Dr. Gizmo: Transmission in high-mileage truck at a crossroads

The transmission in my 2008 GMC Acadia SLE is bumping when it engages second gear. I went to a local shop about the trouble. Tests did not find any codes that pinpointed the cause. They drove the vehicle with test equipment and confirmed the condition. They think the problem is either a faulty solenoid or torque converter. Since they are not able to confirm the cause, they are reluctant to replace the parts, but this is not my concern.

My concern is the vehicle has 158,000 miles. My shop says the converter is shuddering under light loads. To replace it, they would need to remove the transmission. My thought is, at this mileage, I should replace the transmission. Either way, the repair is expensive. My truck is in great condition. I’ve owned it since it was new. I’m willing to spend the money. What do you recommend? – L.D., email

Thanks for seeking my opinion. There is no doubt at this mileage, parts within the unit are worn. It’s at a crossroad. If you intend to keep the vehicle for the foreseeable future, replacing the transmission with a remanufactured unit or overhauling the present unit, along with a new torque converter, is a sound decision. It will provide several years of reliable service.

I have a 2008 Cadillac STS with a 3.6-liter engine and 171,000 miles. I think the engine computer has died. I bought this car two years ago and it’s been reliable. Last week, when I pushed the button to start, the starter did not turn the engine. I removed the starter and had it tested at an auto supply store. It failed tests. I installed a remanufactured starter. Now, when I push the button to start everything in the dash dies and the starter fails to turn the engine. If I wait a minute or two, the dash comes back to life until I push the start button.  

Did the old starter short out the engine computer? – G.F., email 

Oh, do-it-yourself repairs are challenging, but there might be an inexpensive fix that does not involve replacing the engine computer. As you probably know, when a vehicle is in start mode most electrical power is routed to the starting circuit. You might have noticed in the past the dash goes dim or blank for a split second when starting. What’s happening now likely is caused by a blown fuse and not a failed computer.

The starter circuit is protected by a fuse. The old starter likely placed an excessive load on the circuit, resulting in a blown fuse. Check the fuses. A new fuse is the likely cure.

I need to replace the struts in my car. It has 142,000 miles. I’m not sure how long I will keep it. Is it necessary to replace the springs when I replace the struts? – K.R., email 

It’s your call. It is not necessary to replace the springs when replacing the struts. Obviously, if a spring is cracked or broken, it needs replacement. If one spring is cracked or broken, all the springs should be replaced. Also, if the carrying height of the vehicle is below specifications, vehicle handling and control might be compromised, especially in an emergency situation. With this condition, it would be wise to replace all of the springs.

Doc, I hope you can help with a weird problem that my shop has not been able to cure. I have a 2006 Dodge Ram 2500 SLT work truck. It has a 5.7-liter engine and 88,000 miles. The trouble is, in the morning, it stalls. It starts fine and runs fine, but as soon as I apply the brakes to put it in gear, the engine stalls. If I leave my foot on the brake pedal, it will not restart. Once I take my foot off the pedal, it starts. As long as I don’t depress the pedal, the engine starts and runs fine. I found if I let it idle, it warms up and I can apply the brakes without fear of it stalling.

My shop has performed tests, but has not found any codes or other problems. They have experienced the trouble, but have not found the cause. What do you think? – T.G., email 

Apparently, your work truck does not want to labor until it is toasty warm. All kidding aside, this likely is caused by a poor ground connection. If your technician reviews a wiring schematic, he likely will find a shared ground connection that is either loose or corroded. Repair might be as simple as tightening a bolt.

My 2006 Buick Rendezvous CXL is in the shop. It has a 3.5-liter motor and is all-wheel-drive. The trouble, I’m told, is a sensor ring that determines vehicle speed has come apart. My shop tells me they might have to remove the engine and transmission to get to a final drive where the sensor ring is located.  

Is this true? – R.S., email 

Yes. The good news is the vehicle will operate as designed once the broken part is replaced. The bad news is, this is a laborious task that requires, at the very least, lowering sub frame parts while supporting the engine and transmission from the top. This offers the needed room to access the final drive and broken part.

The steering is sometimes difficult in my 2013 Ford Edge Sport with a 3.7-liter engine and 73,412 miles. Also, I have seen drips on my garage floor and have needed to add fluid to the power steering. The power steering reservoir has never been so low the power steering has not worked. I’ve been topping it off on a regular basis. I intend to have the leak repaired, but I’m busy and need my car.

My concern is the fact the steering sticks at times. I have read that sometimes leaks cause trapped air. Is this a major issue or is it the result of air in the system? – M.G., email

It is possible air is trapped in the system as a result of a leak. Repairing whatever is causing the leak and bleeding the system might be a lasting cure. It’s also possible there is a fault in the power steering pump or steering rack that is causing the condition. If the fluid has never gone too low, issues in these parts are not likely. More than likely trapped air is the cause. Let’s keep our fingers crossed this is all that needs repair.

• Phil Arendt is a columnist, consultant and A.S.E.-certified master technician. Readers may send questions to Dr. Gizmo at P.O. Box 548, Cary, IL 60013 or Information is available on his website,

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