Q – My ‘88 Carrera was driving great until I let my son borrow the car for the Woodward Cruise. I never had a bit of trouble with my transmission but when he brought it back it wouldn’t go into third gear without loud gnashing sounds. It doesn’t matter how easy I shift or at what speed either. All the other gears including reverse, work normally. The other thing that is different is that the clutch pedal is about a half inch lower than it used to be. I am hoping it just needs a clutch adjustment. I was told by my mechanic that these gearboxes are bullet proof so I wonder. How good are they? The car only has 41,000 miles on it! – Denny

A –The G-50 transmission is generally bulletproof. They are hard to break but even the best sometimes fail depending on what mayhem is committed. The Woodward Cruise has caused some normally sane people to get a little crazy. Have you been down to the loop in Pontiac? Yeah baby!!

I have some bad news for you Denny. When I have seen this symptom, it is usually due to a broken synchronizer ring or damaged gear set.  “Internal transmission damage” is how I describe it. Any way you slice it the repair will not be cheap or easy. The first step is to perform a basic “eyeball” inspection of the clutch pedal, hydraulics and lever at the transmission…but that probably won’t turn up anything. The next step is to pull the powertrain out, separate the transaxle from the engine and find out what broke and how painful this is going to be.

The low clutch pedal on this car is another issue that may have contributed to the transmission failure. On this model, although the pedal linkage is adjustable, it rarely if ever needs to be adjusted. What does happen is that the rubber center of the clutch can fail and over a period of twenty years or so, it starts throwing chunks of rubber into the pressure plate. These chunks get lodged in the pressure plate, some of the clutch spring fingers warp, and this changes the release bearing height. Now I have a question for you (and your son): What happened just before third gear started grinding?

“Well, he shifted fast from second and got the shifter part way into third and let the clutch out. The shift lever kicked back at him into neutral, and then it would not go back into third without grinding”

At least you know when and how it happened but now to find out how bad it is. With the powertrain removed, things to consider at this age and mileage include rubber and plastic parts. On this list I include: the rubber center clutch, release bearing, input shaft seal, crankshaft seal, engine compartment insulation, oil thermostat O-ring, breather gasket, and possibly the oil light switch. Whenever the powertrain needs to be removed, overlap between related operations can benefit you by easier access. For my money, if I have the budget for it, I want to do it once and do it right. MC