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Worst Automatic Transmissions Ever Built?

isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 20,197
edited March 2014 in Chevrolet
I'll give my vote to the Chevy Turboglide built
from 1957-1961. They were pure junk!

Instead of rebuilding these, they were usually
converted to a Powerglide.

Also Buick's Dual Path, used in Buick Specials
from 1961-1963 was another terrible transmission.


  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 62,436
    Alfa 164 automatic...pretty awful...

    Saab automatics are also pretty lame at least up to 1994.

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  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 20,197
    The Micky Mouse semi automatics used in VW bugs?

    These were really bizarre!
  • nrd525nrd525 Posts: 109
    I had a relative that had an Audi,I don't know exactly what year it was but it had to be 72-74.That thing seemed to slip,then WHAM,into second,and then very smoothly into third.The shift was about as hard as the built Turbo 400 my friend had in his Big Block Vega!I always thought there was something wrong with it,but the loaner they got when they were having the hood repanted due to vandalism was EXACTLY the same way!
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 62,436
    The Germans got a lot of complaints from American drivers in the 70s for their automatics. Some of the units were sturdy enough, but too hard shifting for American tastes of the time, where feeling anything, like the road, the steering or the shifting, was considered a defect. Mercedes had fits with this, trying to explain to people tht they were supposed to a) rev up the small 6 ohc engines and b) shift the automatic manually.

    I remember showing one person how to drive their 280SL roadster...the complaint was "no power" and "gutless"...well, sure they were driving it like a I put it in #1, revved it up to 6,500, shifted it up through the gears....they about freaked...but that's what the car was BUILT to could take it, too.

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  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 20,197
    The old cast iron Hydramatics had a rough shift! When they changed gears, you knew it!

    They were reliable, though. Later, they were replaced with the Roto-Hydramatic. These were called "slim jims" and they were pretty lousy too!
  • carnut4carnut4 Posts: 574
    has produced its share of lousy automatics. That "Super Turbine 300" I think they called it-the 2-speed job with the switch-pitch torque converter-what a mess that was. I remember taking a class in automatic transmissions back in '74. The instructor had one of those in the shop for demo. He pointed out all the heat marks on certain parts that were prone to failure. Also, don't forget those GM "THM 200" automatics-the small chevette-sized HM they stuck in full sized Pontiacs and others in the seventies. Those were the subject of a class action lawsuit because of so many failures. C'mon GM! You could do much better than that!
  • gkelly3gkelly3 Posts: 38
    Renault (AKA "run like hell") used to make a curious AT called the "SAXOMAT". This had an electromagnetic clutch (Magnetized iron filings in an oil slurry that would act as a clutch when magnetized. I never experienced one of these-people tell me they had a rather short life-has anybody else ever tried this exotic type of tranny?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 62,436
    I've driven them...they also made one called a "Ferlac"....and Benz had something it Hydrax?

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  • modvptnlmodvptnl Posts: 1,352
    I remember the turbo 200. I wasn't sure if it was a 200 or 250 but I remember GM putting them behind V8 Camaros and such and they were grenades.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 20,197
    The Turbo 200's held up pretty good in Chevettes and other underpowered GM cars. Then GM thought they would put them into Chevy Caprices, etc.

    I knew a guy who owned an independant transmission shop at the time. He made a fortune on these. His fix was to convert them to a 350.
  • vosakivosaki Posts: 5
    Certainly one of the worst transmissions were built was Buick's Dynaflow. It had a enormous torque converter with no planetary gear sets. It was really smooth, but it also absorbed all the power.
  • carleton1carleton1 Posts: 560
    I agree with postings here based on personal experience and observations.
    My dad got a Powerglide in 1950...had to be rebuilt many times when reverse went out. Turboglide in 1957...replaced with Powerglide 6 or 7 years later as you wrote many did. A friend had a 1957 Turboglide and he said it was very easy to repair so he kept repairing his own. The Fluid Drive of Chrysler could have as a motto "All
    the slippage of an automatic with all of the inconvenience of a manual". Ford-O-Matic was not much to brag about. Dynaflow also a sick joke.
    But the original 4 speed Hydramatic was quite rugged and in various degrees of beefing up was used in many Army vehicles of Korean War Vintage. Our Army FA Battalion took 1950's GMC 2-1/2 ton with straight 6 cylinder and Hydramatic to Vietnam
    in 1965 and they were still running 1 year later..
    ..But, the few new diesel trucks we got with manual transmission were shot while the old M211 duece and a half were still going strong!
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 62,436
    Best trans in the world, I think. Even Rolls Royce used it, which made it the best part on a Rolls Royce (after the wooden dashboard and leather seats, that is).

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  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 20,197
    But we are talking about the early cast iron Hydramatics and not the Rotos, 200's, etc. The 350's and 400's were good also, but not like those rough shifting ones from the 50's.

    But, I disagree to a point about the Dynaflows. They were inefficient and sluggish to be sure. They did hold up, however.

    My parents kept their 51 Roadmaster until 1965. I learned to drive on that beast!

    I was never able to hurt that Dynaflow despite using a trick another 16 year old taught me...

    Start out in drive from a stop, floorboard the gas. When the big Buick got up to about 35 MPH, drop the shifter into low without letting up on the gas.

    The Buick would chirp the rear tires, the front end would bounce up and it would take off...Shift back to drive around 55 MPH!

    Funny to watch. That big 320 Cubic Inch straight eight has a sound all it's own too. These were great engines.
  • speedshiftspeedshift Posts: 1,598
    My vote goes to the Roto Hydramatic they put in Pontiacs and Olds in the early '60s. When you took off with that super-low first gear the engine would rev like the tranny was slipping, then the tranny would lurch into second, which had a normal ratio. It was like short-shifting a manual 3-speed.

    However, a close second would be the "world-class" (thanks, Car & Driver) tranny in my '98 GTP. At 26k it failed. The dealer rebuilt it, and it failed again. All in the last week. On the plus side, I'm driving a really nice Volvo S70 rental car. Could be my next car. Shiftright, what do you think of S70s?
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 20,197
    Some of the WIERD transmissions that came from Chrysler?

    A buddy bought a '52 De Soto from an old lady who decided to quit driving. What a shame...The car was soooo nice until he got ahold of it...

    Anyway, it had a hemi V-8 engine, and the STRANGEST transmission. It shifted when you lifted your foot off the gas. It also had a button on the end of the shifter that put it into "passing gear".

    Of course, he had great fun winding out as hard as it would go and then would quickly lift his foot off the gas so it would shift, then slam the gas back down.

    The De Soto desperatly missed grandma and didn't last long as I recall...too bad, it was VERY nice, very low miles, etc. Oh well!
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 62,436
    Don't know much about the S70...I never gave it much attention and it hasn't called me either. An apathy stand-off!

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  • speedshiftspeedshift Posts: 1,598
    Rent an S70 the next time you're at an Enterprise. Very well-damped European ride and handling, precise well weighted steering, very nimble without banging the heck out of you over bumps. Everything my GTP isn't.

    Okay, back to transmissions.
  • moparmadmoparmad Posts: 197
    Worst trannsmissions for strength thats easy...anything new.
  • gkelly3gkelly3 Posts: 38
    For a long time, Jaguars (if ordered with AT) used the B-W AT. Most tranny mechanics I've talked to rate this as one of the worst-slow shifting, unreliable, and very fragile. Most tranny shops would not even rebuild them-they would refuse the job, as parts were very scarce and expensive. I guess FORD has had some positive effects on Jaguar-certaily the ATs are much better now!
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 62,436
    Yep, if you have a 70s/80s jaguar you can just about count on rapid and frequent transmission failures.

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  • mjc440mjc440 Posts: 76
    One of the worst automatic transmissions of all time were the electronic 4 speeds put in 1989 to 1993 model year Chrysler cars. These transmissions were junk right out of the factory.

    One of the best automatic transmissions of all time were Chrysler's Torquefites (727 and 904). These transmissions were practically bulletproof.

    I guess Chrysler goes forward one step and takes two steps back.

    BTW - Chrysler fixed these defective transmissions by 1995 - the post 1995s don't appear to have many problems.
  • Here's my story: Ordered a brand new 1997 GD
    Caravan Sport. At 30K the transmission was acting
    funny, each time it was taken to the Dodge dealer
    they said it's alright. At 43K (now out of
    warranty) it would only go into 2nd or reverse.
    Chrysler said, 'to bad', and only paid half the
    $1,500 it cost to fix. And the Dodge dealer would
    only give $10,000 for it as a trade in. So, Two
    things if you buy a Chrysler product minivan: 1)
    buy an expensive extended warranty, 2) resale will
    be very low.
    Now after surfing the internet, I see I am not
    along. Verdict: Chrsyler minivans look nice, but
    have no quality or resale.
    Has anyone been successful at suing Chrysler?
    For 2001, also know that Chrysler has repeatedly
    said over the past 10 years that they have fixed
    their transmisson problem.
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 23,352
    I have a 2000 Intrepid with about 25K miles on it. Sometimes reverse refuses to engage, and I have to shift back and forth through the gears until it catches. I've had it in to my dealer who, naturally, can't find anything wrong with it. A local shop that I usually deal with told me to hang onto all of my paperwork, because the say that all Chrysler transmissions tend to be weak nowadays, even the ones in the trucks.

    Most of my cars in the past have been Chrysler, ranging from a 1957 DeSoto with a pushbutton TF727 on up to the Intrepid. The only one that ever gave me any serious tranny trouble was a 1979 Newport with a TF998 (I was basically a heavy-duty 904) that had to be rebuilt at 230K miles. Oh well, I guess those days are over!
  • My girlfriend has an 89 chevy celebrity with 54,000 miles on it. When we took it to get the oil changed today, the Precision Tune guy said that we should flush and fill the transmission because the fluid was "burnt." Is this necessary?

    There have been no problems with the transmission so far. He said it would be preventive maintnenance and would save us from buying a $5,000 transmission down the road. That made me suspicious because I've never heard of a $5,000 transmission, especially for a Chevy.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 62,436
    Probably just a sales pitch, but if you've never changed the fluid, it's certainly overdue. Transmissions have oil and filters, just like engines, and they need service.

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  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 20,197
    Let a Chevy dealer or a QUALITY independant transmission shop do the job.

    The chains scare me!
  • speedshiftspeedshift Posts: 1,598
    Check to make sure the fluid level is okay--not too high or too low. Either one is bad. Our Ford dealership overfilled my wife's T-Bird's tranny once.
  • I need some advice. My manual 626 has a first gear synchronizer problem that will cost $1500 to repair. I have been thinking about just buying a used transmission to replace it at a total cost, including installation of $800. Does anyone know if this is a viable solution to a tranny problem?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 62,436
    Sure, if the wrecking yard will guarantee the transmission. No one, by the way, will guarantee the labor, so if the tranny is bad, you're stuck for the installation. That's why you want a warranty with the unit.

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This discussion has been closed.