want anyone from Pep Boys, Auto Zone, or any other chain operation touching your transmission!

I don’t know the transmission, but there is often a fill plug somewhere on the side. It probably won’t be all that easy to see or get to, but the basic level is checked & fluid added by pulling the plug.

It sounds like you don’t have a regular, local mechanic. You should find one and not take your car to places to Pep Boys. Get a relationship going with a local shop - they would be able to do this.

Isn’t that the same stuff used to clean the fuel system?
How much do you want him to put into a transmission?

Does he leave it in the transmission, or does he need to change the fluid after xxxx number of miles?

Normally I would take your advice as gospel, but this time around you have me coming up with more questions to follow up your advice.


Pour one can into the transmission. No need to remove any fluid, no need to change fluid. If you look carefully on the can (This is not a good pic, too small) it states “In the gas, in the oil” I use this all the time on transmissions which exhibit symptoms of hardened clutch piston seals. I used it on my own transmission until I found the time to tear it down and rebuild it. A lady friend of mine from out of state has been using it for 2 years on her transmission and last I heard several months ago she was still using it. It will soften the clutch piston seals and help keep the inside of the transmission clean.


So that I’m not misunderstanding, I need to buy a can of that stuff and pour it into the reservoir under my hood the car marked “transmission fluid”? Do I need to turn the car on and walk it through the gears or anything?

I mean no disrespect, but honestly, I’m a little scared of killing my car by doing this, since that seems to be an off-label use for the product.

Off label?? Read the can on the front it says “In the gas, in the oil”. I use this all the time. Dont use it if you dont want to. To cure your problem, you will need to rebuild the transmission.
Whatever you do, stay away from Lucas additive.


I think the “off-label” use comment meant that it apparently isn’t what the product was actually made for. In fact the file name says “Carburetor Cleaner” - so it does look a little odd.

To the OP, transman is right about the alternative. Basically, the cold temperature part indicates shrunken seals which basically means that the trans fluid can’t pressurize things the way it is supposed to. Once it gets warm the seals swell up enough to seal. This problem will only get worse and the only way to fix for real it is to take the transmission apart. (cha-ching!$)

So transman is offering a suggestion that might cheaply and easily buy you some more miles. And he knows what he is talking about as he spends many of his days rebuilding transmissions.

Look at it this way: if your transmission is going to work correctly it has to be rebuilt anyway - so what have you got to lose by giving it a whirl? I would never say to add it to a transmission without a problem (nor, I’m sure, would he). But yours has a problem. Certainly you are free to go shop the store shelves and find something that says “transmission” on it but where else will you get free advice from a transmission rebuilder?

I feel like I came off like in a jerk with my last comment, and I really didn’t mean to. I appreciate your advice, man. Thanks for warning me away from the additives as well - I’ve heard nothing but horror stories about them.

Transman is correct about the use of B-12 in transmissions. Leave it in and don’t worry about it. I’ve used this product a number of times on transmissions that suffered subtle problems and it fixed them right up. This was on vehicles from a used car dealer I used to do work for.
Whether it’s good for the long haul is always a question but on the cars I’ve used it on it worked pretty well.

To be honest, the way I read your original post I think your transmission could have some issues so I wouldn’t go on an out of state vacation in it just in case.
Your trans had slipping problems anyway which a service did not cure and it still slips apparently so the trans could well be on the way out. Doctor it up and hope for the best until it dies.

Typically, the reservoir that says transmission fluid is probably your power steering fluid reservoir. The dipstick tube, the one you use to check the transmission fluid level, is where you will want to pour it down.

If you have an owners manual, now is the time to use it.
It will have pictures of the engine bay, and will show you the location of the transmission dipstick.

And if Transman618 says to try something, its worth a try.


I’ve never heard of that use for it before.

I have used it for cleaning fuel systems, and also for sludged up valve train parts, but never for transmission use before. I prefer manuals, anyway. Less visits to people like yourself, if you will excuse my desire to not support the auto trans repair industry.

Thanks for some new info.


It may not have a dipstick- my 2004 cav doesn’t…
There is a fluid level check plug on the side, and a “trans fluid” fill plug on top which you can reach with one of those long neck funnels…pia

Your tranny has a fill plug at the top of it. It will be a red cap, probably slightly buried, on the drivers side of the engine. I would suggest you try the additive transman and ok4450 are suggesting to you. Since it has their endorsement, it must be good. I have never even heard of the stuff, but if those two advised me to use it, I would.

transman - since that particular version of b-12 chemtool is discontinued and I can’t find it in the stores around here anymore… is any of the other chemtool products the current equivalent and would do the same thing? Thanks.

The stuff is still out there I buy it every month for my cars and trucks