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Transmission noise from 2002 23' XTi with Hammerhead


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This is my first post but I'm a long time reader and Malibu owner.  I've had a transmission noise that has only gotten louder over the past 18 months.  I have a video file with audio but can't figure out how to attach video to this post (any help would be appreciated as it does a much better job of describing the noise than this post!).  The noise only happens in neutral so my immediate thought was damper plate.  After taking it to my local Malibu dealership (No Wake Marine in Cincinnati, OH), the Master mechanic was convinced it was not the damper plate.  At the same time, they were not able to diagnose the exact problem and recommended that I "run it until it breaks" and then to simply replace the transmission...or replace the transmission now.  The boat operates perfectly, no vibrations, so slipping and has approximately 750 hours.  I am meticulous with maintenance, it stays on a covered lift during the summer and it is used every weekend Memorial Day - Labor Day.  During off season it is stored in a garage.  Boat is a 2002 Malibu XTi 23' Wakesetter with the HammerHead engine option.  I surf, ski and wakeboard and use both internal and an external ballast bag and wedge and it shrugs off the weight no problem.  As you will hear when I learn how to attach the video/audio clip, the sound completely disappears when I shift to forward idle speed.  As soon as it is back in neutral, the noise is immediately back and loud.  Outside of the noise, the transmission and engine operate like new.  Any thoughts before I spend a fortune replacing the transmission?

I was able to upload a video to YouTube: 


Edited by PatrickRichter
correct error
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You might not be able to upload a video file as a new member/first time poster.  I may be wrong though.
However - toss it up on YouTube and share the link with us and we'll give it a listen. 

Is it a rattling/chattering - or is it a whine?
I may be way off, cause it's been a couple years since I've researched trans noises... but if I think I remember reading that if the damper plate isn't doing its job then it can allow the teeth or certain things on the shaft/whatever inside the trans to rattle/chatter when not engaged. 
Someone may tell me I'm wrong, but it's something else to research if you're googling... 

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Thank you for the YouTube suggestion.  I am a 40 year old with the technology literacy of a 95 year old :).

Hopefully this works - let me know what everyone thinks, thank you!   And just realized I meant damper plate above, not pressure plate!

Edited by PatrickRichter
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Wow, that really sounds not healthy! :unsure:

Sorry, have no clue where that noise is coming from.

Did you change the fluid? How did it look? Burnt? Any residue in it?

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That is what is interesting, fluid looks like new and I change it religiously (as did the previous owner).  No metal shavings, no burnt odor, nothing.

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Not sure what that could be actually.  If it's only happening in neutral, it seems like the pressure plate is rubbing against something when it's disengaged from the drive.  What happens if you feather the shifter forward a little bit to that "not quite engaged" point?  That'd move the pressure plate some without locking it up.

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I don't think that is the damper plate. The noise they make is a little more random and metallic.

It almost sounds hydraulic but I don't think the transmission has a pump. Does it do it in reverse?

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To me it is not a damper plate. When they fail it is springs being tossed around in bell housing. There is no pressure plate in there, it is a damper plate. There is pump in the transmission, but it is odd that it goes away when in drive. Did you check the fluid to make sure it is full?

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UWSkier - I will try that this spring, I've always noticed the noise completely disappears as soon as I shift it to idle speed.  Interestingly enough, I though it may still make the noise at the Malibu Dealership as they tested it on the fake-a-lake.  My thinking was the water pressure from the prop when it is on the water may be causing the noise to disappear if it was the damper plate.  But on the fake-a-lake, the noise still completely disappeared when the dealership tested it and they popped it in drive just for a second.  I know you aren't supposed to do that out of the water but they just wanted to see what would happen without any water pressure on the prop - noise completely vanished - even out of the water.

Falko - I can't tell if it is making the noise in reverse since reverse on this boat has always been so loud.  But my reverse sounds just like all the other older malibu's I have been in so I'm thinking it is neutral only but I could be wrong.

Kerpluxal - Yes, I've changed the fluid to no avail.  Interestingly enough, with a brand new fluid change from the dealership, I'd say the noise was 90% muted for the first 20 seconds of operation in neutral, then it came back.  Almost like something was getting lubricated...and then it wasn't and the noise was back.  I've only done a fluid change, should I try a transmission fluid flush?  Is there a screen that could be blocked up and something is getting starved of lubrication?  Should I try an additive or synthetic fluid?  I figure at this point, I can't cause MORE harm :)

For what it is worth, one boat mechanic listened to it and said "the clutches are going out" - I have no idea what that means.  Then he said "probably the damper plate".

What makes this even more frustrating is then I took it to the Malibu dealership (No Wake in Cincinnati, OH) to get a 2nd opinion and their master mechanic said he was "100% certain" it wasn't the damper plate.  He said he put a stethoscope to it and it was something internal to the transmission.  He was the guy to recommend that I run it until it breaks.  Their only recommendation was to "buy a new transmission".


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