End of transmission... how about no transmission?

posted by Jeff | Thursday, August 21, 2014, 9:21 PM | comments: 0

Last Friday, just as Diana was approaching our house, her car (a 2008 Hyundai Elantra) was spinning high RPM's and not going anywhere. We were in separate cars, coming back from dinner. She pulled up and suggested I drive. Sure enough, it was struggling to accelerate or shift out of first gear, and I immediately assumed there was a transmission fluid problem. The burning fluid, with it dripping all over made that pretty obvious.

My first car had all kinds of problems, and a leaky gasket on the transmission pan was one of them. It was a pretty easy fix though, so I assumed it had to be something like that for this car. Wanting to assert my manhood or something, I checked with an auto parts store to find a gasket, and they said the car didn't have one. Meh, whatever, let's pay for the tow, because this to me sure sounds like it fits under the drive train warranty.

As it turns out, this car circulates transmission fluid through the radiator, another surprise as I've replaced two radiators that did not do this. (Is it obvious my car repair experiences are all almost 20 years ago?) The dealer found that the hose was simply not there, thus the very fast emptying of transmission fluid. On top of that, the car told a computer that the transmission gears were messed up. The diagnosis was a new transmission, and fortunately it was covered under that 10-year, 100,000 mile drive train warranty. Phew. Parts alone were about $1,300.

I'm disappointed that the car has under 60k miles and had this kind of catastrophic failure. Ditto for the fuel line problems we had in the first few months, a weird defect that required two overnight stays. The plastic plate under the car came off in the first year too, and we dragged that along the PA Turnpike. I suppose it has been a solid car otherwise, but with some Cleveland weather corrosion under the hood, tires in need of replacement and what not, I'm not comfortable nursing the car anymore. We were already considering a replacement this year, but now it feels more urgent.

Right now we're considering four options. None of them are a Tesla, because as amazing as that is, we could take 30 cruises for the cost of that car, or 10 ten-day cruises around Europe. Experiences, not stuff, you know? The zero option is simply to do nothing, but that means buying tires and hoping nothing else breaks. Otherwise, we would like to lease because in two years, we suspect there will be better options for electric cars, which we're very interested in.

The first and safest option is to get a regular Prius. The fourth generation models are apparently delayed, supplies are a little higher than demand, and it's a known quantity. We easily get 46 to 48 mpg out of the V, so we know the regular will do mid-50's in flat Florida. It's totally unsexy, and we'd be that family with two hybrids, but we like our Prii.

Next there's the electric Nissan Leaf, which has been something of a great curiosity for me ever since I rented one on my interview trip to Orlando last year. It was so flipping fun to drive, and an 80 mile range is perfectly adequate for commuting. It's a poor man's tiny Tesla, full of gadgetry and wonder for a nerd like me. There was a lease deal last year, in the midst of our "financial quiet period" prior to buying the house, where we could probably have traded the Hyundai and have no payment and get money back. We might still be able to get such a deal if we can get enough for the trade, or at least get close.

And finally, at the completely unlikely end but still curious, we could look at a BMW i3. It too is all electric, fairly ugly, and apparently the kind of engineering you expect from BMW. It gets good reviews, but it's fairly expensive in typical option packages, so it's hard to convey value I think to someone who thinks the Nissan is pretty cool.. I'm not a car guy, but I could see how something like this would make me an electric car guy, with carbon fiber body parts and all. I just can't get over the price, as it would be an expensive indulgence. Again, I'll check it out, but I doubt it's a real option.

It would be neat to have a car that doesn't actually have a transmission.


No comments yet.

Post your comment: