Fuckity Fuck Fuck (Car Trouble)

So, my car has been a little flukey in the transmission area. When its cold you have to let off the gas to get it to upshift out of second (automatic). I’d been thinking of bringing it in, just as soon as I got my credit card paid off, which would be next month. But yesterday morning it made some horrifying noises so I sucked it up and called my mechanic. Dropped it off, they said they’d take a look (don’t worry, it probably just needs a fluid flush).

Got a call this morning, transmission has an internal problem… you could fix it for $2K, or get a new one for $2k.


My car’s a 91 Stanza and only has 72K miles on it. It’s paid off and in really good shape otherwise. I CANNOT afford a new vehicle (and if I had to buy one I doubt if I could pay more than $2K).

Now, I have very trustworthy mechanics, they have always dealt fairly with me and have passed by several opportunities where they could have sold me useless repairs, but didn’t. I trust they are on the level in assessing the problem. They are supposed to give me a call back with an official estimate soon.


Ahhh. The joys of owning a car: being towed back 150 miles sitting between two hairy, smelly Neardentals, car breaking up in the busiest intersection in town, car trouble when you are broke, being rear ended by an idiot who runs before your take their plate number… Yes, I can relate.

Get a new (or newer used) car. Increasing your indebtedness is part of your American obligation to keep the economy rolling, not trying to bandaid a 13 year old Stanza that is (and will be) dollaring you to death.

Failing that there are some great end of year sales on bicycles currently!

[sub]Flees into the distance[/sub]

I dunno about dollaring to death, this is the first non-routine maintenence I have ever had to put into this car. Other than things like brakes, oil changes, etc. and I’ve had it since 1996.

If its been really good to you, it may be worth keeping. Nissans are generally quite reliable. How many miles are on the car?

If you do sell it, consider getting a used transmission put in it just to sell it as your car would be pretty much worthless if the tranny is totally shot.

Back to fixing it. $2k US sounds on the steep side. Call a couple of Tranny specialty repair shops. Ask them for a quote on putting in a reman/rebuilt unit in your car and make sure your mechanics are in the ballpark. If they’re not, ask them why.

The shop I took it to is calling around to find a rebuilt or used tranny right now. So far not much luck in finding one but it is New Years eve, probably not everyplace is open.

The car only has 72,000 miles on it.

OK. Low miles. Defintely worth considering fixing and keeping for yourself.

Do not buy a “used” transmission for yourself if you plan on keeping it. I have nothing against buying “used” parts per se but there is no way I would put a “used” major powertrain component in my car (unless it is totally remanufactured… see next)

Rebuilt/Remanufactured - This is probably the way you’ll end up going. Ask your mechanic where he is planning on purchasing it from. Nissan has a reman program with many components. If they are getting it from them, thats the best way but it may be the most expensive.

Otherwise, there are many “rebuilders” around. Most major auto parts stores deal with them (Pep boys, etc). That would probably be the second best place to go and more likely than not where your mechanic is getting it from.

OR, you can try a tranny specialty shop and often they “rebuild” them in house. They’re usually pretty good too.

Any way that you go, make sure you get a decent warranty on the work.

FYI, I’m calling around for rebuild right now. I called a transmission shop and they’re saying $1700 best case to $2100 worst case. sigh

FWIW, I would recommend that you search the Mechan-X Files at the Car Talk web site for recommendations. It’s better than going by who has the best ad in the yellow pages.

Good luck!

My pickup is in the shop with a mysterious intermittent electrical problem that has been steadily getting worse. I’ve had it to three different places who all looked at it and couldn’t find anything wrong, but didn’t charge me becaus they hadn’t fixed anything. Since it’s getting actually dangerous to drive (occassionally, out of the blue, it stalls and looses all electrical power while I’m driving down the street), I finally broke down and took it to the dealer, who’s actually charging me for diagnostic time. Got a call today from the mechanic. In their professional opinion, it will cost more to correctly diagnose the problem (without even worrying about fixing it), than the vehicle is worth.

sigh I suspected that this would be the career-ending injury.

Sorry to contradict bernse, but I would consider a used tranny. I know you can get cheap, low-mileage used transmissions imported from Japan for Hondas; I would think they’d be available for Nissans as well. Some places even offer a warranty on them. IMHO, $2,000 is too much to spend on a car that’s over 10 years old.

Heh. No need to be sorry about it, everyone is entitled to their own opinion!

IMHO, there is just too much of a risk getting a transmission that already has tens of thousands of miles on it. Even if it survives its “warranty” period, you’re pretty much assured it will fail faster than the reman unit since.

However, if there was a massive price difference (say, $1000 or so) and has a good warranty, I would consider it.

Podkayne, I would be curious to find out as to what electrical fault would actually cause your pickup to loose all electricity, including killing the engine.

Check with local salvage yards and see what one would cost. I do my own installs so I don’t know what labor would run, but I’ve replaced most of the belt-driven accessories on the engine of my '90 Maxima for between $15-$30 apiece, and I believe you can pick up an automatic tranny for under $500.

You’re rolling your dice and taking your chances with used parts, 'tis true…but sometimes it’s the only financially viable alternative.

Not much to add, except that the title of the thread made me think “Look at Frosty go”.


With only 72K miles, over 11-ish years, the engine probably only has about 20 more years left in it, if you’ve been keeping the fluids current. Some may think it foolish to spend so much money on such an old vehicle, but if you’re more concerned with having a reliable car vs. something flashier, then I’d go for the rebuilt tranny. Car payments suck, and even though this one may start to show some more problems (alternator, fuel injector? problems, etc) it’s still probably gonna be cheaper than a monthly car payment.

Just a clarification here - I’m not talking about a tranny from a junkyard, I’m talking about places that import low-mileage transmissions from Japan. The explanation I have heard is that regulations for auto maintenance are much more strict over there, resulting in a lot of cars being salvaged fairly early in their life, consequently allowing U.S. importers to sell transmissions that are relatively new. I don’t know if it’s available in your area, though. Here in Los Angeles, I have found such places just by looking for their ads in the back of the “Recycler” Classifieds newspaper. Of course there’s still a risk that you’ll have problems, but probably much less of a risk than just pulling one out of a wrecking yard.

Addendum to both blowero’s post and my own: if you DO go to a salvage yard, do a walk-around if they’ll let you and specify one from a vehicle that was totalled in a rear-end or rear side collision. For reasons that should be obvious.

The difference in transmission shops is amazing.

The prices on the last transmission I replaced ranged from $3300 to $950
The $3300 price was from a reputable transmission shop that had a good rep for doing quality work.

My second choice was dealing with my main repair shop. They do all my work; you know a neighborhood garage that won’t cheat you.

He could get a rebuilt Trans for $2200 or I could get a used Trans for $950 with a 90 day warranty.

I took the $950 figuring if it lasted 90 days is could not be too bad.

That was almost 2 years ago and it still works great

My mechanics (who have an excellent rating on Mechan-X files, BTW) couldn’t find a transmission to replace it at all. Well, they found one but it was so far away it would be too much $$. Apparently they don’t do transmission repairs in house. I brought it to a tranny place in town. Wah. I want to spend $1700 on something fun. I was saving up for a horse trailer/tow vehicle. Triple fuckity fuck fuck .

Although it’s a harsh financial nut, you’ve probably taken the best route. IMHO automatic transmissions have become too complex for the average shop to service, beyond changing sump screen filters, fluid changes and defective modulators. When I was a wrench turner, we subbed all the auto trans work, and only did some manual rebuilds in house. My truck has 352K miles on it, and rebuilding the trans is the only job I haven’t done myself, for the reasons listed above. Good luck and Happy New Year!