What is included in a Rebuilt Automatic Transmission?

The Short Version: A rebuilt automatic transmission should include the labor to completely disassemble and re-assemble the transmission with a complete rebuild kit along with any damaged hard parts and a torque convertor.

“What’s Included” Explained in a Little More Detail

Alright, this is a lot more detail, but no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t leave anymore out. The following information is what we and most customers consider should be included in a rebuilt automatic transmission. Some transmission shops may have a different opinion of this though. It’s up to you to make sure that you and the shop you’re working with are on the same page.

The Labor Included In An Automatic Transmission Rebuild

(1) The Labor To Rebuild An Automatic Transmission

The labor to rebuild a transmission should be performed by an experienced transmission rebuilder and should include:

  • Disassembly: The labor it takes to completely teardown the transmission. At this point all soft parts are discarded.
  • Clean: Every part that will be used in the re-assembly of the transmission must be cleaned according to the type of part.
  • Inspection: Every part needs to be checked for a number of reasons to be able to be considered good to be used.
  • Assembly: Assembling a transmission not only means “putting it back together”, but also modifying the transmission with new updates to correct manufacturer specific problems. Also upgrades requested by the customer should be performed at this point.

(2) The Labor To Remove And Re-Install The Transmission

Just like rebuilding a transmission, it is equally important that the transmission installation be performed by a technician experienced in installing transmissions. Unlike performing a brake job or installing a radiator, installing today’s modern transmissions can be very complicated. A small mistake can damage the transmission or other components leading to a very expensive repair. This labor should include;

Removal: Close attention to other non transmission parts should be taken when removing a transmission, collateral damage to other parts can occur without realizing it until the car is back on the road.

Inspection: Everything related to the transmission installation should be inspected at this point and should include items such as:

  • The Flexplate – Cracks or missing / worn teeth.
  • Transmission Mounts – Broken or collapsed.
  • CV Axles -Torn boots or worn out joints.
  • Drive Shaft – Bad u-joints or worn yoke.
  • Electrical System – Corrosion, shorts or bad connectors.
  • Control Cables – frayed or broken throttle pressure and/or shift cables.
  • Transfer Case – Bad seals or gaskets.
  • Engine Rear Main Oil Seal – Leaking one piece seals can be changed with the transmission removed.

Transmission Cooler Cleaning: An automatic transmission cooler MUST be cleaned before installing the rebuilt transmission. The cooler can be packed with debris from the old transmission which can harm the newly rebuilt transmission.

Installation: Re-installing the transmission along with any needed transmission related parts identified as bad in the above inspection, only If approved for replacement by the customer. Installation also includes adding new vehicle specific transmission fluid.

Test Drive: A final test drive, adjustments and quick learn procedure if applicable (adapting the vehicles computer to the newly rebuilt transmission) are one of the last steps of the transmission installation.

QA Check: The final step, a quality assurance check should be performed after the test drive. This includes checking for leaks, correct fluid level, loose or missing bolts, making sure electrical harnesses are securely fastened and a final check for any transmission related codes in the vehicles computer.

The Parts Needed To Consider An Automatic Transmission “Rebuilt”

Internal Automatic Transmission Parts fall under two main categories, Soft Parts and Hard Parts.

(1) Soft Parts: A complete Master Rebuild Kit (MRK). An automatic transmission rebuild kit contains all the parts that, by design are going to eventually wear out, and consist mainly of new clutches, bands, seals, gaskets, bushings, bearings and internal transmission sealing rings along with a new transmission filter.

(2) Hard Parts: Any needed part not included in a rebuild kit. Hard parts can include anything from a solenoid to a complete transmission case. This is where most misunderstandings are likely to take place. Although damaged or worn hard parts are needed to rebuild a transmission, they are items that are not included in the cost of the rebuilt transmission. The price for these parts are usually charged to the customer, unless the shop has included any needed hard parts in the total price of the rebuild (considered a flat rate quote).

Follow this link to learn more about Automatic Transmission Hard Parts.

(3) Torque Converter The Torque Converter, like the transmission cooler that will be full of debris from the old transmission (which can be cleaned), the torque converter will also contain debris. The difference is that the torque converter can’t be cleaned or flushed out and must be included in a transmission rebuild. Some shops consider it a “hard part” and don’t include it in the quoted price for the rebuild and will be an additional cost to the customer.

(4) Updates
Updates, NOT UPGRADES, to correct problems with the design of a transmission, such as oiling or cooling problems, should be included in the shop’s rebuilding procedure for that specific type of transmission. If you’re getting quotes from a few shops, it’s a good idea to ask each shop what types of updates they will be performing during the rebuild process.

(5) Upgrades
Upgrades to custom build a transmission for different types of applications are an important option during a rebuild. A truck that tows heavier than normal loads or even just a car that has a part that is known to be a week point can benefit from upgraded parts. Transmission shops know well which parts should be upgraded before even taking the transmission apart. My point is that they should be able to discuss this with you when giving you your quote. Upgrades are an option for customers and will not be included unless you approve the cost of them.

(6) Transmission Fluid
Vehicle Specific Transmission fluid is almost always required for the transmission to function correctly. Gone are the days of “one type fits all” ATF, today’s automatic transmissions require a specific ATF type as recommended by the vehicle’s manufacturer.

“Bench Job” The Rebuilt Transmission Only

When a customer chooses to remove & reinstall their transmission themselves and brings only the transmission into a shop for rebuilding; it is considered a “Bench Job”.

A Bench Job rebuilt automatic transmission includes everything listed above, minus the removal and reinstallation (R&R) labor, new ATF and the labor to flush the transmission cooler. It is also up to the customer to diagnose the transmission problems correctly before removing it from the car or truck.

Also, if there’s a problem with the newly rebuilt transmission, the R&R labor and new ATF are not covered under the warranty. The customer will have to R&R the transmission again and supply new ATF.

The Bottom Line

Anything less is not a rebuilt transmission. A transmission repair is basically that, just a repair. Sometimes that’s all that’s needed. A repair is considered anything less than disassembling the transmission and can include anything from replacing a pump or valve body to a simple solenoid or sensor replacement. Going inside a transmission to replace a failed hard part like a planetary gear set or band that generates debris is just asking for trouble. This is considered a “Patch Job” and almost always guarantees the transmission will be back in the shop and will cost you another repair bill, since a shop that will perform a patch job usually won’t include any kind of warranty with it.

Make sure you find out exactly what the shop you choose includes in a rebuilt transmission. The shop may have a different opinion about what they included in a rebuilt transmission. It could just be a difference of opinion, but it could also be a way of selling a job at a low cost only to jack up the price once they have the transmission apart, either way you pay the price. Once you and the shop are on the same page, get everything in writing, just in case they forget what they agreed upon when your transmission is ready.

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