97 SW1 - Synchro bad in manual transmission???

Synchro bad in manual transmission???
97 SW1 SOHC 168k 5sp manual transmission.
Original owner.
Bought car from Fargo, ND Saturn dealer in Oct 97 with 65 miles on it.
Only two valid instances of mechanical trouble. In the summer of 2002, engine temperature sensor went bad. Way overcharged by Saturn dealer in Austin, TX to replace.
In August 2004, the (o-ring?) on the transmission shifter cable went bad. $500 to $600 to remove and replace cable(s) including towing to independent shop almost 100 miles away.
About two to three weeks after the transmission cables were replaced, the manual transmission will shift up through all the gears but will not downshift from third gear to second gear without slowing way down plus double and triple shifting (pumping clutch pedal rapidly). Took car back to independent shop. $400 to pull transmission and $700 to fix whatever is wrong inside. Shop said they would give me a price break on a clutch for $200 more. Did not have any work done.
Independent shop went out of business a few months after installing the transmission cables.
Still have not fixed the shifting problem. A friend of mine thinks it's the (synchro)?. Says I can pick up a rebuilt transmission for $650 if I install it. From looking at the Chilton manual, it looks like it's a fairly complex procedure, not for amateurs. Another friend cautioned me about transmissions. Said there was a big difference between transmission shops and general automotive shops.
This week I am going to get 3 written estimates from "transmission" shops to fix the shifting problem. I'm putting aside 2 grand and I hope it's not much more. The bluebook value is not much more than that. However, if it keeps me out of car payments to the bank then it's worth much more to me.
Any "gotchas" I should look out for when getting the written estimates from the "transmission" shops? Would I be better off going with a rebuilt transmission because of the age of the 10 year old car? What minimum certifications should the shop have? Are there any obvious questions that I should be aware of?
Thanks for your help,
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It sounds like you've put a lot of money into these tranmission difficulties so far. Might I suggest something different...
I needed a new manual trans a few years back and bought one with around 30k on it off eBay for around $300 shipped.
Prior to that, I'd never undertaken a job this big - or should I say, I hadn't done a job that looked to be this big. It ended up being a lot less difficult than I thought. Contrary to most Haynes or Chilton manuals, you can remove and replace a manual transmission without pulling the engine. A good starting point is to read this article:
http://www.cristhomas.com/cars/Clutch/ClutchHowTo.html
This was written by a Saturn owner to assist in changing the clutch. If you look at the photos, you'll see one with the engine and trans separated, the trans hanging down in the wheelwell, and a wood block between the rear of the cradle and the rest of the body. You can see it here:
http://www.cristhomas.com/cars/Clutch/trans-wheelwell.jpg
I took this photo at the point where I was ready to pull the trans out of the wheelwell. It's not much more work to do the swap beyond all the clutch swap instructions in this article.
If you have a decent set of tools, and a good amount of patience and confidence, the average driveway mechanic can do this job and save a ton of money. My first time, it took an entire day. After 5 or 6 times, I now attempt to set a personal record each time I do it. :) My best time so far has been about 2 hours for the full transmission swap.
Here's another set of photos, this time on my site, where this swap method was used: http://www.evilplastic.com/diff3.htm
So, if you're sick of paying someone else money over and over, buy a used trans and commit to a day or labor and you can do it yourself for almost nothing.
Lane [ lane (at) evilplastic.com ]
--
Visit my Saturn Car Audio and Performance Page at http://www.evilplastic.com


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Thanks Lane. This is good information. I'll start looking for a replacement transmission. Thanks again.
Lane wrote:

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snip
Do a Google groups search on "shifter clip group:rec.autos.makers.saturn". http://groups.google.com/groups?as_q=shifter+clip&as_ugroup=rec.autos.makers.saturn

168k miles or km? Since you have owned since new, do you engage in 'sprited driving and shifting? Did 'spirited shifting' contribute to the shift cable failure? Do you practice progressive or short shifting tecniques? What is your normal pre upshift and downshift rpm range? Do you speed shift or shift without using the clutch? Do you use high force to pull into next gear or do you shift gently with a slight pause just after neutral to allow the sycronizers to do their job gently? What rpm are you attempting to downshift at? What rpm do you mean by slowing way down? Do you allow the rpms to drop too low when downshifting?, this raises the gear speed delta and increases the work that must be done by the sycronizers. Do you use aggressive downshifting to maximize engine braking?

Double clutching is a technique used to manually sycronize gear speeds when shifting non-syncromesh (now obsolete and rare) or worn syncromesh transmissions.
I have never heard of "triple shifting". 'Pumping' a hydraulic clutch is a technique that (with some systems) can force more fluid into the slave cylinder and is helpful if the system contains air or if the cluch is failing to release due to clutch disk wear or linkage adjustment. A cluch disk that is dragging due to disk or plate problems can make sycronization more difficult.

These figures are an estimate or quote?
snip

I agree, transmission shops can be even bigger crooks, but both should be avoided as much as possible and carefully watched when unavoidable.

Expect a call to tell you that the shop found unexpected problems that will raise the repair cost substantially and that you need to come up with a decision and probably a large cash deposit quickly as your car is tying up a hoist and they must charge you for shop time because they can't move your car out of the shop. They may be hoping that you say the car is not worth fixing and that you will accept a small amount of cash (or the amount owing, or less) to sell the car. Once they start working on your car, they effectively own it until their bill is paid in full.

Do not expect that a 'rebuilt' transmission is anything like new and in fact may not be any better that the one you have. Lots (most) rebuilds are nothing more than a pressure wash (and maybe paint and sometimes seals) and a guarantee that (maybe) covers the cost of the transmission but not the installation. When you discover that the unit is NFG you will find that the seller has disapeared or will not honor any guarantee or it is easier for you to just sell the car rather than try to find another transmission, (your old unit will have been taken as an exchange and you will not be able to get it returned (as it will have been 'rebuilt' and/or sold to someone else). This is also a common marketing strategy for used engines.

Some of the biggest crooks have the most paperwork. Count your fingers after shaking hands.

IMHE, the syncro on 2nd gear is usually the first one to wear, especially when subjected to poor technique or 'spirited' driving style.
Have you changed your transmission oil frequently and more often than mfg. recommends?
I suggest changing the transmission oil and carefully examining the old oil by filtering it through a fine (coffee) filter to look (with a magnifying glass for brass and aluminum and a magnet for iron) for metal flakes and to check for water or aging oil condition.
If the car is drivable by using lowered shift points and PROPER double clutching technique, then I would defer any transmission repairs and drive the car until the clutch dies, at which time a repair decision can be made and in the mean time will give you a chance to find a reasonably priced replacement. Opening a modern and especially a high mileage or hard driven transmission can be a very expensive operation. Use caution when purchasing any used unit.
IMHO the '96&up SW1-5sp is the best of the S series and is a body offering great utility, you may wish to find a low mileage good running sedan which may provide all the cheap parts you will ever need and also have 4 tires (on rims) and a good battery. If you look carefully you may find one selling for little more than the value of the tires and battery and I bet you have some cracked plastic under the front bumper and in the wheel wells.
Good luck, YMMV
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http://groups.google.com/groups?as_q=shifter+clip&as_ugroup=rec.autos.makers.saturn
Further to the foregoing, before you consider tearing the transmission out of the car, be very sure that your problem is not caused by an improperly aligned or worn shift linkage. The appearance of shifting problems soon after linkage repair is probably not coincidence. I would pay particular attention to the action of the linkage as it passes through the neutral gate, a simple burr could be causing shift difficulties.
Are you experiencing actual grinding of gears, or is it more of a delay or resistance to shifter movement into second gear?
Always fix the simple and cheap stuff first.
Good luck, YMMV
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