My Automatic Transmission Slips and Slow To Reverse

transmission slow to reverseMy wife and I have had a Pontiac Sunfire SE for about 6 months now and it has run perfectly thus far. It has a 2.2L 4-Cylinder engine with an automatic front-wheel-drive trans axle. Yesterday, out of the blue, I noticed the transmission was slipping.

The slip is happening when shifting from Park to Drive or Reverse; engagement is slow and soft. The transmission does not immediately engage and usually takes a slight amount of revving the engine to get it to engage in the selected gear. Once engaged, the shifting between gears is fine and occurs at the normal times. The shifting is normal at freeway speeds as well.

However, once the vehicle slows to a stop (at a stop light or whatever) there is a slip (or delay rather) from the time the brake pedal is released to when the transmission engages first gear again. Revving the engine a bit causes the transmission to engage, but it is soft and slow, not crisp like it used to be.

What could be causing this, and so suddenly? Also, what can be done to fix it? I suspect a transmission fluid level issue, but I wanted to check with someone other than some mechanic that will just want to replace the whole transmission. Please help!


Hi Scott,

I JUST sent out a newsletter to my subscribers about a very similar issue

Always check the transmission fluid level FIRST and top off as needed. If the level was very low, you probably have an external leak somewhere and it should be inspected. If the fluid is full you probably have an internal wear issue. There really isn’t much externally from the transmission that can be looked at or inspected, the transmission usually has to come completely or partially out of the vehicle.

The loss of reverse gear, or a lag time when selecting reverse gear is a pretty common complaint when internal wear is present. Why did this all of a sudden happen? Good question…if the fluid is full, something probably broke inside the transmission to cause this, or it’s been a gradual problem that finally got noticeable.

If you have low mileage (less than 60,000) and are already facing a possible transmission overhaul, you might as well replace the transmission filter and fluid and cross your fingers. I have seen a restriction or defect in the filter cause low fluid pressure inside the transmission and cause similar issues like you have.

If you have high mileage (more than 60,000) AND have not been servicing the transmission every 30K miles…changing the fluid and filter NOW could make things worse. Changing out the oil fluid can actually cause the transmission to slip even more.

An overhaul is going to be a lot of money for a 10 year old vehicle, but if you go that route and repair/overhaul the transmission you might want to call your local GM dealer parts department and get a price on a GM rebuilt transmission and have your local regular mechanic install it for you. It will cost a little more, but you will get a nationwide GM warranty, and a product that is better than a local transmission shop.

Dealing with a local transmission shop can be a pain!

Please share this with your friends,

Austin Davis

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