What's wrong with Ludwig's Van?
November 1, 2007 1:46 AM   Subscribe

Help me figure out what's wrong with my old crappy van.

It's a 1992 Chevy conversion van (automatic transmission). The alternator and tensioner failed last week and I replaced them. I was driving it tonight and it was doing fine going 65 on the highway, but then when I exited it started getting stuck in a low gear and refusing to shift to the next one, so I couldn't accelerate past 20. But then it would work normally for a few minutes at a time before getting stuck again, and so on as I drove home.

Can you tell what could be wrong with it, and estimate how much it should cost to fix?
posted by ludwig_van to Travel & Transportation (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Did you check the transmission's fluid level? (the first thing to do)
posted by thomcatspike at 2:36 AM on November 1, 2007

It sounds like the bands are slipping in the tranny. It could just be low fluid or the screen in the tranny is clogging, but if it is not it is probably serious.
posted by caddis at 4:36 AM on November 1, 2007

Definitely check the transmission fluid, and look for signs of metal in the old fluid. If you have high mileage, it could be time for a new transmission. This site looks like it could help you fix it yourself.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 5:48 AM on November 1, 2007

When it does shift, does it shift slowly? Like slurring?

That is another sign of low fluid (most likely cause if easily fixable).
posted by Brockles at 6:20 AM on November 1, 2007

You may have accidentally unhooked a crucial vacuum hose when you were replacing the other stuff. Older automatic transmissions got a lot of info about engine load via vacuum, and if one is open to atmosphere, the transmission is hopelessly confused. If it is just loose, that would explain the intermittent nature of the symptoms.
posted by neat-o at 6:33 AM on November 1, 2007

Seconding neat-o. Also, when you disconnected the electrical system to replace the alternator, you may have reset a computer that gives information to the transmission.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 8:09 AM on November 1, 2007

... and refusing to shift to the next one

It won't shift based on RPM's or when you manually shift between L-2-D etc?
posted by enobeet at 10:00 AM on November 1, 2007

Response by poster: I checked the fluid level, it looked good. I didn't do the alternator replacement myself. I drove it around this morning and it had no problems, so I'm going to cross my fingers and see if it happens again.
posted by ludwig_van at 6:41 PM on November 1, 2007

Best answer: It started happening again, so we took it to a transmission place. They said it was low on fluid and the transmission is all messed up such that there is no third or fourth gear and the transmission needs to be rebuilt. I drove from San Diego to Las Vegas last night going 45 the whole way. It was a bummer.
posted by ludwig_van at 11:50 AM on November 3, 2007

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