Educational Consumer Tips

Transmission Repair

Author: Better Business Bureau

When you choose a transmission specialist, be sure you know exactly what you are authorizing (i.e. estimate, internal or external diagnosis, or transmission repair).
If asked, the technician should be willing to show you the damaged parts and explain the repair work. Also, ask for a damaged-parts report and a breakdown of the work that was done. If you want to inspect the damaged parts pulled from the transmission, be sure to ask the mechanic when you authorize the work, not after. As with any contract, make sure you understand all aspects of the work. If you give your authorization over the phone, understand exactly what work you are approving. Phone authorization is a binding commitment.
Additional Tips to consider:
It is impossible to phone-shop transmission companies for estimates on transmission repair. The transmission repair facility must see the vehicle to begin the diagnostic process.
All transmission repair centers should road test the vehicle first. This will determine if the problem is with the transmission. An external check will determine if there is an internal or external problem with the system. If the problem is internal, a thorough internal diagnosis of the amount of damage can only be made by pulling the transmission.
Many times a computer malfunction will give the impression that there is a transmission problem. Due to increasing technology in late model vehicles, the transmission repair facility may need to conduct an electronic diagnosis first to eliminate the possibility of a computer malfunction.
A thorough internal diagnosis, which includes removing and dismantling the transmission, should find the extent of the damage. Your cost or repair can be accurately determined. Most shops offer free external inspections and some may offer to conduct an internal diagnosis for a reasonable charge.
Watch out for transmission repair facilities that continously call after you have authorized work to begin, reporting more damage and increasing the repair price. If a more complete internal diagnosis was conducted, this should not occur.
Also, be aware of ads that claim "We'll repair any transmission for..." or offers to rebuild a transmission for an unbelievably low price. The transmission must be properly diagnosed before the transmission damage and cost of repair can be determined. Also, be cautious if a company is quick to quote a firm price without seeing the car. And remember, if a claim sounds to good to be true, it probably is.
You should also become familiar with the term "rebuilt" as it applies to transmission repair. Even though there are more than 300 parts in the average transmission, a transmission may only have a few internal parts replaced and be called "rebuilt". In Texas, if two or more parts are replaced, the transmission may be called "rebuilt", "overhauled", or "reconditioned". Ask what exactly is being repaired for the price quoted and if the parts are used, reconditioned, or new.
What to Look For:
Is the shop a member of the BBB? The BBB can give you the company's history in dealing with customers.
Is the company a member of any transmission groups, such as the Automatic Transmission Rebuilder Assocication (ATRA) or Automatic Service Association (ASA), or is it a national franchise that offers training programs to keep technicians up-to-date on new technology.
Do they participate in continuing education and training programs.
Is the shop well-equipped with the proper diagnostic tools for your vehicle? One of the easiest things to look for is the hydraulic lifts needed to raise your car.
Is the shop clean and professional looking? Does it appear to be well-run?
Any warranty is only as good as the company that stands behind it. Your transmission repair should come with a standard written guarantee backing the work.
Some industry organizations offer nationwide warranties. These offer assistance throughout the country from participating member locations and are well-established. Also, some transmission chains may offer a company-backed, chain-wide extended warranty.
Some warranty programs may be administered by outside warranty and insurance companies. Howeve, check with your transmission specialist to see if the repair facility will honour the warranty should the administering company go out of business.
You should also understand any restrictions or limitations of the warranty before authorizing work to begin.