The Sad Story of my 1995 Pontiac TransSport's Transmission Failure


Here is my 1995 Pontiac TransSport. I bought it new from Carbone Pontiac of Yorkville, New York in May 1995.

This image taken on March 28, 2004

It has never been in a collision of any kind. I have meticulously maintained it (I'm a Mechanical Engineer). In 2001, with only 33,000 miles on the odometer, the transmission cooler failed, filling the transmission with engine coolant. The transmission cooler had to be replaced, and the engine and transmission flushed. Immediately the transmission began shifting hard, and within a few months, it completely failed. I had to have the transmission rebuilt. The total cost for me to get the vehicle back on the road was $3,000.

Now you might think that, once I brought this situation to the attention of the dealer and GM, they might take some responsibility for this failure. After all, the vehicle only had 33,000 miles on it when this happened. The new car warranty was 36,000 miles or 36 months, whichever came first, so it was out of warranty based on time. But still, a vehicle should not suffer a complete transmission failure at only 33,000 miles.

This is the engine coolant reservoir in my van. I discovered the problem when I noticed
what looked like pink Pepto-Bismol leaking out of this reservoir onto the ground below
the van. It was a mixture of transmission fluid and engine coolant, which had gotten
mixed together when the factory transmission cooler failed. The plastic reservoir still
has a pinkish cast years later, despite many flushings of both the engine cooling system
and the transmission.

Unfortunately (for me), neither the dealer nor GM wanted to have anything to do with defraying my costs to fix this problem. "We're sorry", they said, "your vehicle is out of warranty. It's your problem."

I pointed out to them that a transmission cooler doesn't "just fail". It fails for a reason. It might have been damaged after I took possession of the vehicle (not likely since the vehicle has never been involved in any kind of collision). Or, it might have "worn out". After 33,000 miles and six years? I don't think so. Or, just maybe, it was defective the day the vehicle was delivered to me. But GM would have none of that logic. "We're sorry", was their mantra, "Your vehicle is out of warranty."

So, I spent the $3,000 out of my own pocket to get the van back on the road, and it has run fine ever since (it is now nine years old). I still maintain it meticulously (my wife would say compulsively), and it still looks and runs like new.

I'll never buy another product from GM. Not so much as a washer. And, you, if you are reading this, might want to consider how GM treated me, when you are making your next vehicle purchase decision.

Update: I finally got rid of the vehicle in late 2005. Actually, I donated it to the American Lung Association. The transmission failure was the only major problem that I ever had with it. But that was more than enough for me. I replaced it with a Hyundai Santa Fe, which comes standard with a 10 year / 100,000 mile power train warranty. And GM wonders why their sales are down? Wake up, GM!

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