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.
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 technician (specializing in electrics) in a major semi-truck dealership.