A camaro shifting lesson

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Nov 01, 1990

Dear Tom and Ray:

I hope you can help me with my problem. I own a 1989 Chevrolet Camaro RS, which I purchased new. More specifically, I very often have trouble getting the transmission into reverse. It just doesn't want to slide in! I usually end up trying to finesse it in, but it grinds. Or, I just force it in very quickly, but that makes it grind, too. This happens with a hot or cold engine. The dealer has recommended several things, including rocking the car back and forth, allowing it to idle down completely, and revving it before shifting. None of this has worked. The dealer insists that the vehicle has a good transmission, a "German transmission." I have been driving manual transmissions for 22 years, and have never experienced this problem. What's your advice?

RAY: This car may have a good "German" transmission, but it sounds like it has a lousy Chevrolet clutch. Resistance and grinding in reverse and first gear are signs that your clutch is not disengaging all the way.

TOM: You'll have to do a little detective work to find out if they're all like this. Get a job as a valet parker at the next Van Halen concert. You should get a chance to park a bunch of Camaros that night. If they all grind like your's does, it's a lousy design, and you're probably just going to have to live with it.

RAY: If they don't grind, you can assume that there's something wrong with yours. First check to make sure nothing is obstructing the clutch pedal. We've had similar complaints from people whose extra floor mats have prevented the clutch from going all the way to the floor. That extra inch is enough to cause grinding in reverse.

TOM: If nothing is in the way of the pedal, take the car back to the dealer, and make sure your complaint is in writing while the car is still under warranty. Then ask him if he'd rather replace the clutch now, or give you a new clutch and a new "German Transmission" when you eventually tear up the teeth trying to jam it into reverse every day.

Get the Car Talk Newsletter

Got a question about your car?

Ask Someone Who Owns One