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2003 Cavalier Transmission

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  • 2003 Cavalier Transmission

    A week and a half ago I took a look at a Cavalier that a seller in St. George has listed on KSLcars.com. I knew within 15 seconds of driving it that something was wrong. I suspected the transmission from the sound and when it was making the noise (only in gear and especially upon initial acceleration). The owner, who had just taken delivery of it from a GSA auction, finally took it to a transmission shop. I think I finally convinced him that he would not be able to sell it with it making such a noise. He said that the shop told him that the transmission was about 5 quarts low but that they could not find a leak. The shop suspected that the transmission fluid was recently changed and the technician did not put enough fluid back in. The owner claims it runs fine now and that the noise is gone. I suspect that the car was driven no more than 20 miles since it was auctioned.

    So, my questions to you mechanics out there are several. What do I need to do to assure myself that the transmission is not trashed from being run low on fluid? I know I can do the "smell" test and the "blotter" test, but I'm in the Salt Lake area and it is a 300 mile drive to St. George (I know it's cheap in my GX, but it still takes time to get there and back). I can call the transmission shop where the seller had it serviced in the morning and see what they tell me. From what I can find on the internet, that transmission's capacity it eleven quarts. Is that correct? What are the chances that being 5 quarts low on that transmission for a time would have damaged the transmission?

    Is this something I should walk away from after having now given fair warning to other prospective buyers?
    _____________________________________
    '12 Blue Mist Metallic Civic Natural Gas; '03 Galapagos Green Civic GX; '07 Alabaster White Civic GX

  • #2
    Re: 2003 Cavalier Transmission

    If it was making noise there could be a problem. It is possible you were hearing pump cavitation. This could lead to low line pressure and slipping of the clutches . I guess the real question is why the transmission oil was low in the first place. There is no drain, and if no leaks, someone had the transmission oil pan off. Possibly there was another problem that was fixed and the oil was not refilled properly. There is no dipstick on the Cavalier and the only way the level can be checked is on a hoist with the engine running. Even getting an oil sample is difficult. The position of the CNG low pressure regulator makes it hard to fill the transmission--maybe the GSA mechanic just gave up. Therefore---if the rest of the car is really right, the price is right, and you aren't too worried about a future issue with the transmission, then buy it. The '03 and '04 Cavaliers are great CNG cars with excellent engines and CNG systems. Worst case there are thousands of the 4-speed automatics used in the Cavalier available from junk yards, there are far less of the CNG cars available anywhere.

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    • #3
      Re: 2003 Cavalier Transmission

      Thanks siai47 for the timely advice. I took the risk and bought the car. Thanks to your point that there are many used transmission available, I called around to see what the cost of having a used tranny installed would be. The price of the car was enough below market that it was worth the risk. I had no transmission problems in the 300 miles of mostly freeway driving on the way home.
      _____________________________________
      '12 Blue Mist Metallic Civic Natural Gas; '03 Galapagos Green Civic GX; '07 Alabaster White Civic GX

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