The rebuilding of an automatic transmission today will cost you from between $1000 to over $6,000. In today's automatic transmissions, there is often over 3,000 parts. You can't afford not to service your automatic transmission at least once a year. The fluid is the blood of an automatic transmission. Time and time again, we see well maintained automatic transmissions last well over 125,000 miles. However, we see many more die at 60,000 miles with the original fluid still in them. Heres a chart that shows the life of new transmission fluid at different temperatures:
At 200 degrees, the transmission fluid will last 100,000 miles
At 220 degrees, the transmission fluid will last 50,000 miles
At 240 degrees, the transmission fluid will last 10,000 miles, varnish forms.
At 260 degrees, the transmission fluid will last 5,000 miles, seals harden.
At 295 degrees, the transmission fluid will last 1,500 miles, plates slip.
At 315 degrees, the transmission fluid will last 800 miles, fluid turns to tar.
A transmission service should include replacing the fluid and filter. A visual check for leaks and a test drive if shifting concerns were noted, are two other items normally included in a transmission service.
On most transmissions you can't replace all of the fluid. You can often only replace four of the eight to twelve quarts the transmission may contain. Even though the fluid may look nice and pink, it may have lost it's ability to keep internal seals soft, keep the fluid from foaming and control the build up of varnish. You just can't tell by looking. A properly done transmission oil and filter change with a quick inspection will cost $45 to $180 depending on the price of the filter and gasket.
There are some new transmission flush machines being marketed that will thoroughly flush your transmission with new fluid. The cost of this exceeds reason. Quick lubes often have machines that will simply suck out the fluid in your transmission, rear end, transfer case and will allow a quick and easy way to do a "suck and refill" time after time for 3-4 times and still be half of what they charge to flush your transmission and pay for those $8-12,000 machines.
Changing the automatic transmission fluid and / or filter is something that should be done annually. See FAQ # 7
Standard transmissions are different. Almost all have a drain plug and can simply be drained and refilled. The cost, depending on the fluid, should be $20 to $150. Standard transmissions that have not been abused or subjected to water contamination can be drained and refilled every other year or so.
Many new cars have what is called "lifetime fluid". It is too early to know if this is a good idea so, I continue to recommend you have the fluid changed (at the very most) every 35-50k miles.
WARNING - -You are very likely to see automatic transmission services advertised for $9.95. This may only pay to have someone suck whatever fluid they can out of the dipstick tube and then refill it. This is hardly what major car manufacturer's meant when they describe a transmission service.
My cost for a medium priced quality filter, gasket and four quarts of fluid are in excess of $18 to $22. Add to that the cost of overhead and the technicians time and you will understand why it makes no sense to expect a business to do a $50 job for $9.95. Make sure you are not sold another repair at an inflated price to make up for what they lost on the "loss leader". Recognize loss leaders for what they are. Understand that this is an easy way to get folks in so they can inspect your car for other repairable, highly profitable concerns. If you cannot say "no!" with conviction, then do not use loss leader coupons.
Some of todays cars now claim to have a lifetime fluid in them and the car manufacturer says you dont have to change the oil or filter. As I type this, it is too early to know if this recommendation will last or be valid. Especially considering that three or four years ago the car manufacturers said their new cars could go 100k without a tune up and we know that is an exaggeration at best. Of course, if we let them redefine a tuneup to only speak to spark plug replacement . . .
Hello Mr. Salem.
I heard you say on your radio show that a good transmission shop don't have to tear down your transmission to diagnose the problem. I'm just writing you to make sure I heard that right. The dealer told me it may cost around $700 to determine what the failure is. My Allstate extended warranty requires that. I paid $55 for a transmission diagnosis and I was under the impression that they would find out the failure from that. They told me, it's an internal problem. The low/reverse clutch pack reading is too high indicating an internal defect. They said possible seal damage. By the way the car is a 94 Dodge Sprint with the 3.0L and 4 speed electronic automatic transmission. What should I do? Should I expect them to diagnose the failure without having to tear down the transmission?
Bad guys tell you they need you to spend $3-800 for a tear down to see what's wrong. Once they get your transmission apart, they know you won't leave. The Customer expects / thinks the $3-500 is the bulk of the repair, and all that will be needed when they get inside is a twist of this or a tighten of that, when in reality, it's going to need $12-1500 or $1500-6500 worth of transmission work.
Good guys give you a high and a low. They know what they are going to find when they get inside. EVERYONE knows at the start, they are going in to fix the problem.
The difference is, what does the customer know before the tear down;
this is going to cost me $1500 to $2200 when it is all done AND my transmission problem will be gone.
Don't walk into any repair without knwoing what the worst case scenerio is.
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