By on May 16, 2017

Shift By Wire shifters - Images: BMW, Toyota, Lincoln, Chrysler, GMC

Center-mounted in a vertical fashion, the shifter in the fifth-generation 2018 Honda Odyssey profiled yesterday by Chris Tonn requires drivers to push a rectangular button for park, pull back an indented button for reverse, push another rectangular button for neutral, or depress a square button for drive.

In the new, second-generation 2017 GMC Terrain, a low-slung horizon of shift buttons mandates pushes of a rectangle for park and a small square for neutral plus a slight pull for reverse or, farther to the right, drive.

Perhaps you’re familiar with the lengthy push-button shift mechanism in newer Lincolns, where buttons for ignition, park, reverse, neutral, drive, and sport are laid out vertically on the driver’s side of the centre stack.

Some automakers are trying out rotary knobs, or shifters with separate park buttons, or monostable shifters that have earned a bad name.

They’re here to stay. Blame technology. Hope for reliability. Don’t expect standardization. (Read More…)

By on April 4, 2017

C1937 Cord 812 (Jane Nealing/Flickr)

DAG writes:

Why don’t automakers design front-wheel-drive cars with the transaxle in front of the engine? This moves the front wheels forward and improves weight distribution; offers better potential for aerodynamics and leaves space under the hood for pedestrian protection. With a turbo four-cylinder, the engine could have clearance from the firewall. Also, the engine and transaxle could be mounted on a pivoting subframe, hinged at the front, to drop down at the back for major maintenance; disconnect steering and exhaust to drop cradle.

The engine would sit in the space where rack and pinion generally resides; steering gear design would be a challenge for direct mechanical actuation. Perhaps traction would be reduced. Would crashworthiness also be affected? (Read More…)

By on March 21, 2017

Picoscope NVH diagnosis tool, Image: Twitter

Doug writes:

I have a 2007 Mercedes-Benz S550. I accidentally bought it in 2014 off eBay (long story) for about trade-in ($13,000), with 150,000 miles on the odomater. In a twist of good luck, it turned out to be a one owner car and using CarFax I was able to see and verify that it had been maintained by the selling dealer right up to a few weeks before its eBay appearance. A call to the dealer confirmed the complete service history. Even the brake pads and rotors were new, and it had a newish and very expensive set of Michelins. Almost three years later, it has been very reliable for my teen daughter and has 180,000 miles. It had a few quirks I have fixed myself (clogged charcoal canister, minor trunk leak caused by a missing rubber plug, sticking power driver seat) and only one real repair (dead stereo amp rebuilt by Becker).

Now that my daughter is off at college and content with a ZipCar, I am driving it and intend to keep doing so. I have noticed a vibration in the center console area of all places, while driving around town. You feel it through your arm resting on the console lid. It’s a deep vibration, if that makes sense — coming from under the car.

You don’t feel it in the seat, nor do you feel it in the steering wheel. You do not feel it at a standstill, just at 20-30 mph. It goes away at higher speeds, and the car is rock solid and smooth as glass at 75 mph. I am stumped as to the cause, and with the age of the car, I don’t want to set a dealership or even an indy shop loose on it without more of an idea of the cause. I was thinking maybe a motor mount, but it seems like I would feel that all the time, and especially at idle, which I don’t. I was wondering about maybe some kind of driveshaft or transmission mount or connection point, but it seems like a fault that would get worse with increasing speed instead of going away. Do you have any ideas?

(Read More…)

By on January 5, 2017

candytangerineptcruiser

Longtime TTAC Commentator Nate writes:

Hello Sajeev,

An acquaintance bought a PT Cruiser new in 2002 and did some minor customizing, drove the crap out of it for a few years, then the transmission failed. Apparently, they “all do that.” So here’s the deal: I was out scavenging vintage (’77~’85) Mercedes parts and ran across a rolled and totaled 2008 PT Cruiser: can its transmission be used in his 2002 model ?

He seems to think that 2002 is a one-year-only deal. He’s disabled and on a tight budget, says the car is worthless even though it’s pristine, but he’d like to fix it if possible. Unfortunately. rebuilding the current transmission is not in his budget.

Any thoughts or comments would be helpful, but no, I won’t be doing a tranny swap on this cute little car. (Read More…)

By on December 13, 2016

2017 Malibu 9T50 nine-speed automatic - Image: General Motors

We moved past three on the tree. We’ve long since bid farewell to four on the floor. The ZF six-speed automatic transmission that helped to make the 2001 BMW 7 Series seem so forward-thinking at the dawn of the millennium was usurped by a seven-speed unit from Mercedes-Benz a couple of years later, and then by the Lexus LS’s eight-speed automatic in 2007.

Nine-speed automatics are all over the place: in the 2017 Acura MDX I’m driving this week, in numerous Fiat Chrysler Automobiles products, and in ten General Motors models by the end of 2017. Now the most popular line of vehicles in North America, the Ford F-Series, is arriving at dealers near you with ten-speed automatic transmissions.

But when is enough enough? How many gears is too many? Are there diminishing returns as the number of gears in an automatic transmission increases?

GM says nine is enough. Okay, ten is plenty if you insist. Ah, whatever, maybe more would be wonderful.  (Read More…)

By on October 25, 2016

2008 Ford Fusion Automatic Shifter, Image: Ford

Mike writes:

Hi Sajeev,

I bought my 2008 Ford Fusion V6 AWD about two years ago from a Ford dealer. At the time, it had about 65,000 miles. I’m now at 85,000 miles. I also bought the three-year extended warranty (one year left).

Despite my usual aversion to buying extended warranties, it’s proven to be a sound investment. I’ve had a few things (including an oil leak) fixed for free (minus deductible). The warranty has already paid for itself. The dealer I used for the warranty service (not the purchasing dealer) gave me a few free oil changes and some credit on an account, so I’ve been going there for routine oil changes/tire rotations.

At the last oil change/tire rotation, I noticed they didn’t check the transmission fluid. I asked them to do so. The technician checked the fluid: it was at the correct level, but getting dirty. I asked if I should change it and he mumbled, “If you don’t do it now, don’t ever do it. Transmissions get used to the fluid and replacing it might ruin the transmission.”

(Read More…)

By on August 26, 2016

2016 chevrolet spark ls

Are you sure you want to save the manuals?

In theory, of course, you want to save the manual transmission. You enjoy driving. You enjoy enhancing the man-machine connection by synchronizing movements between your left foot, right hand, and right foot. You value the art of a perfectly timed shift, of properly holding a gear through a corner when even the most intelligent automatic would upshift. You know the corner. You know driving. You know how to get the best out of a Ford Fiesta ST half an hour before sunrise on Italy’s Stelvio Pass, even though you’ve never set foot outside Iowa, even though you drive a RAV4 Hybrid.

“What? I would’ve gotten a manual if Toyota offered one,” thou doth protest too much.

As we approach greater degrees of autonomous driving, as roads fill up and speed limits are not altered to reflect our vehicles’ huge improvements in stopping ability and safety, saving the manuals sounds like a noble campaign. Preserve that last shred of pure driving already forsaken by Ferrari, by performance-oriented Porsches, by the general populace that believes their right hands are better off holding a skinny cinnamon dolce latte than a leather-wrapped shifter.

But I’m driving proof, a $9,995* 2016 Chevrolet Spark, that we shouldn’t paint with such a broad #SaveTheManuals brush. We should save some of the manuals, but certainly not all of them. (Read More…)

By on May 16, 2016

Welded-together Land Rover transmission

The saga of a welded transmission seems to have come to a somewhat happy ending.

The Reddit whistleblower at the center of this story, who is an employee of the dealership in question, provided TTAC the details on how the repair came to be. A representative from Jaguar Land Rover was also able to confirm that the incident was resolved, resulting in a satisfied Land Rover owner.

(Read More…)

By on May 11, 2016

Welded-together Land Rover transmission

The “Just Rolled Into The Shop” subreddit usually shows an array of some of the worst maintained vehicles that customers bring into shops — but a post today showed negligence isn’t solely limited to those bringing in vehicles for service or repair.

User Valkyrier posted a picture of a welded transmission and explained the circumstances: that a dealership technician dropped and damaged it during an engine replacement and was planning to reinstall it … after welding it back together … without telling the vehicle’s owner.

(Read More…)

By on May 11, 2016

The all-new 10 speed automatic transmission is the first 10 speed automatic for a volume production car.  The performance 10 speed transmission transfers power and torque with quick shifts and maintains more engine power after each shift. Image: General Motors

It’s official: the new Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 will have more gears than a typical IROC-Z owner has teeth.

General Motors revealed today the new aluminum-cased beauty, touting 10 forward gears and upshifts quicker than a dual-clutch automated-manual transmission, will make its non-truck debut in the Camaro ZL1.

Did Camaro tell Mustang to step outside for a fuel-economy contest? Maybe not.

(Read More…)

By on April 27, 2016

ford explorer police interceptor utility

Ford Motor Company issued three recall notices today, but top billing goes to a sensor problem linked to the sudden downshifting (to first gear!) of certain vehicles.

That safety recall involves 202,000 2011-2012 Ford F-150, 2012 Expedition, Ford Mustang and Lincoln Navigator vehicles. (Read More…)

By on March 1, 2016

1998 Toyota Sienna XLE Front 3/4, Image: Toyota

TTAC Commentator MatadorX writes:

Sajeev,

I am hoping you and your readership can give me some guidance as to how far to take a vehicle overhaul: mild insanity or full on broke?

The vehicle in question is a 1998 Toyota Sienna XLE.

(Read More…)

By on January 28, 2016

Rob writes:

Hello Sajeev,

I’m untangling a logistical nightmare and I think a Panther can help.

This particular nightmare involves relocating from Urbana, IL to Idaho Falls, ID, a 1964 Corvette convertible that’s sitting in Richmond, VA, and a Grand Marquis in New Jersey. The Corvette “ran when parked” in my father-in-law’s garage in 1982 and brought back to Illinois by me using a rental van towing a car hauler. A moving company will take care of the move to Idaho including transporting one car, but not the Corvette because the car has to be operational. In the meantime, my Dad needs to sell my grandfather’s Grand Marquis.

(Read More…)

By on December 22, 2015

2011 Chevrolet Camaro LT with an RS Appearance Package

Casey writes:

Hello Sajeev,

I have another question for you. My wife has wanted a Camaro and lately I have been thinking about surprising her with one for her birthday or maybe Christmas, so I have been searching the listings for a nice used example.

First thing I noticed is these cars sure seem to hold their value!

I found a Craigslist ad for a very nice looking, well optioned, 2011 Chevrolet Camaro 2LT with the RS package. “ALL scheduled service and maintenance has been performed by Chevrolet certified technicians,” the ad says and the price seems reasonable.

Then I see the kicker: the mileage is high for the year at 117,800. I know that a documented maintenance history is more important than mileage, so I wonder what impact higher mileage would have on a car like this? What problems could I run into sooner by buying a well maintained, high-mileage car?

(Read More…)

By on November 18, 2015

Steve writes:

Sajeev,

My wife drives a first-generation R50 Mini base model with the dreaded CVT. This is a transmission widely reported (read: complained about on message boards) to not last well beyond 75,000 city miles. Hers is just now clearing 80,000 and it shows no signs of early struggles, even under the hellish torment of stop-and-go traffic in Houston temperatures.

Perhaps coincidentally, my wife has never put premium fuel in this car, despite it being a requirement. Premium fuel would supposedly generate 114 horsepower; without premium fuel, I would guess 7-9% lower, at, say, 105 horsepower. It is a slow car no matter what, but at least it makes up for it in urban maneuverability.

(Read More…)

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