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Wanna help me troubleshoot my trans and possibly (definitely) more?

752 Views 3 Replies 3 Participants Last post by  2013GV
Hey everybody, I've done a fair amount of searching but I haven't found anybody with problems that I think closely match mine. I've noticed that you guys like for people to be very thorough with explaining problems, so I'll do my best here. I'm not a mechanic, I just know enough to be dangerous I guess.

I'm absolutely new here so: Hello, My name is Dakota and I'm from Indiana, USA. 2 days ago I picked up a:

1996 Geo Tracker with a 1.6L 16v 4cyl engine, 3 speed automatic transmission. It has 2 little doors, and 4WD. The ODO shows 173k miles, I have no idea how often the oil was changed, the CEL was on when I bought it, and it's on no matter what.

Guy I bought it from told me it had transmission problems and that the good folks at Autozone plugged a code reader in it and it said the TCC Solenoid was bad. That's alright though because I only paid $800 for the titled car and it came with a complete replacement transmission and torque converter.

It starts right up even though the lock cylinder is busted and hangs out of the steering column. Currently using a squared off key to turn the ignition, but I could probably upgrade to a screw driver if I wanted to.

So yeah, it starts just fine and purrs like a kitten at about 2k RPM and then gradually drops down to 1.5k, 1k, and then settles around 600-700 or so.

The problems begin when you put the car in R, D, 2, or L. Sometimes the car will move, but most of the time it will not. You can push the gas as much as you want but it will do nothing except increase RPM as if you were in neutral. When it does decide to move, it "clunks" into gear pretty harshly. I've gotten it to roll through the yard at about 10mph or so, and you can make it go a touch faster, but it will not shift. Instead you just lose all throttle and the RPMs jump like you're in neutral again. This whole time, there is a slightly high pitched "whirring" sound that seems to come directly from the transmission bell housing.

If I stop, put it in park, and restart it it may go back into gear or it may not. When it does, same RPM story, same harsh "clunk", same behavior with no shifting out whatever gear it's driving in.

The other issues are that the car sometimes likes to have a really "jumpy" idle where it bounces from 2k to 1.5k in like 3 second intervals over the course of 30 seconds or so. What I mean by that is that it'll idle at 2k for 3 seconds, then drop to 1.5k abruptly, and then back to 2k for a few seconds. It will repeat this for maybe 30 seconds.

When it gets done doing that, it'll drop to 1.5k for a minute, and then it'll drop to 1k, and then it'll settle in at 600-700 RPM where it will stay unless you try to drive it again. This process takes a couple of minutes, maybe. When it settles down at that level, there is no longer the high pitched "whirring" sound coming from the transmission anymore. The car actually sounds great at that time.

Plugged in a code reader and the only code it generated was "P0135" which is for an O2 Sensor. That may correspond with the temperature gauge dancing a little bit which I noticed last night.

I checked the trans fluid last night on the dipstick. I checked it while it was running on flat ground with the selector in park. Fluid was a pink/orange color and smelled kind of like sweet, fresh motor oil. The fluid was also well past the hot fill line, though. Definitely would say there's too much fluid in there if I had to guess.

So, yeah. Those are the problems I can remember off the top of my head. I'm not a mechanic, I'm just doing this for fun so I'm all ears for suggestions and help.

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Welcome to the forum and to your new adventure…
First things first….when oils are overfilled, they no longer lubricate, so the first thing I’d do is change your tranny fluid, and get it down to the proper fill mark. The way to properly check the level is to have the car on level ground, and get the engine to proper operating temp. Then move the gear selector to all gear positions, and then back to park. Then check the level. It may be that the tranny problems you are having are beyond the scope of this forum, and that even changing the fluid may not help. But getting the fluid to the proper level is a good place to start. However, it is strange that you no longer have the TCC solenoid code??
Your P0135 code will have nothing to do with the temp gauge moving about. Normally the O2 sensor has a life expectancy of about 100,000 miles, so if it’s never been changed, it’s a good idea to do so.

As the car is new to you, it’s a good idea to change all fluids (coolant, oil, diffs, tranny, t case, etc.) and filters To start off with. I’d also do a compression test on the engine, just to verify engine timing. Check that the spark plugs are gapped to .7mm (or replace, if needed). Check vacuum lines for leaks (which might cause the hunting idle) by pinching each of the vacuum lines with a pliers. Other than the idle speed solenoid, you should not have a change in idle with any of the lines pinched. While these things may not correct any of your issues, it’s a good idea to get the engine in ‘factory’ spec, and then diagnose from there.

It’s also a good idea to get a proper scanner, rather than a code reader. A scanner will give you real time data, rather than just the code numbers.
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Thanks so much for the reply, Bex.

Just for the sake of being thorough, I have purchased many of the fluids you mentioned just so that I know they're good. I didn't think about diff or t-case fluids honestly. I'm planning on pulling the body to clean up the frame once I know that everything is actually running properly, but that's a whole other topic. When I do that, I'll change those fluids as well.

I have purchased:

A gallon of ATF fluid
Trans filter kit
TCC Solenoid
Oil filter
Fuel filter
Denso O2 Sensor
New ignition switch panel (switch and push button)

I'm going to buy new spark plugs as well, but I haven't technically purchased them yet.

To be honest I don't know if I have a "code reader" or a "scanner". It belongs to my dad, I just borrowed it for this car. It may be a scanner because it will allow you to monitor real-time data in the Torque app. I may be ignorantly using the terms interchangeably.

I have a timing light, but I don't have a compression test kit. I've googled it, and it looks like several places sell them. Would one of the cost-effective kits probably suffice, or is it necessary to purchase something more expensive?

Tonight is the first night that I'll have a chance to do any work to the car, so I'll start looking into some of the easier to perform tests that you mentioned.

Thanks again.
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Basic compression test gauge will be fine, i think my one was about $20 and works.....its a basic one you hold in the plug hole type so you need 2 people to do a compression test. Better is one that will screw into the plug hole, then you can do it all yourself. One of those things you buy and use occasionally, like a timing light. Tools however, buy good quality and they will last a lifetime and believe me, cheap ones do round off nuts easier.
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