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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I recently purchased a 1986 El Camino with the 305 & 4-spd OD automatic transmission. What little I've been able to find, leads me to believe the trans is a 200R4. This car has been adult owned & all the oils look like new. It has a bit over 130K on the odometer.

I need to drive this car cross country & I'm concerned about the tranny holding up simply due to the mileage. The trans does leak a small amount. I'm not sure where the leak is coming from. The trans operates fine as best as I can tell. So far I've had one shop tell me that with the tranny fluid showing as clean as it does, that I don't need to have it serviced & that I shouldn't mess with it.

How much can be done to inspect & service one of these trannys to make sure that it won't fail during my drive?

Thank you
~JM~​
 

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Typical non-invasive tranny checks: Eyes and Nose. Does the fluid look red or brown/black? How does the fluid smell (hopefully not burnt or foul.) The fluid could have been changed prior to your sale, so that may not mean very much. I could be wrong on this, though.

The next thing you *could* do is to drop the pan and look inside it. A good tranny would have a bit of fine fine silt-like residue from the friction discs in the pan. A tranny in need of help will have a river delta of silt and maybe chunks of friction disks and finally a tranny with serious issue will have some metal shavings/pieces. If the pan is pristine then you know everything was changed/cleaned prior to sale, so you'll still have questions as to ultimate health of your unit.

Finally, you should check to see if your torque converter is properly locking as this will give you an extra boost in fuel economy. At a constant highway speed (say 50mph) and under steady throttle pressure, lightly touch your brake pedal (just enough to activate your lights but not slow you down) and without taking your foot off the gas (keep your speed steady). If you see/feel/hear your RPMs rise slightly (you may also feel a slight clunk or minor shift) then your torque converter is properly un-locking from its cruising "locked" state. After you release the brake pedal you may feel a "micro-shift" lurch and your RPMs drop again (about 200rpm) as your torque converter re-locks.

FWIW, when I got my 80 with a TH200C it felt like it was shifting through mud (and it was!) I dropped the pan and it looked like the fluid had never been changed and there were some serious chunks in there. I cleaned out the pan, replaced the filter and buttoned it back up with fresh fluid. Shifting felt much better. A couple months later I repeated the process and I'm very impressed at how much better this beat up 200 is performing given the state I believe it is in. I even drove from DC to Eastern CT last year, and while I did have other issues that were my own fault, the tranny performed fine. Also, this past week I was able to get my TC locking function operational again... I didn't know I had it!

My advice is do a tranny fluid and filter change (just because I do that kind of stuff when getting a new to me vehicle.) This will give you some empirical evidence as to what is going on inside or if your car was "prepped" for sale. While it's open you may even want to install a drain plug in your stock pan. They make draining & tranny service so much easier:

B&M Transmission Drain Plug



Pay attention to how it shifts and how it feels afterwards. As long as you do not feel any weird shifts, slippage or anything else odd, you may be good to go.

But everyone, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE also weigh in on this. My being wrong has ceased to be a novelty.
 

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I agree with everything michaelj said and definitely X2 on the drain plug. dumping tranny fluid everywhere to do a fluid change sucks
 

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You can always just get the leak fixed and drive it. If it's been leaking for quite a long time, the oil has been constantly topped off with new oil, and that may be why it looks good yet.
If it's leaking very much, it should be serviced, and the leak fixed.
Those are excellent points.

I had a constant drip from my 200C. I noticed, however that it would lessen considerably & even stop if I backed up a few feet before shutting down. Weird. I eventually tracked it to the speedometer pinion. A new seal was less then $4 and the tranny didn't even have to come out. And now the leak is gone, tranny looks like a slimy mess, but not more spots on the tarmac.
 

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everyone above is correct.take it to a good trany shop and have them do the leak repair and service .and have them check your operating pressures to make sure they are within specs. if all checks out good dont worry , service it yearly as the glycerin in new fluid keeps your seals soft and your tranny clean internally,it also gives you a heads up on something starting to go south.talk totranny mike for more to look for as he is the expert tranny guy here
 

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everyone above is correct.take it to a good trany shop and have them do the leak repair and service .and have them check your operating pressures to make sure they are within specs. if all checks out good dont worry , service it yearly as the glycerin in new fluid keeps your seals soft and your tranny clean internally,it also gives you a heads up on something starting to go south.talk totranny mike for more to look for as he is the expert tranny guy here
X2...
 

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If it's original, the TCC solenoid will likely go bad in the future and after warming up, lock the torque converter. Easy fix however.
 

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Welcome from Florida !! :florida: Got some pics ??
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Thanks for the replies. Finally have an update. Took the car to have the trans serviced. Found out it had already been through a "service" of some time in its past. This would explain the cherry fluid. Found & replaced 2 leaky seals. One at the speedo & one at the tailshaft. Everything looked fairly clean with some small sediment that wiped out. Hopefully the trans will last for more than just the trip & be reliable. I also replaced the thermostat to a cooler 180 degree T'stat. That should help the tranny run cooler.

~JM~
 

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Install a trans. fluid cooler in front of but not attached to the radiator. By routing the trans fliud out of the radiator, it prevents the engine heat from being transferred to the trans fluid. A complete set-up is less than $60 and takes about an hour to install.
 
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