Transmission failure is one of the most expensive events that can happen to any car. In some cases, replacing an automatic transmission can be more expensive than buying an entirely new engine. Unfortunately, ignoring severe internal transmission issues is impossible, and a failing transmission will inevitably render your car undrivable.
If you're currently in this situation, you generally have three options:
- Rebuild your current transmission
- Buy a new transmission
- Buy a used transmission
Each option has advantages, but purchasing a used transmission can often be a good compromise between a rebuild and a new replacement. When taking this approach, you'll want to consider these three important factors before you buy used car parts.
1. Check the Warranty
Used part warranties can vary substantially, but many wreckers and used parts shops will offer a limited warranty on large-ticket items such as transmissions. These warranties may not cover you for years, but they can help ensure the part is in good working order immediately after installation. The good news is that many transmission issues are immediately apparent.
Ensure you fully understand the terms of the warranty and any limitations before purchasing. If the warranty provides a limited timeframe for replacement, don't wait to install your new transmission. You want to leave yourself as much time as possible to look for problems and take advantage of the replacement warranty.
2. Ask About the Donor Car
The donor car is one of the most important factors to consider when purchasing any used part, but it's particularly crucial when buying an expensive item like a transmission. Aside from checking the year and model to ensure proper fit and fitment, you need to gather information about the vehicle's age, mileage, and condition.
One of the primary advantages of buying used instead of rebuilding your transmission is that you'll get a potentially newer part in better condition than your current transmission. Selecting a used part from a car with fewer miles can help ensure your investment lasts much longer.
3. Physically Inspect the Transmission
Physical inspection is critical when buying any used part. This inspection is particularly essential when dealing with a transmission, which may require many expensive hours of labor to install. While you can't assess the internal condition of the transmission, you can inspect it for leaks or signs of physical damage that may indicate a severe underlying mechanical problem.
If you aren't mechanically inclined, have a trusted auto shop perform this inspection after you take delivery. Inspecting your transmission as early as possible is important so you can work with the seller to resolve any potential defects before spending money installing the transmission. A thorough inspection also makes it easier to discover issues before your warranty runs out.