Unless your car is having a problem with its transmission, you are probably not the least bit interested in whether a new, used or rebuilt transmission is the best option for someone in need of transmission repair. While we may remember the oil needs changing, or the tires should be replaced, most of us don’t ever think about our car’s transmission until it breaks. When that happens, you have two options, a very expensive repair or the expense of a different vehicle.
This article assumes you have made the choice to keep your car and repair the transmission. The next decision is whether to purchase a new or used transmission to get our vehicle back on the road. If you’re reading this, you are probably looking for information to help in making that decision. As the different options are explained here, you will hopefully be helped in arriving at the best decision for your pocketbook and transportation needs.
This repair option requires the least explanation. Simply put, it means a brand new transmission that has never been used. When installed in your vehicle, the transmission will be like it was the day it was driven off the sales lot. While this is obviously the best option, it is also the most expensive, which makes it unreasonable for most vehicle owners.
Used Transmissions Types
This category refers to a transmission that has previously been installed in a vehicle and enabled that vehicle to move down the road. Within this category there are different types of used transmissions. As each option is explained, you will hopefully have the information necessary to make the best choice for your repair needs.
Used Transmission From a Wrecking Yard
This type of used transmission has simply been removed from a vehicle in a wrecking yard. Though of a similar, if not the same make and model as your vehicle, it has been taken from a car that no longer operates. Nothing has been done to verify that it operates or repair it.
Purchasing a transmission from a wrecking yard can usually be done for the lowest dollar amount. This can make it seem like the most economical repair option. In the long run, however, it can end up costing you more time and money because:
- There is no guarantee it will work
- You have no access to maintenance history
- The warranty, if any, may replace the failed transmission, but won’t cover the cost of labor to remove it and installing another one
You can never be sure a used transmission will work until after it’s installed. If it doesn’t work, you will be without your vehicle while another transmission is located and installed. If it does work, it may work for a brief time period before failing, and you will once again be without your car until another transmission is located and installed. It is obvious that the economy of this option can disappear entirely if a problem is encountered.
The term “rebuilt” transmission is used, in the loosest sense, to refer to a transmission that is “like new” but not “completely new”. It means it is a transmission that is worn or damaged and been repaired. There are, however, distinct differences in how the transmission repairs are achieved.
For the sake of accuracy, from here on we will refer to rebuilt transmissions in one of two ways – rebuilt or remanufactured. While both are technically used transmissions that have undergone repair, understanding how they differ is important.
When a transmission is rebuilt, it is disassembled and select internal components are replaced with new ones. In most cases, the clutches, bands, and gasket seals are all replaced since they are generally completely worn or “worn-out”. Other internal components that are only partially worn are often reused and put back in place as the transmission is rebuilt. While this results in a transmission that works, it probably won’t work as well as it could if the partially worn components were also replaced with new ones.
When transmission repair reuses partially worn components, it can save you money, but the savings can be short-lived. Because those worn parts will continue to wear, they will reach the point of becoming worn-out much sooner than a new replacement part would. At the point that they fail, you’ll be faced with needing another transmission repair.
A remanufactured transmission differs from a rebuilt transmission in the way it is repaired. Most often, the process takes place in a factory on an assembly line rather than in a small transmission repair shop.
In the remanufacture process, all transmission components that show signs of wear are removed and either replaced with a new part or re-machined to repair damage to surfaces. In addition, the new components that are used have often been updated or upgraded from the originally installed component. As a result, the remanufactured transmission may function better than it did when it was new because of the improved component design. These upgraded modifications are rarely found in a rebuilt transmission.
As a part of the remanufacturing process, components are thoroughly cleaned during a long interval in high-pressure hot tanks. This can thoroughly clean even the smallest passages that may have become partly or completely blocked by contaminants that have built-up over time.
Once cleaned and reassembled, a remanufactured transmission is tested on a machine that simulates actual driving conditions. This verifies that the transmission will function as designed when installed in your vehicle.
Transmission Warranty Protection
An additional difference between rebuilt and remanufactured transmissions shows up when comparing the warranty each offers. Most brand new transmissions, or factory remans, come with a 3 year warranty. It is quite common in the industry to see remanufactured transmissions come close to that standard with a warranty somewhere between 2-3 years in length. Compare that to the 6-12 month warranty most rebuilt transmissions offer. One of the most important aspects of a warranty is how easy is it to use. National warranties will protect you best. They will cover your vehicle anywhere in the country.
The goal of this article was to help you understand the differences in transmission repair options. Any used transmission will be more affordable than a brand new one. While used transmissions from wrecking yards are less money initially, and rebuilt transmissions can get your vehicle back on the road, remanufactured transmissions may be a better value, dollar for dollar.
At Dale’s, we’ve been in operation at the same location in Boise for over 49 years. Our technicians have the skill and tools to diagnose and repair or replace your vehicle’s transmission. If you think your automotive repair needs may include a transmission repair in the future, consider letting us become your one stop repair shop.
If you are in need of transmission service now you can request an appointment online.