Did the mechanics destroy my transmission?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Sep 01, 1989

Dear Tom and Ray:

I originally bought my Toyota Tercel because of its excellent repair record and planned to put a couple of hundred thousand miles on it. Now, I'm worried. The car is four years old, has approximately 60,000 miles on it, the oil has been changed every 3000-5000 miles, and it has never had any repair problems until now! Several weeks ago, I was trying to shift into fifth gear and was unable to. When I tried to downshift into second to pull over, I couldn't do that either. Well, $1100 later the mechanics told me the shift rod had broken and basically demolished my transmission including the clutch. What's worse is that now the shifting is poor compared to what it was before. The first few times shifting into second in the morning is difficult, and third is even worse. Of course, the mechanics deny there is any difference and refuse to do anything. What did I do to deserve this type of abuse?

TOM: I have no idea what you did to deserve this abuse, this is a car column, not the Oprah Winfrey show. But we can tell you that you probably were subject to some abuse. It is extremely unlikely that the transmission would self-destruct silently on a moment's notice the way you described. And even if it did, it's unlikely that you would be able to lunch the clutch at the same time. What probably happened is that a bolt fell out of your shifter, something that does happen on these cars. When this happens, the shifter gets sloppy and it's tough to find the gears. If this was the case, you needed a two dollar bolt, and they charged you $1100.

RAY: That still leaves the question of why it's worse now, after the repair. The answer is that real thieves come in two classifications. There are the guys who would have put the bolt in, cleaned off the transmission, and charged you $1100. Then there are guys who have a slightly guilty conscience. They'll put the bolt in, and then rebuild the transmission anyway. That way you can't say that they charged you for doing nothing. The problem is that they probably screwed it up. It looked easy to them in the book, but when they were finished, there were a couple of parts left over that they didn't know what to do with.

TOM: Of course, we can't say with certainty that this is what happened, but it sounds to us as though you got ripped-off. I would call Oprah right away and find out what you are doing to deserve this abuse. If she won't take you, maybe Phil will.

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