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I'm trying to help out a friend who owns an '03 Chevy Caprice (Holden Statesman in Australia; LS1 V8). His transmission is misbehaving; it doesn't want to upshift unless the engine reaches a high enough speed like 4000 RPM.

He recently had the transmission fluid refreshed and recently observed metal flakes on the transmission dipstick as well. While it is likely that the root cause of failure is mechanical wear and tear, he is wondering if the behavior could be explained by an electrical/electronic issue such as a bad sensor.

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Since this is an '03, it should be running a 4L60-E transmission. This transmission was fairly anemic as far as being able to stand up to an LS motor. If it has 240k miles on it, that is actually a huge amount of mileage for this transmission. As suggested, this transmission is due for an overhaul. I would bet the sun shell is worn out, as well as all the friction material being gone. Considering you have metal flake showing up on the dip stick, the pump is probably getting worn out as well. My suggestion for your friend is to get a rebuild kit and take it to a transmission shop to have them install it. A kit like this Monster-in-a-Box is a good choice. If you want to save money, take the transmission out yourself and take it to them for the rebuild.

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Yes, an electronic issue would make it possible, but given the metal flakes in the transmission oil, it's almost certainly a mechanical issue.

If the car has been driven particularly hard, and it's the original transmission with no upgrades, it is very likely that it just needs rebuilt at this point. The clutches inside the transmission do wear out over time, and wear out faster with very hard driving (such as drag racing the car every weekend).

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  • I forgot to mention the car's mileage, 240k miles. Owner isn't sure if the transmission is original or a replacement.
    – Zaid
    Sep 17, 2014 at 19:46
  • Could you please describe the electronic gremlins in more detail?
    – Zaid
    Sep 17, 2014 at 19:51
  • The shifting is electronically controlled on the transmission in that car. So it could theoretically be an electronic issue. But a sensor reading wrong and shifting the transmission only at 4000 RPM is not going to cause deterioration and metal flakes in the oil. Also, 240K miles is quite a lot, and is probably past due for a trans refresh beyond just the fluid. Metal in the trans is from clutches or valve body most likely.
    – dobey
    Sep 17, 2014 at 20:18

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