If you’re like most drivers, the words “transmission rebuild” strike fear in your heart. You know it’s a major costly repair, and you’re not sure what to expect afterward. Will your car be driveable? Will it be as good as new?
Relax! We’ll walk you through everything you need to know about what to expect after a transmission rebuild in this brief article.
What’s Involved in a Transmission Rebuild?
First, it’s important to understand what actually happens during a transmission rebuild. Essentially, the transmission is taken apart, inspected for wear and damage, cleaned, and put back together with brand new parts and new fluid.
When dealing with modern electronically controlled automatic transmissions, the technician will perform an adaptation or re-learning process before returning the vehicle to you.
What to Expect After a Transmission Rebuild
After a transmission rebuild, your car should be driveable and shifting smoothly – just like it was when new. That being said, there may be a few issues that pop up in the first few days or weeks after the rebuild. Here are a few things to keep in mind.
1. 500 Mile Break-in Period
After a transmission rebuild, you might be instructed to do a 500-mile break-in period, during which the internal parts of the transmission, like the clutches, can break-in properly. If the break-in period is needed, then it must be completed, otherwise, failure to do so could result in premature failure of the transmission.
A break-in period usually means no towing, and only light stop-and-go driving.
However, if you were not told by the technician to do a break-in for your specific transmission, then you can resume your normal driving habits immediately if needed. With that said, it’s always a good idea to take it easy for the first few hundred miles if possible.
2. Different Feel to Your Car (Harsher Gear Shifts, etc.)
After a transmission rebuild, your car might feel different. The gears might shift harshly at first, but this is perfectly normal, as the new parts and fluid need some time to adjust and break in. It’s also possible that you might simply have forgotten how the new and healthy transmission should shift gears in the first place.
In addition, the re-learning process that’s performed on electronically controlled transmissions can cause the car to drive differently as well.
If the changes are too drastic in your opinion, and they do not go away after a while, then it’s possible that there’s something wrong with the transmission and it needs to be checked again by the same technician. In that case, do not worry, as most reputable transmission shops offer a warranty on their work.
How Long Will a Rebuilt Transmission Last?
A properly rebuilt transmission should last pretty close to the same amount of time as a brand-new transmission. On average, that’s somewhere between 150,000 to 200,000 miles. However, if the rebuild was done on the cheap and not all worn parts were replaced with new ones, then you should expect the transmission to last at least 40,000 miles.
Of course, this all depends on how you drive and maintain your car. Harsh driving habits, frequent heavy towing, and neglecting to change the transmission fluid on schedule will definitely shorten the lifespan of your rebuilt transmission.
On the other hand, if you take good care of your car and drive sensibly, then you can expect your rebuilt transmission to last a very long time.
Related: How Long Does It Take To Rebuild a Transmission?
When Should I Change the Fluid in a Newly Rebuilt Transmission?
The first fluid change after a rebuild is extremely important as it can tell you a lot about how the rebuilt transmission is wearing in.
Because of that, we recommend you change the transmission fluid a few hundred miles before the warranty ends (usually 12,000 miles), and check the filter for small bits of clutch material or metal flakes. That way, you’ll know whether the transmission is in good condition and that the rebuild was done properly.
If you do see signs of premature wear, then you can get in touch with the shop that rebuilt the transmission while the warranty is still valid and get it fixed for free.
A transmission rebuild is a big job, but if it’s done properly, then it can give your car a new lease on life.
Now, while it is a major repair, there’s not a lot to expect after a rebuild, especially if it’s done properly. The transmission will definitely shift differently than it used to before, but unless you notice major problems with it, like leaks, grinding noises, or difficulty switching gears, then chances are the technician made a mistake and you should take the car back to them.
Other than that, it’s just a matter of driving sensibly and maintaining the transmission fluid on schedule, and your newly rebuilt transmission should last you a very long time.
Do you have any questions or concerns about what to expect after a transmission rebuild? Let us know in the comments below and we’ll be happy to help.
Eddie is the co-founder of CarCareCamp.com, and the site’s primary contributor.
Under his belt, Eddie has a bachelor’s degree in Automotive Electronics Engineering and almost a decade of experience working as a semi-truck technician (specializing in electrics).
2 thoughts on “What to Expect After a Transmission Rebuild (2 Important Things)”
So I have a 2007 Toyota Matrix. Recently the engine light came on and I had hard shifting. This is the background of the situation:
I had just finished an 1,100 mile trip and the engine light came on and I experienced a hard shift as soon as I got to my destination. I immediately shut the car down and parked. The next day I started it and no engine light and smooth shifting. I did some research and this particular year, had an older recall regarding the computer causing transmission issues.
I drove the car to two transmission shops and made a decision to allow the one shop to take it apart and “see what they find.” I mentioned the computer and the manager waived it off as an issue with the transmission. I paid just over $600 for the tear down and inspection. What do you know, they found “wear and tear damage.” Nothing specific, just wear and tear “damage.” He mentioned they had to tear it down because even he agreed it was shifting smoothly.
I go for the rebuild and ask how long will I be without a car. It’s Thursday afternoon and he says, “I’ll have it rebuild and you’ll be driving off by Monday.” Okay, lets do it. Three weeks later, my car is finally done, and the engine light is on and won’t go out. So now I need a new computer. But it wasn’t that the computer was bad to begin with (according to the manager), its that the computer is old and couldn’t deal with the rebuilt transmission. So we go through another 4 weeks of back and forth with bad computers being purchased and now here we are two months later, my transmission has to be dropped and taken apart again because it has a “main seal leak.” This is my question. When I expressed my concern for the leak and the possibility that the rebuild wasn’t up to par, he assured me that wasn’t the case. He stated that the main seal leaked because the car sat for a few weeks while he waited to resolved the computer issue. I learned mechanics in high school and was a mechanic in the Army and though I never experienced a rebuilt engine leaking after a rebuild because it was not driven daily immediately after the rebuild. Now I’m not familiar with transmissions which is why I’m reaching out. Does this pass the smell test with you?
I also have to drive it cross country which will keep it up to 80mph for hours at a time. I was concerned with this and was told there’s a zero break in period. I can drive it for 30-40 hours at high speeds and few breaks with no negative effects. Your thoughts would be appreciated.
Wow! What a disaster. I’m sorry this happened to you.
When you get intermittent issues that are accompanied by a check engine light and resolve on their own the next day, it’s very likely that you’re dealing with an electrical issue. What those guys had to do was check the codes and go from there, and not wave it off as mechanical (especially when there’s a TSB on this car for the ECM).
At the very least, they could have flushed and changed the transmission fluid before tearing it down.
Also, the main seal magically developed a leak from standing still? Haha
From what you wrote, I’m certain those guys are parts changers and have no clue what they’re doing. I would advise you to stay away from those clowns and find a real technician who knows how to properly diagnose cars. It will save you time and money.
As for the break in period, you can do 200-500 miles of moderate stop-and-go driving and a fluid change after just to be safe, but it’s probably not necessary for the Matrix. Break in periods are required for high-performance and/or heavy duty vehicles, or specific transmission designs.
I hope this helped.