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Guide to Transmission Replacements: How Much It Can Cost to Get a New Transmission

What Is the Cost of a Transmission Replacement?
Austin Kilham

Austin Kilham

Updated February 24, 2022
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You can think of your transmission as the conduit for energy from your engine to your wheels. It’s one of the biggest and most important components of your car, and when it fails, it can be an expensive fix. “How much does a transmission cost?” is the worried question many of us pose after one fails.Here’s a close look at what your transmission does, signs that it’s having problems, and what it may cost you to repair one. 

What Does a Transmission Do? 

Your engine operates at a rotational speed of anywhere from 600 to 7,000 RPMs. Your wheels rotate at a much slower rate of up to only about 1,800 RPMs. Your transmission is responsible for converting the power produced by your engine into something usable to power your car. It does so by using gears to convert engine power into a force known as torque. It transfers this force to the axles of your vehicle, which then rotate the wheels and make your car move forward or backward. Without your transmission, the power your engine produces would be useless, and your car would be unable to move. 

How Much Does a New Transmission Cost? 

The transmission replacement cost will vary widely depending on what type of car you drive and whether you drive a car with a standard or automatic transmission. On average, you will likely pay anywhere from $2,900 to about $7,000 for a new transmission. 

Transmission Repair Cost 

“How much does it cost to fix a transmission?” you may be wondering. Repairing a transmission is a good option if it can be brought back to working condition with minimal parts and labor, especially given the price of replacing the part. Price will vary by repair, but a fluid change could cost as little at $80 while replacing a solenoid shift could be as much as $400. That said, repair costs could run you as much as $1,400.

What Are Signs Your Transmission Is Going Out? 

There are quite a few signs that your vehicle’s transmission is in need of repair or potentially failing. Here’s what to look out for:

Leaky Fluids 

Your transmission fluid is bright red, translucent and has a sweet smell. Transmission leaks are located near the center of the underbelly of your car. If the fluid is pink, it’s a bad sign. It’s possible that engine coolant is leaking into your transmission, which might mean it needs to be replaced.  

Whiny or Clunky Noise 

Be mindful of any new noises that you hear coming from your transmission, whether it’s whining, humming, or clunking. These noises may be associated with vibrations or lurching. 

Vibrating and Grinding 

The transitions between gears on an automatic transmission should be seamless. You shouldn’t notice any shaking, vibrating, or grinding as your car is shifting gears if your transmission is healthy. 

The Vehicle Will Not Go Into Gear

It may be hard to get your car into gear if your transmission is failing. This might be most noticeable when you’re putting your car into park or reverse. However, this doesn’t mean you’ll need to replace the transmission, it may just mean your fluid is low or you’ve used the wrong type of fluid. 

Popping In and Out of Gear 

If your car is slipping in and out of gear, you may notice that the engine revs right before you lose power. As your engine slips out of gear, you are forced into neutral. A clunking noise may precede the engine engaging again as it slips back into gear. 

Burning Smell 

Burning smells coming from your car are always cause for alarm, as they can be precursors to fire. If transmission fluid is old or low, your transmission can begin to overheat, causing the smell. 

Squishy Clutch Pedal 

If you drive a standard vehicle with a stick shift, be conscious of changes to the feel of the clutch pedal. This may be one of the first places that you notice symptoms of a failing transmission. You may feel vibrations, for example, when you shift. Or the pedal may feel unusually soft or hard when you press it.

Check Engine Light Is On 

If your automatic transmission is on the fritz, your “check engine light” will come on. Note, this light also alerts drivers to a number of other issues with their cars. Whenever it comes on, it’s important to have someone run a diagnostic to see what the problem is to help you avoid damaging any parts or alert you to replacements that are necessary. 

Torque Converter 

The torque converter is the coupling that transfers power between the engine and the transmission. A failing torque converter can produce many of the same symptoms as a failing transmission, including gearing slipping, shuddering, and overheating. 

Solenoid Issues 

Solenoids are small valves located inside your transmission. In automatic transmissions, they help ensure gears shift quickly and fully. When solenoids aren’t functioning properly, shifting may be delayed, your engine may not downshift as you brake, you may have difficulty shifting out of neutral, and gear shifts may be rough as you accelerate or decelerate. 

Noisy When in Neutral 

If you drive a stick and you notice that your transmission is producing humming, buzzing, or whining noises when you’re in neutral, this could be a sign that your transmission is failing. 

Reverse and/or Forward Gear Failure 

If you’re having trouble getting your car in reverse or forward gear, you may be having a number of transmission-related issues. For example, an issue with your solenoids could lead to gear slippage or there could even be issues with the computer that controls your transmission. When major components of your transmission are damaged, it is common that cars only drive in reverse. 

Ways to Cover Transmission Replacement 

The transmission replacement cost is high, but it’s definitely not the only repair you might face over the life of your vehicle. From the cost of a new catalytic converter or head gasket repair to airbag or even engine replacement, you may find yourself needing a way to cover major expenses.  Hopefully, you have cash savings in an emergency fund that you are able to tap. If not, you may be tempted to put this repair on your credit card. If you are able to pay off your card at the end of each month, this may be a good option. However, credit cards typically charge extremely high interest rates, and if you end up carrying a balance from month to month, you may end up paying much more than the initial price of the repair. Another option: Taking out a personal loan, which may offer better interest rates than credit cards. If you miss any payments, however, your credit rating will suffer.You may also consider auto loan refinancing. When you refinance, you take out a new loan with lower interest rates and pay off your old loan. A lower interest rate means that you’ll save money over the life of the loan, which can help offset the cost of expensive repairs. Before you refinance, it’s important to understand the pros and cons of refinancing. While lower interest rates can save you money, you may also be on the hook for a variety of new fees, including prepayment penalties.   It may be a good time to refinance a car if your financial situation has improved or interest rates have dropped. A better credit score, higher income or other metrics of healthy finances may spur lenders to offer you better terms and interest rates on a new loan. Before you proceed, it’s best to gather questions to ask when refinancing your car.

The Takeaway 

Transmission replacement can be one of the most expensive fixes you’ll ever make on your vehicle. Keep an eye out for transmission warning signs and have them checked out by a licensed mechanic. Catch them early enough, and you may be able to get your transmission back into working order with less costly repairs. 

3 Auto Loan Refinance Tips 

  1. Refinancing your auto loan could lead to lower monthly car payments and more money in your budget. Lantern by SoFi can help you find the right auto refi loan for you.
  2. Generally, the newer your car, the lower the refi interest rate. This is because younger cars typically have a higher value than old or used cars — and the car serves as collateral for the loan.
  3. Lengthening the term of your auto loan can decrease your monthly payments and free up funds for other financial goals.

Photo credit: iStock/Worayuth Kamonsuwan
The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.SOLC0122003

Frequently Asked Questions

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About the Author

Austin Kilham

Austin Kilham

Austin Kilham is a writer and journalist based in Los Angeles. He focuses on personal finance, retirement, business, and health care with an eye toward helping others understand complex topics.
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