This section should be easy: Ask questions, ask questions! In the transmission business, there is a lot of room for the shop to, well… be dishonest. Some transmission shops in my area are trustworthy and very good at what they do. Now let’s define what is good, and what is bad.
Just as I’ve stressed throughout the book, you need to find someone you can trust and believe. You will probably only set foot in the transmission repair shop once during the life of your car. Thank God for that. Most car transmissions are made to last the life of the vehicle if properly maintained and serviced regularly. Most automatic transmissions have a filter that should be replaced, and the fluid changed periodically. Check the owner’s manual for service interval, but a good rule of thumb is to change the filter and the fluid every 25,000 miles under normal conditions.
What are normal conditions you ask? The owners manual will usually list what they feel is normal and severe driving conditions in the scheduled maintenance section of the manual. I have found that the term “severe driving condition” usually refers to having the air conditioning on while the engine is running. If this was the case, it might suggest that you service the transmission every 30 days to avoid premature wear and internal damage.
The manufacturers do a great job at protecting their rears from lawsuits, and will sometimes be a little too protective, so also ask your auto repair mechanic for his opinion. If you are in need of transmission work, you should ask your regular repair shop if they do transmission repairs in house or subcontract the work to another shop. If your regular repair shop is willing to send the car to their transmission repair shop, let them do it for you.
My shop does not do automatic transmission repairs inhouse. We have used the same transmission repair shop for 25 years, and for the most part have had good experience. We mark up the price of the transmission work just enough to cover the cost of handling and the overall hassle we go through to get transmission repairs for our good customers. Trust me, we do not make a great deal of profit doing this.
We do this for our good customers. The customer who has been down the transmission shop road before knows he/she does not want the hassle. As I write this portion of the book, I think of the three cars that we have at the transmission shop right now that were supposed to have been ready two days ago. Who does the customer call/complain to? Not the transmission shop. My shop is also the one you bring the car back to for any warranty problems that you might have with your transmission. It is nice to know that the shop that you regularly do your auto repairs with is the middleman for you.
Our transmission repair shop will always back us in a questionable warranty situation, and we have much more pull than you would as a one-time customer. If you are calling around for price quotes on transmission work, I wish you luck. I have called around my area to check out what the competition is doing, and even I cannot figure out what these guys are doing. Especially when it comes to transmission work- do not go on price alone.
Not until your car is in the transmission shop and your transmission is on the floor and torn apart in many pieces will they give you the exact total. I can tell you, after many phone calls in my area, there is a big difference in price, almost double in some shops! Once these guys get your transmission on the floor and you signed that work order we talked about earlier, you are at their mercy. I really liked talking to the transmission shops that were honest and up front about their pricing, and what they would probably find inside the transmission of my 80,000 mile car that had never been serviced and had been making this strange noise for the last couple of weeks.
If it is going to cost $1,400 dollars, tell me now. Do not sway me in at $800 dollars and work me up to $1,600 dollars later. This is what usually happens. If you need transmission work, get the worst-case scenario up frontso you will not be disappointed in the end. Things to look for at a transmission repair shop: Look in the parking lot for vehicles that appear to be abandoned. I always wonder how many of these cars came in on those inexpensive loss-leader ads, and the final bill ended up being so much that the owner had to forfeit ownership of the car-or just left it rather than pay.
What is the average age of vehicle in the parking lot? If most of the cars are 10 to 15 years old, they might not be qualified to work on your newer model. I want my mechanic to be experienced with cars just like mine. Do you see any company vehicles that you recognize? Companies that are well established usually have a fleet manager who is in charge of maintaining the company’s vehicles. Do those companies have a good reputation in the community? Do they also perform general auto repairs?
Most fleet managers go by price first and warranty second, and overall quality is not as important as getting the cars back on the road fast and cheap. The fleet manager wants to keep his/her budget under control, and keep the vehicles on the road. Government or city vehicles in the parking lot tell me that the shop was the low bidder, and will probably do the least amount of work just to get those vehicles back on the road. My best advice to you when it comes to transmissions is to maintain your transmission and service it as needed to hopefully avoid having to deal with transmission shops