My Automatic Transmission Makes a Noise Now Won’t Pull

Reader Question

Hi Austin,

I purchased your e-book because I developed some transmission trouble a couple of days ago. I have a 2000 Lincoln Continental with 105,000 miles. I’ve always “babied” it.

Over the last few weeks, there was a soft “whirring” sound as I would accelerate over 2000 rpm — no big deal, no change in performance. But then in a road trip to Chicago from St. Louis, the transmission seemed to be hunting for the right gear at speeds of 40-50 mph.

And then yesterday on the way home from Chicago, the transmission seemed to be slipping (the car would feel like it went into neutral unless I stepped more firmly on the accelerator causing it to downshift, pick up speed, and then happily settle into top gear on the highway).

Thankfully we made it home without any other difficulty. Today, however, on the way home from the park, it just plain quit as I pulled into the garage — I’ve got reverse and park and neutral, but no drive.

According to your e-Book, you state that when it comes to transmissions, I should call my mechanic and ask if they do transmission work, and if they don’t, ask if they subcontract it to another place. But at the end of the book, you also mention that I should first take my car to a transmission specialty shop, find out what’s wrong, and then ask my mechanic if he can do the work.

The two pieces of advice seem a little contradictory. Maybe I’ve misunderstood something. Could you please clarify. Thanks a million.

St. Louis, MO

Hello There Adnan,

Thanks for your purchase, and your email!

Have you checked the transmission fluid level? This could be something as simple as a transmission fluid leak and the transmission is too low or totally out of transmission fluid…which could be the culprit of your problems.

If the fluid is low, buy a few quarts of transmission fluid from your local auto supply store and correct the fluid level.

If the fluid is FULL, then you probably have an internal transmission problem and should seek the advice of a professional in your area. If you have a regular mechanic that you do business with I would call them and ask them if they overhaul transmissions there or do they sublet the work out to a transmission shop.

If they sublet it, you can ask them if they would prefer you take the vehicle directly to them or bring it to your mechanic and let them send it to the shop. Make sure they don’t add a hefty commission to your bill!

If you have a good relationship with your regular mechanic it would be a great idea to take the vehicle to them, so they are in contact with the transmission shop…and hopefully will have more bargaining power and pull than you would as an individual.

If you don’t really have a good relationship with a regular mechanic, then I would take the vehicle directly to the transmission shop OR call your local Ford dealership PARTS DEPARTMENT and ask them if they sell a rebuilt transmission for your vehicle. Sometimes you can buy a rebuilt transmission directly from FORD, with a Ford nationwide warranty and have your local mechanic or repair shop install it for you.

This might cost just a little bit more than the transmission shop will charge you to overhaul your transmission but you will get a nationwide warranty good at any Ford dealer in the US, and you will have a much faster turn around time…usually takes 1 day to install this transmission if the rebuilt unit is available from your local dealer.

So to clarify, if the transmission is low or out of fluid, correct the fluid level and visit your local mechanic to have the leak identified and repaired.

If the transmission is full of fluid, it is most likely an internal transmission problem and will most likely require an overhaul or replacement…which in your case, if a Ford unit is available and not much more cost than an overhaul of your unit…I would buy it and have your local mechanic or a local transmission shop install it for you.

Understand? Keep me posted will you?


Austin Davis

Reader Follow Up

Wow!! That was actually pretty fast response. Thank you!

Just to update you, and then two questions:

I actually had checked the transmission fluid level when I noticed the car hunting for the right gear at speeds 40-50 mph. The transmission fluid was a perfect, beautiful pink color, no burnt smell or anything. The level was a little above the normal. So I did not feel I was low on tranny oil. Knowing that, it’s probably an internal problem, like you said.

I am now at a crossroads: I haven’t shown the car itself to anyone because it would require towing it. So I’ve called around and explained what happened, and almost everyone suspects an internal transmission problem.

The dealer wants $2000 for a re manufactured transmission plus $1000 for labor, and will warranty it for 3 years, 36K miles. A transmission specialist said he would rebuild it for $1800 and will warranty it for 1 year, 12K miles. Online, I’ve found Ford remaned tranny’s for about $1500, and I’ve found after market companies that’ll deliver a rebuilt one for $1350 and no core charge.

Austin, this is a car that I would like to keep for a long time. What would you recommend? What will give me the biggest bang for my buck? Is there any advantage to a re manufactured transmission over mine getting rebuilt, other than warranty? Or should I push the transmission specialist to install an after market tranny/Ford remaned tranny?

Thank you for your response, and again, thank you for the speedy response you gave for my earlier post.



Hello Again Adnan,

If this was me, I would purchase the rebuilt unit directly from the Ford parts department and have your local mechanic install it for you…$400-500 in labor should be about right to install it if you furnish the part. I would be willing to pay a little more for a Ford nationwide warranty.

I would call a few Ford dealerships in your area and PUSH them hard on a price break, there is a little…not much, but a little negotiating room on the retail price of the transmission.

They will charge you a “core charge” until you bring your old transmission back to them for exchange. This is standard practice.


Austin Davis

Reader update

Hi Austin,

I just wanted to give you an update on what I ended up doing.

After serious consideration, I ended up having the transmission rebuilt for a couple of reasons (not in any specific order):

1. Cheaper. It cost $1800 to have it rebuilt by a reputable local transmission shop. And they did it in less than 2 days. True, I don’t have the nice 3 year Ford warranty, but at least there’s a standard 12 month/12K mile parts and labor warranty.

2. Hassle-free. I didn’t have to worry about taking on the responsibility of locating a good, rebuilt transmission from a reliable factory, ensuring it had a warranty, arranging for it’s shipment to my mechanic, and then ensuring the mechanic shipped back the core. It would have taken too long, there would have been too many variables (such as shipping and freight charges) out of my control, and I was doubtful the total cost wasn’t going to be significantly less than the dealership (transmission: $1500, shipping: $100-150, mechanic’s labor: $1000, Ford dealership: $3000).

3. Possibility. Other than the Ford dealership, no transmission shop was interested in putting in a remanufactured transmission. They all wanted to rebuild it. And if I were to push them to do it, I run the risk of a hesitant mechanic doing a less than thorough job, and if in the future I should have problems, there was nothing stopping them from turning around and saying, “Hey, we warned you not to do it … and no, our labor isn’t guaranteed because YOU supplied the DEFECTIVE PARTS … all we did was put them in for you.”

4. Something about “updates.” All the transmission shops were recommending rebuilding my current transmission because of what they called “updates.” They said they could replace certain parts with better materials than the Ford remanufactured transmission. Now this reason is a bit soft to me ‘cuz I have no way of knowing whether they are actually doing what the say or using the “good stuff.” But I think at some point, other than rebuilding the transmission myself (for which I have neither the time, tools, nor expertise), I really am at the mercy of the mechanic and have to take their word for it, and trust them, and hope I’m not getting screwed.

So, that’s pretty much what happened, Austin, and why I chose to have it rebuilt. Thank you very much for your time and your speedy responses. I look forward to reading your bulletins and updates.


Hey there Adnan

Thanks so much for your email and update, I wish the best!

Just so you know, I guess I did not make this clear….sorry. The Ford rebuilt transmission would have been available at your local Ford dealership parts department. They would have delivered it to your local regular mechanic (does not need to be a transmission shop) and they would have come back and picked up the core free of charge.

So all you really would have had to do is pay for it in person or over the phone and they would have taken care of the rest. Sorry I did not make this more clear at first. Something to keep in mind for future reference.

Thanks again.


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