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Old 11-14-2007, 09:46 PM   #1
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Transmissions

I just learned that my 2000 Toyota Celica needs a new manual transmission. The car only has 75,000 miles on it and tranny fluid was changed about 15K miles or so ago. Toyota recommends that it gets changed every 30K. There was absolutely no sign of trouble and I've never misshifted the 5 speed. As with a typical manual transmission, there was no dipstick to check the fluid levels so I was relying on regular maintenance to check on this as I am not mechanically inclined. I was under the impression that manual transmissions should never have any kind of issues...and if they did they would show up in the form of difficult shifting/grinding.

This morning I heard a horrible scraping sound and babied it back home. The car is driveable, but anything over 10mph results in that noise occuring and it sounds like something will explode at any moment. The manager of the dealership said that 100% I need a new transmission and that his best guess was that there was no fluid in the transmisison, but he couldn't know that for sure without cracking it open. I was quoted about $3000 for the labor and a used transmission, $4400 for a rebuilt one (can't recall if it included labor). I am leaning towards a used one as generally speaking it is pretty rare for a manual tranny to have any kind of major problems. How much is reasonable for this? I've called a couple independent shops and they are going to get back to me, but already indicated that the labor would be a couple hundred cheaper.
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Old 11-15-2007, 09:59 AM   #2
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We went through this a few years ago on a 1999 Ford Taurus wagon (automatic). When the transmission fell apart, it wouldn't go above first gear at all.

The transmission shops seem to diagnose audibly but won't know the precise problem or cause until they tear it apart, which isn't cheap. Sometimes the problem is a lack of fluid, other times the fluid isn't getting to the right places. I get the feeling that not much time is wasted on postmortems.

We had a similar problem with a 97 Nissan Altima making a clunking noise during stops at intersections. The transmission guys hooked up their transducers & headphones but couldn't really make a diagnosis without ripping into it. We decided to wait until something broke and it never did... the noise went away on its own.

Does the car have any recalls or warranty left on it?

If you're planning to keep the car for another decade (or if it has a high resale value) then you might want to work from aftermarket transmission parts. For $3500, ours was rebuilt with what seems to be the transmission from an Abrams tank. It rumbles noisily in drive when stopped at intersections but we've never had another problem with it, and it has almost as many miles as the original transmission.

A specialty transmission shop may do more work than a dealer, but they'll be able to get generic parts at a better price. You're probably saving the money on parts, not so much on labor.
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Old 11-15-2007, 10:12 AM   #3
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For a manual transmission, I'd be inclined to look at a salvage, aka junk, yard, particularly for an older car. They will usually give you a short warranty - enough to assure you that the trans is working OK.

Manual transmissions rarely just fail with out other symptoms, like gear grinding on shifts, etc. It is possible that you developed a leak and the oil seeped out over time. It is frequently difficult or impossible to check manual transmission levels - they don't have a dip stick and some don't even have a level plug. So, fluid level is not normally checked unless leaking is detected. Rear axles are the same way.
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Old 11-15-2007, 12:10 PM   #4
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I agree that is extremely unusual for a manual tranmission to fail as you describe. It's so much so that I would not discount the strong possibility that the problem might be in the clutch or throwout bearing (much cheaper to fix). If the dealer is diagnosing this over the phone it could be a mistake.

Manual transmissions have a fill plug on the side and a drain plug on the bottom. The fluid should be up to the fill plug. Nor should it be "dry" inside without visible signs of where it has leaked out (that would include oil on your carport floor where you park).

Exceptions would be impact damage (like hitting an embedded rock on a mountain trail) that cracked the case or knocked the drain plug out. In such a case, the fluid may have all been gone by the time it got home.

The simplest thing might be to hobble it down to an actual service station (if you can find one) or local garage and have them put it on the lift and have a look-see. Is it wet with caked on dirt indicating a slow leak? Is the drain plug present? How much fluid goes in to top it off? If they let the wheel turn with it running in gear, can they tell if the noise is actually the transmission?

If it actually went dry, it could be totally ruined. If it did not, it's unlikely that there is more than the failure of a particular bearing or gear (although that can spin loose metal around and ruin other parts).

Even if it is the transmission, I'd definitely get a second quote from a non-dealer shop. There isn't much proprietary benefit to using a dealer to repair or replace a manual transmission on a 1990 car.
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Old 11-15-2007, 12:13 PM   #5
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I would make sure if there is oil in the transmission. If not then add oil and drive to see if the noise goes away. If it goes away or reduces drive till it dies. It may never die.

I would also think that if the oil was changed 15 K ago then if there was a leak fast enough to empty the transmission you would have noticed a mess where the car was parked. It takes very little oil to make an oily mess on a garrage floor or driveway.

If there was no leak and there is no oil in he transmission then I would think that there was not enough put in at the oil change.

Is the noise from the transmission and not a CV shaft?

When I was younger transmissions were out to get me. This had nothing to do with power shifts to see if I could get an extra 1/10 in the quarter ... no nothing nothing whatsoever

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Old 11-15-2007, 12:33 PM   #6
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I completely agree with Joss. It is very unlikely the manual transmission has failed. Much more likely a bad throw-out bearing or clutch assembly. Modern manual transmissions have been virtually bullet-proof (unless severly abused). The same can not be said for automatics.
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Old 11-15-2007, 01:11 PM   #7
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Unless you have a leak, (which you can tell visually without taking the transmission apart) then it wouldn't be dry, fluid wouldn't just evaporate. Standard transmissions are normally built stronger than Automatics. If in fact you are absolutely sure it's your transmission and not something like a constant velocity joint as mentioned in an earlier post, then check to see if there was ever a recall on your make and model. There may even have been a technical service bulleting outlining this problem.

Let's assume the transmission is indeed in need of replacement, the service shop should have also given you the option of going the route of a used, via the scrap yard. Depending on your location, the amount of a used one may be around $400.00 to $900.00 depending on supply and demand in your area. The labour rate may be an hour or so more to install but that may be better for you in the long run.

If possible consider a second opinion at another shop.
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Old 11-15-2007, 05:03 PM   #8
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Well, anything is possible.....but I agree with the rest of these guys that it's unlikely that the transmission itself is shot. Probably something related (like packrat suggests)....clutch, pressure plate, throwout bearing. Get a 2nd opinion from a known reliable shop for sure. They may have to pull the transmission to do repairs, but I doubt you're looking at having to replace it.
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Old 11-15-2007, 05:08 PM   #9
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Old 11-15-2007, 06:27 PM   #10
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Old 11-15-2007, 06:30 PM   #11
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Old 11-15-2007, 07:29 PM   #12
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Thanks for all the replies. Yes in my research it seems as though it's very rare for a manual transmission to go kaput just like that. The odd thing is that my car has shifted great since I've owned it the last 5 years and 60K miles (bought used). The only diagnosis the dealer did involved the service manager driving around the block and saying that the tranny had to be replaced and that it likely was lack of fluid but that he couldn't know until it was cracked open. I asked him if it was dry, could they not just add fluid and see if the noise went away. He said that it was unlikely to fix anything. In any event I'm going to get charged $100 for that 5 minute diagnosis. I'm kicking myself for taking it to the dealer , but that was the first place I could think of. Is it OK for me to drive the car to another shop?. It shifts fine, but there is a terrible scraping noise at anything over 10mph. I don't want to shell out another 100 bucks to tow it someplace else.

I have called non dealers and they can save me about 250 on the labor, but nothing on the transmission of course. I think I will take it someplace else, just so that I can have a second opinion as to what is actually wrong for some piece of mind. Like I said, there is no shifting problems whatsoever...if the tranny was toast, would I not have trouble getting into any gear?? I did notice my garage floor had signs of some kind of leakage, but certainly not enough to drain a transmission....it didn't even get my finger wet. I did hit a speed bump pretty hard about a year and a half ago...maybe that did some damage that is coming back to bite me.

The used tranny they did find is 1850 and that is the true price because when I searched online I found the exact same transmission (I know it's the same because of the miles quoted to me) at a wreckers. Pretty pricey, but I suspect there are not many used Celica transmissions sitting around. They qouted 850 for labor whereas the independent is looking at about 600
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Old 11-15-2007, 07:35 PM   #13
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Oh another thing...I"m on a Celica forum and everyone is saying that a tranny swap is a 3 hour job tops on this car. I dunno - what is a reasonable timeframe to swap a transmission?

Also the vibe I'm getting from all three shops is that it's not worth the time to rip out the transmisison and try to figure out exactly what's wrong as it's difficult to tell. It's just easier for them to just swap everything with a "new" one. Mind you, for the 2 independant shops, their "diagnosis" consists of my description of the sound and the assurance from the Toyota dealer that the whole thing needed to be replaced.
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Old 11-15-2007, 07:48 PM   #14
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I agree with the other posters, that it might be a clutch or throwout bearing. I'd take it to a good independent shop had have them diagnose it for sure.
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Old 11-15-2007, 08:54 PM   #15
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Old 11-15-2007, 10:49 PM   #16
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Not sure how I missed this one....it's right up my alley. Yes it's rare, but not extraordinary. I think you did the right thing going to the dealer. Even if you paid $100 bucks for the diagnosis, it's worth it if you are not mechanically inclined. A reputable experienced dealer would know the sound of a wrecked tranny after a test drive. A clutch/throwout bearing noise is usually apparent while changing gears or during clutch release/apply. The sound of a bad CV joint usually changes while turning a corner and is very easily diagnosed by removing weight from the joint and checking for looseness. Transmission problem diagnosis is usually associated with engine speed OR road speed. What happens at 10MPH in 2nd gear vs. 1st gear? I recommend finding a good 2nd tier garage and see if they will check the fluid level and condition. If fluid is just low and condition is ok, top it off and see if that helps. If condition is bad, contains metallic particles, etc. they should know reliable salvage yard. 3-4 hrs labor sounds generous (cant recall if those are front wheel drive), but 100-125/hr labor rate should be MAX. Here is a resource for locating salvage yard parts and it indicates several units in my area for 1100-1500 (outrageous!). Might as well replace the clutch while you're at it.

Car-Part.com--Used Auto Parts Market
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Old 11-16-2007, 09:37 AM   #17
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Oh another thing...I"m on a Celica forum and everyone is saying that a tranny swap is a 3 hour job tops on this car. I dunno - what is a reasonable timeframe to swap a transmission?

Also the vibe I'm getting from all three shops is that it's not worth the time to rip out the transmisison and try to figure out exactly what's wrong as it's difficult to tell. It's just easier for them to just swap everything with a "new" one. Mind you, for the 2 independant shops, their "diagnosis" consists of my description of the sound and the assurance from the Toyota dealer that the whole thing needed to be replaced.
3 hours is about what it takes if the guy's good. Chilton manuals usually allow 4-5 hours, so if the dealer can get it done in 3, they can charge as if it were 4-5 hours.............

I use dealers up until the warranty runs out, then independents after that.
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Old 11-17-2007, 04:32 PM   #18
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I did end up finding a cheaper transmission and a shop to do it at a more reasonable price. All told it'll be about 2 grand for the work. In reviewing my records, I noticed that the last time I brought the car in to the dealer was in September for something unrelated. A tech noticed that a noise was coming from the transmission area on the road test, but noone verbally informed of this, nor did the dealer do any further follow up (such as checking fluid level, visual inspection, etc). I didn't read my bill closely enough so I didn't notice this until yesterday. I called the service manager to see if he agreed that I should have been verbally made aware of a possible transmission issue, and what if anything they can do for me. I'm sure the answer is nothing, but at least it's worth a try. I'll also try writing a letter to Toyota to see if they would cover anything...again, doubtful, but I have nothing to lose.
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Old 11-17-2007, 05:11 PM   #19
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Okay, I'm ready to show my ignorance. What type of "manual transmission" has "tranny fluid." Are you referring to the hydraulic fluid (for the hydraulic clutch, between the master cylinder and the slave cylinder on the clutch itself) or is this some type of newfangled manual transmission that takes transmission fluid?

Regardless--if you plan to keep the car and there's any chance that you might be moving, get the work done my a shop that can offer you a warranty that will be good wherever you might end up.

Subsequent edit: Well, DANG! I looked it up and manual transmissions DO have fluids of various types. I've never checked or changed any of them, I guess my mechanic has been keeping me out of trouble on my once in a blue moon "do all the hard-to-do service" visits.
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Old 11-18-2007, 04:16 PM   #20
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Okay, I'm ready to show my ignorance. What type of "manual transmission" has "tranny fluid." Are you referring to the hydraulic fluid (for the hydraulic clutch, between the master cylinder and the slave cylinder on the clutch itself) or is this some type of newfangled manual transmission that takes transmission fluid?

Regardless--if you plan to keep the car and there's any chance that you might be moving, get the work done my a shop that can offer you a warranty that will be good wherever you might end up.

Subsequent edit: Well, DANG! I looked it up and manual transmissions DO have fluids of various types. I've never checked or changed any of them, I guess my mechanic has been keeping me out of trouble on my once in a blue moon "do all the hard-to-do service" visits.

How old is your car.... a manual can go a lifetime without having the oil changed, but it is good to change when they say... I drove a Mazda 100K miles without changing and there was nothing wrong with it...
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