Automatic Transmission and Transaxle Information
Resource and Help Center for Vehicle Owners

Whether you're looking to save money by doing your own transmission service and repair work or you simply want to educate yourself about your transmissions so that you are prepared to deal with a problem when something goes wrong, you'll find information and resources you need right here.

► Learn how to diagnose transmission and solenoid problems

► Fair cost for transmission repair and transmission rebuilds

► Fair cost for replacement remanufactured transmissions

► Learn how to service and repair your transmission

► Learn what your options are after a transmission failure

► Get a free estimate via e-mail for a replacement transmission

A Library of "Do-it-Yourself" Service and Repair Guides 

Don't know your transmission model yet? Scroll down to find your transmission model by vehicle

Need bigger text? Download the full cost guide PDF to zoom in

Fair Remanufactured Transmission Cost
By Transmission Model

This week we highlight a specific vehicle: The Lincoln Navigator 4R100 and 6R80 (2009+) transmission. Common problems and fair rebuild + remanufactured replacement cost.

Automatic Transmission Repair Cost
What is a fair price to pay for various transmission repairs? What kinds of repairs does a transmission need?

Transmission Rebuild Cost
Does your transmission need rebuilt? Fair price guide for the price range of a transmission rebuild.

Remanufactured Transmission Options and Cost
Considering a remanufactured transmission? Here are costs and options for how to purchase.

Get a Free Transmission Estimate by Email
Want an estimate for a remanufactured transmission? Fill out the form here to get an estimate via e-mail.

How to Replace a Transmission Torque Converter Clutch Solenoid
What is a transmission torque converter clutch solenoid and how to replace one if it goes bad.

How to Replace a Transmission Pressure Control Solenoid
What is a transmission pressure control solenoid and how to replace one if it goes bad.

How to Replace Transmission Solenoids
Guide to various automatic transmission solenoids, how they work, and DIY instructions.

How to Know Which Transmission Fluid to Use?
What fluid type do you need for your specific transmission? Use this guide to find out.

How to Remove and Install an Automatic Transmission - (RWD)
If you facing a transmission replacement, you can reduce the cost considerably by removing and re-installing the transmission yourself.  Here we provide step-by-step instructions for remove and replacing a transmission. 

How to Replace a Transmission Speed Sensor
For most vehicles, the speed sensor is plugged into the transmission (or transaxle).  When the speed sensor fails the speedometer stops working and shifts may become erratic.  Replacing a speed sensor is easy.

How to Locate and Fix an Automatic Transmission Fluid Leak
Vehicle owners become aware of a transmission fluid leak either when checking the fluid level and seeing that it is low or seeing a red colored fluid on their driveway or garage floor.

How to Release a Shifter Lever That is Stuck in Park
Nothing is more frustrating that getting into your car and the gear shifter lever being locked in Park.  Here we explain how to release the shifter, the causes, how to repair and the estimated cost.

How to Install an Automatic Transmission Oil Cooler
Installing an auxiliary transmission oil cooler can protect your transmission from overheating and failure. Excessive heat can ruin a perfectly good transmission very quickly. Coolers are inexpensive and easy to install.  

How to Change the Fluid and Filter in an Automatic Transmission
Keeping clean fresh fluid in your transmission is the number one thing you can do to protect the transmission from premature failure.  These DIY transmission fluid and filter change procedures are easy to follow.

How to Check the Condition of your Automatic Transmission Fluid
Learn how to check the condition of transmission fluid, what the different conditions mean and what, if anything, you need to do to keep your transmission running smooth.

How to Check Your Automatic Transmission Fluid Level
Learn the correct procedure for checking transmission fluid level.  Many people do it wrong, so here is the easy way.

How to Replace a Transmission Neutral Safety Switch
The neutral safety switch is a safety feature that prevents the engine from starting when the transmission or transaxle is in gear.  When the switch fails, the engine may not crank or it may start in gear.

How to Flush Your Automatic Transmission
A transmission fluid flush can be performed without a transmission flush machine - and it's safer for high mileage vehicles.

What Transmission Do I Have?
A guide to determining which transmission model you have based on the year, make, model and engine size.

What is Limp Mode?
When a transmission fault is detected by the OBD-II system, the transmission may go into fail-safe (or "limp" mode as it is also called) in order to protect the transmission from internal damage

Common Transmission Problems and Solutions
Most vehicle problems, including automatic transmission problems, reveal themselves in one way or another. Learning to recognize these warning signs can save you a great deal of money and vehicle down time.

Transmission Diagnostic Trouble Codes
Diagnostic Trouble Codes P0700 through P0799 are transmission related OBD-II codes.  Any code within this range point to a transmission related fault..

How to Inspect and Repair CV Axles and CV Joints
CV (constant-velocity) axles, (also known as half-shafts), are used in front-wheel drive vehicles to transfer the engine’s power from the transaxle to the two drive wheels.

Transmission Models and Industry Terms
Being knowledgeable about transmissions begins with having a good understanding of the different 4, 5 and 6 speed transmissions being remanufactured and repaired today and having a good understanding of the different components and the names and terms used to describe them.

Auto Repair Safety
When working on or around any vehicle injuries can and do occur.  Please read these Safety Precautions before starting your next automotive service/repair project.

Automatic Transmission
History and Evolution Time Line

1937: General Motors introduced the first semi-automatic transmission, which they called and promoted as the “Automatic Safety Transmission” or AST for short.  The AST had four forward speeds and used a planetary gear set and a friction clutch.  Cadillac and Oldsmobile used the AST is some models from 1937 through 1939 and Buick offered it in the 1938 Buick Special for a limited time.  In short, the Automatic Safety Transmission was pretty much labeled a failure from the very beginning.  Besides being unreliable, the AST was a $80 option but cost Oldsmobile $140 per unit to manufacturer.  Vehicle buyers at the time were also unreceptive to the AST, which made the decision to discontinue the transmission after just 2 short years quite easy.

THEN (1940)


NOW (2017)

8-10 Speed
Fully Electronic

1940: Although unsuccessful as the Automatic Safety Transmission, a newly designed version of the AST by General Motors called the Hydra-Matic would become legendary.  This fully automatic transmission (the first transmission requiring no clutch pedal) debuted as a $57 option in the 1940 Oldsmobile.  The Hydra-Matic was the world's first mass-produced and commercially used fully automatic transmission.

Just as Oldsmobile’s advertising had overstated the capabilities and reliability of the Automatic Safety Transmission, advertisements promoting the new Hydra-Matic transmission were equally as bold.  One advertisement claimed that the Hydra-Matic transmission represented the most significant technological advancement since the electric starter.  Another advertisement claimed that the Hydra-Matic transmission increased fuel economy by 10 – 15% over a standard transmission.  But, this time it was all true.  The Hydra-Matic fully automatic transmission was truly groundbreaking - it established the foundation from which future automatic transmissions would be designed and built.

1941: Being the first true automatic transmission (no clutch pedal) consumers ordered the $57 Hydra-Matic transmission option in impressive numbers.  By 1941, roughly 40% of all Oldsmobile passenger cars and 30% of all Cadillac passenger cars sold in the U.S. were ordered with Hydra-Matic transmissions.

1942: In 1942, when automobile manufacturing plants stopped manufacturing vehicles to build war machinery, more than 200,000 Hydra-Matic automatic transmissions had been sold.

Did You Know? The Hydra-Matic transmission did not have Park.  Instead, a parking pawl engaged when the transmission was shifted into Reverse and the engine was shut off, which kept the vehicle from rolling when it was parked.

War Time: With automobile manufacturing plants building tanks instead of cars, use of the Hydra-Matic transmission in military applications (primarily tanks), without any major changes to the transmission solidified the Hydra-Matic as being one of the most significant and important developments in automotive history.

Post War: During the post war boom, the demand for vehicles with automatic transmissions continued to grow despite the increased cost.  By late 1948, 86% of new Oldsmobile passenger vehicles sold were equipped with the optional (and more expensive) Hydra-Matic transmission.  During this same year, sales of Hydra-Matic equipped Cadillac passenger vehicles had reached 95%.  For Cadillac, the Hydra-Matic was a $175 option.  By this time, the Pontiac division of General Motors offered the Hydra-Matic tranny as a $150 option, which three out of four buyers chose.

Even the loudest critics of the automatic transmission could not ignore the facts; the commercial success of the Hydra-Matic automatic transmission in passenger vehicles mandated that all car manufacturers offer an automatic transmission as an option to the standard "manual" transmission or risk going out of business.

With the introduction of new automatic transmissions in the late 40s and early 50s, the automatic transmission wars between the big automakers was underway.

1948, 1949 and 1950: In 1948, the first fully automatic transmission using a torque converter was introduced by Buick.  Buick called their transmission the "Dynaflow".  Packard and Chevrolet promptly followed Buick with their own transmission designs, both of which incorporated the use of a torque converter.  Packard introduced the Ultramatic fully automatic transmission in 1949 and Chevrolet introduced the Powerglide fully automatic transmission in 1950.  While these transmissions had only two forward speeds, the use of a torque converter enabled additional torque multipliers, effectively increasing the forward gear ratios and forward speeds.

Early 1950s:
The first three-speed automatic transmissions using torque converters were developed by Borg Warner in the early 1950s for a number of automakers including Ford and Studebaker. In 1953, Chrysler introduced the two-speed torque converter driven PowerFlite automatic transmission. Other vehicle manufacturers, including Rolls Royce, Hudson, Bentley and even Lincoln (a Ford Motor Company division) purchased Hydra-Matic transmissions from General Motors to fill their needs.

Late 1950s: Through the late 1950s, General Motors produced multiple-turbine torque converter transmissions. The Dynaflow and Turboglide are two examples of these multiple-turbine torque converter transmissions. In these transmissions, shifting took place in the torque converter instead of using pressure valves to change planetary gear connections.  With these multiple-turbine torque converter transmissions, each turbine was connected to the drive shaft through a different gear train.  Rather than gear shifts, the different gear ratios were phased in according to speed allowing for very smooth transitions from one gear ratio to the next.

1960s: By the end of the 1960s, the  two-speed and four-speed fluid coupling design automatic transmissions had been replaced with three-speed transmissions all using torque converters.  The use of whale oil in automatic transmission fluid was discontinued at around this time.

Torque converters are still used in modern-day transmissions.  The images to the right are examples of today's torque converters.

Late 1970s and Early 1980s: In the late 1970s, three-speed automatic transmissions were quickly being replaced by automatic transmissions with overdrive, which provided four or more forward gears.  By the early 1980s, most every automaker offered automatic transmissions with overdrive.  Transmissions with overdrive are more efficient and provide improved fuel economy over three-speed transmissions.  Another improvement in efficiency and fuel economy came with the introduction of the lock-up torque converter at about this same time.  As the name implies, the lock-up torque converter locks the torque converter pump to the turbine of the torque converter once the vehicle reaches cruising speed.  By locking these two components together at cruising speed, slip is eliminated enabling the full power of the engine to be passed through the transmission to the drive wheels.

1980s to 2000's: The most significant changes (improvements) in automatic transmission design since the 1980s to date are the number of forward gears transmissions now have and the switch from mechanically controlled to electronically controlled transmission operations. 
Common transmission models of this era were the TH350, TH400, 700R4, 2004R, E4OD, A500 and A518.

The four-speed automatic transmissions of the 1980s are still available today but are slowly being phased out by the next generation of automatic gearboxes that have five forward gears, such as the 5R55S, 545RFE, 5R110W and W5A580 and six forward gears, such as the 6L80, 6L90,  6T75E, 6T40, 6T70, 6R60, 6R80, 6F50, 6R140, 68RFE, 65RFE and 62TE.

2003: Mercedes Benz introduced the 7G-Tronic (seven speed) automatic gearbox.  Four years later, in 2007, Toyota unveiled the first 8-speed automatic gearbox which they offered exclusively on their high end Lexus brand, the Lexus LS 460.

2005-Present: In the mid to late 2000s, the first seven and eight speed automatic transmissions were offered on certain high-end vehicles.

Newer, electronically controlled automatic transmissions rely on data received from various electronic sensors and use an electronic control unit (either a dedicated Transmission Control Module (TCM) or the vehicle’s Engine Control Module (ECM) to operate solenoids in the valve body to shift gears.  This process enables timelier, faster and more precise shifts than the shifts produced in a mechanically controlled automatic transmission, which relies on a cable or vacuum operated modulator to determine and effect shift timing and gear shifts.  The time it takes for a mechanically controlled transmission to shift gears is also slower, which causes slipping and increases heat in the transmission.  Slower shifts also increase fuel consumption.

Why Electronic? In addition to the above benefits and advantages, electronically controlled transmissions are also more reliable than mechanically controlled units. The electronically controlled automatic transmission’s ability to gather and process large amounts of information every few milliseconds combined with advanced control strategies based on fuzzy logic (a method of programming control systems using human-type reasoning) gives it nearly limitless capabilities.  Some of these transmissions are already capable of learning and adjusting the way they shift based on travel conditions.  For example, when driving through a mountainous terrain, some electronically controlled automatic transmissions will learn to automatically downshift when going downhill in order to control speed, which adds a measure of safety and reduces wear on the braking system.  Another example occurs when driving through turns where the transmission learns to stay in the present gear through turns rather than continuously upshifting and downshifting every time the car slows down when entering a turn and speeds up after exiting the turn.

Mechanically controlled automatic transmissions have reached their limit in terms of future improvements while electronically (or computer) controlled automatic gearboxes have only touched the surface of the possibilities.





Today's Most Common Transmission Models

How Automatic Transmissions
and Transaxles Work

Collectively over the years, we've explained how automatic transmissions work hundreds of times to individuals and audiences having varying degrees of interest in transmissions.

This knowledge article explains automatic transmission and drivetrain basics for RWD (rear wheel drive) and FWD (front wheel drive) vehicles.

Automatic Transmission and Drivetrain Basics

The primary job of an automatic transmission and a manual transmission is the same, which is to transmit the engine's power to the road surface in one of the transmission's various gear ratios.  A manual transmission uses different sized gears that slide along shafts and mesh with one another to produce each of the transmission's available gear ratios, whereas an automatic transmission uses the same set of internal gears to achieveplanetary gear set all its gear ratios.  This is accomplished through a complex and ingenious innovation called a planetary gear set.  The planetary gear set is the heart of an automatic transmission.

But, before we get into the internal components of an automatic transmission and how they work, it helps to have a good understanding and a visual picture of how the transmission transmits the engine's power to the drive wheels.  This is achieved through the vehicle's driveline (or drivetrain).

The two most common drivetrain configurations found in passenger vehicles are Rear Wheel Drive (RWD) and Front Wheel Drive (FWD).  The two other drivetrain configurations, Four Wheel Drive (4WD) and All Wheel Drive (AWD), are not covered in this write-up.

Rear Wheel Drive (RWD)

Referring to the image below, you can see that in a rear wheel drive vehicle the transmission is located immediately behind and in-line with the engine, which also sits in-line with the vehicle.  This is called a longitudinally powertrain layout.

Front Wheel Drive (FWD) Vehicle

The majority of passenger cars on the roadway today are FWD.  In a front wheel drive vehicle, the transmission is commonly referred to as a transaxle because the transmission and drive axles (called CV axles) effectively function as a single unit.  In this configuration, as shown in the illustration below, the engine and transaxle are mounted transversely (sideways) directly above the front wheels, which are the drive wheels.

Like the RWD layout, the torque converter is positioned at the rear of the engine between the engine and transmission.  Also like a RWD vehicle, the engine's power is transmitted to the transmission/transaxle through the torque converter.  But, here is where the RWD and FWD drivetrains differ.  Instead of using a driveshaft, rear differential and axles located at the rear of the vehicle to deliver the engine's power to the drive wheels, a FWD vehicle transfers the engine's power directly from the transaxle to the drive wheels using CV axles (also called half shafts).  Working together as a single unit, the CV axles and transmission become a transaxle.  A front wheel drive powertrain is more efficient in transmitting power to the drive wheels, meaning more of the engine's power actually reaches the ground.

Except the way in which the engine's power is transmitted to the drive wheels and their physical and visual differences, the internal workings of an automatic transmission and a transaxle are basically the same.

In this configuration, the engine's power is transferred to the transmission using a torque converter.  A torque converter is to an automatic transmission as a clutch is to a standard (or manual) transmission.  (More about how a torque converter works later).

Inside the transmission, different configurations within the planetary gear set determines the gear ratio in which the engine's power is transmitted through the driveline and ultimately to the drive wheels and then to the ground.  At take-off, the gear ratio is configured to the transmission's lowest gear.  As the vehicle picks up speed, the gear configuration automatically changes to produce higher gear ratios enabling the vehicle to travel faster while keeping engine RPMs (revolutions per minute) relatively low.  The higher the gear ratio the less the engine has to work to achieve higher speeds.  The result is a more efficient vehicle in terms of engine wear and fuel consumption.

The Powertrain components in a rear wheel drive vehicle include the engine,  transmission, driveshaft, differential and wheel axles.

An engine's rated horsepower (measured at the flywheel) is not the horsepower that reaches the ground.  In a RWD vehicle about 15 to 20% of the horsepower is lost through the drivetrain.  The horsepower loss is slightly less in a FWD sits in-line with the vehicle.  This is called a longitudinally powertrain layout.

Scroll down for...

► Frequently Asked Questions

► 8 Tips for a Trouble Free Transmission

► How Automatic Transmissions and Transaxles Work

► Automatic Transmission History - 1938 to Present

► Today's Common Transmission Models

About MyAutomaticTransmission

My Automatic Transmission is a transmission and driveline information and resource portal for vehicle owners.  Whether you are looking for information on a particular problem - need to know the average cost for a transmission rebuild or you want to learn how to service and repair the transmission yourself and save money, you'll find it here at My Automatic Transmission.

45 Years of Combined Knowledge and Experience

With more than 45 years of combined general automotive and transmission education and experience, the people at My Automatic Transmission have the knowledge and expertise needed to educate and assist vehicle owners in all areas of transmission and driveline matters.  

MyAutomaticTransmission - Mission

The main objective of My Automatic Transmission is to help and education vehicle owners so that they can effectively deal with any and all transmission and driveline matters.  We will accomplish by publishing meaningful "plain language" knowledge articles and how-to guides directed at vehicle owners.  We are confident that our shared knowledge will save you money and reduce the anxiety and frustration that is normally associated with vehicle service and repair matters.

No prior automotive knowledge or mechanic experience is needed to understand and use the content we publish.  Feel free to share our transmission knowledge articles and free how-to-service and repair guides with family and friends.

 Vehicle owners ask transmission and driveline questions everyday - these are their questions along with the answers.

Q: The question that is often asked about aftermarket warranties is whether they cover the transmission, and if so, is the coverage sufficient to pay the cost of having the transmission replaced or rebuilt, if needed.

The answer is; "some do and some don't" - it all depends on the type of coverage you purchase.

Types of Aftermarket (or Extended) Auto Warranties

There are three main categories of aftermarket auto warranties, Bumper to Bumper, Powertrain and Stated Component.

Bumper-to-Bumper Auto Warranty
A bumper-to-bumper warranty does not actually cover everything from the front bumper to the rear bumper - nor does it cover the bumpers.  However, a bumper to bumper auto warranty is the highest level of auto warranty coverage you can purchase after the manufacturer's warranty expires.  Typically, bumper to bumper coverage is only available for newer vehicles with 50,000 or fewer miles.

You might also hear a bumper to bumper warranty being referred to as an  exclusionary warranty.  This is because the warranty covers more of the vehicle than could be realistically listed in the agreement, thus it is easier and less confusing to list the parts that are excluded (not covered) under the warranty than to list everything that is covered.  Bumper to bumper extended auto warranties are typically the most costly simply because they provide the widest coverage.

Powertrain Auto Warranty
A Powertrain aftermarket auto warranty covers exactly what it says; the vehicle's powertrain.  In a rear wheel drive vehicle, the powertrain includes the engine, transmission, drive shaft, rear differential and wheel axles.  In a front wheel drive vehicle, the powertrain includes the engine, transaxle and drive axles, or half-shafts.

Basically, a powertrain warranty covers the parts of the vehicle that are the most costly to repair when something goes wrong.  Depending on the vehicle year and make, the cost to replace a blown engine or a failed transmission can easily reach in the thousands of dollars.

Owners of mid to high mileage vehicles typically opt for a powertrain warranty over the other options.  These warranties are more reasonable in terms of cost because of their limited coverage.  But, for the vehicle owner, the coverage is for the most crucial and costly parts of the vehicle - so it can be a good fit under the right circumstances.

Stated Component Auto Warranty
A stated component auto warranty covers only the parts of the vehicle that is listed (or included) in the coverage agreement.  Also called an �inclusionary� warranty, these policies typically cover most of the major parts of the vehicle as well as many of the smaller components.  The nice thing about a stated component warranty is that there is no gray area of coverage; if a part of the vehicle is not specifically stated as being covered in the contract - it�s not covered.

Owners of vehicles with between 50,000 and 100,000 miles typically choose a stated component warranty because it is more similar to a bumper-to-bumper warranty in terms of coverage.

Tips on buying an aftermarket warranty for your vehicle(s)

Determine the value of your vehicle.  When considering an extended warranty for your vehicle, do some research to determine the resale value of the vehicle.  In most instances, it does not make sense to buy an extended warranty  if the cost for coverage is near to, or greater than, the value of the vehicle.

Determine Your Desired Level of coverage.  Take a few minutes to think about what you want to accomplish with an aftermarket warranty.  In other words, try to determine the level of coverage that would be the most beneficial to you and your situation.   A review of your vehicle's repair history might give you some indication as to what to expect down the road.  Also, consider your financial situation - maybe you feel comfortable paying for the small repairs out of your pocket and getting coverage only on the big ticket repairs such as the engine and driveline components.

Comparison Shop.  Once you know the value of your car, pick-up, van or SUV and you have a good idea of the level of coverage you feel most comfortable with then it's time to do some comparison shopping.  You'll want to visit several provider's Websites to compare the different offerings, pricing, etc.

Read the contract.  The only way to know whether the plan you have chosen will provide the coverage you want is by reading the contract.  We recognize that most contracts are lengthy and not written in easy to understand language but it is crucial that you read it.  So, be sure to read the agreement from beginning to end.

Extended Warranty FAQs

Q: How much do extended warranties cost?
A: The main components that determine the cost of an extended warranty is the year, make, model and mileage of the vehicle being covered and the level of coverage (or warranty plan) you choose.  You should obtain quotes from several providers before making your final decision.

When obtaining quotes from different extended warranty providers, be sure you are comparing apples and apples.  In other words, for the price comparison to be of any value, the warranty plans must have the same coverage and deductible.

Q: What's covered?
A: Coverage depends of the warranty plan you choose, which can range from a bumper to bumper plan or a more specific plan like the engine and drivetrain only.  You will need to decide what is important to you and then consider the pricing for the different levels of coverage before making a decision.

Q: Is there a deductible?
A: Yes, a typical deductible amount is $50 but higher deductibles are normally available.  Choosing a higher deductible, a $100 deductible for example, will be considerably less costly than the same warranty coverage with a $50 deductible.

Q: How does cancellation of an extended warranty work?
A: Normally an extended warranty plan can be cancelled within 30 days for a full refund.  Plans can be cancelled after 30-days for a pro-rated refund for the unused portion of the plan.

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8 Tips For a Long Lasting and
Trouble-free Transmission

Automatic Transmission
Frequently Asked Questions

 Vehicle owners ask transmission and driveline questions everyday - these are their questions along with the answers.

Q: How much will it cost to have my automatic transmission rebuilt?
The cost to have an automatic transmission rebuilt can range anywhere from $1300 to well over $3000. Find a local reputable transmission shop or visit our DIY Center and learn how to do some of the work yourself.

Q: What are the primary factors that determine the cost of an automatic transmission rebuild or replacement?

1. The year, make and model of the vehicle. Both parts and labor can vary significantly from one vehicle to another.

2. The extent of the damage to the transmission. If any hard parts have been damaged or show excessive wear they must be replaced. The cost of these parts are in addition to the standard rebuild price.

3. Who does the work. The cost for an automatic transmission rebuild can differ from one shop or dealership to the next. The cost can also be significantly different if you have an independent mechanic do the work or if you do some of the work yourself. See our DIY Center for more information on "doing-it-yourself".

4. Where you live. Automotive repair costs are typically higher in areas where labor rates are high and the cost of living is high. In other words, you'll pay less to have your transmission rebuilt in Dunlap, Tennessee than in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles or any other major city.

5. The cost of the remanufactured transmission. Each model remanufactured transmission has a different cost based on the parts and labor to remanufacture it. A cost guide can be found at the bottom of this page.

5. Who installs the remanufactured transmission. Depending on whether you choose an independant auto repair shop, a franchised auto repair or transmission shop, or a dealership, will affect the cost of the installation. If you purchase the transmission through a repair shop, expect to pay a percentage markup on the part.

Q: What does an automatic transmission service consist of?
An automatic transmission service typically involves draining the fluid from the pan, removing the pan, installing a new filter and pan gasket and then refilling with fresh automatic transmission fluid (ATF).  Note: This is not a transmission flush as only a portion of the transmission fluid is replaced.

Q: What is the difference between a transmission fluid and filter change and a flush?
With a transmission fluid and filter change only the fluid that is in the pan is drained and replaced with fresh fluid (approximately 4 to 5 quarts). With a complete flush, all the fluid is drained and/or flushed from the transmission, torque converter and cooler lines and replaced with fresh fluid (approximately 9 to 13 quarts). Visit our DIY Center to learn how to do a filter and fluid change or a transmission flush yourself to save money.

CAUTION: A transmission flush is not recommended for vehicles with high mileage in which the transmission has not been regularly serviced. If you are unsure as to whether the transmission has been regularly serviced - a fluid and filter change is typically recommended over a fluid flush.  

Q: My transmission failed - is it better to have it rebuilt or purchase a used or remanufactured transmission?
The short answer to this question is that it depends on the cost of that particular remanufactured transmission. There are cases where a rebuild costs less than purchasing a remanufactured transmission. However, there are instances when the opposite is true. This is usually the case when the transmission to be rebuilt has suffered extensive internal damage resulting in higher parts and labor costs than what a normal rebuild would cost. In such instances, the rebuild cost can exceed the cost for a remanufactured transmission. For older vehicles with a value of less than $2,000, a used transmission might be the best option.

Q: What ATF (Automatic Transmission Fluid) should I use in my vehicle?
First, if your vehicle is still under the manufacturer's warranty, you must use the ATF that is described in your Owner's Manual in order to keep the warranty intact.  This is true even though there are typically other fluid options available.   For older vehicles and vehicles that are no longer covered by a warranty, you can follow the strict recommendations of the vehicle manufacturer or when doing so is either cost prohibitive or inconvenient, you can consider one of the aftermarket fluids of the same type. See our Fluid Guide to learn more about automatic transmission fluids and which aftermarket fluid can be substituted for the manufacturer's brand.

Q: Do aftermarket extended auto warranties adequately cover the automatic transmission and powertrain?
Extended warranties typically cover the vehicle's powertrain, which the transmission is one of the powertrain's major components.  Many extended warranty companies specifically offer a Powertrain Warranty, which covers the engine, transmission and the other components of the powertrain.  However, the only way to be certain is to read the warranty coverage and agreement carefully before signing up.

Q: How do I know for certain my transmission needs to be rebuilt?
The only sure way to know if your transmission needs rebuilding is to have a professional diagnostics done at a reputable transmission repair shop the dealership where you purchased the vehicle.

The most common signs that an automatic transmission needs to be rebuilt are:

Dark "Burnt Smelling" Fluid - In some instances, if serious damage has not already occurred, a transmission fluid change or flush may suffice in prolonging the life of the transmission.  However, very dark "burnt" fluid oftentimes means internal damage has already occurred.  In these instances, a rebuild would be necessary.

Slipping - When the automatic transmission in a high mileage vehicle begins to slip, the most likely cause is excessively worn clutches, in which case a rebuild is necessary.  However, in some instances, particularly in low mileage vehicles, slipping may be caused by low, dirty and/or burnt transmission fluid or even by a faulty electrical sensor or solenoid.  Therefore, these potential causes must be ruled out before proceeding with a rebuild.

Shifting Problems - A transmission that does not shift at the proper times or shifts hard from one gear to the next or does not shift at all may be worn out and in need of a rebuild.  But, these same symptoms can also be the result of an adverse fluid condition, an open circuit in the electrical system, a faulty shift solenoid, a bad Transmission Control Module (TCM) or anyone of a number of other problems, which all must be ruled out before proceeding with a rebuild.

Unusual Transmission Noise(s) - Grinding, chattering or the sound of metal parts clanging together is a good sign the transmission is damaged internally.  With internal damage, the transmission must be removed from the vehicle and disassembled.  While it may be possible to replace only the damaged part(s), the transmission should be rebuilt once it is removed from the vehicle and opened up.  The only exception would be if the vehicle has low mileage and the friction clutches and seals are in good condition.

Q: Why can't I get a straight answer from the transmission shop about what it will cost to rebuild my transmission?
First, if a transmission repair shop will not give you an estimate for repairing or rebuilding your transmission then you should leave that shop and go to a different shop.

IMPORTANT: With respect to getting a quote for a transmission rebuild, this is normally no problem except in instances where the technician suspects the transmission has suffered more damage internally than a standard rebuild would cure.  In these situations, the exact cost cannot be determined until the transmission is removed from the vehicle and disassembled.  It is impossible to know which parts need to be replaced until the transmission is disassembled.  In such instances, the transmission shop can and should be able to give you a best and worst case quote.  If you are having trouble getting your transmission problem diagnosed and/or a reasonable quote for the repair, consider purchasing a remanufactured replacement transmission and having it installed at a general auto repair shop.

Q: How long do automatic transmissions last?
We have been answering this question for the past 30-years and the answer is always the same, which is; "We cannot say how long a particular transmission will last but we can explain why some transmissions last longer than others".  After we finish our explanation, most people are surprised to learn that the biggest factor that determines the service life of an automatic transmission is the vehicle owner, not the car manufacturer.  As the owner, the knowledge you possess about your your transmission and how you use that knowledge have the greatest impact on whether your transmission fails prematurely or outlasts the rest of the vehicle. We developed this Website to help you gain this knowledge.

Q: My transmission is not shifting correctly - what could be the problem?
Low transmission fluid level can cause shift problems. Old, dirty and/or burnt (oxidized) transmission fluid can also cause shift problems. In other words, any adverse fluid condition can cause shift problems, including not shifting at all.  How to properly check ATF level and condition in your automatic transmission.

A plugged transmission filter can also cause harsh and erratic shifts, which a fluid and filter change should resolve.

If the fluid level and the fluid condition checks out okay, the problem might be a faulty sensor or shift solenoid.  If the cause is a sensor or solenoid (or electrical in nature) the Check Engine Light may illuminate or the Transmission Overdrive Light my illuminate or flash.  In either case, the next step in determining the source of the shift problem is to have the engine scanned (if the check engine light is illuminated) or the transmission scanned (if the transmission overdrive light is illuminated or flashing).

Note: While most auto parts stores offer free engine "OBD II" scans, a special transmission scanner is needed to scan and diagnose many automatic transmission problems.  For a transmission scan, you will need to visit a transmission shop or the dealership, as general auto repair shops do not typically have these scanners.  Need a recommendation for a reputable transmission shop in your area?  Click here

Q: What does it mean when a transmission is "slipping"?
Transmission slip (or slipping) describes a condition in which the transmission is not transferring the engine's power to the drive wheels as it normally does.  When a transmission is functioning properly, vehicle pick up and speed increases proportionality with acceleration.  In a slipping condition, vehicle pick up and speed do not respond proportionally to increased acceleration.  Unless the condition causing the slipping is identified and repaired, the problem will get worse.  In extreme slipping situations, the vehicle will not move.

Q: What causes an automatic transmission to slip?
The most common causes of transmission slipping are;
Low transmission fluid
Old and dirty transmission fluid
Plugged transmission oil filter
Faulty sensor or shift solenoid
Faulty wiring/electrical circuit
Worn clutches  

Q: Will the check engine light come when the transmission malfunctions or has a problem?
The answer to this question is "maybe".  Depending on the year, make and model of the vehicle and what problem the transmission is experiencing, the check engine light may or may not illuminate.  In other words, do not rely on the check engine light to inform you of a transmission problem.    

Q: When I take off from a dead stop, I hear and feel a thump that appears to be coming from the area of the transmission - what could this be?
Assuming your transmission and engine are working correctly, the thump noise you hear and feel at take off is most likely transmission, or transaxle, mount that is worn out .  It could also be a motor mount.  This is easy to check - here is all you need to do:

Note: You will need a helper to perform this test.
Open the hood and stand next to the driver's side front fender so that you have a good view of the engine and transmission.
Have your helper sit in the driver's seat and start the engine.  Then ask your helper to depress the brake pedal firmly and move the shifter to the Drive position.
With your eye on the engine and transmission, have your helper press down on the gas pedal and hold it there for a few seconds and then release it all while continuing to press firmly on the brake pedal.  Have the helper do this several times while you watch the movement of the engine and transmission.  If an engine or transmission mount is badly worn or broken, the engine and/or transmission will jerk upwards or downwards each time the throttle is increased and decreased.
If you see excessive movement of the engine/transmission you'll see the location of the worn or broken mount.

Be SMART - PROTECT your Investment!  The things you do and don't do determine, in large part, how well your vehicle holds up.  Follow these transmission care tips for a better performing and longer-lasting automatic transmission.  Do-it and you will enjoy the benefits - ignore it and you will probably pay a high price.

1. Check Transmission Fluid Level and Condition
Get into the routine of checking your transmission fluid level and condition on a regular basis.  This is the #1 thing you can do to help insure your transmission continues to run smoothly and trouble-free.

2. Transmission Service

Follow the vehicle manufacturer's recommended transmission service intervals for maintaining your transmission.  Depending on the vehicle, transmission service intervals can range from every 30,000 miles to 100,000 miles.  But regardless, if you want your transmission to last - you must service the transmission - period!

A typical transmission service involves removing the transmission oil pan, cleaning and inspecting the pan for the presence of metal shavings, replacing the filter and pan gasket and filling with clean fresh ATF.

3. Do Not Exceed Tow "Weight" Limit
DO NOT tow a vehicle or trailer that exceeds the tow weight limitation of your vehicle.  Doing so causes tremendous heat build up inside the transmission.  Even when towing within the vehicle's rated tow limit, the transmission can become overheated, especially when traveling through mountainous terrains, the desert and city stop and go traffic.

Be very careful here as the heat build up from towing will ruin your transmission.  This isn't hype - it's the truth!  

4. Avoid Manual Shifts (Upshifts and Downshifts)
  Always place the shifter lever in the Drive "D" position allowing the transmission to control shifts and shift timing.  Automatically controlled shifts occur at optimum RPMs taking into account vehicle speed and load.  Manually upshifting and downshifting at higher engine RPMs causes hard shifts and excessive wear to gears and friction clutches.

5. Shifting from Reverse to Drive
  When backing up, always come to a complete stop before shifting into Drive "D".  Shifting into Drive from Reverse before the vehicle comes to a complete stop can chip, crack or break gears and severely damage other transmission hard parts.  Repair costs for these type damages are high because the transmission must be removed from the vehicle and disassembled.

6. Set E-Brake When Parked
  When parking your vehicle, especially when parking on an incline, set the emergency brake (e-brake) BEFORE shifting the transmission into the Park "P" position.  Doing so places the weight of the vehicle on the brake instead of the transmission's parking pawl.  See Transmission Parking Pawl for more information on how this works.
7. Do Not Spin the Wheels When Stuck
When stuck in ice, snow or mud, do not spin the wheels in an attempt to free the vehicle.  Moving the shifter back and forth between Reverse and Drive and spinning the wheels builds intense heat inside the transmission very quickly.  It only takes a few minutes of high speed wheel spinning to ruin a perfectly good transmission.

8. Install an External Transmission Oil Cooler 
Recognizing that excessive heat is the #1 cause of transmission fluid oxidation followed by catastrophic transmission failure, every effort should be made to keep the transmission cool at all times.  The best way to protect your transmission against excessive heat is with an auxiliary transmission oil cooler.

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