Transmission Repair Options

December 29th, 2015 by

There are many things that can break in a car, one of the worst things to break being the transmission. It’s a difficult and costly repair, and unless you know what you are doing, you can’t do a car transmission repair yourself. It’s a lot more complicated than just changing out a flat tire, the transmission is one of the most complicated pieces of your car, and has many components in it that make it work. Even if just one of those components fails, the whole transmission goes down. So, where does that leave you? Well, good news is you have some options.

Understand: It’s Not New!

There is no such thing as a new transmission. Well, there is… but not when it comes to repairing or replacing one. New transmissions are only available in new cars; after that, you are stuck with used, rebuilt, or remanufactured transmissions. Arming yourself with this knowledge, it’s important to consider how much each of these repair options are going to cost, and see if it’s even worth it.

For example, if you bought a used car for $1,000 off the side of the road with 100,000 miles on it and the transmission dies three years into you owning it; you’re better off getting another “junker” for a grand. Chances are, no matter what repair option you choose, it’s going to be much more expensive than just buying another “junker” car. However, if you have sentimental value attached to that car for whatever reason, or you have a certified pre-owned vehicle that no longer has warranties, you are left with these options.

Option 1: Transmission Rebuild

This option requires you to find a transmission repair shop, garage, or an auto dealership that has somebody who can rebuild transmissions. Like I said before, it’s possible to do some of the rebuild yourself if you have the know-how, but only if you know exactly what you are doing. If you don’t, you could damage your transmission even further. With that being said, let’s take a look at what rebuilding a transmission entails.

In order for the transmission to be rebuilt, it needs to be removed from the vehicle. After it’s removed, the entire unit needs to be taken apart. Then, the parts are all inspected for any wear and tear that may have occurred. After this, the parts of the transmission that were found to be damaged are replaced, along with components that are all included in a transmission rebuild kit. These parts are all replaced during the rebuilding process, and after it has been rebuilt the coolant lines are flushed out to make sure there is no old fluid left in the lines. After it’s all completely put back together, 9 to 12 quarts (depending on the transmission type) of ATF fluid is put into the system. Now, the car is taken for a test dive and the fluid level is checked to make sure it’s not leaking.

There are certain parts of the transmission that are replaced, such as seals, gaskets, etc.

As you can see, it’s a very thorough process. But, what you need to understand is that just because some of the components are replaced, the transmission as a whole is still the same one. The rebuild kit only has certain parts that are replaced, therefore it’s still a used transmission. This means, there is no guarantee on how long this “new” transmission will last for. Which is why you need too make sure that the place you got it repaired at will give you a warranty, which those places typically do. Generally, the warranty can last between two and three years. Of course, the time it takes is dependent on the dealership or garage you go too.

It takes some time to rebuild a transmission, so you should expect the whole process to take up to about a week. It’s rather costly too, and you can dish out anywhere between $1,250 to $3,500 depending on the type of car you have and the damage done to the transmission. Even a change in model year can cause the price to rise or fall. So, make sure you get a quote from a couple different places in order to find the best price.

Option 2: Buying a Remanufactured Transmission

Instead of having your transmission rebuilt, it’s possible to buy a remanufactured one. This will, however, typically cost much more than having a transmission rebuilt. Only time this may not be the case is if the transmission you want to repair has been damaged excessively. If that’s the situation, buying a remanufactured one is the way to go.

You can buy a remanufactured transmission from a local automotive store, or even online. After buying the transmission, you end up paying a mechanic to install your “new” transmission. If you can’t find the transmission online or in a local automotive store, check with a dealership or the person who will be installing it; they may know where to find one.

There are some factors to consider when choosing between buying a remanufactured transmission or having your original one rebuilt. The cost is one of them, but time and quality are the other two. If the repair shop has the transmission on hand, it can be quicker than waiting for a transmission repair. So, if you are in a hurry, ask if they have a transmission on hand for your car; it will get you on the road quicker than waiting for a rebuild. However, if they need to get the transmission delivered, it could take longer than a week.

In regards to quality, the remanufactured transmissions are actually pretty good. They need to meet strict guidelines and adhere to certain standards before they are able to be released. But, just like getting a transmission rebuilt, they still aren’t new.

Option 3: Buying a Used Transmission

This costs the least out of the three options, and that’s because it hasn’t been tampered with. What you see is what you get, and in some cases that’s okay. A car might be in an accident where only the air bags deploy, and the rest of the car is in good shape. The insurance company might deem it a total wreck, and this is where your used transmission comes from. These transmissions are typically priced at hundreds of dollars cheaper than a rebuild. But, they only have a 90-day to 1 year warranty, the 1 year sometimes jacking up the price of the used transmission.

Because these used transmissions come from vehicles that have been in accidents, it’s important to buy from a reputable dealer. If you don’t, you could (potentially) get stuck with a used transmission that has something seriously wrong with it. While it may have a warranty, you’d be stuck going back to that dealer or shop that got you into that situation in the first place. Also, these used transmissions come with installation guidelines that need to be strictly followed, if they aren’t you could void the warranty completely.


As you can see, the cheaper alternative to transmission repair is buying a used transmission. Depending on the car it came from, you could have one that has really low miles. It doesn’t work for everybody though, because it’s a very situational purchase. A shop or dealer needs to have a transmission from a totaled car that is compatible with the one you need. If you can’t find a used transmission, you can always get a remanufactured one or have your original one rebuilt.

The most important thing to remember is that no matter what option you choose, there is no such thing as a new transmission.