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Transmission Failed? Know Your Options!

► First, Is My Vehicle Worth Fixing?

► Have your Transmission Rebuilt

► Purchase a Remanufactured Transmission

► Purchase a Used Transmission

Get A Transmission Quote

First, Is My Vehicle Worth Fixing?

Your content goes here. Edit or remove this text inline or in the It’s a question thousands of people are confronted with everyday.

When your automatic transmission fails, finding good, reliable and unbiased information and advice is hard to come by.  We hope the following will help…

Whenever faced with a major repair like an engine or automatic transmission, you always have to ask yourself; “Is my vehicle worth it”?  Because, at some point, the answer will be a resounding “NO”!  The question is, how will you know when it’s time to stop pouring money into your used vehicle?

Unfortunately, because everyone’s situation and circumstances are different, there is no absolute right or wrong “blanket” answer that would apply to everyone.  As such, you have a little work to do.

When is it smart to stop sinking money into a used vehicle? Here is what you need to do:

STEP 1 – Vehicle Book Value

Find the estimated value of your vehicle.  You need to know the “as-is” (current condition) value and the “repaired” value.  To get these values you’ll need to start by finding the “repaired” value first since this information is more easily obtained.  To get your vehicle’s value in its repaired state, visit Kelley Blue Book “” and click on the “What’s my vehicle worth” link.  Enter your vehicle details and mileage.  Then select “fair”, “good” or “excellent” to describe the vehicle’s condition.  Lastly, when asked, select “Private Party Value”.

The “private party value” is the amount your vehicle is worth when selling to an individual versus a dealer or dealer trade-in.

For discussion purposes, let’s say the Kelly Blue Book “private party” value for your vehicle is $4,500.

STEP 2 – Cost to Repair

Next, you need to know what it will cost to repair the vehicle.  If the vehicle’s transmission has failed and the diagnoses is that the transmission must be rebuilt – you will need to obtain 2-3 transmission rebuild quotes from three different repair shops.

Note: If the transmission shop is reluctant to provide you a quote by telephone because they want to see your vehicle first, just tell them to give you a price quote for a standard rebuild.  If they are still reluctant to give you a flat quote, ask them to give you a best case and worst-case scenario quote.  Most shops will do this.

Once you have three quotes, add the quotes together then divide the total by 3 – this will give you the average cost.  For discussion purposes, let’s say it is going to cost $1,800 to have your transmission rebuilt.module Content settings. You can also style every aspect of this content in the module Design settings and even apply custom CSS to this text in the module Advanced settings.

STEP 3 – Determining the “as-is” Value

You’ve determined that the KBB value is $4,500 and have learned that the repair cost will be about $1,800.  Using these figures, your vehicle’s “as-is” value would be about $1,800.  See image for explanation.

Is it Worth Fixing?

In this example, assuming the vehicle is in otherwise good condition, from strictly a financial perspective, fixing your vehicle is a good decision.  But, not by much.  A difference of $1,000 in the either the book value or repair cost would be enough to lower the decision from good to questionable.  But, nonetheless, using these figures, the vehicle is worth fixing – even if your intentions are to sell it after being repaired.

Note: Selling a vehicle with a bad transmission may prove to be difficult at any price.  It’s not impossible, but it may take a while to find the right buyer.

Arguments for Repairing and Keeping Your Vehicle

√ Generally speaking, repairing a car is almost always less costly than buying a new one.  Even a major repair like a blown engine or failed transmission can be repaired/replaced for considerably less than the cost of a new vehicle.

√ Purchasing a used car does not guarantee you will be free from spending money on repairs.  A used vehicle must be thoroughly checked out before taking a chance on buying one.

√ A new (or newer) vehicle will cost you more for insurance.  In many states, registration fees are also higher.

√ A new car can lose up to 25% of its value during the first year of ownership.  This is a huge chuck of money when you consider the average new car costs around $33,000.

Arguments for Purchasing a New (or Newer) Vehicle

Sometimes, the circumstances are such that it simply does not make good business sense to continue spending money on your current vehicle.  Here are some reasons you might consider in favor of purchasing a new vehicle versus repairing your current one.

√ Your car is nickel and diming you to the point where you’re fed up.  As soon as you fix one problem another one pops up.  In this case, for the benefit of both your wallet and sanity, trading up to a newer, more dependable, car is probably the best choice.

√ Even though a newer vehicle may require you to make monthly payments, the actual monthly out-of-pocket difference between what you currently spend on repairs and the new car payment amount might not be so much.  New cars come with excellent warranties – so you can say goodbye to repair bills for at least 3-years after the purchase.

 √ Peace of mind – safety… when driving a new vehicle you are much less likely to breakdown on the highway.  Besides the expense, there are personal safety concerns that come with being stranded on the side of the roadway or in some dark parking lot.

 √ New vehicles are all-around safer than older vehicles.  Better handling, better braking, more airbags, back-up camera, improved lighting/headlights, etc.

√ Improved image, credibility and increased confidence…  driving a new vehicle provides numerous other “non-financial” benefits that are difficult to measure, but are certainly meaningful.

Other Factors to Consider


Regardless of past repairs, the overall condition of the vehicle and all the other factors described above, in most instances, once the odometer passes 200,000 miles spending money for a major repair is probably a bad idea.  The only vehicles that defy this general rule are listed here.  This short list of vehicles typically outlast all the other vehicles on the road – 250,000 miles and higher is quite common.

Honda Accord
Subaru Legacy
Honda Civic
Honda Odyssey
Nissan Maxima

Toyota Camry
Subaru Outback
Ford Taurus
Toyota Avalon
Acura TL

Your credit…

When considering whether to keep your vehicle or trade it in for a newer, more reliable vehicle, you must factor in your credit score.  The costs associated with problem credit are high – so be careful.

As you can see, and as we eluded too at the beginning, answering the question; “is my vehicle worth fixing?” is more involved than just knowing the vehicle’s value and the cost to repair. You really need to consider a wide array of factors to come up with the best decision for your particular circumstances. Get an estimate below to see what it will cost to replace your transmission.

Option 1 – Having Transmission Rebuilt

Option 1: Have Your Transmission Rebuilt

Having your transmission rebuilt involves finding a transmission repair shop, auto dealership or independent transmission technician to do the work.  It is also possible to do some or all the work yourself, but for the purpose of this article, we will assume you will not be doing the work yourself.

Transmission Rebuild Process

The transmission or transaxle rebuilding process involves the following steps.

-Removing the transmission from the vehicle
-Completely disassembling the transmission
-Cleaning and inspecting all parts for wear and damage
-Reassembling the transmission with rebuild kit*
-Excessively worn and/or damaged “hard” parts are replaced**
-Manufacturer updates, when applicable, are completed
-Once rebuild, the transmission is re-installed in vehicle
-The transmission is filled with the correct fluid (ATF)
-Engine is started.  Transmission is checked for leaks.  Fluid level is checked again.  Fluid level is adjusted, as needed..
r-Vehicle test drive.  Transmission is put through a variety of real world driving conditions.

*A typical rebuild kit includes friction clutches, steel clutch plates, bands, seals, gaskets and filter.  These parts are oftentimes referred to as “soft” parts.
**Examples of “hard” parts include: planetary gears, sun gears, pump assembly, clutch drums, shafts, sprag clutches, transmission case…

Transmission Rebuild Warranty

Most transmission repair shops offer a 12 month 12,000 mile warranty on rebuilds.  Many shops offer 2 and 3 year warranties.  Longer warranties may be available for an additional fee.

Transmission Rebuild Cost

The cost to have an automatic transmission or transaxle rebuilt can range anywhere from $1,300 to $3,000 or more, depending on several factors, including the year, make and model of your vehicle, the extent of damage to the transmission, the repair shop or dealership that does the work and where you live.  Some imports and high-end automobiles can cost upwards of $5000 or more for a transmission rebuild.

Benefits of a Transmission Rebuild

COST…  although more costly than purchasing a used transmission, having your transmission rebuilt almost always costs less than purchasing a remanufactured transmission.

TIME…  Vehicle down time is normally less for a transmission rebuild than purchasing a remanufactured transmission.  The difference in time is due to the time it takes to order and ship the remanufactured transmission to the installer.

GUARANTEED FIT…  The powertrain in today’s vehicles are electronically “computer” controlled.  In some instances, replacing a major component, such as an engine or transmission, with an engine or transmission taken from the same year, make and model vehicle can be problematic.  While such instances are typically resolved by the installer without additional cost, it can nonetheless make an already difficult situation even more frustrating.

ORIGINAL EQUIPMENT…  Some vehicle owners prefer to keep their vehicle in its original condition – meaning keeping the vehicle’s original parts when possible.

Option 2 – Having a Remanufactured Transmission Installed

What is a Remanufactured Transmission?

A remanufactured transmission is a used transmission that has been returned to a like-new condition. Remanufacturing companies will use core returns, or go out and buy used transmissions in bulk, then thoroughly inspect each component on them. From metal thickness to spring tension, every part that doesn’t measure up to the manufacturer’s original specifications, gets replaced. By the time it’s finished, a reman transmission should perform exactly like a new one. For this reason, automakers use remanufacturing companies to supply their dealers with transmissions for warranty replacements, recall replacements, and retail sales.

Since they’re basically “reborn”, a remanufactured transmission can often qualify for coverage under the vehicle’s warranty. This type of transmission is as close to new as you’re going to get without a time machine. But there are still many things that you need to consider first.

Built in a Factory not a Shop

If you buy a rebuilt transmission, the job will be done by a mechanic in a shop/garage, who often has little or no supervision. Many mechanics are very good at their job, but many things can happen in a small volume, non-process environment. For example, a weak spot in a metal surface, a slight warp in the valve body, or a hairline crack on the inside of a gear could be overlooked. Dust could get blown underneath a seal by one of those big shop fans and cause a leak or pressure problem. The wrong screw, washer or part could be accidentally used. The shop might not have the right tools to perform a damage-free assembly/installation. They might not have the right equipment to test for problems with the valve body, solenoids or torque converter. Plus, quality inspections may or may not happen during or after the build.

By contrast, remanufacturing companies have a state-of-the-art factory that was designed to maximize efficiency and quality. There’s a parts department that utilizes the latest inventory management tools to provide each transmission builder with the parts they need for each transmission build. Pumps, planetary gears, and other components are remanufactured in the machining department, where skilled machinists have access to CNC machines, lathes, surface grinders, and mills.

During the remanufacture process, each transmission must pass multiple quality inspections, and the finished product is dyno tested using a specially designed dyno test (road simulation) test cycle. This ensures that each transmission is properly tuned prior to shipment, and helps maintain high customer satisfaction rates.


Upgraded by R&D

Reman companies maintain an in-house R&D department that’s run by a team of mechanical and electrical engineers. It’s their job to analyze repair data, warranty claim data and actual transmissions, in order to identify shortcomings in the transmission design. Then they’ll use state of-the-art 3D imaging and CAD software to develop the solutions necessary to extend the life of that particular type of gearbox. Some of these application specific upgrades include:

-Stronger bushings
-Adding extra clutch plates
-More robust clutch & band friction material
-Stronger springs
-Substituting plastic accumulator pistons with more durable aluminum pistons
-Redesigned valves
-Redesigned planetary assemblies
-Recalibrated pressure regulator systems
-Modified valve bodies

Remanufactured Transmission vs. Rebuilt Transmission

Rebuilt Transmission
•Only worn or broken parts get replaced
•Built in a garage with little or no quality control
•Cracks, warping, and tensile strength may slip past visual inspection
•In most cases, an OE master rebuild kit will be used, which won’t address design flaws
•ECU may need to be reprogrammed by the dealer in order to accept the repairs
•Service life depends on how good the mechanic is
•Adjustments may be needed during the break in period
•12-24 month warranty may only be honored at a few shops in a specific area

Having your transmission rebuilt by a local shop/mechanic doesn’t always end badly. In fact, there are many skilled mechanics out there, who know how to identify and prevent potential problems during the build. So if you can find one of these transmission gurus, you may actually wind up with a very durable rebuilt transmission.

Remanufactured Transmission
•Built in a state of-the-art factory with all of the latest tools and testing equipment.
•“Hard” parts, such as planetary gears, shafts, and pumps, are thoroughly inspected for defects; Any worn, damaged, or out of spec parts are replaced with new components.
•Critical parts like pumps, solenoids, valve bodies, and torque converters are remanufactured individually, by trained technicians.
•New parts will be substituted if the original component is deemed defective due to excessive wear or a design flaw.
•Strict quality control procedures and multiple inspections ensure that the build quality of each remanufactured transmission.
•Dyno testing verifies the functionality, allows technicians to identify and make any necessary adjustments, and provides a break-in period to ensure a plug-and-play installation
•Typically a 3-Year warranty, parts and labor.

If you plan to keep your vehicle for a long time, then a remanufactured transmission is definitely the way to go.


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