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Transmission going?

My 2006 Volvo s60 with 117,000 miles became fairly noisy when backing up over the last 6 months. More recently, up and downshifting between 1st and 2nd is often quite rough, typically when I’m in rush hour stop and go traffic on the highway. I think it’s worse on hot afternoons. Strangely, I don’t notice it when on surface streets starting and stopping.

I haven’t gotten any error codes nor do I see a leak of transmission fluid.

I’ll see my mechanic within the month, but so I have some other perspectives:

  1. Do I have weeks, months, or years until I need a new transmission?
  2. Given the age of my car, if I replace the transmission I suspect I would go with a reconditioned transmission – in expensive California I suspect that will cost ~$4,000 – would it get me 5 years?
  3. This post gives me some hope that perhaps I won’t need to replace the transmission. How would I know if I need a transmission or some less significant issue causing the symptoms.


With 117k on the odometer, your car is fast approaching the time for its 4 trans fluid change, so you might want to expedite that service.

Before you take it in for that service, it would be a good idea to check the fluid’s level, color, and odor. Have you done that? How many times has the trans fluid been changed?

Unless grossly neglected or abused… I can’t imagine any transmission on a 2016 model car needing full replacement.

Check and/or replace the transmission fluid, though. That’s where I’d start. It probably should have already been changed a time or two prior to now.

Thanks – I made a 10 year typo – it’s a 2006 rather than 2016. Will check fluid and maintenance records over the weekend.

Thanks! Will check fluid in a few days.

Several possibilities

  • fluid level low
  • fluid burned
  • filter clogged up
  • faulty solenoid
  • internal seal leaking, preventing the required full fluid pressure

Unless your shop can determine something that’s obviously wrong, the first step is a proper transmission service. Beyond that you’ll need an experienced transmission mechanic to either debug & repair the problem or replace the transmission.

Whether it is a 2006 model, or a 2016 model, the fact remains that it needed to have its fluid changed 4 times so far. Trans fluid (and filter) need to be changed every 3 yrs or 30k miles, whichever comes first. If this wasn’t done, you may well have killed that transmission.

Strange, just checked the maintenance booklet and surprisingly it doesn’t call for changing or even checking the transmission fluid – ever – unless the car is used for pulling a trailer. Seems odd to me. And the dipstick is located such that it’s tough to get to.

I’ll give my mechanic a shot at this.

That is because manufacturers are in a classic “race to the bottom” in their attempts to make their vehicles appear to be as maintenance-free as possible. An un-maintained transmission is very unlikely to fail during the warranty period, and when it fails after the expiration of the warranty, the hapless owner–who believed that nonsense about not having to change the trans fluid–will be the one paying the big bill.

I have known several people who also believed that nonsense, and who wound-up with trans failures anywhere from 100k to 130k. By contrast, I have never had to deal with a failed transmission, but I change the fluid and filter every 30k miles.

Just because a manufacturer has decided to delete a certain maintenance item from its maintenance schedule, that doesn’t mean that the item in question is no longer necessary.