Am I right to think a transmission should last more than 90k miles?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Dec 01, 1998

Dear Tom and Ray:

I'm frustrated. I have a '94 Dodge Grand Caravan with approximately 90,000
miles. Recently, while my wife was driving to work, the transmission literally
blew (parts shot from the gear chamber to the torque converter chamber). All
totaled, it cost $3,000 for a new, rebuilt transmission and a new starter. I
know the mileage is kind of high, but it's my opinion that a transmission
shouldn't need to be replaced at this mileage. I asked Chrysler to split the
bill with me or credit me $2,000 toward a new Chrysler product. They told me to
get lost. What do you think? Was I being unreasonable? Do you feel it's normal
for a transmission to need to be replaced at this mileage (assuming proper
maintenance)? I happened to check on this vehicle in Consumer Reports used car
reviews, and it gets a poor rating. -- Brett

RAY: Well, you should have checked in Consumer Reports before you bought it,
Brett. I'm afraid you're out of luck now.

TOM: It's true that some cars are built and designed better than others.
Consumer Reports tracks this information, and so do we, at the Car Talk section
of (and the '94 Dodge Grand Caravan has much higher than average repair
costs). But at 90,000 miles, you're pretty much on your own.

RAY: Right. If it happened at 40,000 miles, you'd be able to make a case for
having them participate in the repair. But at 90,000 I can't blame them for
turning you down.

TOM: You say the vehicle was properly maintained and driven judiciously, but how
do they know your wife doesn't drive like Maria Andretti when you're not around,
stomping on the gas pedal at every green light? It's just really hard to tell
after 90,000 miles whether the transmission failure was due to a defective part,
owner abuse, or just the normal life expectancy of the parts they used in this
vehicle. My guess is the latter.

RAY: I understand why you're upset, Brett. That's a lot of money to spend. And
we'd all like our cars to last 150,000 miles without a problem, but they're not
all up to that. That's why you check out their repair histories before you buy,
which I'm sure you'll do before you buy that new Toyota Sienna, Brett.

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