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Transmission Failed: Should You Rebuild or Replace?

Repairing a vehicle’s transmission can be one of the most expensive vehicle repairs that you can encounter as a car owner. With so many variables changing the price, what is the best option to get your transmission back up and running. Transmission replacement vs transmission rebuild, which one really is the best option. 

Let’s take a look into the differences between transmission rebuild or replacement and which one is best for you. 

Transmission Repair Options

If your transmission has failed from something like a loose transmission band. There are two different ways that you can get back on the road, transmission rebuild or transmission replacement. 

Which one you choose can depend on what year, make, model and condition of your vehicle. 

Replacing Your Transmission With A New Transmission

The most expensive option that comes to most peoples mind when thinking about this situation is replacing the transmission with a brand new unit. While this may seem like an excellent solution, it may not be as easy as you think.

New transmissions are hard to find

Finding a brand new transmission can be hard, and no it is not because of the supply chain issues. It has more to do with how manufacturers supply replacement transmissions. 

Many transmissions that you purchase brand new from dealers are referred to as “factory rebuilds or factory remanufactured” transmissions. There are many advantages to buying a factory reman transmission. 

The advantages can all be accounted for by where the transmission is rebuilt. Factory rebuilt transmissions are rebuilt by the experts who specialize in your vehicle’s type of transmission. The rebuilders spend their days repairing a small handful of different types of transmissions and become true experts in what they do. 

Factory reman transmissions are first disassembled and cleaned fully. Once they are clean enough to eat off, the rebuild expert then goes through the entire transmission. Measuring components, inspecting components, and compiling a list of what parts need to be replaced.

Any common wear parts are replaced and any suspected faulty internal parts of the transmission are replaced. If there are common upgrades that are available on updated versions of the transmission, they are installed to produce what could be considered better than new quality. 

Factory rebuilt transmissions generally carry a lengthy warranty, 3 years or more of warranty coverage is common. But just like anything you get what you pay for. 

A clean rebuild facility, top quality replacement parts, and factory trained rebuild technicians comes with a price. A factory rebuild is the most expensive replacement option but will ensure you have a transmission that provides you with many worry free miles. 

Rebuilding Your Existing Transmission

a old rusty used transmission in a truck.

The other option is to rebuild your existing transmission. This type of rebuild is generally completed at a specialized transmission rebuild shop. 

The process of having a transmission rebuilt is very similar to the factory rebuild. The technician will go through the same process of disassembling the transmission, cleaning, measuring, and noting anything that may need replacement. 

The process of a rebuild transmission depends on the quality of parts that the shop sources, the training of the technician, and the cleanliness of the rebuild area.

It is very important that you find a reputable shop to ensure that your transmission is rebuilt correctly. Having your transmission rebuilt is a much cheaper option than replacing the transmission. A rebuild could cost ½ or ⅔ of the cost of replacing a transmission making it a much more cost effective option. 

internal transmission components being used for a transmission rebuild

Parts availability

Just like other industries over the last few years, transmission parts have also been hard to find because of supply chain issues. Finding replacement parts can be difficult and sometimes even impossible. 

This leads rebuilders to do one of two things. First, you may find yourself waiting for the parts to come in. If you have had any bad experiences over the years you can imagine that this sometimes can take weeks if not months. 

The other option that they take is to install used parts that they have in the shop. This is not always bad, most shops thoroughly inspect the parts before installing to make sure they are going to work. Without non destructive testing, even the most thorough inspection can miss microscopic cracks that can lead to failures.

a manual transmission that is sitting on a crate

Find A Qualified Transmission Expert

Rebuilt transmissions have a bad history of failure. Some industry reports show that 33% of all rebuilt transmissions fail, those are not good odds.

If you are going to have your transmission rebuilt, it is very important that you find a reputable shop and more importantly a highly skilled rebuild technician. 

Finding someone on an online selling forum who will rebuild your transmission for $500 is not going to work. These rebuilds usually work just long enough for the person who rebuilt the transmission to disappear.

Your local mechanic is not going to be the place to get the repairs done either. Rebuilding a transmission is a very specialized repair job in the automotive industry. 

My suggestion would be to ask your local mechanic if they have anyone that they would personally suggest for such a repair. You have to remember, you may only have a transmission fail once or twice in your lifetime. A shop however, could experience a failure once a week and know how to handle the process. 

Family and friends are also another good source of shops that could handle your rebuild. 

Just don’t let your Aunt Mable talk you into letting Uncle Frank help you out for a case of beer. It will probably be your most expensive case of beer you will ever buy. 

Transmission Replacement vs Transmission Rebuild

There are many different reasons to choose replacement over rebuild. Generally price is one of the largest considerations. 

If you have a vehicle that is 10 model years old with over 100,000 miles a rebuild would be a perfect choice. 

However, if you have a vehicle that is just out of warranty coverage it may be worthwhile to invest in a factory rebuilt transmission. The extra warranty coverage alone is well worth the extra costs involved. 

My Recommendation

Like mentioned before, repairing a transmission can be one of the most expensive repairs that you will have when owning a vehicle. Taking your time to research whether transmission replacement vs transmission rebuild is right for you is very important. 

Create a chart and list the pros and cons of each transmission. This will help you make an educated decision on what method is best for you. 

There is nothing wrong with either method. But please make sure that you complete your homework when looking for a transmission rebuilder. There are many dishonest people that are looking to make a few quick dollars from unsuspecting customers. 

We love hearing from our readers. Please let us know if you have ever had a transmission replaced before. What did you do, rebuild or replace?

John Morris
John Morrishttps://autoknowit.com
John Morris is the technical editor for AutoKnowIt.com. His years of experience in automotive repair as well as an automotive professor have prepared him to ensure that even the most technical information is accurate and concise at all times.

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