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Tranmission Troubles - What To Look For

Top 5 Signs of Transmission Troubles

1. Grinding or shaking
2. Inability to put vehicle in gear
3. Leaking fluid
4. Slipping gears
5. Smell of burning transmission fluid

Symptoms of a Bad Transmission

See if you answer “YES” to any of these questions:

  • Am I having trouble going forward or backwards while the gear shift is in Drive? If I am, is the vehicle stalling?
  • When I press on the gas pedal, does the vehicle accelerate at a different rate or power as normally? When I attempt to accelerate does the car slip in gear or slow down?
  • Are there any strange noises or do you smell a burning odor from your engine? Are there any drips or leaks coming from under your car?
  • Is it difficult or impossible to shift between gears when driving?
  • Do I have warning lights on my dashboard pertaining to my engine such as a check engine light or service engine soon light?

If you answered “YES” to one or more of the above, it is time to see a transmission specialist, sooner versus later.

A Closer Look at Transmission Troubles

Where do transmission problems start?

Torque converter

  • Worn needle bearings – Emits noise when in driving gears
  • One-way clutch failure – lack of power, overheating

Faulty Solenoid

  • Causes gear slippage and show shifting

Clutch (on manual transmissions)

  • Repeated stalling, sticking/slipping gears

Clogged transmission filter

  • Gear slippage, low fluid levels, dirty fluid, no movement
Common Reasons for Transmission Failure

Low Transmission Fluid

  • Can be caused by leaks
  • Results in slow shifting and gear slippage

Torque Converter Issues
The torque converter pressurizes the automatic transmission fluid.

  • A damaged or worn converter makes grinding sounds and affects proper operations.


  • Can be caused by low fluid levels or a heavy tow load
  • Overheating can make the transmission seize and often requires a Total Replacement

Driving Style

  • Improper shifting, aggressive driving, and general abuse cause transmissions to fail
  • This may be obvious. But, never ever shift a car into reverse while it is moving forward!

Solenoid Problems
The solenoid controls transmission fluid flow

• Solenoid issues may be mistaken for low or leaking fluid

Clutch Issues

  • Symptoms include harsh shaking and high heat levels
  •  Significant drop in power output is a good indication of clutch problems

Vehicle History

  • Especially important if you drive a used car
  • Have a transmission specialist inspect the entire system

Worn Gears

  • Gears can wear out over time
  • Perform regular maintenance to ensure gears stay in good working order

Faulty Wiring

  • Transmissions operate on a series of linkage connections
  • Any break in the system can lead to a total transmission failure

Repair Costs

Average Cost of Major Repairs

These are general estimates. They are show here to give you an idea of costs. Your actual cost may vary due to your specific situation.

  • Clutch Replacement  – $1,100 – $1,600
  • Major engine work – $5,000
  • Tire replacement (all 4)-  $388-$1,000
  • Major brake repairs – $350-$1,000
  • Average cost to replace an automatic  transmission: $3,000
The Typical Fees You Can Expect For Parts Rebuilt, Repaired, and Replaced

 A transmission replacement can be one of the most expensive jobs performed on a vehicle. Ranging anywhere from $1,800 to approximately $3,500. A rebuilt transmission can cost just as much as a transmission replacement, depending upon the extent of the damage.  The upper end of the range is usually for a replacement of a vehicle’s transmission or a complete rebuild. Basic repair jobs are on the lower end of the scale, ranging anywhere between $1,000 to $2,000. For example, repairing a manual transmission often only requires a new clutch, a $1,000 – $1,500 job.

What will it cost to have a Transmission Rebuild?

The precise amount can only be determined after dismantling of the transmission to establish what needs to be done. For example, hard parts can be either broken or worn out. Soft parts are 100% replaced with a FULL rebuild.

Broken or damaged hard parts need to be changed for the transmission to be on par with the OEM specifications. Call us and we will gladly and professionally fix your transmission and have you back on the road again in no time at all. We will provide you a solid repair quote that you can count on.

Differences: Used - Repair - Rebuild

Used Transmission

A used transmission refers to transmission that has been in a car for a particular number of miles. The transmission has been dismounted from the car and is either being sold online or is now featured in a junkyard.

With a “used transmission”, parts of it, or the transmission as a whole, are sold off as older second-hand transmissions as spares. Online stores and junk yards store used transmissions from discontinued models. Sometimes referred to as a salvaged transmission.

Such transmissions carry a 30 day warranty, at most, and in some instances they are not under any warranty at all. In most instances, used transmissions are found to have weak internal parts which may lead to a variety of transmission problems.

Rebuilt Transmission

In the case of a “FULL rebuilt transmission”, this is often interchangeable with “swapped”, “exchanged”,” overhauled”, “ reconditioned”, or  “re-manufactured”  transmission. The entire transmission is usually removed and disassembled.

This process leads to the replacement of all soft parts such as:  gaskets, filters, seals, O-rings, bands, and clutches. This repair has all the internal parts meticulously cleaned and examined. Under this repair procedure, the valve body is dismantled and thoroughly cleaned and examined as well.

This process leads to the replacement of faulty parts to a good standard or replaced with either new, rebuilt or unimpaired parts. The assessment and adjustment of such parts have been performed to comply with the OEM specifications.  Every FULL rebuilt transmission comes with a longer guarantee.  This can be anywhere from 20,000 to 30,000 mile limited warranty.

Transmission Repairs

A transmission repair is fixing the problem at hand. This is usually the most inexpensive way to go as it does not require removal or disassembling of the entire transmission system. Only the parts causing trouble are removed and replaced.

Transmission repairs do not include disassembling, cleaning and inspection of the valve body or pressure testing the torque converter, as commonly seen in a FULL rebuilt transmission.  A transmission repair carries a shorter warranty up to 12,000 miles or a full year, at the discretion of the shops that carry out such repairs.

The essence of a transmission repair is to fix the current problem. However, the transmission may still have weak internal parts which could lead to yet another transmission problem in due time. 

To Sum It Up

A used/repaired transmission may be way cheaper than a FULL rebuild. However, the former will not eliminate the problem in the long-term. There is always an element of risk when purchasing a used transmission or having the transmission repaired.

A used transmission will work for a while after the installation. However, it may contain interior damage to some of the gear, seals, valves, or may carry manufacturer defects. It may be initially cheaper to buy a used transmission, which is likely to come with damage or flaws. However you will likely end up having to spend much more at a later time, when you will realize that you’ll need to opt for a FULL rebuilt.

Transmission Servicing

Transmission Flush Vs Changing Transmission Fluid

Transmission Flush (More thorough, more involved)

  • Checking entire transmission, minor adjustments, test drive, changing filter and gasket, removing pan, drain old fluid, refill with new fluid.

Transmission Fluid Change (Very simple)

  • Removing old fluid and replacing with new fluid.
What Does Servicing a Transmission Mean, Exactly?
  • Checking your battery and terminals
  • Checking other electrical connections
  • Checking and potentially replacing your fluids
  • Checking and potentially replacing filters
  • Checking seals and gaskets for leaks or other problems
  • Checking and cleaning or even replacing the magnet in your transmission which may indicate other problems
  • Checking the clutch in manual vehicles
  • Checking the drive train and differentials
How Often Should I Service an Automatic Transmission?
  • Generally, it is recommended to service your automatic transmission once every 15 months or once every 20,000 miles. Sooner if you tow anything.
  • You should flush the transmission fluid once every 30,000 to 50,000 miles.

Transmission Fluids

Transmission Fluids – What To Look For

Clean – no change necessary.

  • Translucent, reddish-brown, little odor

Used – Change Soon

  • Beige/light orange, slight burnt color

Burnt – Change Immediately

  • Black or dark brown, viscous, strong burnt odor

Metal Shavings – Check Immediately

  • Possible internal damage

OEM - Soft and Hard Parts

OEM Parts

This stands for Original Equipment from Manufacturer. What this means is that the replacement part is made by the same manufacturer as the original part that needs to be replaced. An OEM part is perfectly engineered to work with your car or truck’s transmission. Generally speaking, this is what you want.

The other grade of parts is called aftermarket parts. An aftermarket part is any part that is not sourced from your vehicle’s manufacturer. This doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a substandard part. Many aftermarket parts are high performance parts that are better than the original. These parts are used when a car is being souped-up—such as a hot-rod. When this is the case, the aftermarket part is almost always more expensive than the original part.

The problem with aftermarket parts that comes into play is that when a repair uses aftermarket parts that are cheaper the original parts to save money. This is a situation where you get what you pay for. Cheap aftermarket parts are usually low-grade and poor quality. And you can expect below average performance from them. They can also shorten the life of your new transmission. Don’t let this happen to you. Always make to ask about OEM parts.

You always want to make sure that you know if the repair shop will be order OEM parts for your transmission.

What is meant by “Soft Parts”?

Soft parts are OEM new soft parts. These soft parts include filter kits, gasket and seals, pan gaskets, needle bearings, metal clad seals, thrust washers, bushings, ring kits, seal rings and O rings. Clutches can vary from the manufacturing make and year. Over time, such parts become worn out or damaged.

What is meant by “Hard Parts”?

Hard parts are the toughest and most durable components. For example, these are parts that have become damaged or broken and need to be replaced in order for the transmission to function within OEM standards. Such “Hard Parts” include the following: the rear sun, rear planet gear, clutch drums, gears, pump assembly, clutch hub, pump rotor, etc.

Depending upon the type of vehicle, such parts cost anywhere from $25 up to $300. The hard parts are more durable. Hence they have a longer life, than do the soft parts.

Technical Service Bulletin

What is a Technical Service Bulletin (TSB) ?

You may have heard of parts on cars being recalled. The truth is, cars and trucks are manufactured with substandard parts all the time. It’s mostly bad engineering. Auto manufacturers cannot afford to make sure the cars are perfect before they manufacture them. They find defects all the time. If these defects cause people to get injured or die the part is recalled. But if there is only a problem with the part and nobody gets hurt or dies it goes on what is called a Technical Service Bulletin. Any reputable repair shop knows about this list of parts.

 As you can imagine, any repair shop that only does the bare minimum, will not tell you that list exists and that you have parts in your transmission that need to be updated.

At Transmissions Repair Pros San Jose we check the list for your vehicles model and year and see if there are any parts that are on that Technical Service Bulletin list—and replace them. By upgrading these parts your transmission will perform almost better than when it was new. A transmission that is operating at peak performance will make you vehicle run better for longer and even improves your gas mileage.