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Old 07-30-2021, 03:34 PM   #1
GLE3
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Default Please help me confirm my trans...

Helping my son through some issues with his Saturn. He can travel through all gears but when in reverse it seems there is torque on the tires but no movement of the car. Like the rear wheels are up against a curb. He may still have forward gear but is parked at his apartment and doesn't want to ride up on the grass only to not be able to not back up. Can't seem to be able to push the car backwards in neutral either. Don't assume this can be fixed without getting into the case so it's a bit out of my league. Next issue is getting someone to work on it. Some transmission shops flat out say no, some are asking what model of transmission. I hear the Japanese version can't be worked on. So, could you guys help me figure out what model I have?

2003 Saturn ION-3
Automatic trans
2.2 engine
153,000 miles

Thanks in advance!
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Old 07-30-2021, 05:29 PM   #2
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2003 L-Series 3.0L Sedan
Default Re: Please help me confirm my trans...

A search shows Ions have several types of transmissions; 5-speed Getrag F23 manual, 5-speed Getrag F35 manual, 4-speed GM 4T45-E automatic, 5-speed Aisin AF33 automatic, and CVT VTi automatic.

A shop turning down work may not have expertise in every xmission and may prefer to take on work that makes money for the business. A xmission is a xmission. Where it's made should have no bearing since GM supposedly provided new vehicle warranty protection. It's said vehicle manufacturers are supposed to provide up to ten years parts support after discontinuing a model or models. Legacy issues intertwined with new vehicle warranties lets repair shops get on board with changes to continue support. The majority of automatics are well known including all electronically controlled versions in the last twenty years. However, one xmission that does seem to have issues and problematic may be the continuously variable xmission, more commonly known as the CVT. Saturn had two versions, one in Vues and the other in Ions. If you search past Vue threads, you'll read about horrendous repairs, litigation and dissatisfied owners taking a financial loss on Vues with the 2.2L engine/cvt combination. Vue CVTs were made in a eastern european country. These Vues only had a two year run before Saturn quietly discontinued them due to overwhelming failures. Ions may have a different cvt from another country. Ions designate their cvt as VTI too and may be less troublesome compared to Vues' VTI.

CVTs are in many other brands with various success; Subarus, Nissans, Mini Coopers, etc. CVTs are a completely different type of xmission and presents its own unique issues when repairs are needed. Virtually every xmission uses gears whether manual or automatic. CVTs don't rely on gears but a pair of hydraulically controlled variable sheaves using a segmented steel belt. CVTs are in every snowmobile. The pair of variable sheaves allows an infinite number of ratios with a direct result of feeling zero gear shifts with the tachometer winding up without dropping from geared xmissions. The smoothest automatic because of a total lack of gear shifts. The problems with cvts are the hardened pulley sheaves, hydraulics and the special segmented steel drive belt. In one sense, the cvt is a throwback to older non electronically controlled automatic xmissions requiring complete disassembly to separate damaged parts before rebuilding it with new parts. A cvt may be completely disassembled before damaged parts are revealed for the rebuild process. This may not be cost effective for the xmission repair shop and vehicle owner. Vues with the two year run on CVTs (also labeled as VTI), were found to have a major weakness in its design and wasn't worth repairing.

There are ways to determine which xmission is used by the RPO numbers and VIN for manufacturing info. A seat of the pants feel for zero xmission shifting along with observing the tachometer needle simply move up without dropping as regular automatics shift gears should tell you whether or not your Ion has a VTI automatic.
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Old 07-30-2021, 05:55 PM   #3
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Default Re: Please help me confirm my trans...

Assuming this means I have the Aisin 5 speed? So knowing this..

The one guy that did say he could work on it told me repairs would be about the cost of the car... Don't want to go that route. Cheapest thing to do is find a used trans that they would swap maybe? And I don't assume a 4T45-E would just plug and play in the vehicle either...
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Old 07-30-2021, 08:21 PM   #4
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Default Re: Please help me confirm my trans...

Quote:
Originally Posted by GLE3 View Post
Assuming this means I have the Aisin 5 speed? So knowing this..

The one guy that did say he could work on it told me repairs would be about the cost of the car... Don't want to go that route. Cheapest thing to do is find a used trans that they would swap maybe? And I don't assume a 4T45-E would just plug and play in the vehicle either...
2003-2004 Ion Sedans (and a few late build 2004 Ion Quad Coupes) have the Aisin AF23 5-speed automatic transmission (RPO code M43). It's not any less serviceable than other transmissions, aside from using a filter which requires disassembly to replace. Aisin transmissions are generally very reliable, and these are no exception. I'm not saying it's impossible for it to be bad, but I don't think you've have gathered enough information to draw that conclusion yet. Swapping in the 4T45E is more hassle than it's worth, and a substantial downgrade from the Aisin AF23 IMO.

This is obvious, but if you haven't already done so, make sure the park brake isn't set.
...
2007 Ion 2 Quad Coupe 5-speed manual 183K miles *gone*
2007 Chevy Equinox LT 203K miles
2018 Chrysler Pacifica Touring L 68K miles
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Old 07-31-2021, 09:57 PM   #5
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Default Re: Please help me confirm my trans...

Parking brake has normal resistance and travel and seems to release. I haven't taken off the rear wheels to be sure but pretty sure that is not the issue.

Full disclosure is he had transmission 'codes' flash on his dash he says "for awhile"... He could pull nothing from a code reader that looked transmission related. About 2 weeks ago, he was trying to reverse out of a parking place and said the car wouldn't move.. I don't assume he tried going forward as he was backing away from a curb. He checked the fluid level after that and appeared to be a quarter quart low. He topped it off through the dipstick hole with fluid he got from OReillys that said it was Toyota T-IV compatible. Said the transmission 'code' cleared from the dash for a week then came back. Now present day he says the car won't move again....

If the parking brake is fine is there something else I can verify before figuring transmission?
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Old 07-31-2021, 10:16 PM   #6
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Default Re: Please help me confirm my trans...

Wasn't real clear about this but car drove fine again AFTER adding the fluid...
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