car question 1993 chevy lumina

so i’ve got the car… when i statr it in the morning or after wor and put it into drive/reverse nothing happens, as in it doesnt move. once the engine warms up after a couple minutes everytihng works fine. drive/reverse engages transmission shifts normally… it just starting up after its been sitting for a while thats th problem. so tell me mighty message boad! what might be wrong?

Could be a couple of things. What was the last time the transmission was serviced? A fluid change and replacement of the sump screen/filter might solve the problem, but (more likely) it could be the torque converter is on the verge of failure. How many miles? Prior service?

In any event, my advice is to either budget for a full tranny rebuild, or a replacement vehicle. Good luck.

It could be low on fluid, or there could be a sticking valve in the valve body. I can’t see a torque converter causing this kind of problem, but YMMV.
A fluid change or flush might fix the problem, then again it might not. In the meantime, drive the car until warm, and check the fluid level top up as necessary. Caution the marks on a trans stick are very close together, the last couple are maybe a 1/4 cup apart.
Do you have a regular mechanic that you trust?

The symptom described - won’t engage a propelling gear (acts like still in neutral) only when cold, then works normally after running briefly - is the archetypal symptom of internal transmission seals getting old and stiff. It might not be the only possible cause, but I’d say it’s far and away the most likely. If that’s what’s going on, a fluid change isn’t going to fix it. The cure is a transmission overhaul.

Rick alluded to this, but I’ll make it crystal clear - automatic transmissions must have sufficient fluid to operate properly. The first thing to check - always - is the fluid level. It doesn’t have to be right at the maximum, but it should be in the okay zone, which will vary depending on the fluid temperature (most tranny dipsticks have two marked zones to reflect this). Practically speaking, chances are that if it shows on the stick, low fluid isn’t causing a problem. Make sure you know the proper way to check the fluid for your car - most require the engine to be running, but some require it not to be. Check the owner’s manual for instructions.

:smack: Worn seals!
Can you tell that A) I don’t do much inside of auto transmissions, and B) the cars I work on are newer?

No idea what’s wrong, but my Dad’s '94 Grand Prix has the exact same problem. Repairs would cost more than the car, and he’s a patient man, so he just lives with it.

It’ll actually go in to 1st much faster than Drive or Reverse (often instantly), and from there is more willing to make the move to Drive, so my Dad ends up backing it in to parking spaces wherever he goes.
Give 1st gear a try the next time you’re going someplace.


I second this. I just got rid of a 94 Cutlass, a GM stablemate of your Lumina, that had the same problem, worn seals. I had a different solution: transmission heater! In the mornings I could back the car out of the space even when it was below freezing. Seriously, I had it installed because of the cold winters here.

is there any kind of “miracle oil” or flush treatment that can treat the seals? the problem occurs in the morning and after i get off work… if the cars been running anytime in the last 4-hrs or so it gives me no trouble.

Well, I could name a good anti-oxidant for you and a good carbon-de-gunking product for you.
If you use the anti-oxidant and it works too well, you’ll discover that your seals were 20% oxidization, and now they leak like a hummingbird full of buckshot, 'cuz they’re only 80% whole.
If you use the cleaning agent, you put a bunch of gunk that was formerly gunked onto your tranny somewhere back in the fluid, hopefully back in solution. Given the sensitive and multi-function nature of an automatic transmission, especially a really old one, that seems like playing with fire. The esters in it will supposedly help to treat seals, but I worry that you’ll clog up something that just don’t work when clogged.
You know, there should be SOME seal-treating additives in any ATF.
How old is your current fill of Dexron?
If it’s the OEM fill, you could replenish your seal-swelling additives just by getting the fluid swapped out.

I cannot endorse the following product in your application, but I’ll link to it for your education and amusement:

I have no financial affiliation with this vendor. I have never used their product. In your application, the tranny may fail. Soon. Regardless of what you do. If you buy the above stuff and your tranny blows up, don’t blame me. On the plus side, they do have a money-back guarantee…

I’m not aware of anything that will help with these internal seals. My understanding is that they’re of a different material than the external seals - not as pliable to begin with, since they have to seal against the significant hydraulic pressure that helps operate the transmission’s innards.

There are products that purport to restore flexibility to external “rubber” seals. They seem to work - for a while. The problem is, there’s no way to “turn them off,” and the seals continue to swell beyond the point where they function again, and on to the point where they bloat and lose strength. Then you have a bigger leak than you started with, with no cure other than seal replacement.

If there were a product that helped with the internal high-pressure seals, I fear that after the seals worked okay for a little while, they’d lose strength and then the transmission wouldn’t engage at all, hot or cold. Any “fix-in-a-can” runs the risk of taking you to the point of no return.