When Your Classic Ride's Transmission Quits Transmitting...
At some point your old ride is going to be an inert mass of metal on the side of the road-that is an unfortunate byproduct of old car ownership.
There are many reasons why your old car or truck might quit on you but today's topic is the transmission.
Many of today's auto techs or mechanics (if you're over 45) can't even spell Torqueflite-let alone work on one, so we went to an old school transmission guy to seek some answers.
Scott Medori has worked on cars since Fred Flintstone came in with his ailing transmission (it turned out to be sore feet) but he does know his way around vintage older automatics and manual transmissions.
The biggest problem is basic-find a shop that will work on these old transmissions. Scott explained why " A lot of shops will shy away from older vehicles. They usually eat up more time than newer, more familiar transmissions. They are also harder to find parts for. Because of these two factors, I feel it is important to find a shop with experience working on older vehicles. Avoid shops who over- promise on delivery times, or quote prices up front. I would rather wait for a longer period of time to get the right parts, than rush a job through with old used pieces because a customer needs his wheels for next week's show. A shop with experience will also ask lots of questions up front, so they will be sure to resolve any issues with the transmission the first time. Knowing about modifications on the vehicle up front can avoid a whole lot of heartache down the road. A good example of this is the speedometer gears. If the unit isn't original, or the rear end ratio will be changed, or different sized tire will be used, a good shop will try and get the proper speedometer gears while going through the transmission".
Once you've settled on a shop the variables have just begun to enter into the equation. Unlike new vehicles, older cars and trucks have built-in concerns that don't plague your average 2011 minivan in a shop environment. Scott explained a few "We can locate parts for older vehicles. We have several sources, a lot of them in the US. People have to realize that it takes time, and money to ship stuff from different countries, so plan your repairs well in advance of cruise season. We suggest doing work like this in the late fall, so if the vehicle has to be moved, it can be done before the snow flies. Should we pull a transmission on your beautifully restored vehicle, and it appears the parts are a while away, we will recommend towing the vehicle home, so no scratches magically happen. It is a huge benefit if the owner has a repair manual for the vehicle as well. We have awesome generic manuals, but sometimes they don't show great detail on things like the valve body".
After the car is back there are realities that need to be addressed-this is brutally old technology as Scott explains "The older vehicles were never made to seal like newer cars, so a person has to expect a few drips if they leave the car sit over winter. Sometimes these are repairable, sometimes a person has to live with a small drip. Normally, these drips will stop if the vehicle is driven regularly. Shifter seals, speedo seals, etc, were never made to be submerged in fluid. Draining the transmission fluid from the pan before storage can help. Before starting in the spring, it is a good idea to make sure there is still fluid in the transmission, as the pumps really don't like to run dry. A lot of problems with the older units could be attributed to poor seals- the rubber just wasn't the same quality that it is today. It is important to warm the engine up for a while, making sure it isn't on fast idle, before throwing the old girl into gear. Weak, or brittle seals don't like a shot of pressure, especially when cold".
If you're an old-school Harley guy you already understand this messy reality but if you're a 2009 Honda Accord guy, you need to know this-if you make that plunge into the deep end of old car world without this insight you're in for a world of pain.
Scott wasn't content to stop here-he offered some more advice based on the current trends to resto-mod older vehicles, "It is critical, when selecting a transmission for a hot rod, to know what combination of drive train you will be using. Will your engine be carbureted, or injected. What gear ratio and tire size will you be using. You do not want to put an overdrive transmission in a carbed vehicle, and running at 1500 rpm's on the highway- it will never work properly. Determine where your engine will be most efficient ( camshaft specs), gear ratio, tire size, and then select a transmission that will allow the engine to run at those rpm's at a speed you will be driving. In some cases, that may be a 3 speed unit, or even a 3 speed with a lock-up torque converter".
Clearly the old car world is the most fun and positive environment on the planet but it's like nature-it comes with harsh realities.
Many thanks to Scott at Parkland Transmssion for explaining the old transmission in the new world-http://www.parklandtransmission.com/
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