Transmission leak- through dipstick tube?

Transmission leak- through dipstick tube?

Postby 95AstroLT [OP] » March 6th 2021, 1:45am

We had the transmission rebuilt on our '95 a few weeks ago. Today I smelled something burning and found a significant amount of transmission fluid on the right side of the engine! It coated the wiring harness behind the alternator and flowed onto the exhaust manifold, frame, and cross member.

The only thing in that area that would contain transmission fluid is the dipstick tube.

I phoned the shop that rebuilt it and the guy said he doubted it was the tube leaking because no fluid flows through it. He had me check the lines to the transmission and they seem fine (plus they're not even in the main area of the expelled fluid). He said the only reason the tube would overflow is because the vent was clogged. He described where the vent was and what to look for.

He said bring it by on Monday. (I hesitate because of the amount of fluid coming out!) I told him I would pull the doghouse to get a better look.

With the doghouse out i confirmed the transmission lines seemed fine. Also, the vacuum tube from the vent was intact and connected. I removed the tubing to to be sure it wasn't clogged.

The only thing I see is on the dipstick tube is a group of 3 spots along the side of the tube about halfway along, just above where it begins to be more horizontal. They resemble where a bracket may have been spot welded but is no longer (pretty sure there never was a bracket there, but..). One of these spots is actually a small hole!

So, my questions for the hive mind here are:

1) Is it normal for a hole to be at this point? (I'm assuming "no" but have to ask.)
2) Would a hole at this point expel fluid while driving? No fluid comes out at idle.

Any help will be greatly appreciated!
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Re: Transmission leak- through dipstick tube?

Postby CopperFiremistCopperFiremist is online! » March 6th 2021, 1:49am

They all break there and leave a puddle when you fill the transmission, clean it off and wrap some electrical tape around it and you will be good to go.
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Re: Transmission leak- through dipstick tube?

Postby MechBob » March 6th 2021, 3:14am

If your transmission shop installed the front pump gasket wrong,or their cleaning procedures blocked a passageway,the pressure will push fluid up the fill tube,even worse if there is a hole in the fill tube.Not an uncommon problem.
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Re: Transmission leak- through dipstick tube?

Postby 95AstroLT [OP] » March 6th 2021, 3:31am

I did see another post suggesting tape. But no fluid has been added since rebuild. And I'm talking significant fluid all over the side of the engine. Makes little sense but it makes quite a mess.
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Re: Transmission leak- through dipstick tube?

Postby 95AstroLT [OP] » March 6th 2021, 3:44am

MechBob wrote:If your transmission shop installed the front pump gasket wrong,or their cleaning procedures blocked a passageway,the pressure will push fluid up the fill tube,even worse if there is a hole in the fill tube.Not an uncommon problem.

Interesting. But its been working fine for several weeks. If it was assembled wrong would the symptoms wait this long?
Here's a photo of some of the mess. (Tried to add it earlier, learning to use this MacBook, long curve.)
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Re: Transmission leak- through dipstick tube?

Postby 95AstroLT [OP] » March 6th 2021, 3:49am

Photo of pick in the suspect hole.
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Re: Transmission leak- through dipstick tube?

Postby 95AstroLT [OP] » March 6th 2021, 3:59am

So consensus seems to be tape it up. Might go a step further, hose clamp around a piece of rubber. Works for plumbing emergencies in the house. :D
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Re: Transmission leak- through dipstick tube?

Postby dcsleeper » March 6th 2021, 7:57am

use brake clean to get the tube clean so the tape will stick.
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Re: Transmission leak- through dipstick tube?

Postby M_a_t_t » March 6th 2021, 3:19pm

Heat shrink would probably be another easy solution, plus it can't peel off like tape.
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Re: Transmission leak- through dipstick tube?

Postby deafman » March 6th 2021, 6:03pm

Clean the tube and tape it as suggested, JB Weld or whatever you have handy.
Then clean the area a bit, that will let you see if there are other problems or not.
Use paper towels, degreaser or whatever is laying around.
If it gets dirty after plugging the hole & cleaning the area you'll know something is up.
I'm no mechanic, but I would limit driving it until you know if it is a bigger problem.
And if you have to drive, check the Transmission level daily or when you reach your destinations.
You have to shift it to all the gears with engine running before checking the level.
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Re: Transmission leak- through dipstick tube?

Postby 95AstroLT [OP] » March 6th 2021, 7:05pm

Thanks all!
Reassuring to hear others have experienced this, and that it isn't necessarily a big problem. (Of course, the transmission is still under warranty so even if it is big it should be covered.)
I plan to work on it later today and will follow up with results.
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Re: Transmission leak- through dipstick tube?

Postby AstroWill » March 6th 2021, 8:17pm

Yep, super common for the dipstick tube to get damaged where the support brackets are/were attached. I split a piece of hose and used a hose clamp for the last one.

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Re: Transmission leak- through dipstick tube?

Postby 95AstroLT [OP] » March 7th 2021, 3:42am

AstroWill wrote:Yep, super common for the dipstick tube to get damaged where the support brackets are/were attached. I split a piece of hose and used a hose clamp for the last one.


Right. I just have trouble envisioning where the bracket was. Doesn't seem to be near to anything it could have attached to, and replacements (even those called original GM) don't have a bracket midway. Maybe it does more harm than good and newer design leaves it off. And with the plenum taken off multiple times by different mechanics hard to guess when the bracket could have gone bye bye. But this is the most likely cause of the marks and hole, so I'm not going to overthink it. Agree hose piece and clamp should be a solid fix.
Thanks!
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Re: Transmission leak- through dipstick tube?

Postby 95AstroLT [OP] » March 7th 2021, 11:17pm

OK, here's the update and it ain't pretty.

Assuming transmission fluid was low (none showing on dipstick on Friday), I started by adding 1/2 quart.

Started it up and did an initial level check - fluid way up the dipstick. Figuring it was left in the tube when I added fluid, I checked a couple more time - still way high! Then I remembered years ago when we were out of town the radiator reservoir overflowed because the radiator had failed, letting transmission fluid into the radiator (and vise versa). Looked in the reservoir, and yup - filled with red fluid.

Obviously the current radiator failed in the same manner. Shoot! Bad situation for a new transmission.

So I drained the transmission (no sense letting contaminated fluid stay in there any longer than necessary) and the radiator. The transmission fluid actually didn't look as terrible as I imagined it would - looked slightly purple in the drain pan rather than bright red, but still looked, smelled, and felt like transmission fluid. Coolant from the radiator had transmission fluid floating on top of it, but most of it was green.

I plan to refill the transmission with fresh fluid and replace the radiator. Then have the transmission shop replace the fluid (a second time including what I'm planning to do) and filter since I'm not draining the torque converter and I want to get as much contaminated fluid out of the transmission as possible.

When this happened many years ago, we were forced to drive nearly 50 miles from where I noticed the problem before we reached a place where I could replace the radiator. Then another 44 miles to get the transmission fluid changed. It was of course a death sentence for that transmission, but it actually went 2 more years before it died!

I'm hoping for similar results in this situation. Maybe better since the van wasn't driven with mixed fluids nearly as far as before and because the transmission is basically brand new.

Sorry to post such a sad story. Maybe it needs to be moved to "Cooling System". Or perhaps not all that sad - with a new radiator, transmission service, and fluids it should be around $300 to undo most of this.

If anyone has advise on a radiator that will hold up better, or maybe a strategy for helping the transmission survive this better, I look forward to hearing from you.

Thanks everyone!
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Re: Transmission leak- through dipstick tube?

Postby AstroWill » March 7th 2021, 11:42pm

Oh no, hope you caught it quick enough that it only did slight damage.

The biggest thing is maintenance on them, changing the fluids on time. Antifreeze has corrosion inhibitors in it that break down over time and so changing it at the required intervals really helps keep your cooling system in good shape.

Stock sized radiators can be had pretty cheap, ~$70 shipped and up to whatever you want to spend. I replaced mine with a thicker version all aluminum radiator and it fit and works perfectly(came from ebay).

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Re: Transmission leak- through dipstick tube?

Postby 95AstroLT [OP] » March 8th 2021, 12:17am

AstroWill:
Thanks! Let's hope so!
Truth is the cooling system WAS neglected for a time, radiator got clogged and was replaced at that time. Its less than 2 years old! Probably made in China.
Only other thing I can possibly think of is it got really cold (as low as 9 degrees) here a couple weeks ago and the van wasn't dug out of the snow until it got warmer. Pretty sure the anti-freeze was more than enough to protect it, no other coolant leak that I can tell. Chalk it up to Chinese crap radiator.
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Re: Transmission leak- through dipstick tube?

Postby AstroWill » March 8th 2021, 1:19am

If it was fine before a big freeze and not fine after a big freeze that definitely would make me think that it froze. 9 degrees is pretty darn cold, but I'm allergic to cold ;)
I'm sure 99+% of radiators are made overseas, could have gotten a bad one, who knows. Heck even 'made in usa' doesn't mean that it's made here anymore. "We put the cap on it and put it in a box, so now it's 'made in usa'".
I would use a $1 tester from walmart to test the strength of your coolant mixture.

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Re: Transmission leak- through dipstick tube?

Postby 95AstroLT [OP] » March 8th 2021, 2:46pm

AstroWill wrote:If it was fine before a big freeze and not fine after a big freeze that definitely would make me think that it froze. 9 degrees is pretty darn cold, but I'm allergic to cold ;)
I'm sure 99+% of radiators are made overseas, could have gotten a bad one, who knows. Heck even 'made in usa' doesn't mean that it's made here anymore. "We put the cap on it and put it in a box, so now it's 'made in usa'".
I would use a $1 tester from walmart to test the strength of your coolant mixture.


I do have an antifreeze tester. Didn't check our cars before the cold snap, but same in there as last winter. Guess I could test what I drained out, but could get my tester messy. Might get that $1 tester you mentioned.

But I would think if it got cold enough to crack the metal on the transmission cooler it would have cracked a plastic tank. That's my theory anyway.

Good news is I found the order where I got the radiator from Rock Auto and it has a "lifetime warranty" so hopefully all I'll have to pay is shipping (full shipping on the new part and half shipping on returning the old part). Plus tax. $24.55 total for the radiator. Should bring my total out of pocket closer to $200 depending on what the shop charges to service the transmission.
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Re: Transmission leak- through dipstick tube?

Postby AstroWill » March 11th 2021, 11:18pm

95AstroLT wrote:I do have an antifreeze tester. Didn't check our cars before the cold snap, but same in there as last winter. Guess I could test what I drained out, but could get my tester messy. Might get that $1 tester you mentioned.


Definitely worth the $1, or actually $1.76 for two because they changed the minimum required to two. https://www.walmart.com/ip/Chaslyn-Smal ... r/16927981
Recently worked on a vehicle that had only 1 ball float, 20°f is just not enough.

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Re: Transmission leak- through dipstick tube?

Postby MechBob » March 12th 2021, 1:28am

Agree with Will 95% on the radiator stuff. You just never know about the quality. But, you do not need a frozen liquid to cause a problem. The colder the weather, the more metals,rubbers,plastics and fluids contract. And,if any of them have already been weakened,bigger chance for a failure.I prefer never to drive my plow truck,in anything -35 below or more,steel breaks much easier. Also, there is the long debated question, do metals respond to wind chill? Well,I believe probably not,but when that metal is layered with something else, such as coolant, a whole different story. Being a mech. most of my life, I have only seen maybe 10 cases of rad./transmission fluid cross contamination.
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MechBob
Firing on 2 Cylinders (L2)
Firing on 2 Cylinders (L2)
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