If your transmission is giving out on you it’s time to get that transmission repair done. Costs depend largely upon what kind of transmission is being repaired, as well as the severity of damage.
If your manual transmission needs a new clutch, you can reasonably expect to pay around $800 to $1,500. On the other hand, if you have a CVT transmission expect to pay $3,000 to $5,000 for a repair. Rebuilding a CVT transmission can set you back as much as $8,000.
As you can imagine, transmission repair can be expensive. It’s important to know what you’re getting yourself into.
This guide is here to help you understand how your car’s trans works, and what goes wrong when they fail. Then we’ll get into what you can expect to pay when it comes time to repair or replace that transmission.
Let’s dive a little deeper into transmission repair and costs.
- What Does a Car Transmission Do?
- Types of Car Transmissions
- Manual Transmission
- Automatic Transmission
- Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT)
- Semi-Automatic Transmission
- Dual-Clutch Transmission (DCT)
- What Causes A Transmission To Fail?
- Symptoms of a Faulty Transmission
- Difficulty Switching Gears
- Burning Smell
- Weird Noises
- Slipping Gears
- Leaking Fluid
- Check Engine Light
- Grinding or Shaking
- Should I Have my Transmission Rebuilt or Replaced?
- How Much Does Transmission Replacement Cost?
- Transmission Repair and Costs
What Does a Car Transmission Do?
So you know that your car has a transmission, but what does that actually mean? What does it do for your car?
It’s responsible for transferring power from the engine to the wheels. You can think of your car’s transmission as a very sophisticated gear shifter. Simple enough, right?
It makes sure that the right amount power from the engine goes to each wheel at any given time. It does this by selecting which gear will do this job best for you.
When you stomp on the brake, the trans disconnects power from the wheels so the engine can continue idling. When you take your foot off the brake and back onto the gas pedal, the trans reengages the wheels.
As you can see it’s a pretty important piece of machinery. Now that we understand how they work, let’s get into the types of transmissions in today’s modern cars.
Types of Car Transmissions
In the early days of automobiles, there were only two types of transmissions: manual and automatic. Manual trans allowed drivers to control the gears themselves. While automatic trans did all the shifting for you.
These days, there are even more transmission types to choose from. The type has a big impact on how much your car repair will cost.
Let’s take a look at the four different transmission options available.
The trusty manual transmission is the simplest and oldest type still in use. It uses a clutch that can be controlled by your foot. The clutch then transfers energy from the engine to the input shaft. This is where gears engage with the gear selector fork.
The anatomy of a manual trans is as simple as it gets. It’s also why its the cheapest of all transmission types to maintain and repair.
The automatic is by far the most common type of car transmission on the road today. It uses an intricate series of gears and a torque converter to transmit the engine’s rotational energy to the wheels.
The advantage to this type of trans is that it automatically changes gears when you need them, without any input from the driver. It automatically adjusts the torque distribution in order to create a smooth acceleration when you step on the gas pedal.
This is why the automatic is in over 90% of cars on the road today!
Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT)
CVT transmissions are a lot different from manual or automatics because they don’t have any gears at all. Instead, this type of trans uses a pair of pulleys connected together by steel belts.
They are considered to be more efficient than traditional auto or manual gearboxes because they keep the engine in its optimum power range.
CVT’s are known to provide very smooth transitions from low to high, all while increasing efficiency and fuel mileage.
The semi-automatic transmission offers the control of a manual transmission but with the ease of an automatic. It’s a perfect match for those who enjoy driving and want to be in complete control of their car.
Think of a semi-automatic trans as a manual without the clutch pedal. Using steering wheel mounted paddle shifters the car’s CPU operates the trans clutch when the driver changes gears. Shift into low or high with just flick of the paddle shifters.
Dual-Clutch Transmission (DCT)
Dual-clutch transmissions are a new form of automated manual gearboxes. With two sets of gears and a separate clutch for each, they provide even greater control than traditional automatics. How they work is pretty clever.
Odd numbered gears are handled by one clutch, while even numbers go through another. A computer then automatically manages when these changes happen. So there’s no need for a clutch pedal at all. The best part–gear shifts are lightening quick.
DCT’s offer the convenience of an automatic but the efficiencies of a manual. They also yield higher fuel economy than conventional automatics.
With its elegant design and crisp shifts, it’s an easy to see why car enthusiasts love DCT’s.
What Causes A Transmission To Fail?
There are a variety of signs that your transmission may be failing. By recognizing theses tell-tale signs, you can take the necessary steps to prevent further damage that may lead to a expensive repair. If you let things go too long, you may need a full replacement.
Let’s take a look common causes for transmission failure.
Low Transmission Fluid
Transmission fluid keeps your car’s trans from grinding and clacking during operation. It’s responsible for lubricating mechanical parts, maintaining steady temps, and helping gear shifts.
As you can see, transmission fluid is a very important part of your car. Not enough of it, and things will get noisy. You may experience gear slippage, or the overdrive light may flash.
The last thing you want to do is to drive your car when it’s low on trans fluid. This will cause damage to parts and possible failure of the transmission itself.
Most manufacturers will recommend changing your trans fluid every 30,000 to 60,000 miles for manual transmissions. Stretch that to 60,000 to 100,000 miles if you have an automatic, semi-automatic, CVT or DCT trans.
Costs for a transmission fluid change largely depends on the type of transmission you have. But expect to pay around $80-$250.
Transmission Fluid Leak
Transmission fluid is red, so if you see a puddle of it under your car then there’s no need to guess what it’s from. Adding more fluid to a leaky trans is just a short term fix. The majority of leaks are due to a worn seal.
Trans leaks typically cost $200 and up to fix. If the leak stems from the front seal, replacement will likely increase in price. However if the leak is from a cracked torque converter, then expect to pay $1,000 or more.
Don’t ignore these leaks as they will lead to damage costing thousands to repair. Get that transmission leak fixed!
A Clogged Transmission Filter
Your transmission has a filter that screens out harmful debris from normal operation. However after thousands of miles this filter may become clogged. When clogged, the filter can no longer filter our debris.
A clogged filter can even block the flow of fluid to all the moving pieces that make the trans work.
Replacing your transmission filter every time the fluid is changed will help keep the transmission healthy. Filters are typically sold as kits, which include the filter and even a new seal.
Expect to pay anywhere from $30 and up for a new filter.
Symptoms of a Faulty Transmission
Transmission problems often go unnoticed because they don’t always occur consistently. But if left unchecked long enough, it could cause major issues.
You may not know why you’re experiencing problems, but there are some telltale signs worth looking out for.
Here’s the most common symptoms of a faulty transmission.
Difficulty Switching Gears
When your car struggles to change gears there could be a problem with the trans fluid. The wrong type of fluid, or low fluid can cause this to happen.
If you notice burning smells coming from your car, call your mechanic. This isn’t normal, and these odors could indicate that either the fluid or transmission is overheating.
This is a red flag that the transmission needs attention as soon as possible.
If you hear strange noises coming from your car when driving, there’s something very wrong. It might just be a case of being low on fluid. But best to get the car looked at by a mechanic as soon as possible.
When your transmission is slipping, it will feel like you are driving over ice. The engine RPMs will increase during gear changes, but there’s no traction to the road.
Other symptoms of slipping gears may include a delay in acceleration, strange noises and harsh response when accelerating. If this is your car, get it to a mechanic as soon as possible.
Leaking transmission fluid is a big problem that over time can have serious consequences. If you notice an unpleasant sweet-smelling red liquid underneath your car, it’s time to have a mechanic take a look.
Don’t let this leak go on too long, as it may lead to permanent damage to the trans.
Check Engine Light
There are many different reasons why you might see a check engine light glowing on your dashboard. This could indicate anything from a bad gas cap or dirty air filter. Or it could be a bad transmission sensor. It’s best to have this checked out as soon as possible.
The light is on because there’s something wrong with your car. You can find out by visiting any local parts store or mechanic, and they’ll be able to tell you easily why that check engine light has been turned.
Grinding or Shaking
When your car starts shaking or making grinding noises, there’s a problem. These symptoms can be difficult to diagnose, but often happen while your car is running or in park or neutral.
Best to park the car and call your local mechanic or dealership.
Should I Have my Transmission Rebuilt or Replaced?
Let’s just get this out of the way. Your mechanic will be the only one able to recommend if you need a rebuild or replacement. It all depends on how serious the damage is. But here is what to expect.
When your transmission is rebuilt, the mechanic will only replace the parts that are worn to make it work like new again. If you have a trans that’s too far gone to repair, then a replacement may be right for your needs.
Cost to replace transmission can be very costly, but will in most cases come with a warranty.
How Much Does Transmission Replacement Cost?
If your transmission is too far gone then it’s time for a replacement. Cost to replace transmission varies depending on what type and where it’s done.
A shop may even offer you a nice discount if they replace your old unit with a remanufactured one.
Here’s on average what you can expect to pay
Replacing a manual transmission, then expect to pay between $1,800 and $5,000. If its an automatic or a semi-automatic replacement costs can range between $3,000 to $5,000.
Replacing a CVT transmission will significantly cost more. Expect to pay around $3,000 to $8,000 depending on make and model. If you have a a Dual-Clutch transmission, well then it gets even costlier. Expect to pay $4,000 or more for a DCT replacement.
Don’t forget to factor in the cost for labor. Labor costs can range between $500 to $1,200 or more.
Transmission Repair and Costs
No one wants to have to go through the cost and hassle of a transmission repair. But it’s important to remember that prevention is key.
Regular maintenance will help keep your transmission happy and healthy for many miles. If you’re experiencing any type on issue with your transmission, then it’s best to consult a professional as soon as possible!
Have you had a transmission repaired or replaced recently? How much did you pay? Let us know in the comments below!
Last Updated on January 19, 2023
Loves anything with a motor and wheels.
Christopher is an internet technology expert and mechanical engineer. When he’s not at the local autocross event, he can often be found working on one of his cars. He loves nothing more than taking something apart and putting it back together again. Email me direct, or learn more about us