Is Marty's Volvo about to give up the ghost?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Oct 01, 1992

Dear Tom and Ray:

I have a 1983 Volvo DL with 98,000 miles on a gasoline engine and automatic transmission. It behaves oddly in the morning, when the car is cold. When starting from a dead stop, or rounding a corner, the car engine races without the car moving, as if it were in Neutral, then the transmission kicks in abruptly. Once warm, it drives normally. I thought this might be due to low transmission fluid, which it leaks, and that plugging the leaks might solve it. But my friendly local transmission repairman says all old Volvo automatic transmissions behave that way just before they give up the ghost. I'm skeptical, because he obviously gets paid more if he sells me a transmission rebuild. Do I need one? Or is there life in the old Swede yet?

RAY: Well, Marty, having made many boat payments myself courtesy of Volvo transmission repairs, I'd have to say that there's about a 90% to 95% chance that your mechanic is right.

TOM: Yeah. Older Volvos are known for their lousy automatic transmissions. In fact, I've heard that H. Ross Perot actually made his first million buying Volvo automatic transmission futures.

RAY: But that doesn't mean you shouldn't at least TRY the simpler solutions first. Evidently, filling it with transmission fluid didn't work. So the next thing to do is try CHANGING the fluid and the filter.

TOM: If there's a lot of dirt in the transmission fluid, and the filter is plugged up, it could keep the transmission from shifting properly. So draining out the fluid and all that gunk can sometimes fix it. It's sort of the automotive equivalent of kicking the television set.

RAY: But as we said, there's only about a 5% chance that this will work. So if I were you, I'd start saving up for a rebuilt transmission. In fact, I'd take $150 and go out tomorow morning and open an Imminent Rebuild Account!

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