Q: I have a 2011 Dodge Journey R/T with approximately 69,000 kilometres on it. I’ve noticed that on occasion the car lurches when it is in drive and I’m about to pull away. It seems to do it more in cold weather like we had this winter.
I noticed that if I put the car in first gear, rather than drive, it doesn’t seem to happen. When I took the car in for my last oil change, the mechanic noticed this as well and implied that this may be a major problem and suggested that I take it to a transmission shop to have it checked out, which I did, once to have the transmission inspected and the second time to have the transmission flushed and then fluid changed.
Both times I was told that there was nothing wrong with the transmission other than ordinary wear and tear and not to worry about the lurching.
I should mention that there are no outstanding software updates for the vehicle. I’d just like to have your thoughts about the lurching, is it or is it not an issue to worry about. Thanks.
A: The lurch when you place the transmission into drive range could occur because the one-way mechanical roller clutch inside the transmission is slipping a bit when cold.
The roller clutch holds components from turning as you start out and then “freewheels” when the transmission shifts into second gear. This allows a smooth shift into second. When you place the shifter into Low range, the transmission oil also fills another clutch pack that locks the roller clutch in both directions. This gives additional holding power with the roller clutch when starting out and also provides engine braking when decelerating in low range.
The only repair for the roller clutch is to replace it, which requires transmission disassembly. If it only does it when cold, it can last a long time if driven with light loads. If you need to accelerate fast or carry heavy loads, use low gear so the additional clutch can help the roller clutch.
Also, if the lurching does seem excessive compared to other vehicles of the same year, then there are a couple things to check. First, have the temperature sensors checked to see if they are reporting the correct temperature to the computer when the vehicle is cold.
If the temperature sensors are reading too cold, then the transmission oil pressure will controlled be too high. Second, check the motor mounts. A broken rubber on a motor mount can amplify the lurching feeling of a transmission engaging.
Q: I drive a manual shift 2010 Nissan Altima sedan 2.5S. From the time it was bought the gears need higher effort to change gears. This is much more noticeable when the car is driven first thing in the morning when it is cold, and also when the outdoor temperature is cold.
Initially, I thought it was because the car was new and that the gears would “work in." However, there is still stiffness. It is a direct contrast to our manual shift 2010 Nissan Sentra. Changing gears on the Sentra is as smooth as anything.
The other issue with the Altima is that there has been an intermittent "whining friction-like" sound when engaging the clutch particularly in cold winter weather. I have brought it to the attention of the dealership but seem unable to help.
A: Oil that is too thick in viscosity in the transmission will make shifting stiffer, so changing to a thinner oil viscosity may help but before doing that, check that the clutch is releasing properly.
As for the whining sound, it sounds like either the clutch dragging or a damaged clutch release bearing.
To verify clutch release, warm up the engine and transmission by idling for about 15 minutes. Then press on the clutch and shift though all gears. Next, place the transmission in neutral and release the clutch. After a few seconds, press the clutch pedal and wait for nine seconds.
The transmission should shift into reverse gear with no grinding or effort. If the transmission doesn’t shift into reverse smoothly, then the clutch is dragging and needs adjustment or replacement.
Note: most transmissions will shift smoothly into reverse after only about three to four seconds but a nine-second wait seems to be a universal industry standard.
Jim Kerr is a master automobile mechanic and retired teacher of automotive technology. Send your questions for Jim via email or mail them to: Herald Wheels, 2717 Joseph Howe Drive, P.O. Box 610, Halifax, N.S. B3J 2T2