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Peter Rowe e-mail ASKED THE GUIDE

Idle contestant

I HAVE a late 1991 VN 3.8 Commodore which has done about 85,000km and has been well maintained. I had a full service done in March and about one week ago I changed the oil, which I do quarterly. For the first time I noticed a significant amount of cream/brown sludge in the old oil. Is this anything to worry about? When I first drive the car each day, the auto transmission sounds harsh and clunky and does not shift up easily. It is fine once the car is warm. Is the cold start/drive doing the transmission damage? Should I idle for five minutes each morning before driving it? Is the cold start a common problem for most automatic cars and Commodores? The GMH manual indicates that warming up is not necessary.

THERE'S no need to warm up your car before driving off. The presence of a cream/brown sludge in the oil suggests there's water present, and the rough shifts may mean there's some water in the transmission oil. Check the transmission oil, it should be red and nice and clear. If it's not, it would be wise to have an auto trans expert look at it. Your problem could be in the radiator, which incorporates an oil cooler for the auto transmission. A failure there could result in water getting into the fluid and affecting the function of the transmission.