The Transmission Died on my 1999 Tahoe

The Transmission Died on my 1999 Tahoe

The 4L60E transmission failed on my 1999 Chevrolet Tahoe at 158,000 miles after being rebuilt at 90,000 miles. My dilemma was to fix it or salvage it? I decided to salvage it, but it was a process.

Symptons of Transmission Trouble

I bought my Tahoe with about 130,000 miles on it in September of 2008. I had it thoroughly checked out by a reputable mechanic unknown to the previous owner. He gave the engine and transmission a good report with the exception of a slight leak in the head gasket, which I had replaced.

I was optimistic about my Tahoe and didn’t have any reason to doubt the transmission until about 156,000 miles when the transmission dropped out of gear as I was waiting in traffic to make a left turn into a restaurant parking lot. I stepped on the gas and even though my transmission gear selector was in Drive, the engine revved like it was in neutral. Not a good situation. I put the transmission in Park, moved it back to Drive and the truck moved forward like it was a straining to do so. My family was hungry so I parked the Tahoe, had dinner with my family, and returned home without any sign of trouble.

The next day I was concerned about making a 125 mile round trip to see some friends who lived in a rural area. The 1999 Tahoe was my only vehicle so I had to go or cancel. I took a little test drive of about 10 miles before making the decision to go. The truck was driving normally. There were no check engine codes. My trip to my friends was uneventful. No problems. I began to think it was a freak occurence. A friend with a some experience suggested it was a tranny solenoid that misaligned and I shouldn’t worry about it until it happened again.

I drove the car for a couple weeks without any problem, then one day while I was backing out of a parking space the transmission gave me a noticeable thump. I had a box in the cargo area. I convinced myself the box had shifted and hit the rear tailgate as I stopped. I decided it wasn’t the transmission, but the box.

A couple weeks later, I decided to drive the Tahoe to see my mother. It was a 600 mile round trip. During the trip, while in the rain, the transmission dropped out of gear at while at stop lights three or four times. At the time of the first occurrence I was 200 miles from home so it was closer to continue the trip. I remember my friend saying something about electric solenoids in the transmission. I thought maybe the rain was causing an intermittent short.  Each time the transmission dropped out of gear, I moved the transmission to Park, then back to Drive and that corrected the problem. Other than those few events, the transmission performed normally. However, I was convinced I had a problem.

I took my Tahoe to Eagle Transmission for a transmission diagnostic check. The mechanic who inspected the truck could not duplicate the problem and found no errors on their diagnostic equipment. He told me that the next time it happened, to call them. He couldn’t diagnose a problem he couldn’t duplicate. They didn’t charge me for their attempt to duplicate the problem. They gave it a good honest effort.

Shortly afterwards, I was backing out of the garage and the transmission locked. It stopped the truck like I had hit a wall. I took moved the Tahoe forward a few feet and then backed normally. I’m beginning to think that I would have the transmission rebuilt, but decided to drive it until it broke. A few days later it did. I was backing out of a space at the Post Office and the transmission locked up. I was half in and half out of the space. I eased it forward a few feet, but the transmission was struggling. I then backed again and cleared the cars around me enough to pull forward. I drove the truck home a couple miles, but again the Tahoe was struggling.

After making it home, I called Eagle Transmission again. He told me if it would drive, to bring it on in. I made it a couple blocks and decided that I wouldn’t make it the eight or nine miles to their shop. I called for a tow.

The transmission was dead with metal shavings in the fluid. Eagle Transmission’s estimate was about $2500.00 to rebuild the transmission. I set on the idea a couple days and had the truck towed home and put it in my garage. (Not an easy task…this truck is heavy to push even with a lot of help from my friends.) I had confidence in Eagle Transmission, but not much in the other shops that I talked to on the phone. Being a skeptic, I didn’t believe their lower estimates because they were always subject to what we find when we drop and open the transmission.  I also didn’t want to have the Tahoe towed from shop to shop for estimates. Dealer prices for transmission repair are known to be crazy high so I didn’t even ask.

The dilemma  was whether the truck was worth putting that kind of money into it. I had only paid $4000.00 for it. If I put $2500 in it, probably more with taxes and towing, then I would have a truck with 158,000 miles on it that was worth at best $3500.00. On the other hand I didn’t want a car payment and then there was the question of what to do with a broken down Tahoe that was now sitting in my garage? So I rented a car on weekends from Enterprise and waited.