Automatic Transmission Removal & Installation
Do-it-Yourself Guide for a Rear Wheel Drive Vehicle
When faced with a transmission rebuild or replacement, you can reduce the cost quite significantly by removing and replacing (R&R) the transmission yourself. Depending on the year, make and model of your vehicle and the shop labor costs in your area, you can expect to save between $550 to $1,250 or more.
The job of removing and replacing an automatic transmission is not tremendously difficult – it’s just a matter of being prepared, being safe, and following instructions.
Transmission Rebuild “Bench Job”
Once the transmission is removed from the vehicle, contact several transmission repair shops and/or independent transmission technicians to obtain rebuild quotes for a “bench job“. “Bench job” is the term used for a transmission rebuild only, not the labor to remove and install the transmission.
Tip: You can normally find a good independent transmission technician that works at a transmission shop but also does side jobs to do the rebuild. Look on craigslist under “Services / Auto Repair” in your area.
Expect to pay between $300 and $400 for a transmission rebuild only (bench job) plus the cost of the rebuild kit and additional hard parts. Rebuild kits cost between $75 and $200 depending on which transmission you have
Replacing With Remanufactured Transmission
If you plan on replacing your transmission with a remanufactured, you can use the form below to get an estimate for a remanufactured transmission to your e-mail.
Automatic Transmission Removal (RWD)
Things You Will Need
> Hydraulic Floor Jack + Jack Stands (or access to a lift)
> Transmission Jack (optional but very helpful)
> Wrench Set
> Socket Set w/Extensions
> Pry Bar
> Fluid Drain Pan
> Shop Rags
> Drop Light
> Small containers and a marker for organizing nuts and bolts
> An assistant to help lower the transmission
> Can of Penetrating Lubricant (especially if your car has rust)
Organizing Nuts and Bolts
Keeping nuts, bolts, washers, clamps, etc. organized is important for two reasons… 1) it will save you time and frustration when re-installing the transmission and 2) it will insure all nuts and bolts are replaced in their original locations.
Organize nuts and bolts: For organizing nuts and bolts, we recommend using labeled plastic containers or baggies, whichever you have available. It’s best to get all the containers or baggies labeled before starting the job.
For removing the transmission from a rear wheel drive vehicle, you will need the following labeled containers/baggies.
> Driveshaft Bolts/U-Joint Bolts
> Shifter Linkage Nuts/Bolts/Clips
> Cross Member Nuts/Bolts
> Transmission Mount Nuts/Bolts
> Transmission Oil Fill/Dipstick Tube Bracket Bolt or Nut
> Transmission Oil Cooler Line Fitting Washers
> Starter Bolts
> Exhaust and Exhaust Heat Shield Bolts/Nuts
> Bell Housing Bolts
> Flywheel Cover Plate Bolts
> Torque Converter to Flywheel Bolts (or Nuts)
Note: Depending on your vehicle, additional labeled containers may be needed.
Let’s Get Started
Park your vehicle on a flat concrete surface, put the shifter in Park, set the emergency brake, pull the hood latch and then open the hood.
1) Remove the negative battery cable. Move the cable end away from the battery post.
Safety Tip: To eliminate any chance of battery arching, after removing the battery cable, wrap a rag around the cable end and place a wrap over the battery terminal.
Note About Radio Code: On many newer vehicles, whenever the battery is disconnected a radio code is needed to get the stereo working again. Check your Vehicle Owner’s Manual for the code or contact the service department of any auto dealership that sells your make vehicle for assistance. Have your vehicle identification number (VIN) readily available before making the call.
2-A) On some vehicles, it may be necessary to remove the black plastic air intake components to give your sufficient space to work.
2-B) Now, locate the transmission fluid dipstick – pull it out and set it aside. The dipstick tube (also called transmission fill tube) is normally secured to the transmission or engine with a single nut or bolt. If you can see this nut/bolt and it is easily accessible, go ahead and remove it along with dipstick tube now. If not, you can remove it later from underneath.
Still working under the hood, locate and disconnect any transmission electrical connectors you see.
3-A) Remove any brackets, cables or hoses that connect the transmission to the engine.
3-B) Now, locate the starter motor. Remove any starter bolts that are accessible. Any starter bolts that are not removed now will be removed later from underneath. Complete removal of the starter is normally not necessary. Once the bolts are removed, just pull the starter out of the bell housing and push aside. Use a wire or strong bungee cord to hold the starter’s weight – do not hang from the starter wiring.
3-C) Look closely at the top rear of the engine (back by the firewall) where the transmission bell housing bolts to the engine. Remove any of the top bell housing to engine bolts that are accessible – otherwise the bolts will be removed later from underneath.
Note: You should be placing nuts and bolts in their labeled containers as you remove them.
Note: When removing brackets, mark their locations or make a simple drawing showing their locations. When disconnecting hoses and cables, make a drawing showing how each one is routed. Taking photos before disconnecting brackets, hoses and cables should serve the same purpose, which is to make the installation of these components easier and quicker.
4) CHOCK REAR WHEEL – RAISE FRONT OF VEHICLE
Place a wheel chock or wooden block behind one of the rear wheels. Using a floor jack, lift the front of the vehicle and secure with jack stands. Although it is not absolutely necessary, lifting the rear of the vehicle and supporting with jack stands makes the job a little easier.
Note: When jacking up the vehicle, be sure to give yourself ample room to work underneath. Also, keep in mind that once the transmission is removed and lowered to the floor, the vehicle must be high enough off the floor to allow the transmission to be slid out from underneath the vehicle.
5) DRAIN TRANSMISSION FLUID: Remove all the pan bolts except for a few bolts at one end of the pan – only loosen these. This will allow the pan to drop down on one end so the fluid can drain into your catch pan. See image>>>
5-A) After draining the fluid, reposition the pan back to its original position and re-install the pan bolts, but only hand tighten.
6) Remove driveshaft. Remove the 4 U-joint bolts that hold the driveshaft to the rear differential. Then, using a small pry bar or screwdriver, pry the driveshaft forward to release it from the differential. Now, pull the driveshaft out of the transmission and set aside. Place the U-joint bolts and hardware in an appropriately marked container.
Tip: When pulling the driveshaft out of the transmission, be careful not to allow it to fall hard to the floor. Also, wrap tape around the joint caps to keep them from falling off and the pins from falling out of the caps.
7) DISCONNECT ELECTRICAL CONNECTORS AND HOSES: Disconnect electrical connectors, hoses and cables that are attached to the transmission.
Tip: Use colored markers to mark connectors and hoses for easy and correct installation. Mark the connector and its respective plugin with the same color. Do the same with vacuum hoses and any other parts that might be confusing during installation.
8) DETACH TRANSMISSION OIL COOLER LINES
Detach the two transmission oil cooler lines at the transmission.line wrench
Tip: It is best to use a line wrench when loosening and tightening the oil cooler lines. Also, when pulling the lines out, be careful not to lose the thin metal washers. The fittings will leak if these washers are not replaced.
9) REMOVE STARTER BOLTS
If you have not already removed the started bolts, do it now. Again, complete removal of the starter is normally unnecessary. Just pull it out and away from the bell housing so that it does not interfere with the removal of the transmission. Secure the starter with a piece of wire or bungee strap. Do not allow starter to hang by the starter wiring.
10) REMOVE TORQUE CONVERTER TO FLYWHEEL BOLTS
To gain access the torque converter bolts, remove the inspection plate/cover located at the bottom front of the bell housing. The cover is normally made of thin metal or aluminum and is held in place by a several 10mm or 12mm bolts. Once cover is removed, using a flashlight or droplight, look inside the bell housing to locate the bolts/nuts holding the torque converter to the flywheel/flex-plate. You can only remove one bolt/nut at a time before having to rotate the engine to gain access to the next bolt/nut.
You can rotate the engine in one of two ways; Use a breaker bar and large socket to rotate the center harmonic balancer bolt on the front of the engine or by leveraging a small pry bar or large screwdriver between the teeth of the flywheel and the bell housing in such a way that allows you to turn the flywheel in either direction. To make this task easier, remove some or all of the spark plugs from the engine.
Note: If you are unable to access the torque converter bolts after removing the inspection plate cover then your vehicle may be one that requires the converter nuts/bolts to be accessed and removed through the starter opening in the bell housing. These are usually more difficult to remove because there is very little space.
Caution: Be absolutely certain you remove all the torque converter bolts/nuts or else the converter will hang to the flywheel/flex-plate as you are trying to pull the transmission back away from the engine to lower it to the floor. This situation will create a real mess and can be potentially dangerous.
11) REMOVE TRANSMISSION MOUNT BOLTS/NUTS
Position your hydraulic jack (or transmission jack if you have one) under the transmission pan and raise slightly. With the weight of the transmission resting on the jack, remove the transmission mount bolts. Removing the transmission mount bolts (or nuts) allows the transmission to be separated from the cross member.
12) REMOVE CROSS MEMBER
Remove the cross member to frame mounting bolts and then remove the cross member.
Tip: If cross member bolts are difficult to remove, you need to raise the transmission jack to take more of the weight off the cross member.
13) REMOVE EXHAUST CROSSOVER PIPE
Depending on the vehicle, it may be necessary to remove certain parts of the exhaust system. Unless the vehicle has duel exhaust all the way back, which most do not, there is a crossover pipe that connects the left side exhaust to the right side. At a minimum, the crossover pipe must be removed.
Once the crossover pipe is removed, look closely at the exhaust pipe, (the section of the exhaust system that includes the catalytic converter and muffler) to determine if it also needs to be removed.
Tip: Remove any section of the exhaust system that you feel could interfere with your ability to separate the transmission from the engine and lower it to the floor. Having to remove parts of the exhaust after the transmission is separated from the engine is much more difficult.
14) REMOVE TRANSMISSION BELL HOUSING BOLTS
Remove all the bell housing bolts except one. The bolt you leave in should be one of bottom bolts that is easy to get too.
To remove the top bell housing bolts, if you have not already done so, lower the transmission jack so that the rear of the transmission drops down and away from the undercarriage of the vehicle. This will increase the work space on the top side of the transmission enabling you to use a ratchet and long extension to remove the upper bell housing bolts.
Note: When lowering the transmission in order to give you the added work space needed to remove the top bell housing bolts, the weight of the transmission still needs to be supported by the jack. If the jack is lowered completely, the engine will tilt severely on its mounts, possible weakening or breaking the mounts.
Caution: Some hydraulic floor jacks are very sensitive when lowering and can drop suddenly. For added safety, place a jack stand directly under the rear of the transmission to serve as a hard stop.
15) DETACH TRANSMISSION FROM ENGINE AND LOWER TO THE FLOOR:
Before removing the last bell housing bolt, check to make sure all transmission electrical connections have been disconnected. Also check to make sure nothing else will interfere with separating the transmission from the engine and lowering it to the floor.
15-A) Remove the last remaining bell housing bolt.
15-B) With the help of an assistant, hold the transmission steady on the jack and move the jack back and away from the engine just slightly so that the transmission separates from the engine – then slowly lower the jack. When the jack is fully lowered, carefully slide the transmission off the jack to the floor. Now, slide the transmission out from underneath the vehicle.
WARNING: Once the transmission is separated from the engine, there is nothing holding the torque converter to the transmission. Therefore, it is crucial that the transmission remain level (or slightly titled down in the rear) while being lowered to the floor. If the front of the transmission is allowed to tilt downward, the converter may slide out of the transmission and fall hard to the floor. The converter is very heavy and filled with fluid – if it falls, it could injure you or your assistant. The converter could also be damaged and it will surely create a huge mess.
16) SEPARATE TORQUE CONVERTER FROM TRANSMISSION
Once the transmission is moved out from underneath the vehicle, pull the torque converter out of the transmission and drain the fluid into a catch pan.
Note: The fluid will need to be drained from the converter regardless of whether you plan to reuse it or replace it. If you plan to replace the torque converter with a new or rebuilt converter, the old converter must be drained of the fluid in order to use it as a core when purchasing the new or rebuilt converter.
Automatic Transmission Install (RWD)
Torque Converter Installation Note: You must be certain the torque converter is fully seated into the transmission before installation. You should feel three distinctive clicks each time the converter drops into place. Continue wiggling the torque converter and rotating it back and forth while pushing in until it is fully engaged. Do not proceed with transmission installation until the converter is fully engaged.
Tip: If you had your transmission rebuilt, ask the rebuilder to install the torque converter into the transmission.
2) Install any brackets to the transmission that were removed after the transmission was removed from the vehicle.
Flushing Cooler Lines Note: Flushing the oil cooler lines before installing a new or rebuilt transmission is absolutely necessary to insure the new transmission is not contaminated with debris and metal left in the lines from the old transmission.
To flush the lines, first blow compressed air through the lines. Use a gallon milk jug to catch the fluid and debris as it is blown out of the lines. After blowing compressed air through the lines, use a transmission line flush product to complete the flush. Follow instructions provided with product. Not flushing the cooler lines is the #1 cause of early failure of a newly rebuilt or remanufactured transmission into a vehicle.
4) Inspect the mating surfaces of both the transmission bell housing and engine for dirt and grease and clean as needed. Also check the dowel pins on the engine and the dowel pin holes on the transmission as they also must be clean and free of burs.
5) Look closely at the crank pilot hole to insure it is free of burs, dirt and rust. Use a small round file to remove any burs. Finally, check to make sure electrical wiring and cables are moved aside so as not to interfere with the transmission installation.
6) Lift up one side of the transmission and have your assistant slide the jack under the transmission pan. With the transmission balanced on the jack, slide the jack under the vehicle. Position the jack so that when it is raised the transmission bell housing will be slightly behind the engine.
7) Hold the transmissions stable on the jack while raising it. When the transmission is in position, carefully slide the jack forward until the bell housing touches the back of the engine. You may need to raise or lower the jack slightly or move it slightly to one side or the other to line up the dowels with the dowel holes. Once lined up, push the transmission forward. When the dowel pins are in the dowel holes, install the bell housing bolts.
Bell Housing Bolt Installation and Tightening Note: Once you have the transmission bell housing bolt holes lined up with the threaded holes in the engine block then start a couple of bolts and tighten just enough so the transmission does not slip back away from the engine block. Then install the remaining bolts. DO NOT FULLY TIGHTEN ANY OF THE BOLTS UNTIL ALL THE BELL HOUSING BOLTS ARE STARTED AND SNUG.
Warning: Do not attempt to draw (or force) the transmission into position by tightening the bell housing bolts as doing so can crack the bell housing. You have to be sure the transmission and engine block mating surfaces are lined up on both the top/bottom and the left/right axis before tightening the bolts.
8) Install the torque converter bolts. Line up the torque converter holes with the holes in the flywheel. Install one bolt but do not fully tighten. Then, use a large flat head screwdriver or small pry bar to wedge between the flywheel teeth and the bell housing to turn the engine in order to gain access to the next bolt hole. Repeat this until all the torque converter bolts are installed. Once all bolts have been started then tighten each bolt to the proper torque specification.
9) Next, install the starter. Get both starter bolts started before fully tightening the bolts. In some instances, it is easier to connect the starter wire(s) before bolting the starter in place. Either way, connect the starter wires at this time.
10) Hook up/plug in all electrical connectors and vacuum hoses. Install the transmission oil filler dipstick tube. Install the new filler tube O-ring that came with the rebuild kit.
11) Install the cooler lines, shifter linkage, exhaust, flywheel/flex-plate cover, cross member and then the driveshaft.
12) Remove the jack and all tools from underneath the vehicle. Jack up the vehicle and remove the jack stands. Lower the vehicle to the ground.
13) Install the battery and reconnect the battery cable(s). If both battery cables have been disconnected, install the positive battery cable first and then the negative cable. Plug in any top side electrical connectors and vacuum hoses. Install any top side parts that you removed during transmission removal.
14) Pour 5 to 6 quarts of transmission fluid into the transmission. You will need a funnel with a small opening so that it fits down into the transmission oil filler tube. Start the engine and with the brake pedal depressed, move the shifter through each of the gears a coupler of times and then place the shifter back to the Park position.
With the engine still running, add two more quarts of transmission fluid and move the shifter through the gears again and then back to Park.
With the engine still running, insert the dipstick into the filler tube and then pull it back out to check the fluid level. Add fluid as needed until the dipstick shows “full” or in the “full range”.
15) Check underneath the vehicle for leaks. If no leaks, it is time to test drive the vehicle. Good luck!
Street Smart® Technical and DIY Guides
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|Automatic Transmission Repair Costs||What is a fair price to pay for various transmission repairs? What kinds of repairs does a transmission need?|
|Automatic Transmission Rebuild Costs||Does your transmission need rebuilt? Fair price guide for the price range of a transmission rebuild.|
|Remanufactured Transmission Options and Costs||Considering a remanufactured transmission? Here are costs and options for how to purchase.|
|Get a Free Transmission Estimate by Email||Want an estimate for a remanufactured transmission? Fill out the form here to get an estimate via e-mail.|
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|How to Install an Automatic Transmission Oil Cooler||Installing an auxiliary transmission oil cooler can protect your transmission from overheating and failure. Excessive heat can ruin a perfectly good transmission very quickly. Coolers are inexpensive and easy to install.|
|How to Check the Condition / Level of your Automatic Transmission Fluid and Change Fluid / Filter||Learn how to check the condition of transmission fluid, what the different conditions mean and what, if anything, you need to do to keep your transmission running smooth. Learn the correct procedure for checking transmission fluid level. Many people do it wrong, so here is the easy way. Keeping clean fresh fluid in your transmission is the number one thing you can do to protect the transmission from premature failure. These DIY transmission fluid and filter change procedures are easy to follow.|
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|What is Limp Mode?||When a transmission fault is detected by the OBD-II system, the transmission may go into fail-safe (or "limp" mode as it is also called) in order to protect the transmission from internal damage|
|Transmission Diagnostic Trouble Codes||Diagnostic Trouble Codes P0700 through P0799 are transmission related OBD-II codes. Any code within this range point to a transmission related fault..|
|How to Inspect and Repair CV Axles and CV Joints||CV (constant-velocity) axles, (also known as half-shafts), are used in front-wheel drive vehicles to transfer the engines power from the transaxle to the two drive wheels.|
|Auto Repair Safety||When working on or around any vehicle injuries can and do occur. Please read these Safety Precautions before starting your next automotive service/repair project.|