How To Avoid Automotive Transmission Repair Fraud

When Your Car Requires Transmission Repair

There are lots of things car owners don’t want to hear from their mechanics, with a transmission repair topping the list. Even if it’s repairable, the fix is likely to end up costing a substantial amount. Just one mechanical failure involving the transmission can cause an engine to shut down completely, so it is imperative that you watch for the signs. If you think there’s a problem you should have your vehicle inspected immediately.

So how do you know if you really need a transmission repair? The following information will help you figure it out.

What Does the Transmission Do?

Transmissions play a crucial role in a vehicle’s ability to operate. Basically, transmissions carry the engine’s power to the drive axle by utilizing various gears, making it possible for the engine to run at various speeds.

Transmission Repair Services

There are different transmission repair services that your car may need. Here are a few of the most common:

Transmission Fluid Change

There are two options for a transmission fluid change. A full fluid exchange following the specifications the manufacturer of your vehicle recommends. Second, a transmission fluid and filter change, also following the specifications recommended by the vehicle’s manufacturer. You are likely to avoid an expensive transmission repair if you keep up with your vehicle’s recommended transmission fluid change schedule, typically due every two years or 30,000 miles.

Transmission Flush

A transmission flush is a comprehensive transmission repair that “flushes” out the sludge and grime that has accumulated in it. First, the mechanic removes the old oil. Next, new oil and cleaning solutions (if necessary) are run through the transmission, removing damaging debris. Lastly, the transmission is refilled with new oil.

Rebuild or Replacement

In some cases, if the transmission begins to fail or stops working altogether, mechanics will recommend a replacement or rebuild. If this is the case, make sure you’re working with an auto repair shop that has a great reputation.


Signs You Need Transmission Repair

When it comes to maintaining and improving the longevity of your vehicle, it helps to be able to spot when something is going wrong. Noticing a problem early can help you get it resolved before it becomes a full-blown disaster. Fortunately, with car transmissions it is usually easier to observe when issues arise because they are typically accompanied by a sound or a sensation. In other words, you intuitively can tell when it’s time to take your car to your mechanic for transmission repair. Let’s get into the specific things to take notice of.

Won’t Go Into Gear

This one is geared toward manual transmissions (no pun intended). If you press the clutch and move the stick only to find that your transmission won’t go into gear, you’ve got a problem. You’ll typically find that this happens when you’re trying to get into first from a full stop, or just moving up and down the gears. It’s not uncommon for cars with transmission issues to stall at red lights. The problem is most likely low transmission fluid, the wrong thickness of the fluid, or needed adjustment of shift cables or clutch linkage.

What’s that Smell?

If you notice a pungent, not so pleasant aroma, it could be your transmission overheating. This smell is caused by the burning transmission fluid, which could be the result of low transmission fluid caused by a leak. It is important to get this issue addressed quickly because the fluid is responsible for keeping the many parts of your transmission lubricated and moving properly. Most importantly, it also keeps your transmission from burning up.

Leaking Fluid

This is one of the easier issues to spot. If you take a look at your driveway after moving your car and notice a bright red, dark red or brown liquid on it, this could be your transmission fluid leaking out of your car. As we mentioned before, having a low transmission fluid level is really bad for your transmission, and having a leak is going to make this much more likely. Take your car to your trusted Maryland auto repair shop right away or you risk burning up your transmission.

Check Engine Light

Another obvious indicator that something is up with your car is the check engine light. If it comes on, something isn’t right. The only problem with this method of diagnosis is that the check engine light can come on for any number of reasons. The only way to know for sure is to purchase a diagnostic tool or take your car to an auto repair shop that has one. Either way, it’s best to heed this warning because something needs to be fixed.

Grinding or Shaking

Depending on the type of transmission, you will notice one of these effects if something is wrong. If you have a manual transmission, you may hear grinding as you are shifting into gear. This is likely caused by a worn clutch or a clutch in need of adjustment. It could also be a worn-out or damaged synchro or a number of other factors.


Signs That Your Car Needs a Transmission Flush

In most cases, getting a transmission flush every 30,000 miles, or every two years or so is sufficient. However, there may be times when you need to get a transmission flush sooner, in order to help protect your car’s transmission. There are some common signs that you need to perform a transmission flush on your car or truck.

Transmission Grinding or Strange Noises

A vehicle transmission that is contaminated with dirt, grease and sludge can display symptoms very similar to inadequate levels of transmission fluid. When driving your vehicle, if you notice your transmission grinding or making strange sounds, you should stop the vehicle and check the transmission fluid level while the engine is still running. Insure that the transmission fluid color is bright red and not brown or black because of grime or sludge. If the fluid level of the transmission is acceptable, your vehicle probably needs a transmission flush.

Problems Shifting Gears

Regardless if you drive an automatic or manual, your car requires clean transmission fluid that flows easily throughout your car’s transmission. A transmission that contains too much dirt or sludge will cause sluggish response in the transmission which will result in your vehicle changing gears too quickly or too late while driving. In manual transmission vehicles, you may find it very hard to change gears at all.

Slipping Gears

A dirty transmission may cause a lack of hydraulic power, much the same as not having enough transmission fluid will cause. In order to stay in the appropriate gear, the transmission must develop enough pressure. When a transmission is too dirty, contaminants may interfere with the flow of transmission fluid that helps with this. If you’re transmission has no other problems, and the fluid level of the transmission is full (or close to it), the problem is probably restricted fluid flow due to a buildup of dirt and contaminants that need to be flushed out.

Surging of the Vehicle

When your vehicle’s transmission is polluted with a lot of dirt and contaminants, and needs a transmission flush, you may notice unexplainable surging of your vehicle. Because your car’s dirty transmission does not allow for adequate transmission fluid flow, your vehicle may tend to jump or surge forward and fall backwards for no good reason. This is caused by inconsistent flow of clean transmission fluid that is needed to ensure smooth operation of the gears and other moving parts inside the transmission bell housing.

Delay in Vehicle Movement

Another sign that your vehicle may have contaminated transmission fluid is when the vehicle stalls for one or two seconds before moving after having been put in gear. If there are no other problems with the transmission, a transmission flush may help.


Automatic Transmission Maintenance

The health of an automatic transmission is less dependent on users driving style, but it’s smart to avoid taxing your transmission whenever possible. Heat is the enemy of an automatic transmission, and if you feel it struggling on a long incline in a higher gear, downshift it manually. This will bring your RPMs up, but relieve stress on your transmission. If you notice your transmission “slipping”—which means it doesn’t hold a gear, or it is continuing to search for gears—then have it serviced immediately to avoid further damage.

Learn how to check your transmission fluid level. It should be a cherry red color and have a sweet smell to it. If you notice anything different, including the fluid smelling burnt, get your transmission serviced immediately.

There is much debate on flushing versus draining an automatic transmission. Transmission issues after performing a flush are often blamed on loose particles and sediment in the transmission being spread around during the flushing process. But draining a transmission doesn’t always ensure all of the fluid is removed. To do that you may often have to remove the transmission oil pan, which is an extra step compared to just removing the plug. Re-installing the transmission oil pan requires a new gasket, so make sure you have that if you are doing this job yourself. Check out our guide for changing your automatic transmission fluid.


Tips to Help Extend the Life of Your Transmission

Although many aspects of transmission maintenance should be done by a mechanic, there are certain things you can do yourself to keep tabs on how your car is running.

Check Your Transmission Fluid

If you have a manual transmission car, this may not be an option for you – or at least may not be as simple. However, if you have an automatic transmission, you will likely have a second dipstick under the hood of your car. Most people have checked their oil level before and checking the transmission fluid level is similar. In addition to looking at the level of fluid, you’ll want to pay attention to its color, smell, and consistency.

Don’t Shift Gears Until You’re Fully Stopped

For automatic transmission cars, when you shift from reverse into drive while your car is still moving, you’re putting extra strain on your transmission. That can lead to serious problems down the road and it will shorten the lifespan of your car’s transmission, costing you a lot more money.

Don’t Ride Your Brake

When you keep your foot on the brake while also accelerating, you’re not just wearing down your brakes faster. This also makes your transmission work harder because the car is working against itself. Over time, this is going to make the parts within your transmission wear down faster, meaning sooner and costlier transmission repairs for you.

Is it Time To Change Your Oil? AAMCO Utah.

Pay Attention to Engine Temperature

In general, heat is not good for longevity with cars. While this applies to climate and weather, it also applies to how well your cooling system is functioning. If you notice your cooling system working overtime, it may be time to get it checked out. If your engine is consistently running warmer than usual, it can cause extra wear and tear on the parts within your transmission, leading to costly transmission repairs.

Be Mindful of Using a Spare Tire

You will most likely have to use a spare tire at some point and that’s fine – but it should be limited as much as possible. That’s because driving on mismatched tires causes extra strain on your car’s transmission.

Listen to Your Car

More specifically, pay attention to how your car drives and changes gears. If you notice this becoming more difficult or erratic, there is likely an issue with your transmission. In this case, you can check your transmission fluid level but you should also make an appointment with local transmission experts to get it diagnosed.

Reverse Engine Rebuilding

Rebuilding Diesel Tractor/Ag Engines

When it comes to agricultural equipment, specifically tractors, many of them are used for decades upon decades due to durable, well-made engines and machinery that lasts. For this reason, agricultural equipment comes with a price tag – a big price tag.

New tractors, ranging in size from compact to 4- and 6-cylinder engines, can cost $30,000 all the way up to several hundred thousand dollars. According to the Association of Equipment Manufacturers, 184,000 tractors were sold in 2013, up 10% from the prior year. The biggest jump in sales in 2013, however, was in tractors with less than 40 hp.

Despite the fact that new tractor sales were up in 2013, industry experts report that the business of rebuilding and remanufacturing older tractor engines and ag equipment was still very prevalent. In fact, most ag equipment doesn’t need rebuilding or remanufacturing for 10 to 15 years, so the increased number of new tractors being sold today means good news down the line for engine rebuilders and parts suppliers.

Due to the prohibitive expense of buying a new tractor or piece of ag equipment, many people, when their machines see engine issues, will opt for rebuilding the engine to get longer life out of their equipment.

“People are not only scared of the price, they are scared of the equipment because they don’t know it,” Kelly says. “We think people are going to be rebuilding their engines and giving them a longer life than they would have done in the past. I think it’s going to be a positive impact on the engine rebuilding world.”


DIY Engine Rebuilding?

As I was working on my Exlpoder this weekend, I was thinking about how much I like the old truck, and the fact that with over 200k miles, the possibility of an engine rebuild may be in the future somewhere. I’ve considered rebuilding it myself, but I’ve never done one

What machine work has to be done?

I’m basically trying to evaluate cost / value of leaning to do a rebuild myself, gaining a valuable skill and a better engine, verses buying a junkyard, verses a reman, verses a crate.

Other than an engine hoist and ideally an engine stand, the only tools you would need are standard engine repair tools. Ie, sockets, wrenches, ratchet, a good breaker bar, etc. Hopefully you already have everything you would really need if you’re contemplating this level of repair. Air or battery impact helps too. The machine work you would want to farm out. A good machine shop would evaluate things and tell you what machine work needs done. At the least I would want to do a valve job with all new valve stem seals. The level of bottom end work needed really depends on the engine. At 238k miles my GS430’s bottom end was tight as a drum so I left it untouched when I did the heads. I imagine a Ford 302 pulling a truck around might be a little more worn at that point, but that’s not necessarily true.

Ring compressor, Ring spreading pliers, feeler guage, 3/8′ and 1/2″ torque wrench and a valve spring compressor would be a good start. I read this guy’s info several years ago when I was rebuilding a 351W and he mentioned a book on rebuilding SBF engines (How to Rebuild Small-Block Ford Engines). I subsequently bought the same book and recommend it. It’s a little dated and doesn’t cover the roller lifter change Ford made in mid-1985 nor the roller lifter-ized 351W but it’s still a useful reference to have.

Not much in the way of special tools needed here, and those that are can usually be rented. As for machine work, I’d suggest getting it hot tanked and an overbore. Heads hot tanked and inspected. MAybe have them milled if need be and a valve job.


Mileage and buying a used car with rebuilt engine

If I’m looking to buy a used car and an ad says 210,000 mileage engine rebuilt at 170,000. What does that actually mean ? Should I consider the rebuilt engine as only having 40,000 miles on it ? That sounds a bit too good to be true.

It is. The engine may have a lot of life in it, IF it was done right. However, the transmission has 210,000 miles on it, the axles have 210,000 miles on them, the suspension has 210,000 miles on it, the steering components have 210,000 miles on them

That means that at 170,000 someone rebuilt the engine. However, because everything else on the car still has 210,000 miles it actually doesn’t add as much value to a used car as you might think. Also, a rebuild can mean a lot of different things, so it’s generally not the same as having an engine with only 40k on it and without documentation of what was done you don’t really know at all. Also keep in mind that most cars these days don’t “die” from a worn out engine– the other stuff wears out and you get sick of spending money on such an old car.

Consider the vehicle has 210k miles. The engine mechanically is the least of a vehicles problems at this old age or higher mileage. It has 210k old emmissions controls, sensors, wiring and electrical parts and big one transmission. These are far more likely to fail than an engine mechanically.

And some people’s definition of an “engine rebuild” leaves a lot to be desired. Some consider (seriously) replacing a head gasket or performing a valve job as an engine rebuild. In cases where the engine is actually removed and disassembled there are a dozen ways of rebuilding it but there is only one correct method.


Used Engine Installation Tips and Procedures

Some of these tips are common knowledge to most experience mechanics.  But there are plenty of do it yourselfers out there that could use this information.  This will also help you understand what your mechanic should be doing when installing your salvage engine.  When your spending good money for a used engine and the labor to install it.

Pre-Installation Inspection Tips

Inspect the entire engine thoroughly – If there is an issue, you want to find out before you have it installed in the vehicle.

Match the long-block with your old one.  Make sure they are exactly the same.

After you have the old engine out, set it next to the used engine and identify which components need to switched over.

If you find damaged components in your inspection (timing cover, oil pan, etc.), simply swap the components with your old engine.  Generally, bolt-on accessories can be swapped with no issue.

Don’t install a replacement salvage engine with damaged parts.  This may cause the used engine to fail prematurely.

Inspect timing components on engine, if miles are over factory specification for a timing belt or chain, replace timing components.  Best practice is to always replace the timing belt. It’s generally inexpensive to do when the engine is already out of the vehicle.

Inspect all gaskets for bolt on accessories and replace any gaskets that look brittle or are leaking.

Change over any bolt on accessories needed off your old engine

Installation Tips and Guidelines

Flush cooling system prior to installing engine to remove any debris left over from previous engine.

Clean or replace oil strainer and pick up tube screen.

Replace oil pan gasket & rear main seal.

Drain & replace engine oils to manufacturers suggested levels.

Replace oil filter.

Timing belts/chains, water pump, thermostat, spark plugs, fluids, and seals are routine maintenance items and should be replaced at the time of installation and at the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended service intervals.

Replace any water hoses or vacuum lines that need replacing.

Prior to starting engine prime oil system to check to be sure you have oil pressure.

Proper operation of the cooling and electrical system must be checked during the installation of products that can be affected by those systems.

Replace valve cover gasket as needed.

Install new belts and hoses.

These simple procedures will make sure the you get the most out of your used engine.


When engine is shot, do you go with remanufactured or rebuilt?

I recently inherited the car I spent my childhood washing. It’s a ’94 Ford Explorer with the tow package. I know you’re going to say that Explorers have problems, but I really love this car … even though it has no air bags. It won’t be my commuter car; it will get used when I climb

The head gasket is blown, even though the engine has only 65,000 miles on it. I was leaning toward having a Jasper remanufactured engine put in. My line of thought was that due to the engine’s age and the overheating that caused the blown gasket, other things might be ready to go, and a new engine would cut down on future repairs

If you’re planning to keep the car for a long time, then I think a remanufactured engine always is the best option, if you can get one. There are factories that do nothing but remanufacture engines, and they have the machinery and expertise to do it very well. That means the tolerances (the spaces between the things that really matter) are likely to be more accurate, which produces better results and fewer problems later on.

If you have a car that’s so old, or so rare, that a remanufactured engine is not an option, then you need to decide between having a local shop rebuild it for you and buying a new one (if you can even get it). But your Explorer was common enough that Jasper and other companies can make a good business out of remanufacturing those engines and selling them.

So that’s exactly what I’d get. In fact, we’ve bought dozens of remanufactured engines from Jasper over the years, and I remember only one of them that caused us any trouble. And we called them up and they said, “Oops, sorry, we’ll send you another engine.” Plus I think they come with a three-year, 100,000-mile warranty that includes labor.