If you’re reading this, then I’m sure the issue here is quite familiar. It’s the ever-relevant car repair concerning how much is a transmission to buy, repair, or replace.
How exactly does such breakage happen, what are the tells for a faulty gearbox and how exactly do you go about addressing it? Well in this article we’ll go over every section above-mentioned. We will touch on and expand on related topics, from its integral importance to the vehicle, why it breaks, how you can tell, and how much it may cost to repair.
- What Is A Transmission
- How Does It Work
- Causes Of Failure
- Bad Transmission Symptoms
- Servicing, Repairs, And Replacements
- Prevention Tips
- Frequently Asked Questions
What Does A Transmission Do
When discussing about transmissions, it would be either the gearbox of the car in question. Or, the whole more complex overall combo of a gearbox to shafts (if rear-wheel drive) to the drivetrain as a system creating all the torque and speed conversion. But for the most part, we’re referencing the gearbox in the drivetrain.
Yet, most people and car mechanics when you need to repair, buy or replace your gearbox speak of it, it just means the gearbox. Hence, as you mention the part name at any given local car repair shop of your choice, the thing is you might indeed need to be even more specific. So this will be an extra useful piece of information to truly have handy in such a situation.
Also, it is indeed worth noting that the vehicle’s transmission/gearbox can vary, of course, between an automatic or manual. Long story short, the biggest task the transmission car part serves as a whole is ensuring correct wheel rotation. As such proper gears or a truly correct speed change in a direct correlation with the initiated gear initially.
In a quick nutshell, the transmission adapts the output of the internal combustion engine to the drive wheel speed respectively. All because these operate at a pretty high rotational speed, making it inappropriate for starting, stopping, and slower traversing if not adjusted. The transmission does decrease the higher engine speed to the slower wheel speed, leveling up its torque in the process.
How Does A Transmission Work
As we’ve just made sure to mention above the overall importance cannot be overstated as it literally ensures how a car drives. Or at the very least drives properly as in not damaging the engine or the drivetrain as you’re not reversing as fast as possible.
But one can, for example, easily say something along the lines of ‘will it matter for those nonexistent manual cars in the US? Well, that simply won’t be the case as the transmission is equally functional for an automatic. This is because it simply auto-detects and decides wheel rotation automatically yet just as many same or similar components can go awry.
The whole thing is that by not having it work properly you’re not only creating an inconvenience or nuisance for yourself. It actually can structurally damage other parts and the overall well-being of the car and eventually its safety or even driving capacity.
So, how does a manual gearbox work? By pressing the clutch in, it disconnects the engine from the vehicle’s transmission, giving you an option to shift into another gear. When you let off the clutch, it re-engages the two.
As for an automatic gearbox, it is in an overview an automatic gear shifter that does the job all on its own for you. It uses what’s known as a torque converter to know when to switch gears so that when you increase the speed up, it moves to the next gear, and when you slow, it returns to a previous one.
That’s the exact reason if you ever begin experiencing issues with your gearbox, then it’s likely time to get it checked out. Simple in function and moving on to the faulty transmission topic it is vital!
What Causes Automatic Transmission To Fail
So now we’re finally onto the ultimate goal of this guide – to guide you through why a transmission can break, how to repair it, and for how much.
This list below pretty much represents the whole nine yards of range of what can cause a transmission/gearbox to get broken in the first place.
- Low on transmission fluid
- Leaking transmission fluid
- Clogged transmission filter
So as you can clearly see from the overview of the reasons up top, the whole point of it is that the main reasons are all caused by either preventable or fixable issues.
Such as the first one we’re gonna examine right here right now.
1. Low On Gearbox Oil
This one can look kind of identical to something just as simple as the car not starting up due to a reason as simple as a refill. Or perhaps something trickier to spot and lengthier to perform like an engine oil change. Yet just like in the latter example in there it means your gearbox doesn’t get the sufficient amount of fluid it needs.
So in this particular case, all you’ll truly need is essentially a refill. This ensures that the transmission is able to be cooled and run smoothly and reliably.
2. Leaking Gearbox Oil
But again relating to the fluid issues, if your gearbox is leaking fluid, you can’t simply add more, you need to address the reason why that happens to start with.
Luckily, transmission fluid is colored red, so if you ever spot a puddle of red liquid underneath your car, it’s pretty clear what it’s from. This one is very much trickier as it means the integrity of the drivetrain has been compromised somewhere. An inspection should find and subsequently patch up where it was leaking out exactly.
3. Clogged Transmission Filter
Going next grade of difficulty of an issue, in case you didn’t know, your gearbox has a filter that screens out harmful debris like dirt, dust, and metallic bits and pieces. The issue comes it was either worn out or used for so long it has all dusted up by now.
And of course, there are some smaller issues yet most related to these three.
Bad Transmission Symptoms
Once again we want to reiterate just how essential for a vehicle to even function as in driving a not broken or faulty gearbox. This is why as soon as you’re spotting either of the tell signs or symptoms listed below in your own car rush to check with a mechanic ASAP.
This relates to either of the following listed and most commonly found recognizable issues.
- Whining or clunky sound
- Burnt smell
- Issues shifting gears
And let’s start off with the first one as a common sign it might be a transmission.
1. Whining Or Clunky Sound
As soon as there is any type of sound. Doesn’t really matter if it was a very loud or even slightly audible one – the very fact there is an audio indicator like that you gotta act quick.
Earlier, we mentioned how bad it is for a transmission to be lacking the full amount of fluid. One of the explanations for this is that gearbox fluids are employed as a lubricant, making a thin layer to separate the metal parts from each other.
If absent in the system, metal bumps into metal, and as a summary of why it’s bad, such friction collides with the drivetrain. Thus, causing it to wear out prematurely or cause serious internal damage.
2. Burnt Smell
The whole thing with this one is that it’s of course again not about the mild inconvenience of smell. The real danger here is that this is a direct sign of the drivetrain overheating.
And also with little fluid left too, it tends to be a combo resulting in it burning and giving off that smell.
3. Issues Shifting Gears
So this one can pretty much come in the widest variety range from the wrong gear to the slippage. Let’s cover that and everything in between these.
The first one is very simple to spot and can be described as your transmission switching gears when it shouldn’t. Obviously, this is not ideal for either the safety of driving or the overall car integrity as a whole.
Kind of guaranteeing this is the most annoying of all, if yours is slipping gears, all of that goes out the window. Not only can it get uncomfortable yet the sudden jerky switch during your driving can become a road accident danger indeed.
As an example you might just think this is only a nuisance, if you’re going fast on slippery roads, an issue like this actually causes your car to lose traction.
But what if you choose to ignore these issues and simply move on? As soon as you do realize or find out just how dire the very transmission issue is you also need to fully know the consequences so you deal with it even faster than fast. It can easily include such events in a range of:
- Loss of vehicle speed control
- Slippage danger
How Much Is A Transmission
Starting off with the simplest of them all to address – not enough fluid. As you possibly have been seeing here as a trend, if a car’s low on gearbox fluid, it will heat up. That’s why it will no longer be able to shift smoothly, and the internals is endangered.
Luckily, those gearbox fluids are good to out-use for between 30,000-60,000 miles. So for most people who net these in 2.5 to 5 years, that’s the fluid refill time. To make matters better, the cost of changing it is economical, starting between $80-$250.
1. Transmission Fluid Flush
This service consists of getting rid of fluid in all to address the burnt smell issue to stop leftover fluid from burning and it typically nets at around $80-$250. Also by chance, it’s also something you can do at home to twice reduce these.
2. Transmission Fluid Leak
Transmission leaks usually happen due to a tiny yet crucial worn seal. This part might easily cost as much as $200 to replace. However, if the real reason for the leak begins from the seal upfront then the total payment will most likely increase by a hefty margin.
The good news I guess is that a total majority of gearbox fluids are enhanced with seal swell agents
These keep them from getting too dry and from becoming smaller as a result of that. There’s also a huge market variety of some truly special additives meant to maintain transmission seals.
A transmission rebuild or even a next step further – a full-on gearbox replacement are sure the heaviest options applying to mostly the fluid leak situation. This is simply because a leak means either structural or functional integrity is compromised so requires heavy lifting.
Starting with doing the best with the faulty transmission you have on your hands currently be there the gearbox rebuild. It includes replacing any worn/broken parts and salvaging what is there to salvage. The issue is that this takes a lot of time. Because of this, the costs are pretty on par with overall replacing the whole gearbox as is.
But the real question is just how much does a gearbox rebuild cost? That would be around $2,500-$4,500.
3. Transmission Replacement Cost
Available as an option when absolutely nothing can be done otherwise to patch it up, the whole overhaul is meant to be around $4,000-$8,000 on average.
Yet some workarounds on reducing that also do exist if you keep in mind there are aftermarket ones that are still in mint condition. Thus you can reduce these costs by replacing it with a used or rebuilt transmission, which varies between $2,500-$4,000.
Repairing is a nice option if minimal parts and labor are needed to truly nurse the manual or automatic back to its proper functioning. Repairs are cheaper than transmission replacements and rebuilds. Average transmission repair costs range from $300 to $1,400. For example, if your manual transmission needs a new clutch, you can reasonably expect to pay around $800 to $1,500.
On the other hand, transmission replacement is one of the most expensive repairs you can get. Replacements can vary easily from $1,800 to $3,400. Based on a specific repair shop and technicians there, labor itself can range from $500 to $1,200. Here’s a quick guide to the average transmission cost:
- Remanufactured Transmission – $1,300 to $3,400
- Used/Salvage – $800 to $1,500
- Rebuilt – $1,100 to $2,800
How To Prevent Long-Term Transmission Issues
As soon as humanly possible, the first thing you’re gonna need to attempt in terms of maintenance is simply ensuring the fluid refill. By only doing that one small thing you will make sure there’s always enough transmission fluid in there. This will mean also doing the refill on and around 30-60k miles. This will help avoid both the burnt smell type of situation as it will never run low.
Also, take a look at the actual appearance of the fluid. If by any measure it looks a tad cloudy and dark, there’s possibly an issue on your hands as it needs to be transparent and to be replaced if not.
Also do not forget that your car’s cooling system does have a crucial role in the health of your engine and transmission, and is typically designed to only prevent the engine from getting too hot.
Info about the specific type of transmission fluid for your vehicle can be found in your owner’s manual. If you have an incompatible kind of fluid, you should have the gearbox fluid flushed and switch it to the correct suitable one.
A professional transmission flush or fluid exchange also assists to guarantee that no residual fluid remains in the torque converter or in your cooler lines. It’s also a great way to get rid of any gunk and grime that’s trapped in your gearbox.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you’re still curious to learn more about how much is a transmission, as well as how to troubleshoot gearbox-related issues, our FAQs here might help…
How Long Does It Take To Rebuild A Transmission
If you’re not keen on spending loads of money on buying a brand new transmission, rebuilding your old one is a neat alternative. Rebuilding is a process where you’d take the old gearbox. And instead of swapping it out entirely, you’ll instead replace only the worn-out components, in particular. In addition, rebuilding a transmission entails you spending time reconditioning it back to working order. As you can imagine, this is a tedious and laborious process. It first requires disassembling the entire transmission, before breaking it apart to fix individual parts or sections, one by one. As such, even the most experienced technicians and high-tech workshops will have to spend 3 to 4 days on a single rebuild. It’s part of the reason why transmission rebuilds are still pretty costly.
How Much Does It Cost To Fix A Transmission
The rough average for a general transmission repair is usually somewhere between $300 to $1,400. However, it’s hardly an accurate figure, as the type of repair work can vary wildly. For example, if all you need is servicing the transmission fluid, then it shouldn’t cost you that much. A fluid change would set you back around $80 to $250. All the while, a leak would cost you around $150 to $200 to patch up. If your automatic gearbox needs a new solenoid, for instance, that’s around $150 to $400 for a replacement. If your car has a manual transmission, then most issues could be solved by grabbing a new clutch. This one, on the other hand, is a bit costlier, as fitting in a new clutch will cost you between $800 to $1,500. In general, though, transmission-related repairs are typically rather expensive.
Is It Worth Replacing Transmission
If your transmission needs some serious work, a lot of people share the same conundrum… Either to replace the transmission or just buy a new car entirely. Replacing a transmission isn’t cheap. In most cases, a replacement transmission will cost you at least $1,000. Oftentimes, this averages around $3,000 to upwards of $7,000 for a brand new gearbox to be fitted. But you can at least guarantee that this replacement transmission will work somewhat reliably in the near future. But is it worth that high cost? Well, it depends on your car. If you intend on keeping your car for the long run or if it has a good residual value, then it’s worthwhile considering it. However, if the price of a transmission replacement outweighs or borders on the value of your entire car, it might not be worth it.
How Much Does Transmission Fluid Change Cost
Among the cheapest transmission-related service that you can do is a transmission fluid change. Typically, a transmission fluid change service will cost you around $80 to $250. If you have the tools, skills, and experiences necessary, you might even consider doing this at home. DIY-style, a transmission fluid change may cost you just $40 to $90 for a fresh bottle of fluids and a filter. Regardless, this is a small price to pay given how important the transmission fluid is. Driving around with old, burnt-out, or contaminated transmission fluid is a surefire way to prematurely wear out your gearbox. You might notice issues such as overheating or gear changes not shifting properly. A relatively cheap transmission fluid change is all it takes to prevent costlier problems with your transmission down the line.
How Long Does A Transmission Last
Since they’re an integral component of your car, gearboxes typically last a long time. In most cases, they’re made to last the lifetime of a vehicle in its entirety. Albeit, smaller components within a transmission, such as the clutch, torque converter, and transmission fluid would need regular servicing. Specifically, a gearbox is designed to easily last 150,000 to 200,000 miles or more. With good maintenance and diligent care, it would even surpass 300,000 miles without a problem. The simplest thing you can do to ensure that your car’s gearbox lives this long is to be mindful of the transmission fluid. Have the fluids changed every once in a while. Also, be more modest when you’re on the road, as aggressive driving, hauling heavy loads, or bad shifts will accelerate the lifespan of a gearbox.
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