My son’s car contains a fair amount of “Made by Monkeys” logic. One good example (or not so good, in my case) of this logic has to do with the transmission. It’s a 2001 Pontiac Grand Am, with more than 100,000 miles on it.
He came home from college last week and said that the car wasn’t running right, so I hopped in and took it for a spin. Sure enough, when you stepped on the accelerator, the transmission would spin far too freely.
Being a weekend mechanic, my first reference source is usually the Internet, preferably a source with a video. Unfortunately, there was no video available to help solve our problem, but there was a lot of advice in the user forums.
The first thing the forums had me check was the transmission fluid level. That seemed simple enough, so I went out to the car to look for the dipstick. It’s always at the back of the engine, near the firewall, right? And yes, I know the car has to be running, warm, and on flat ground (my dad taught me that way back when I got my first car). After more than a few minutes of searching for that dipstick, I came back to the Internet to find out where that bugger was hidden.
It turns out that this model (and most cars these days) has no dipstick due to the transmission being pressurized. The only way to check the level is to get under the car, find and remove some tiny screw, and see if any fluid spills out. While doing this, all I could think of is, “there has to be a better way.”
We did that, and sure enough, nothing came out, so we knew more fluid was needed. After searching for the filler cap for a while, I finally discovered it buried down in the engine compartment. When I reached in to remove it, I burned my hand. It’s nearly impossible to remove the cover -- and even harder to put it back on -- without removing a significant amount of skin from your hand.
But we did it, and the car now runs a lot better than it did before. I assume the skin on my hand will grow back in no time.
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