CarTalk.com Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Transmission on 2009 dodge journey

my husband and i own a 2009 dodge journey. the last couple of days when i would go to and from work i would feel the car chug between 20-30 mph kind of like when someone who is really bad at driving a manual would miss a gear, but then it would get to 30 mph and it would be fine. well, yesterday my husband and my son went to the store and when he got back he told me i wouldn’t be able to go to work unless i had a ride because i guess our car wouldn’t go above 2nd gear. IT is an automatic, but you can just feel when the gears shift, you know? anyway, he had to coast all the way home and every time he would get to an uphill spot he would not be able to get the car to go over 20-35 mph and it would screech kind of. he said it sounded like the car was going to blow up or something. so now we have no vehicle and no clue what is wrong, we are just hoping we don’t have to replace the transmission because that is sulper costly! any ideas?

It sounds to me like the transmission is in “limp home” mode, which keeps it from going above 2nd gear.
The problem could lie in the transmission or in the engine, but the very first thing to do is to check the level, color, and odor of the trans fluid. Has that been done?

Also, you did not tell us if the Check Engine Light (CEL) is lit up, but if the trans has gone into “limp home” mode, I would imagine that the CEL is lit up or–even worse–is flashing/blinking. If the CEL is flashing/blinking, do NOT drive the car. Have it towed to a reputable (NON-chain) repair place.

What can you tell us about the CEL and the trans fluid?

Check your warranty. The 3 year 36k miles is bumper to bumper, but the drive train is usually longer.

i’m not much of a car knowledge person, i am just the one to get out there and try to get answers which is one thing my husband isn’t too good at. i remember him saying the light came on and i am not positive if he checked the fluid, but i will find out.

Elley–The presence of the CEL is very important, so for future reference, you DO need to mention that detail when you ask for our opinions. Please find out whether it is on steadily or if it is flashing/blinking, as that distinction is extremely important.

If the light is on steadily, he can drive to an auto parts retailer, and have them check the trouble codes that have been stored. If the light is flashing/blinking, he needs to get the car to a competent mechanic right away, and not continue to drive it.

okay i will find out immediately! thank you very much!

The only thing that will cause the check engine light to flash is a consistent misfire/dead cylinder. I had a Jeep once in which the transmission went into limp mode. The check engine light was on steady with a code relating to the fluid pressure sensor. That Jeep would not shift out of second gear for anything, and I didn’t dare drive it until it was fixed. Had a coworker do that and ruined a transmission that could probably have been fixed. A couple hundred dollars in parts and fluid and a couple hours of my time fixed my transmission (probably around $500 if it was in a shop). Hopefully your issue is as simple. It sounds like it is based on your description, so don’t take it to AAMCO or anywhere like that. They will just sell you a rebuilt transmission you don’t need. The check engine light, limp mode, and no statement of slippage in your post suggests the hard parts inside your transmission are fine and that this is an electronics problem. If you keep driving it, however, the hard parts inside your transmission can take a beating and, consequently, lead to the need for a transmission rebuild or replacement.

The first and foremost question is: Is there any warranty left on the vehicle? If so, take it to the dealer and let them fix it.

Other than that, you will need to take it somewhere (preferably not AAMCO) and have them connect a transmission scan tool to it to find out what is wrong. These transmissions are electronic and have fairly advanced diagnostics built in. The checking with a scan tool, interpreted by a competent transmission mechanic, will likely tell the whole story.

Hello I have a 2009 dodge journey with the 3.5l auto. I’m having the same problem when I first start driving it shifts fine then will drop back into second gear and not go past it. It is throwing a code for a bad wheel speed sensor on the drivers side. Would this cause this issue. Any help would be greatly appreciated! Thanks

It’s possible I guess that wheel speed sensor problem is causing it to go into limp mode. Seems unlikely though. There must be at least one other issue going on. Are you sure there is only one diagnostic code stored in the computer’s memory? You may need access to the dodge scan tool, might be a transmission or body control module code too. You’ll have better luck here starting your own thread btw. Click “maint/repairs” above left, then “new topic” above right.