Dear Car Talk:

I have a 1997 Dodge Dakota V8 with an automatic transmission that was rebuilt about 5,000 miles ago.

Now when I drive it, it shifts fine for the first couple of miles, but once it warms up, it doesn’t want to shift into third unless I put it in neutral for a couple of seconds and then back into drive.

I’ve verified the fluid level is correct and the adjustment on the throttle cable seems right. What else could cause this?

— Rusty

I’m guessing you got a 4,500-mile warranty on this rebuild, right, Rusty?

I would definitely go back to the rebuilder first, and ask for some help. It’s certainly possible that something went wrong with the rebuild. Or a part failed that got reused instead of replaced. Even if you’re outside the meager warranty period, I think you’re within your rights to go back and say “Hey, fellas, what gives?”

I can give you a few ideas, but it’s not like there was one thing that always went wrong with this particular transmission. Lots of things went wrong with this transmission.

One area of inquiry is mostly electronic. This transmission is partially controlled by a computer called the Powertrain Control Module (PCM).

But in order to know when to tell the transmission to shift gears, the PCM has to collect data from a bunch of sensors. Any of those sensors could be faulty. And if the PCM is getting bad info, it might not call for shifts correctly.

For instance, there’s a transmission speed sensor on the transmission’s output shaft. There’s a vehicle speed sensor. There’s a transmission pressure feedback sensor, and a transmission temperature sensor.

And don’t forget about the “time to buy to buy a new truck, Rusty” sensor.

If it’s not something electronic, you have to consider the mechanical or electro-mechanical stuff inside the transmission. That’s the stuff you hope they had rebuilt or replaced.

There you have various solenoids, pressure activated valves, the governor pressure sensor and don’t forget the lieutenant governor pressure sensor.

That’s why my first suggestion was to go back to the guy who did the rebuild for you 5,000 miles ago, and hope he’s got a kind heart and a good diagnostic mind. And bring fresh brownies. Good luck, Rusty.

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