There are many things that probably start running through your head when your vehicle starts to have transmission problems. You are probably wondering how to determine the cause of the issue and what will be required to fix it. That leads to the next question – how much is it going to cost? Automatic transmissions are extremely complex, but they are crucial pieces of your car. Though manual transmissions are not as complex, they can still be costly to fix. Without a properly working transmission, your car won’t even move! So, when you have a transmission issue, you have to get it addressed. We are here to tell you what to expect when you need transmission repairs, including how much it will probably cost you.
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Average Transmission Repair Cost
The cost to repair your transmission depends on a few different things. Whether you have an automatic transmission or a manual transmission can make a big difference. Automatic transmissions are much more complex and are usually much more expensive to repair. The amount of work required also plays a significant role in the overall cost of your transmission repair. In some cases, your transmission might need fresh fluid. A transmission fluid flush or fluid change will usually only cost you about $300. Once you have fresh fluid in the transmission, you might be able to drive it for several thousand more miles without any issues.
If a small part like the shift solenoid has gone bad, that might only cost you a few hundred dollars. Solenoid replacement is a relatively minor repair that is not overly expensive. On the other hand, you can expect to pay quite a bit more if you have internal damage to your transmission. If the bands or clutches inside your car’s transmission have gone bad, then you will probably need a complete rebuild. Transmission rebuild cost is not cheap. That is likely to cost you $1,500 or more at most auto repair shops.
Similarly, replacing the torque converter will usually cost you close to $1,000 as well. While a new torque converter itself is not that expensive, the labor costs add to the cost of the job. A new converter can be purchased for around $100 in some cases, but the job requires removing the transmission to get to the torque converter.
Average Transmission Replacement Cost
The worst-case scenario is when you need to replace the entire transmission. New transmission costs are expensive, and a replacement also requires many hours of labor. The cost to replace a transmission is usually at least $3,000. Some mechanics might be able to find a remanufactured transmission for your vehicle instead of a brand new transmission. This is likely to save you a little money on the job, and most remanufactured units include a warranty, just like a new transmission. Some people even elect to head to the junkyard to find a used transmission and save money on the cost of a new transmission.
At other times, a remanufactured or rebuilt transmission might not be available. You may be stuck purchasing a new transmission for your car. The price of those can vary significantly based on the make and model of your vehicle. While you might be able to buy a transmission for an older Toyota or Ford for $2,000, the transmission prices for a newer BMW or Mercedes might be $7,000 or more. You can expect the average cost to be at least $3,000 to replace a lousy transmission at a reputable transmission repair shop. As always, the dealership will be even more expensive.
How A Transmission Works
The way your transmission works depends on the type of transmission that your car has. Automatic transmissions and manual transmissions operate similarly, but the automatic transmission is much more complex because the vehicle itself controls all the shifting components. A manual transmission is much less complicated because the driver is responsible for the operation of the clutch and the shifting of the gears.
There are clutches, bands, and gears inside the transmission when it comes to an automatic transmission. Automatic transmission fluid circulates through the system and provides hydraulic pressure for the shifting that needs to occur. The car’s computer constantly measures the throttle position, speed, and current gear of the vehicle, and it communicates with the solenoid to tell the transmission when to shift. The transmission fluid, clutches, bands, and gears all operate together to properly shift the car into the proper gear. As you can see, this is a highly complex piece of equipment. Even a tiny problem can cause the system to hiccup, and you will quickly notice issues with your transmission.
Transmission Problems That Signal A Bad Transmission
So, how can you tell when your transmission is on the fritz? Most of the time, you will know right away. Since your transmission is constantly operating as you drive your car, problems usually show up very quickly. Here are some signs to watch for.
— Leaking Transmission Fluid
Thankfully, this symptom might not always point to your vehicle’s transmission being bad. However, if left unattended, it will undoubtedly cause you big problems with your transmission. If you notice transmission fluid on the ground underneath your vehicle, it could be something as simple as a leaking pan gasket. A fluid leak should be addressed immediately, though. Low fluid levels will cause significant transmission damage. The fluid in your transmission helps remove heat from the system and provides lubrication, so the absence of fluid will lead to overheating and excessive friction wear.
— Burned Transmission Fluid
As your transmission fluid ages, it loses its ability to transfer heat and properly lubricate. It becomes old and starts to smell burned. Regularly changing your transmission fluid will help prevent this. Keeping old fluid in your system will eventually lead to transmission problems or failure. If you notice that the fluid on your dipstick is dark or smells burned, then you should go ahead and perform a transmission fluid change right away. A burning smell from your transmission is never good.
You might notice that your car feels like it’s surging or jerking as you drive. This could be your transmission slipping. If you are starting to feel your transmission slipping, that is a sure sign that something is wrong. It could be something simple, but it usually signals a more severe problem. Perhaps the clutches or bands in your transmission are becoming worn. Whatever the cause, you will probably have a transmission repair bill in the very near future.
— Improper Shifting
Does your transmission seem to get stuck between gears, and your engine revs when shifting gears? Or maybe you feel like the transmission does not shift into the proper gear at the right times. Improper shifting is a sign that you have a significant problem going on with your transmission. If you are lucky, you may only have a bad shift solenoid that can be easily replaced. However, you could also have bad bands or gears inside the transmission. In some cases, you might even notice that the check engine light illuminates your dashboard if your car’s computer senses a problem.
— Won’t Go Into Gear
If your car won’t go into gear, then your transmission needs a repair immediately. You will even need to tow your vehicle to the repair shop because it is undrivable. A car that won’t go into gear may have suffered a total transmission failure. Get out your wallet because your repair bill is likely to be very high. You will probably need to rebuild your transmission or even a replacement of your transmission.
— Bad Smell
A bad or burning smell is almost always a sign of a failing transmission. The smell could be the result of overheating and your transmission fluid burning. In addition, it could be the clutches inside your transmission overheating and starting to burn. If you notice a terrible smell while driving your car or standing beside your car after driving, then you should have your transmission fluid checked right away. You might be able to replace it with fresh fluid before the problem gets too bad.
Proper Transmission Maintenance Tips
The best tip for maintaining your transmission is to follow a regular maintenance schedule on your vehicle. This includes frequent fluid changes or flushes for your transmission. You should perform this service every 40,000 to 50,000 miles or as recommended by your manufacturer. Similarly, it would help if you kept an eye on your transmission fluid level. Just like your engine oil, you should check your transmission fluid regularly.
Finally, if your car is equipped with a transmission temperature gauge, keep an eye on it. Overheating is one of the biggest things that will cause transmission failure. If you notice that the temperature is getting too warm, stop your car until it returns to a normal temperature. If it continues to rise, then have a mechanic check your vehicle immediately. Overlooking problems and continuing to drive your car will ultimately lead to complete transmission failure. Many people wonder how to rebuild a transmission, but it is a highly complex job that only a qualified mechanic should attempt.
The Bottom Line
Most vehicle owners hate dealing with transmission problems due to their complexity and cost. When it comes time for a transmission repair, the price is usually high. Some minor repairs might only cost you a few hundred dollars, but you can expect to pay around $1,500 for a rebuild and about double that for a new transmission. Stick to a regular maintenance schedule and do not overlook problems in order to keep your transmission running smoothly for many miles to come.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it cheaper to repair or replace a transmission?
It is almost always cheaper to repair a transmission instead of replacing it. Replacing a transmission can be twice the cost of the repair in many cases. Sometimes, a repair might not be an option. When you need a new transmission, you can have your mechanic look for used or rebuilt units to save you some money. If you opt for a used transmission, make sure that it comes from a vehicle with no transmission problems.
How often does a transmission need to be replaced?
Transmissions do not need to be replaced often. Most transmissions will last well over 100,000 miles without any issues, primarily if they are correctly maintained. You will find that some transmissions even go 200,000 miles or more without needing replacement. However, failure to perform routine maintenance or fix minor problems will lead to more significant issues. You might find yourself needing a transmission replacement sooner rather than later in that case.
Is it worth fixing a transmission?
It probably depends on the value of your vehicle and how much longer you plan to drive it. If your car is in relatively good shape and you plan to keep it for several more years, it is probably worth the money to fix it. However, if your engine is also failing along with other problems, you should likely not sink the money into the car to fix the transmission. Another problem is likely to arise that will cost you even more money soon. In that case, you should probably sell the car for junk and buy yourself one that does not have any issues.