1990 Jeep AX-15 6cl M Trans story from Hell
Being that I work for the internets, and am a moderate PC genius, I figured I would have no trouble finding a suitable transmission guy on the internet that would be able to handle my issue, and not break the bank. I came to this conclusion after calling various local shops, and asking, what seemed to me to be, a fairly straight forward question. My jeep suddenly started grinding when going into 3rd. I'm not talking a little "eh" I'm taking a gigantic grind that doesn't want you to go into the gear at all. It felt like there was an iron wall of grind keeping me from going into 3rd. So I just skipped that gear for a few days, and stopped trying to force it.
So, after calling many shops and getting the same answer "I've got 30+ years of experience, but I wouldn't have any idea without taking the trans out, apart, and looking at it." To me, that just sounds like a way to steal my money.
Off to the internets I went. I found the price of the transmission new (AX-15 for 1990 6cl) to be about 2k. As I had no intention of spending that much money to put into a 5k jeep, I looked at the rebuild kits. I am not mechanical, I'm a computer guy. I know how to drive stuff, not fix it. I do have a friend with such inclinations, but he did not know hot to rebuild a trans. The rebuild kit was about 400 bucks. Now, on ebay, and a couple of local junk yards and resale shops, I could find a rebuilt trans for 800-1200 bucks. I did some more checking, and found the number to a shop in Haslet, TX.
I had no idea where Haslet was, so I googled it, and found it just north of Fort Worth, by the Texas Motor Speedway. I called the number on the website, which I had found in a craigslist ad, mentioning my very type of trans at the right price ($850 rebuilt). I called Chris (Jeeps Unlimited), and gave him my story. He seemed knowledgeable, and willing to assist. I advised that money and service were key, and that I was tired of getting the runaround from the transmissions shops I called. Chris said he had one rebuilt at his shop he would sell me for $850 with core swap. He even offered to look at mine, see if it could be rebuilt cheaper, and if not, I could still do the core swap for the $850 trans. Based on his tone over the phone, and the price, I decided to give it a try. Chris was even willing to meet me close to my work, so that I didn't have to trek to Haslet to get stuff.
So, a date was set. My friend and I would yank my trans out, and meet Chris at a public location in Richardson, Tx. Being skeptical of nearly everything on the internet, and everything on craigslist, I kept it first name basis, public meeting place, etc. I didn't think there was a huge market for scammers using an AX-15 trans as a way to steal my money, but I don't trust people, so. Once the trans was out, I called Chris back, and we arranged a meeting place. He advised he would need some upfront money to start the process. $400 of the $850. I was willing to take the risk to get my issue handled as cheaply as possible, while still thinking I was going to get some quality. So, with trans and 400 dollars in money orders in hand, off my buddy and I went to meet Chris.
Chris pulled up in his cargo van a few minutes late (no biggie) and told me that it would take a day or 2 to rip it apart, diagnose, and let me know what was happening. I handed over my money and trans, shook hands, got his card, and away we went. This was a friday. Chris said he would call me Saturday and let me know what he thought. Saturday he called, and let me know that everything inside the transmission relating to 3rd gear was toast (gears, synchros, rods, etc). He said his recommendation was to rebuild the whole thing, since it all had to come apart anyway. I agreed, and he said he would rebuild mine, with all new parts internally for $850. I agreed, and away he went.
Chris called me on Monday, and we arranged for a pickup of the trans and $450 dollar money exchange that day. We met at the same place, and he gave us the newly rebuilt trans. He said he dry shifted it on the table 3-5 times through all gears, and it was in great working order. He has a 12 month full waranty, so I should put it in the jeep, and drive the crap out of it to make sure if it's going to break again, it's within 12 months.
So away we went with our trans in hand. We were able to install it that weekend, and after several hours of putting it back in, everything back together, filling checking fluids, bleeding clutch, etc. (put in new clutch during this process), we fired ole' blue up. Before that, we noticed that it was really hard to shift. I'm taking, the shifter felt like it was in a metal channel with no openings, just a long rectangle. I couldn't hit any gears. What's more, I was in what should be neutral, but it wasn't rolling, clutch in or no. So we started it up, and it lurched forward (I still had the clutch in) and died. We were unable to get the jeep to go into any of the gear positions, or roll around in a neutral state. Basically, I had given up 4 forward working gears, 1 reverse gear, and $850 for a jeep that has no gears what so ever. Needless to say, at this point, I was a little unhappy with Chris. So I call, and let him know the status. He says he can't think of what would be causing this problem, unless the jeep was in a bind. Well, we tried rolling it around, to no avail. You would have to break the shifter to get it to go into the gear slot. What were we to do Chris?
He suggested we take the trans back out, and he will swap it with the rebuilt one he had at his shop, and I can try it. At this point, I was not happy, and I'm looking for something for all my trouble. But I will be happy to get my jeep working again, so we agree to meet in a couple of days. My stipulation, I wouldn't have time to get my trans out, but needed the rebuilt asap. Chris agreed to bring the rebuilt trans to me, and I could give him the core after the swap. sounds good to me. This is a wednesday night.
So Chris is going to call me thursday to hammer down the time he will meet us, to give us the new trans. At this point, I've taken Friday off to take care of the swap (as did my friend with the truck/garage/tools). After not hearing from Chris in a few minutes after our chat thusrday morning, I call him midday. VM at his shop, and his cell phone. Several of those throughout the day, and no call from Chris. It isn't until late thursday night that he finally calls me back. He was busy, and unable to call me back? Ok, so when can we meet. Tomorrow (Friday). Great, I was off all that day, so any time of the day would work. Nothing until late Friday night. Now, I left some voicemails, but no call backs, and definitely nothing initiated from Chris. I've already assumed at this point that since he has my money, and I've got jack, he's done with me. Little does Chris no, I was a repoman for nearly 8 years. Tracking people down isn't hard for me. And that's without an address. I happen to have his on the business card.
So talk to chris finally that night, he is sorry, again, he was busy, again. He will bring the trans in the morning around 9ish to my friends house. So, saturday morning comes and goes, and it's midday again, and I haven't heard so much as a fart from chris. By this point, I'm blowing up his office and cell phone. It's 3pm and I haven't heard anything. This guy has taken my money, and I still have a jeep that has no transmission. I now need this jeep to go to work as it's raining daily and my wife's new job is no where near mine. So I can't ride my motorcycle to work, or carpool with her. This is not helping me stay calm. But really, at this point, I've no reason to be calm. This guy can't even return a call to say something came up, and he won't be able to meet me today. I can work with that. I can't work with someone selling me a pile of crap and then ducking my calls and lying about what they will do to fix the issue.
So, my wife and I drive in our other car to walmart, I pick up a tarp and some tie downs to put this in the back of our honda. We drive an hour and a half to Haslet, Tx. I find the shop with little issue. Ofcourse no one is there, and the door is locked. There is no actual sign, just the number of the building and shop unit. His business is in a small industrial metal building shop rental area, next to a storage building facility. There are assorted businesses with signs in the same site, in different units. I call his office phone while standing by the door. I hear it ring on the other side. So this is the right place. I've made at least 10 calls or more to each of his phones, just this day. Oddly enough, the last message I leave him, stating I am standing in front of his shop door, knocking, but no one is here, I need my transmission, do I get a call back with in 5 minutes.
It's my good buddy Chris. He casually asks what's up. As calmly as I can, I explain to him that I am in front of his shop, he is not here, and I need my transmission now. He says he didn't mean for me to drive out to his shop, where would I like to meet? Where would I like to meet? He tells me he is in Garland right now, about 1.5 hours away. I tell him I will be at his shop. He again tells me it'll take him 1.5 hours at least to get there, would I like to meet somewhere in the middle.
No, I did not just drive out to BFE to find you, to drive back somewhere else, and get jerked around and have you have some emergency come up. I tell him I will be at his shop when he gets there. He tells me he will call me when he's 5 minutes out so I can head back to his shop, and then offers a recommendation for restaurants in the area. I have an iphone, I don't need zagat tips, I need a trans. So we hang up, my wife and I grab some fast food and camp out at the shop. Chris calls me about 1.5 hours later to inform me that he is about 5 minutes away from his shop, I can head back there. I tell him I am here waiting for him. As soon as we hang up, he pulls around the corner to the shop. 5 minutes is no time at all in Haslet.
So, Chris is more than helpful now. He says he had the trans in the van, which he did, and that he intended to meet me in my neck of the woods. Well, that would have been nice, but when you do not speak with your customers, and you lie to them about what you are going to do and when, that probably leads to people finding you.
So, inside the shop, Chris pulls said trans from van, puts a shifter on it, and shows me that it dry shifts on the bench. He lets me dry shift it. This means nothing to me, as it's not in a working jeep, and doesn't feel like a shifter should, to me, a driver-non mechanic type. so, i inform chris that I will put this one in tomorrow (sunday) and I hope that there are no issues, because at this point, I am not satisfied at all. he gives me some false sense of he's here to make it right, etc, and that this one should do it, and we can worry about the core later. he loads the trans in my car. while this is happening, he has informed his shop hand or buddy, whatver that guy was, to move a TJ from the shop across the drive. Apparently he has 2 units. The guy opens the unlocked bay door, to reveal about 4 or 5 TJ's. They are all jacked up, decked out, etc. Notice I said unlocked bay door, because he was told the keys were hanging in the ignition. glad i didn't get mine towed out here. i mean, it's old, but i don't want it stolen for pete's sake. now this guy is backing the jeep out of the shop. standard shop door, probably 12 feet or wider. giant yellow pole on each side of the exterior door walls. the guy is rubbing someone's back passenger tire all over this pole. apparently, with the top down, and a yellow pole that is probably a foot taller than the side if the jeep, he cannot manage to back this jeep out without nearly wrecking it, although, possibly doing untold damage to the belts in that tire.
Well, that was odd, but I have to get out of here, as it's now 8pm, and i have to drive back home. next day, friend and i are back in his garage, new trans ready to go. he takes one look at the input shaft of the new trans. man, that doesn't look right. it looks to big. I giggle, until i realize he is not joking. you know, I don't remember what anything looked like before we started this process. he measures it with some tool, and determines this new one .75 i believe. we look on google and determine that started in the ax-15 around 92, and might be from a cherokee. i'm furious at this point. We take the old trans out, since we have to anyway at some point. I just want to make sure before I lose my cool.
we get it out, and oh yeah, it's different. Mine is .59 i believe, and the new one is .75. well, this isn't going to work. I've been had again. I call Chris at the shop number. VM, cell phone, VM. I wait an hour or so, and try again. VM and VM. now, i've left messages, and while I am not screamin 4 letter words into the phone in nonsense, I have stressed the importance, both through tone, and wording, to Chris, of what is going on. No calls.
At this point, I decide I am going to blow his phones up. I redial each phone several times, leaving vm's, or hanging up and trying again. The cell phone gets switched off really quickly. After I do not receive a call back from Chris, I decide that the wife and I shall drive, once again, to BFE and go to his shop in Haslet. Now, I am not in a good mood, and driving that far in the hopes of finding him at his shop dodging my calls isn't making me much happier. We arrive in haslet, and the shop is locked up. No sign of Chris, and the neighbors haven't seen him at all today. I figured as much, but sitting around stewing about it wasn't going to settle my nerves.
That Monday morning, Chris calls me at 7:45am. I am working from home because it is raining, and i'm stranged, once again. Chris wants to know what I want to do, that he's not making any money on this deal. Lol. Me either, infact, i'm out 850 bucks, and i have 2 heavy hunks of junk sitting in my friends garage, along with a jeep that we can't move. None of which get me to work in the rain. I tell him I am done dealing with him, and that he has to make it right. He says he will cut me a check for 500 bucks, and pick up his core, the one with the giant input shaft. I say that's fine. I supposedly have new parts in my case that doesn't shift, and figure I can put the 500 bucks towards whatever trans shop is going to demand a lung and a small child to fix this mess, along with a pile of money. So chris tells me he'll call me right back with a time to come and bring me the check and get his core.
sorry for length, here's the ending
That was 07:45 on 6-28-10. I have yet to hear from Chris, or see any checks. I wasn't going to give him a core until I saw cash money, as at this point, I couldn't trust him with a package of m&m's. I doubt I will ever here from Chris again.
So, we did some internet searching, found out that we can most likely swap input shafts, and it'll work. So, back at it, we take big shaft out, put little shaft in newest newly rebuilt trans. it goes back together, and seems to shift fine on the bench. we put it back in the jeep, put everything back together, and voila, start it up, and jeep seems to shift and drive well. there is no temp or speed, so back in the garage, we plug those cables back up :)
second test drive. all seems well, shifting well, drives great, amen, i drive it home. I may have forgot to mention that the second trans he gave me was missing the reverse switch (not sure what it is called exactly). we had to move that over from the old trans too.
So, after all this, I now have something leaking oil out of the back motor area around the bell housing (see my other thread for that), and I do not have my 500 bucks.
I would be careful looking for trans work from that shop. I can suffer a lot of redo's and messups from a mechanic, but lieing about stuff, dodging calls, and not meeting your commitments is just ridiculous. when you serve customers, you have to have customer service. This is some of the worst i've ever seen or heard of, which is why this novel is now online.
Thanks Jeep community,
I know you guys will help others avoid my mistakes :D
Sorry, man. As another guy who has gotten pretty frustrated, I won't say ANYthing else... Just, "I'm sorry - I feel your pain."
It was a typical Texas Saturday morning. The humidity increased as the sun came over the horizon. The lady at the donut shop wore a fake veil of hospitality as she filled the travelers order. He arrived at his friends home, breakfast and mountain dew in hand. A transmission part and some borrowed tools rolled around the back of his car. They would spend the morning piecing together this Jeep transmission for what seemed like the 4th time. Seemed that way, because it was. The case currently covering the transmission had one glaring flaw, it was put together by a simpleton. Yes, the previous owner of this particular part had no idea what it was. Sure, many of the pieces looked to fit only one way, and the puzzle more or less made sense. But to the untrained eye of this hillbilly, this modern day mechanical moron who had pieced this puzzle in his shop, passing it on to our traveler: it might as well have been the schematic to a skyscraper.
Ok, enough of the silliness, we got the thing in, working, and no leaks. It only took two guys with no transmission experience, a garage, 40 or so hours of blood sweat and beers, and a hell of a lot of tools to correct a self proclaimed transmission guru's list of mistakes. His latest gaff, a cap at the end of the shift rods on the outer case. By our account, these 4 little caps keeps fluids from leaking out of the case. Their secondary function is to keep the shift rods lubricated. They do this with a little reservoir underneath. Well, if you push them too far in during the rebuild, they leak gear oil outside the case. That collects in the bell housing. If you have a secondary oil leak into the bell housing, it mixes with that, and leaks onto the ground.
After we solved the rear main seal issue, we noticed the oil leak disappeared, but there was still a small leak. Dropped the trans, and when it angled down to the front, the leak intensified. After getting it onto the bench, the source of the leak was obvious. There was a sizeable gap under one of the caps. The reservoir for the shift rod was on both sides, because someone smart transmission type had pushed it way too far back.
Not trusting the case that came from him, we swapped it out with the original case, making the original trans one piece again, + the all new parts inside. Now old blue was whole again, and running like a champ. The test drive proved 100% a success, and back in the garage, no leaks from the Jeep.
Not only where there no leaks, but nothing seemed to drip from the bottom. Since it was raining outside, I can only deduce that during this process, aside from learning a great deal about the inside, and underneath of my 1990 Laredo, it was gained the ability to hold any an all liquids it encounters; both internally and externally.
I am not sure where this new power will take us, but my Jeep and I are running once more. Big thanks to my friend for helping me through this ordeal, my wife for putting up with my dirty appearance on many occasions over the last month, and everyone else who had to suffer through this with me in some way.
Also, big props to the internet for helping me find someone to pay to teach me about transmissions. Heck, I might go into the trans rebuilding business now.
Oo that sucks. I've decided that, as a young lady frequently taken advantage of by mechanics, from now on I will only speak to a mechanic with a bat in my hand. I won't even mention it, I will just hold the bat.
"Ok, so, a new oil pan will be about $900 bucks." (I twirl the bat) "I mean.. err, $350." Deal.
That's not to say there are not honest mechanics out there, but boy are they rare.
I think my plan is fool proof.
Man, you like to write novels. Sorry for your trans. problem but all you needed was a third gear synchro.
I went through an ordeal like that with a shop in Texas. I finally contacted Better Business Bureau, and with their help, got all the money I'd paid for "labor" back. I wasn't refunded the money I'd paid for new parts, but I didn't find that unreasonable. I would really recommend you try the BBB, and possibly Consumer Affairs. If nothing else, you might at least get a nice little black mark on his shop.
That is crazy though!
Whoa! I know exactly who you are talking about! (a little behind the ball on this one i know)
I live in Haslet, and I know the mechanics you are talking about. Never have, and never will do business with those guys. Hell of a story though, and every bit of it believable as I know folks who have dealt with that shop. My mechanic, fortunately he's a great one, and has always done me right, works in that same area by the storage sheds.
wow. i know u must feel like hell. they r having some trouble with the 6 speed manual in the brand new ones too, go figure. sorry man.
Just wanted to clarify with what my experiance was at Jeeps Unlimited in Haslet, Tx. Because the information posted above was nothing like my experiance at all. Chris installed an 8.8 in my TJ and I couldn't be happier! Chris took the time to explain the advantages of the 8.8 because I was having locker issues in a Dana 35 and how dumping more money in the Dana 35 wasn't the way to go. We went over the pro's and con's...and the cost. He was upfront and honest with me. I asked him since we were doing the swap if he would go ahead and replace the rear shocks for me if I purchased the shocks. Not only did he not charge me for the shock installation...he gave me a better price on the shocks than anybody else I could get the shocks from myself. The weld work completed on the 8.8 with the TJ conversion brackets is spot on! All of the welds look great and as it should be done. As Chris worked on the 8.8 job he noticed that my rear upper control arms were shot...when he called me to explain the situation of the upper control arms...I didn't feel like he was upselling me new parts but explaining to me what would be best for the 8.8 install and a more controlled cost effective way to spend my money on the Jeep (trying to save me some money now rather than paying more for it later). Again...he sold me the control arms as cheap if not cheaper than another 4x4 shop.
After I have pictures taken of the 8.8 install work...I will post the weld work completed.
I would recommend Jeeps Unlimited in Haslet, Tx. based off of my experiance.
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