How to handle this car repair situation

So my transmission died last Saturday. On Monday, the garage told me they could order the part and get it fixed by Tuesday afternoon. I call on Tuesday and they tell me that the junkyard sent the wrong part, so it’ll be til Wednesday.

On Wednesday, they tell me that the junkyard sent a bad transmission. It didn’t work so they had to send it back. I had a long conversation with them about it and they said that the mileage on the donor car was 120,000. My car only has 109,000, so it’s an older transmission than the one that broke! They say that there’s another one for 89,000 miles for only another $100. I said that I didn’t really have a choice and the mechanic said “Yeah, no choice” about five times.

So today, the car is finally ready. I say “What did you say the mileage was on this one, again?” and the mechanic says “120,000”. I say “Wasn’t that the mileage on the broken one?” He then says “It was…but I got this one from another yard.” So he didn’t get the one that I said to get (and he acknowledged) the day before. But I pay the man anyway and go out to the car and immediately, there’s a problem- the car jerks really hard when I put it in gear and when I come to a stop. I mean, the transmission is really slamming hard. There’s also a loud ticking noise that goes away when I put it in neutral.

I feel like this transmission is going to break at any minute. The garage didn’t do what I authorized them to do and they got the wrong transmission. What should I do?

Go back there. Describe the problems you’re having. Demonstrate the problems you’re having. See what they do.

They know about the problem. He told me about it. But he described it as “a little jerk”. It’s a huge frickin’ slam!

In that case, tell him that you don’t think that the jerk that you’re feeling is so little and that you want them to correct the problem. BTW, is there a reason that they didn’t install a brand-new transmission?

Because I didn’t want to pay the $2,000 for a new one. The car’s not that valuable anyway. I’d rather junk it than pay, say, $3,000 in total repairs.

Can you give a little more info on the car? Why did the original transmission fail? Seems like pretty low mileage for this to occur. How much did the total repair cost? I work in a garage right now, and I know finding quality transmissions for some vehicles can be difficult.

That aside, you’re asking us to diagnose it over the internet, not even the phone - which a few of our customers ask us to do! - but it certainly doesn’t sound fixed. Did the salvage yard transmission come with any warranty? I know the yards we deal with provide at least six months parts/labor warranty. If you were really going the cheapest route it probably isn’t though, but it’s certainly worth checking.

Let’s start off with year, make model and where are you located as there are 50 different states with 50 different sets of laws that govern auto repair. What might be totally illegal in California, might be a commonly accepted practice in your state.
Next tell us what failed on the old trans, and exactly what is going on with the “new” one. Harsh upshifts? Harsh downshifts? Delayed engagement when moving from park to D or R?

Sorry I’ve been away. I was on my cruise. The car is a '00 Elantra and I’m in VA.

Originally, the transmission wouldn’t shift at high speeds. It would rev all the way up to 5,000, which was as high as I was willing to push it. I could smell a burning smell coming from the air vents, and the check engine lights came on with codes 734 and 732. So that’s what happened with the old one.

With this new one, when I got the car back to my garage and popped the hood to see what was going on, I saw that the slamming sound was actually the entire engine picking itself up and rotating backward (i.e. toward the bulkhead). It was lifting up about 2 inches and staying there. So I’m guessing that the engine mounts in the front are either broken or not properly installed if the mechanics had to remove them.

On the drive to work today, the car again would go up to 4,000 RPM without shifting. As I tried to slow down and accelerate quickly to test it, the check engine light came on again. So I figured I’d quit testing it and just take it back to the shop after work.

So, a few questions:

  1. It’s the engine mounts, right? That’s why the engine was picking up?
  2. Do you have to remove the mounts in order to fix the transmission, thus making it likely to be the shop’s fault, or were they already broken when I brought it in?
  3. Did I kill the transmission again? Let’s say the codes turn out to be solenoids again…do I have to get a whole new transmisison AGAIN?!

1. It’s the engine mounts, right? That’s why the engine was picking up?

2. Do you have to remove the mounts in order to fix the transmission, thus making it likely to be the shop’s fault, or were they already broken when I brought it in?
I can’t tell what mounts might have to be removed for tranny replacement. It’s hard to imagine, however, that you wouldn’t have noticed if the condition was there before.

3. Did I kill the transmission again? Let’s say the codes turn out to be solenoids again…do I have to get a whole new transmisison AGAIN?!
The problem is likely inside the transmission. As to whether it is (or originally was) faulty solenoids, not necessarily, but that doesn’t really matter. Surely the repair is under warranty from the shop, and whatever it is would be their responsibility to fix. Right?

Well, just so we’re clear, I have a different transmission now. The original faulty one is gone. So you’re saying that there’s a problem inside this one as well?

You said “Let’s say the codes turn out to be solenoids again…” I’ve interpreted that as “Let’s say the codes turn out to be P0732 and P0734 again” (because those codes can be set by things other than faulty solenoids). If you’ve got those codes and the engine revs up to 4K without shifting into 4th gear, yes, there’s a problem inside the tranny. Now, this is an armchair analysis by an auto repair pro who is NOT a transmission specialist. I don’t know for sure what the problem is, but my research indicates it’s almost certainly internal to the trans. There are some fairly common issues with these Hyundai trannys, and the replacement could have the same fault that your original one had.

If it turns out there’s a problem external to the trans, that raises the question of whether your original trans was just fine and was misdiagnosed, as the current symptoms (if the codes are the same) seem identical to the previous symptoms.

The engine and transmission are bolted together as one unit, and then that unit is affixed to the car’s subframe and/or body by some quantity of connectors. The connectors are called “mounts” and generally have rubber bushings to reduce vibration.

The powertrain rocking back and forth in the engine bay is most likely, as you suspect, a failed, improperly installed, or even missing mount. Whether it’s a “motor mount” or “transmission mount” is hard to say without further inspection.

Regardless, when talking to the mechanic, try to concentrate on the symptoms rather than guessing for him at what’s wrong.

Bring the car back to him, show him the rocking powertrain, show him the check engine light being on, and explain the car is once again not upshifting.

I would try to be non-confrontational at first. If he’s a good and honest businessman, he’ll apologize and ask you to leave the car again so he can make everything right.

This, my friends, is some of the best advice you’ll ever get for dealing with car repair.

Change “mechanic” to “doctor” and it’s equally good for dealing with health issues.

Describe the symptoms and let the professional do the diagnosis. That approach has each of you doing what you can do better than the other.