The Hamilton Spectator
Answers to your car questions
Hi Dennis. Recently, I was considering buying a used truck from a dealership where I have purchased both new and used vehicles in the past. Part of my checklist when checking a used vehicle is to check the automatic transmission fluid. I check the fluid level both cold and after the test drive... hot.
I also look under the vehicle for leaks. While checking the fluid, I pay particular attention to the colour and how clear the fluid is. I am under the impression that ideally it should be bright reddish - pink in colour and clear. The fluid on the dipstick was in fact almost brown in colour and very milky or “unclear”. I brought this to the attention of the salesperson, who in turn spoke to the head mechanic. The mechanic tried to explain to me that this discoloured fluid was normal and not a concern and if the transmission shifted well during the test-drive, it is fine and nothing to worry about regardless of the mileage. There are many other things that I obviously check but the transmission is high on the priority list. Can you give me your thoughts on the color and condition of transmission fluid when considering purchasing a used vehicle?
Thank you, Patrick
Most regular technicians today do not pay too much attention to the color of the transmission oil when checking it but they do rely on the feel of the fluid and the smell. Even after the transmission fluid is changed, there is still enough darker fluid left in the transmission to change the colour of the fluid. It is something like dropping a drop of dye into a pot of water. That being said, a qualified transmission specialist will also use the feel and smell of the transmission fluid along with the clarity of the fluid in making a determination as to the transmission’s overall condition. If a transmission specialist feels that the color of the fluid is darker than normal, then it is time to have it changed, which is generally around sixty thousand kilometres. Brown in colour and very milky or “unclear” as you witnessed is an indication that the transmission oil does need to be changed and the operation of the transmission that you witnessed on the test drive is irrelevant.
Hi Dennis! My sister recommended that I contact you about my car issue. You helped her son when the car company was trying not to take responsibility. I have a five-year-old car with 115,000 kms on it. The transmission light comes on at high speeds. The dealer and some smaller shops have read the codes. The car dealer said that I needed to replace the transmission, which would cost $13,000. The standard car warranty is for five years or 100,000 kms. It is an expensive car and I have a hard time believing that any car, that is five years old with just over 100,000 kms, would need a new transmission. I contacted the car company that in turn has agreed to replace the transmission. When the transmission comes in, I am to sign that the repair is a “goodwill replacement” and not a replacement under warranty.
My understanding is that the new transmission will not have a warranty. Is this reasonable? Should the new transmission have a warranty? Should I be signing a “goodwill replacement” agreement? Is there some kind of catch with a “goodwill replacement”? I am grateful to have the manufacturer replace the transmission. I would appreciate your advice.
Hi Kristyn. Since the transmission went beyond the warranty period and the manufacturer came to the table, the manufacturers will always say that it is being replaced under a goodwill policy and not as a regular warranty replacement. There are some circumstances where the factory will replace parts beyond the regular warranty but not always since there are a variety of circumstances where the factory warranty will be rejected even while under the factory warranty. The decision to replace a faulty transmission beyond the warranty period usually occurs when the dealership has been maintaining your vehicle in accordance to the factory recommendations. Your dealership most likely helped with the factory’s decision to replace your car’s transmission. Let’s say for example, the next person who has a transmission problem at 115,000 kms but has not properly maintained their vehicle, find out that your transmission was replaced beyond the factory warranty and they want the same outcome. The manufacturer can refuse any assistance because the dealership does not have any record that they have properly maintained their vehicle. I suspect that you have been properly maintaining your vehicle with the dealership and that has resulted in the factory coming to the table after the regular warranty has expired. In order to prevent any warranty confusion, the factory can deny or agree to help with the repair under the term “goodwill policy”. When you sign the work order, you understand that this was not a factory warranty situation but one where the manufacturer agrees to go beyond their factory warranty to help a valued customer. As far as you signing the work order, that is only a confirmation for the dealership to assure the manufacturer that they did replace the transmission in your car under a goodwill policy and not as regular warranty. You will not have any extended factory warranty on your car’s replaced transmission but you are still covered under the “Consumer Protection Act” which states “parts and labour generally have a warranty for a minimum of 90 days or 5,000 kms (whichever comes first). Repair shops can also offer coverage beyond that minimum warranty.”
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