Lifetime Warrantee On A Transmission Runs Out & A/C Blues
August 1, 2002
By Scott Lewis
This has been an extremely busy month for me. So this month I am taking a break. I don't even have time to write my usual three articles for this site. However, this is my favorite column and topic so I won't leave you completely empty handed.
This month I will briefly tell you about my transmission problems with my "new" car. I will also tell you what I am thinking about doing about it, and will briefly mentioned the repair of the A/C on my 93 Camaro.
When I bought my 1967 Camaro RS Convertible in the beginning of June the owner gave me all the documentation that he had for the rebuilt Powerglide transmission. He had it rebuilt in 1983 and faithfully brought it back to AAMCO for its annual checkups to maintain the lifetime warrantee.
I noticed after driving it for the first week to work that the transmission was a little slow shifting from 1st to 2nd gear. (There are only two gears in a Powerglide). I ignored it because I was already planning out what it would take to put in a 700-R4 four speed overdrive transmission.
Alas, I did not expect the Powerglide to give up on me. I was driving home one day and noticed that the car was feeling sluggish. I pressed harder on the accelerator and could hear the revs climb, but without any improvement in speed. Oops! That was it. The tell tale sign the transmission was in serious trouble. I made it home, but the trouble seemed to be getting worse.
I waited a couple of days to check the car out. I checked all the fluids, and all was well. I took it for a test drive and sure enough the car was worthless in second gear. It took a long time to get up to highway speed. So long that I won't be driving the car anymore until I get this taken care of.
I pulled out the paperwork on the transmission and found out that the warrantee was only good for the original purchaser of the repair. Crap!
More pressing was the A/C on my 93 Camaro Z-28. The first time I drove my 93 Camaro after taking the 67 Camaro to work one day, the A/C compressor stopped working. I guess the 93 was jealous. This is the first repair I needed on my 93 Camaro since its warrantee ran out... 6 years ago. Not bad. I have a friend that is a mechanic and he got me a compressor and evaporator from GM for $360. It took me just over 4 hours to replace them.
The only unusual part of the repair was that I had to lower the sway bar to get the compressor out from under the car. There was no mention of that anywhere in the instructions in my repair manual. Oops!
Since money is very tight I doubt I will be able to get the convertible running anytime soon. This is a big disappointment. At this moment I have three options:Fix the Powerglide transmission
I asked a co-worker that used to be a mechanic what he thought about the Powerglide. For starters it did not surprise him that it started slipping. It didn't surprise me either, I just don't like the timing. From the symptoms I described to him he is sure it is the clutches. He expects I will find material in the pan if I drop it. This means the Powerglide is too far gone for me to care about it. I do not want to put money into a weak link.
I would like to install a 700-R4 4 speed automatic with overdrive. The 700-R4 has a lower 1st gear than a Turbo 350. This will improve acceleration over the 3 speed automatic, and provide the benefits of overdrive on the highway. Since I drive a lot of highway miles this is my preferred solution. I will need that overdrive to help me reach my goal of getting up to 25 mpg on the highway with my 35 year old Camaro.
Unfortunately, a 700-R4 conversion is more costly than a Turbo 350. A short tailhouse Turbo 350 fits right in place of a Powerglide. I have performed this swap before on a 1970 Chevelle. The drive shaft and yoke are the same, as well as the transmission cross member. The only thing that would need modification would be the shifter. I haven't priced the different shifter components to swap in a Turbo 350, but I have priced that for a 700-R4 so it can use the stock shifter. For the sake of this article I will assume them to be the same (I could use the stock shifter and just not have manual control over the transmission down to 1st gear).
I have seen one company sells a completely rebuilt 700-R4 for $866. I would need a few extra items to swap it in: cross member ($150), shifter conversion kit ($55), and torque converter ($100-200). I would also need to have my drive shaft shortened and install a yoke for a 700-R4, plus the yoke itself. I might consider picking up a decent drive shaft from a salvage yard and have it shortened so I can save the original. I do not know what this costs. Finally I may need to get a wiring harness for the 700-R4 to handle its electronic controlled shifting. I am not sure about this item either. That means I would have to spend $1171-$1271 not counting the drive shaft, yoke, fee to shorten the drive shaft, and the possible wiring harness. I would brace myself and assume it would cost as much as $1500 to do this swap right.
Jeg's sells a rebuilt TH-350 transmission for $600. I would still need the torque converter and the shifter conversion kit, though I could live without the shifter mods in a pinch. Assuming the same price for a torque converter ($100-200) we are looking at a total of $755-855. For sure I could finish out the Turbo 350 for under $900... with no guess work.
How Much for Overdrive
That's a difference of around $600 for one extra gear. My co-worker told me he checked the salvage yard and they want $300 for a 700-R4 with a 30 day guarantee. That would save me over $500, more if they throw in the torque converter. This might be a way to go. However, I may be right back in this situation a month after installing a junk yard 700-R4. I could do the same thing with a junk yard Turbo 350. I don't know what they charge, but it has to be less than the price of a 700-R4. Let's guess at $250 with torque converter. I would only need the shifter conversion kit. I could probably swap a TH-350 from a salvage yard for about $300. That would certainly be an economical solution. Doing the 700-R4 through the salvage yard route would probably set me back about $600-800 depending on the drive shaft/yoke expense. I should be able to get the yoke from the salvage yard as well. That could save a few bucks.
Either way I go, by using salvage yard pieces I could save a lot of money, but I would not save money in the long run because a junk yard tranny will need a rebuild... sooner or later. My wife is dead set against the junk yard route.
Like I said at the beginning of this article. I have been so incredibly busy this month I have barely had time to write this article, no less think about any of the possible solutions I have proposed. I will give it some thought over the next month and let you know what I have decided. Until then I still have to get the A/C system in my 93 Camaro charged up.