One of the most common maintenance issues is low fluid level caused by a transmission leak. Because transmissions are sealed, a leak indicates a problem. Common causes of leaks include a breach in the pan gasket, an axle seal leak and fluid seepage.
Transmission fluid is typically bright red, dark red or brown as it ages.
If you notice fluid under your car, you should have the transmission checked by a mechanic.
The cost to repair a leak is typically between $150 and $200, depending on the car’s make and model, says Craig Douglas, president of Automotive Service Group in Indianapolis.
“Since a transmission is dependent on fluid to operate, they quickly self-destruct when the fluid runs low,” Douglas says. “So it is imperative to address a leak as soon as it shows up.”
Douglas says a “middle-of-the-road repair” is replacing shift or pressure control solenoids.
Transmission solenoids control the flow of fluid in and around the transmission and operate through a voltage supplied by the transmission computer. Trouble shifting or over-shifting is a sign your vehicle’s solenoids need to be replaced.
A typical replacement cost is $300 to $850, depending on how many solenoids are replaced, Douglas says. But prices can vary greatly depending on the type of vehicle.
“It’s a good idea to do all of the solenoids while we are inside the unit [because they are] the same age and mileage and very labor-intensive to get to,” Douglas says. “You wouldn’t want to do two separate solenoids a month apart from each other. It wouldn’t benefit the customer or the repair shop.
Avner says a minor leak can turn into a major problem if left alone. A low transmission fluid level or various component failures of the transmission can severely damage a transmission, leading to the need for a rebuilt or replacement transmission.
“Ninety percent of failures are caused by items [inside the transmission] that can’t stand the wear and tear of 80,000 or 90,000 miles,” Avner says.
Avner says the average cost of a rebuilt transmission is $2,800 to $3,800, and the average cost of a replacement transmission is $4,000 to $8,000.
Randy Hartman, owner of Herndon Reston Transmission in Herndon, Virginia, says the average cost of a rebuild is about $2,800 with the average cost of a replacement transmission costing $3,300 to $3,800.
Angie’s List members recently reported paying an average price of $2,601 for a transmission rebuild or replacement.
Douglas recommends a used or remanufactured transmission over a rebuilt one. He says remanufactured transmissions often come with warranties from the manufacturer and the repair will go much quicker.
Here’s a list of what highly rated providers on Angie’s List say they charge for various transmission-related repairs and maintenance.
Automotive Services Group
Average transmission leak repair: $150 to $200
Solenoid replacement: $300 to $850, depending on how many solenoids are replaced.
Average transmission rebuild/replacement: $1,500 to $8,000
A Team Transmissions
Average transmission leak repair: $200 or less
Average transmission flush: $100
Average transmission rebuild: $2,800 to $3,800
Average transmission replacement: $4,000 to $8,000
Herndon Reston Transmission
Average transmission flush: $199
Solenoid replacement: $23 up to $2,000, depending on the car’s make and how many solenoids are replaced.
Average transmission rebuild: $2,800
Average transmission replacement: $3,300 to $3,800
Editor’s note: This is an updated version of a story that originally posted Aug. 28, 2014.
Have you had to repair or replace your transmission? Tell us about your experience in the comments section below!