Common Transmission Problems and Repair Cost for Each

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Transmission Problems

When you have a transmission or transaxle problem, knowing the symptoms, possible causes and estimated repair cost can make the process of getting it repaired much easier and less stressful.  Moreover, when you are knowledgeable about transmission repair costs you are much less likely to overpay for a particular repair.

Below we list common transmission problems and explain the symptoms, causes and repair cost for each. Below is a downloadable, printable PDF you can use to estimate both transmission rebuild cost and remanufactured transmission cost for your specific transmission model:

Common transmission problems

 

CONDITION: LOW TRANSMISSION FLUID LEVEL

SYMPTOM(S): Transmission Slipping, Delayed Gear Engagement, Hard or Erratic Shifts, No Shifts, Transmission Overheating, Transmission Failure
CAUSE(S): Transmission Fluid Leak
REPAIR: Add Transmission Fluid (ATF)
ESTIMATED REPAIR COST: Repair Shop: $20 to $30   DIY Cost: $5 to $10 for 1 Quart ATF

COMMENTS: In short, low transmission fluid can cause many different problems ranging from slipping to complete transmission failure.  The real cost of low transmission fluid is paying for the damage a low fluid condition causes.

IMPORTANT:  Transmissions do not burn or use transmission fluid like an engine burns and uses motor oil.  Therefore, if your transmission fluid level is low – you have a leak.

 

CONDITION: OLD, DIRTY AND/OR OXIDIZED FLUID

SYMPTOM(S): Transmission Slipping, Delayed Gear Engagement, Hard or Erratic Shifts, No Shifts, Transmission Overheating, Transmission Failure
CAUSE(S): Transmission Not Properly Serviced, Transmission Has Overheated, Clogged Filter
REPAIR: Fluid and Filter Change or Fluid Flush.
ESTIMATED REPAIR COST: Fluid/Filter Change: Repair Shop: $120 to $225   DIY Cost: $45 to $55
ESTIMATED REPAIR COST: Fluid Flush: $140 to $320  DIY Cost: $65 to $90

NOTE: Often times, oxidized “burnt” transmission fluid means some internal transmission damage may have already occurred.  Checking the transmission fluid pan for excessive metal and clutch debris will provide more information about the condition of the transmission.

CONDITION: TRANSMISSION FLUID LEAK

SYMPTOM(S): Low Fluid Level (See Low Transmission Fluid Level above for symptoms)
CAUSE(S): Various – Pan gasket, front seal, overfilled leak from overflow tube (on top), sensor.
REPAIR: Locate and Repair Fluid Leak
ESTIMATED REPAIR COST: Repair Shop: $50 to $500+   DIY Cost: $25 to $100

NOTE: Most transmission fluid leaks are external, meaning they can be repaired quite easily and reasonably inexpensive.  The cost will only reach, and possibly exceed, $500 when the source of the leak is internal. In order to repair an internal transmission fluid leak or front seal leak, in most models the transmission must be removed from the vehicle.

CONDITION: TRANSMISSION SLIPPING

SYMPTOMS: Engine RPMs Rev Higher than Normal But Speed Lags Behind (especially during takeoff), Slipping Between Gear Shifts, Transmission Overheating.
CAUSE(S): Low Fluid Level, Old, Dirty or Oxidized Fluid, Worn Friction Clutches, Failed Solenoid(s)
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Diagnose Cause of Slipping, Check Codes In Computer
ESTIMATED DIAGNOSTIC COST: Repair Shop: $75 to $125   DIY Cost: $0

NOTE: Cost information is for diagnostics only, not the repair.  A correct diagnosis may require a transmission scan be performed at a repair facility.

CONDITION: HARD SHIFTS, ERRATIC SHIFTS, SHIFTS INTO WRONG GEAR

SYMPTOMS: Variety of shift problems
CAUSE(S): Low fluid level, Old, dirty or oxidized fluid, Open electrical circuit, Failed shift solenoid(s), Internal issue.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Diagnose cause of shift problems
ESTIMATED DIAGNOSTIC COST: Repair Shop: $75 to $125   DIY Cost: $0
NOTE: Cost information is for diagnostics only, not the repair.  A correct diagnosis may require a transmission scan be performed at a repair facility.

CONDITION: DOES NOT SHIFT AUTOMATICALLY BUT DOES SHIFT MANUALLY

SYMPTOM(S): Only Shifts Gears When Manually Moving Shifter Lever
CAUSE(S): Open Circuit in Electrical System, Failed PCM/TCM, Failed Speed Sensor or Other Sensor
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Diagnose Cause of No Automatic Shift
ESTIMATED DIAGNOSTIC COST: Repair Shop: $75 to $125   DIY Cost: $0
NOTE: Cost information is for diagnostics only, not the repair.  A correct diagnoses of an electrical transmission problem, including computer and sensor failures, almost always requires a transmission scan be performed at a repair facility.

CONDITION: INTERMITTENT SHIFT PROBLEMS

SYMPTOM(S): Transmission Downshifts When it Shouldn’t and Then Corrects Itself
CAUSE(S): Electrical Fault, Failed Speed Sensor, Failed Throttle Position Sensor, Failed Transmission Range Sensor
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Diagnose Cause of Intermittent Shift Problems
ESTIMATED DIAGNOSTIC COST: Repair Shop: $75 to $125  DIY Cost: $0
NOTE: Cost information is for diagnostics only, not the repair.  A correct diagnosis of an electrical transmission problem, including computer and sensor failures, almost always requires a transmission scan be performed at a repair facility.

CONDITION: SLIPS OUT OF GEAR WHEN WARM

SYMPTOM(S): Transmission Slips Out of Gear Intermittently When Vehicle Warms Up
CAUSE(S): Internal Seals or Valves Allowing Fluid to Pass – Causing Pressure Loss
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Transmission Rebuild or Replace with Remanufactured Transmission
ESTIMATED REBUILD COST: Rebuild Transmisison Shop Cost: $1600 to $3500+   DIY Cost: $400 to $700
ESTIMATED REPLACE COST: Replace Transmission Shop Cost: $1900 to $3800+  DIY Cost: $1200 to $3000+
NOTE: Estimated cost for transmission replacement is for purchasing a remanufactured transmission or transaxle – a used replacement transmission is considerably less costly.

CONDITION: OVERHEATING

SYMPTOM(S): Burnt smell – motor oil, transmission fluid and/or coolant.  Smoke.  Transmission shift problems, i.e., no shifts or delayed shifts. Transmission failure.
CAUSE(S): Low fluid.  Dirty and/or oxidized fluid.  Clogged filter.  Hard driving, i.e., towing, spinning the tires, racing.  Problem with transmission oil cooler or oil cooler lines.  Slipping.  Failing transmission oil pump.  Engine overheated.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Diagnose Overheating Problem ASAP – Do not continue to drive vehicle.
ESTIMATED DIAGNOSTIC COST: Repair Shop: $75 to $125  DIY Cost: $0
NOTE: Cost information is for diagnostics only, not the repair.  A correct diagnoses may require a transmission scan be performed at a repair facility.

Transmission temperature - transmission failure

CONDITION: NO FORWARD GEARS

SYMPTOM(S): Transmission Has No Forward Gears – Reverse Gear May Work
CAUSE(S): Problem with Valve Body or Other Internal Problem Causing Pressure Loss
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Diagnose Problem and Repair
ESTIMATED DIAGNOSTIC COST: Repair Shop: $75 to $125  DIY Cost: $0
ESTIMATED COST: Replace Valve Body: Repair Shop: $375 to $1000+  DIY Cost: $250 to $1000+
ESTIMATED COST: Rebuild Transmission: Repair Shop: $1600 to $3500+  DIY Cost: $400 to $700
NOTE: Diagnosing a valve body problem typically requires a transmission scan be performed at a repair facility.  Most repair facilities will waive diagnostic charges when the shop makes the repair. See below for more specific rebuild/replacement costs, if necessary.

CONDITION: NO REVERSE GEAR

SYMPTOM(S): Transmission Has No Reverse Gear – Forward Gears May Work
CAUSE(S): Problem with Valve Body or Other Internal Problem Causing Pressure Loss
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Diagnose Problem and Repair
ESTIMATED DIAGNOSTIC COST: Repair Shop: $75 to $150   DIY Cost: $0
NOTE: Cost information is for diagnostics only, not the repair.  A correct diagnoses may require a transmission scan be performed at a repair facility.

CONDITION: SHIFTER LEVER LOCKS IN THE PARK POSITION

SYMPTOM(S): Shifter Lever Becomes Locked in Park – Can be an Intermittent ConditionCAUSE(S): Blown Fuse, Faulty Brake Pedal Position Switch, Faulty Shift Interlock Switch
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Diagnose Problem and Repair
ESTIMATED DIAGNOSTIC COST: Repair Shop Diagnostic Cost: $35 to $65  DIY Cost: $0
ESTIMATED COST: Repair Shop: $50 to $250   DIY Cost: $0
NOTE: The low end of the repair cost range would be for replacing a faulty brake pedal position switch (or brake light switch) while the high end of the cost range would be for replacing the shift interlock switch.

How to release a shifter that is stuck in Park

CONDITION: VEHICLE ROLLS AFTER PLACING SHIFTER IN PARK

SYMPTOM(S): Vehicle Rolls After Placing Shifter in Park
CAUSE(S): Excessively Worn or Broken Parking Pawl, Bad U-joint (Rear Wheel Drive)
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Diagnose Problem and Repair
ESTIMATED DIAGNOSTIC COST: Repair Shop Diagnostic Cost: $50 to $65  DIY Cost: $0
ESTIMATED COST: Replace Parking Pawl: Repair Shop: $500 to $1000  DIY Cost: $45 to $90
ESTIMATED COST: Replace U-Joint: Repair Shop: $75 to $115  DIY Cost: $10 to $25
NOTE: It is common practice for transmission repair shops to waive diagnostic charges when the shop does the repair.

CONDITION: SHIFTER LINKAGE PROBLEM

SYMPTOM(S): Vehicle Moves Forward When Shifter is in Neutral
CAUSE(S): Loose Shifter Linkage, Stretched or Damaged Shifter Cable, Shift Indicator Pointing to Wrong Gear
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Diagnose Problem and Repair
ESTIMATED DIAGNOSTIC COST: Repair Shop Diagnostic Cost: $40 to $50   DIY Cost: $0
ESTIMATED COST: Tighten Shifter Linkage:   Repair Shop $50 to $75  DIY Cost: $0
ESTIMATED COST: Replace Shifter Cable: Repair Shop: $125 to $250  DIY Cost: $35 to $80.  The difference between the high and low DIY cost is the cost of the shifter cable.

CONDITION: ISSUES AFTER A 2008-UP MODEL REPLACEMENT TRANSMISSION INSTALL

SYMPTOM(S): Transmission Cannot Talk To Computer, Will Not Shift After Replacing Transmission on 2008+ Models
CAUSE(S): Most 2008-Up Models Require Dealer Computer Reflash After Replacement to specific VIN#. Also certain Mercedes models require VIN# flash to operate for anti-theft system.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Take Vehicle to Car Dealership or Shop With Computer Reflash Capability (equipment needed below)
ESTIMATED COST: Reflash Computer With VIN#:   Dealership $75 to $200  Repair Shop Cost: $60 to $200

Reflashing Shop Equipment Needed: Snap On Pass Thru Pro or DrewTech CarDAQ Plus 2 with OEM Subscriptions Required

Alternate Option: DrewTech RAP no OEM Subscription Required

Remanufactured transmission information

Street Smart® Technical and DIY Guides

Reflashing and ReprogrammingWhat is reflashing / reprogramming? What are your options when your vehicle needs reflashed after a new transmission is installed. Typically for 2005- Ford and GM 6-speed, 8-speed, 9-speed and 10-speed vehicles.
Automatic Transmission Repair CostsWhat is a fair price to pay for various transmission repairs? What kinds of repairs does a transmission need?
Automatic Transmission Rebuild CostsDoes your transmission need rebuilt? Fair price guide for the price range of a transmission rebuild.
Remanufactured Transmission Options and CostsConsidering a remanufactured transmission? Here are costs and options for how to purchase.
Get a Free Transmission Estimate by EmailWant an estimate for a remanufactured transmission? Fill out the form here to get an estimate via e-mail.
How to Replace a Transmission Torque Converter Clutch SolenoidWhat is a transmission torque converter clutch solenoid and how to replace one if it goes bad.
How to Replace a Transmission Pressure Control SolenoidWhat is a transmission pressure control solenoid and how to replace one if it goes bad.
How to Replace Transmission SolenoidsGuide to various automatic transmission solenoids, how they work, and DIY instructions.
How to Remove and Install an Automatic Transmission - (RWD)If you are facing a transmission replacement, you can reduce the cost considerably by removing and re-installing the transmission yourself. Here we provide step-by-step instructions for removing and replacing a transmission.
How to Replace a Transmission Speed SensorFor most vehicles, the speed sensor is plugged into the transmission (or transaxle). When the speed sensor fails the speedometer stops working and shifts may become erratic. Replacing a speed sensor is easy.
How to Release a Shifter Lever That is Stuck in ParkNothing is more frustrating than getting into your car and the gear shifter lever being locked in Park. Here we explain how to release the shifter, the causes, how to repair and the estimated cost.
How to Install an Automatic Transmission Oil CoolerInstalling 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 / FilterLearn 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.
How to Replace a Transmission Neutral Safety SwitchThe neutral safety switch is a safety feature that prevents the engine from starting when the transmission or transaxle is in gear. When the switch fails, the engine may not crank or it may start in gear.
How to Flush Your Automatic TransmissionA transmission fluid flush can be performed without a transmission flush machine - and it's safer for high mileage vehicles.
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 CodesDiagnostic 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 JointsCV (constant-velocity) axles, (also known as half-shafts), are used in front-wheel drive vehicles to transfer the engine’s power from the transaxle to the two drive wheels.
Auto Repair SafetyWhen working on or around any vehicle injuries can and do occur. Please read these Safety Precautions before starting your next automotive service/repair project.