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Old 02-15-2001, 03:15 PM
EricSilver's Avatar
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Join Date: Mar 2000
Location: Fairfax, VA
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Winter in Northern Virginia has been unusually cold this year, with many sub-freezing days.

In that time, I have noticed that my 1989 260E's shifting had progressively degraded when moving the car from a stand-still. It started with an erratic (and rather embarrassing) up/down/up shifting pattern -- as if the transmission couldn't decide what gear it wanted to be in -- then progressed to the point where the torque converter would "whir" (in first gear??) before a much-delayed up-shift.

I was about to go for a checkup when common-sense kicked in and made me check the transmission fluid level -- and there was barely enough to measure! (What little was there was clear and red, very clean looking.) Three quarts of Castrol Dexron later and the car is back to it's normal, solid, peppy self.

Apparently, the AFT had been leaking over the course of several months and the torque converter was behaving like a boat propeller halfway out of the water -- requiring high revs before it could "bite."

Are there rubber rings, gaskets, seals or whatever in the transmission that do not react well to sub-freezing weather and will cause slow leaks? Also, out of curiosity, and with all due respect to the techs who so generously provide their priceless advice here, had I brought the car into a shop without first checking the fluid level what (costly) diagnosis do you suppose I would have been given? (I find it hard to accept that any mechanic would have let me go with just a $5.00 ATF refill -- or am I just too cynical for my own good?)

Eric Silver
1989 260E (Giving me a real education in the past week!)

[Edited by EricSilver on 02-15-2001 at 03:45 PM]
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Old 02-15-2001, 07:53 PM
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Join Date: Jul 2000
Location: Toronto, CANADA
Posts: 1,193
I haven't had any problems with my transmission and it gets a might colder up here in Canada then where you are. When ever I have my transmission fluid changed they also change the filter and gaskets for me. It could be that someone skimped on service in the past and the gaskets have just worn or cracked. It would definitley get it looked at, you don't want to run with low tranny fluid. If you suspect your current mechanic has overlooked something, have a different one, or a dealer check it out for you.

Jason Priest
1999 E430
1995 E420 - retired
1986 420SEL - retired
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Old 02-15-2001, 09:27 PM
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Location: Fairfax, VA
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Hi Jason,

I'm pretty sure my current mechanic did not miss this, but I cannot say for sure about the one prior to him. The last time I changed the ATF was in early 1999 -- about 30,000 or so miles ago, so I am about due anyway.

This problem may have actually begun last fall when I noticed a barely perceptible surging on harder acceleration. I also would notice fluid leaks from time to time, but they were so small and infrequent that I did not take them very seriously.

Prior to adding fluid earlier today, it would take a few seconds for gears to engage after shifting (when stopped). Now the instantanous lunge forward or backwards has returned, and hard acceleration is smooth, with no trace of surging.

This may also explain the reduction in mileage I have been seeing lately. Normally, I get about 440 miles per 16 gallon tankful (not counting the reserve). That dropped to about 360 miles in December, probably due to torque converter inefficiency. I expect that to return to normal after today.

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Old 02-15-2001, 10:56 PM
Join Date: Jan 2000
Location: Indpls.,IN. USA
Posts: 84
Check your trans. cooler hoses at the radiator. These loosen at the crimp with time and will leak heavier when cold. Let your car run for 10 or 15 minutes on top of a clean piece of cardboard and you are going to find the culprit.
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Old 02-16-2001, 06:26 AM
EricSilver's Avatar
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Location: Fairfax, VA
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Thanks Rocket.

I'll do that today.

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