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My wife has a nearly new Chevrolet Cavalier wagon with...

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Dear Tom and Ray:



My wife has a "nearly new" 1989 Chevrolet Cavalier wagon with a 2.8-liter
V6. It's an automatic and has 169,000 miles on it, but it's developed a
shifting problem. When the car is cold at the beginning of the day, it takes
up to 15 seconds to shift into Drive from Park. After that first shift of
the day, the transmission works fine. I've been trying to convince my wife
that this "time delay" is not necessarily a bad thing, because she could
wash the windows or check the tire pressure while waiting for the car to
shift into gear. But she thinks it's time the old Chevy becomes transformed
into something made in 1997 with a big price tag attached. Do I need a new
car or a new wife? -- Shep

TOM: Well, if she's outside checking the tire pressure when the thing jerks
into gear, you may need both, Shep!

RAY: We're on her side, Shep. If she's driving a Chevy Cavalier with 169,000
miles on it, she's done her penance.

TOM: While it's possible that a transmission-fluid and filter change may
improve the situation, all signs suggest that this is the beginning of the
end for this transmission. In fact, if you look at the average lifespan of
these transmissions, you'll find that this one should have died 37,500 miles
ago!

RAY: So if you're dead set on keeping this car, and it's otherwise in decent
shape (which is difficult to imagine), then you can put a junkyard
transmission in it and keep it going for a while longer.

TOM: But of course, if you go that route, the sporting thing to do would be
to drive the Cavalier yourself until it dies, Shep, and let her drive your
Lexus.
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