Reader Question Hi,
I just recently bought a 2002 Saturn SL2 with 65k miles and automatic transmission. While test driving it, I changed gears numerous times to see if it slammed into any gears or hesitated. It never did it.
I drove the car to work for 2 days (32 miles each way) and now it’s started randomly hesitating before going into reverse. I’ve tried it from Park to Reverse, Neutral to Reverse, Drive to Reverse, with the Emergency Brake up in Park to Reverse and it really does it like 1 out of every 3 or 4 times.
I’ve replaced the air filter and windshield wipers because they were disgusting and I planned on doing an oil change and checking the spark plugs/wires this weekend because I don’t know the last time they were done but like most people, I’m getting worried that I might have a transmission problem.
From your website, I read that I should check my transmission fluid and I will do that tonight after work but I was just wondering if you had ANY inclination as to what might be causing this.
Any at all help would be much appreciated,
Hi there Sherrell,
I am assuming you have already checked your transmission fluid by now….and hopefully it was low and adding the proper amount of fluid has cured the problem. If you still have problems though, I would recommend you get a transmission shop to take a test drive with you and experience the same problem first hand.
Usually this type of problem is due to low transmission fluid or a low fluid pressure internally of the transmission. 65K miles is not a whole lot of miles, and not really enough to get me to suspect you have internal transmission problems but anything is possible. Slow to reverse is usually a pretty common symptom of early transmission wear and the need for an overhaul.
I would talk with the transmission shop and get them to experience the problem. Personally I would go ahead and service the transmission fluid and filter and see if that helps the problem. Normally I would not recommend you do this in this situation since it can sometimes cause the problem to get worse, but at this mileage interval I think I would take a chance.
Since you did not mention anything about the transmission slipping in any of the other gears…again, I would change the fluid and filter. I would also use a transmission fluid additive designed to prevent slipping after the filter has been changed. Most transmission shops will have a favorite brand in stock.
There is a chance this could be a linkage adjustment issue, so make sure the transmission shop checks the linkages and bushings to rule out a possible out of adjustment issue.
Here is an article I wrote about changing transmission fluid, just so you are aware of the potentials.
Austin C. Davis
Hi again Austin,
I have checked the fluid. In my opinion, it looks really good. It’s nice and red and doesn’t look dirty at all. Since I last emailed you, I figured out that the car only hesitates and then slams into reverse after a long drive (after my 45 minute commute to work or longer). If I take the car for a short drive or when I first start the car up, it doesn’t do it. Does that give you any other ideas?
Hello again Sherrell,
If the fluid is nice and reddish pink in color I would bet the transmission fluid has been recently serviced…..did they do it to see if this problem would go away, I am not sure, but maybe they did? I would expect the fluid to be dark and a little gritty feeling on your fingers at 65k miles if the fluid had not been changed recently.
I think since it only seems to do this after a long extended driving time, I would just leave things alone. If the fluid is full and clean, and there does not seem to be anything wrong with the linkage, then this is most likely an internal problem inside the transmission. It might last 100K miles like this or may get worse very soon….too hard to tell these things.
But, since you just took ownership of the vehicle I would probably go ahead and have the internal transmission filter changed out just as precautionary maintenance. Talk to a transmission shop to verify that your exact model and engine size does in deed have a replacement filter (some models do not) and if it does I would replace it.
I would also start using a transmission additive made for slipping issues. But other than that I don’t think there is much you can do about this and I would definitely not worry about it too much either. Setting aside a few bucks each week into a car repair emergency fund is always a good idea though, just encase an unforeseen repair arises.