ANSWERS TO FREQUENTLY HEARD QUESTIONS ABOUT THE TRANSMISSION BUSINESS
In this section I will share some facts about the business I have been involved in for over 4 decades. This is the unmitigated truth, as I see it. I'm old enough to have seen and heard it all. It is my pleasure to enlighten you as best as I can as to the reality of the transmission business. Some of the concepts addressed herein might be repetitious, but that is because I see good people making the same mistakes over and over again. I want to drive the point home that not all transmission shops share the same level of ethics. I'll try to keep it to the point, but the complexities of this rapidly changing industry might require some fairly lengthy explanations. Here we go:
One of the most frequent questions we have to deal with is,
"HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO REBUILD A TRANSMISSION IN ___________(YOU NAME THE VEHICLE SPECIFICS)?
This is an understandable question. If I were faced with a transmission problem, or what I thought to be a transmission problem, the cost of dealing with that issue would be one of the first and foremost questions I'd want answered. However, coming up with a true, honest, meaningful answer requires some investigation. An honest transmission shop will want to gain the answers to some diagnostic questions as opposed to simply throwing a number at you.
Think about this. Once a proper diagnosis has been done it is not at all unusual to find the symptoms described by our customer have nothing to do with a transmission rebuild. You could have a fuse, speed sensor, or solenoid malfunction, causing the transmission to have shifting problems. Low fluid level, linkage out of adjustment, or electronic issues can cause delayed engagements. If you automatically assume the worst case scenario you could very well eliminate the possibility of saving hundreds, or thousands, of dollars. My experience tells me that if a customer accepts an overhaul price on the phone because it was the cheapest price quoted over the phone, in most cases an overhaul is what they will get---whether it is needed or not. Furthermore, that cheap price given to you by some lowball shop may well turn out to be a very expensive experience for you when all is said and done.
Unfortunately, there are transmission repair facilities wherein great pride is taken by the resident salesperson for their ability to sell a transmission to everyone who calls or comes into their shop. It happens all the time. Whether you have a leak and low oil level, a sensor gone bad, broken solenoid, or blown fuse, they'll try to sell you another transmission. It is a very profitable methodology. But is it ethical? How would you feel about paying a lot of money for a major repair you didn't need? Ethics vary greatly in all professions. The transmission business is no exception.
The lesson here is this: No one, I repeat,
can tell the extent of the problem and give you an accurate diagnosis over the phone without doing a proper diagnosis first. If you want an accurate price for your problem ask your friends who the good guys are, check Google reviews, and do your best to find out who is honest. Then take your vehicle to a reputable shop where they will find out what the real problem is before pricing the job.
Some examples are stated below. These are true stories.
• Dave came into The Trans-Mission Man for a second opinion after a dealership told him he needed to spend $2500.00 for a transmission replacement. Our diagnostic check revealed a repairable valve body problem. By the end of the day Dave's van was working like new. His total bill was $396.61
• Danny brought his late model Suburban to our shop because it wouldn't shift. He assumed it needed to be overhauled. It was vacation time for him and he was in a hurry to be on his way. He left the Suburban with us expecting to spend somewhere close to $3000.00. His instructions were simply, "Do whatever it takes to fix it." Our diagnostic procedures found a malfunctioning speed sensor. When he came back from his vacation he was presented with his truck in excellent operating condition. He was delighted with his bill---only $127.00, including parts and labor.
• Daryl brought us his son's foreign car for diagnosis. It had a 4 speed automatic transmission with radical shifting problems. A dealership had just charged him almost $400.00 to tell him his transmission was not repairable and he would have to spend $3300.00 for a factory replacement. Our diagnostic inspection revealed problems in the valve body that were created by the mechanic who condemned the transmission in the first place. Our technician replaced torn valve body gaskets, put several valves and springs back into their proper positions, and air checked the hydraulic circuitry. Upon completion of the necessary repairs the transmission shifted perfectly. His total bill was $386.35.
I'll use one of my favorite examples as my final one. The customer, Dechert W. Sharpell of KDR Development, Inc., was kind enough to write us a "thank you" note, so I'll use his own words.
"This is a letter to express how pleased we are with your repair of our company's 2003 Expedition.
When we had new tires installed on this vehicle right before Thanksgiving, we noticed a delayed shift as we were driving off the lot of the tire store. At first, we believed that the computer just had to relearn the tires. When the problem persisted, we decided to take it to the local dealer. They read the error codes and stated that there was a problem with one of the clutch packs and had us prepared (and almost scheduled) for a transmission swap, which they estimated at $3500.00.
Considering that the problem had just occurred and that the transmission had been very strong up to that point, we decided to come to The Transmission Man for a second opinion. Your personnel wouldn't accept the dealership's diagnosis without looking further into the problem. Sure enough, when your technician Jesse, dropped the pan there was a broken solenoid that had been caused by the tire shop creasing the pan with the lift. The solenoid was replaced and the transmission works perfectly.
There are two reasons for this letter: to thank you for a job well done in such a speedy manner, and to inform the public of your honesty and extensive knowledge. F*** had us ready for a $3500.00 repair job. The Transmission Man did the right thing, which was to diagnose the problem further, resulting in a $200.00 bill (which the tire shop paid).
In today's day and age it is hard to find honesty like this. We run our corporation on the same ethical principles. You have a customer for life and we will recommend your services to everyone we know that might need transmission work.
Dechert W. Sharpell "
These are just a few of many stories we have where others have prematurely condemned a transmission. Our shop ended up saving these customers a lot of money. It is simply the right thing to do.
IF IT IS DETERMINED A TRANSMISSION IS IN NEED OF AN OVERHAUL, HOW DOES THE PRICING STRUCTURE WORK?
Various shops have differing methods of pricing. There is an increasing trend toward "replacement" as being the overall solution for just about any transmission problem in this industry. If a service advisor can talk fast enough to make the customer automatically opt for paying for the worst case scenario, there is a lot of quick money to be made in going that route. This is great for the finances of the shop, but is it really being honest with the customer?
Some shops do what we call "price averaging". This is where one takes all the jobs of a certain type done during a block of time, computes what the average price was on that type of job over that period of time, then makes that the standard price for all jobs done on vehicles of that type. The end result is that some folks pay more than their particular job merits, and some pay less. Problems with this method are as follows: (A) When the job requires more parts than anticipated, the shop owner is faced with a dilemma. He is faced with the question of whether to do the job right and lose money, or shortcut the job and do whatever he thinks he can get away with in order to maintain profitability. (B) On the other hand, would you want to be the person who has to pay more than their specific job merits so a shop can maintain a simple pricing structure?
Then there are the "low ballers". These are the shops where they will always give out a low price that seems too good to be true. (What did your mom tell you about deals that seem too good to be true?) Will they stick with that price when the job is done? Will they stand behind their warranty? Will they jack the price up once they have the vehicle disabled? (What was the good of talking about that unrealistic low price in the first place?) Those who do the job at the "too good to be true" low price typically have an operating philosophy of "what can I get away with?" When deciding whether to install a new part in a transmission they ask themselves, "Hmmmmm, what are the odds the old part will make it out of warranty?" Quality is usually very low on their list of priorities. I briefly worked in a place where a mechanic would routinely roll out from under a car when the transmission installation was completed with a handful of nuts, bolts, and washers. He'd go over and throw them into what he called "the spare parts bucket". I've worked on many vehicles after some "what can I get away with" guy had done his thing. There is a good reason why those guys are called "butchers" by the rest of us. Sorry about the negative digression, but this is the reality of what you set yourself up for when you go looking for the cheapest shop in town. All you need to do when deciding whether to do business there is ask yourself whether high quality, professionalism, and excellent service are important to you. That low price given to you by the cheapest shop in town might well end up being a very expensive decision for you.
I've already touched on this, but look out for the "bait and switch" method. This is where the customer is quoted an artificially low price to hook them into authorizing the job. Then, after the vehicle has been disabled, the customer is called back and told that due to "unforseen problems" the actual bill for completion of the job will be substantially higher than the previously quoted price.
At THE TRANS-MISSION MAN each job is priced on its own merit. If a transmission fails due to a set of clutches burning out, and all the hard parts are still in great shape, you will save hundreds of dollars over the job wherein it is found that the transmission and all of it's constituent parts have been completely destroyed. With this method you pay only for your own problems---not someone else's. Having been in the transmission repair business for over 40 years, working for various shops, each having its own pricing structure, it has become obvious to me that pricing each job on its own merit is the only completely honest and ethical approach to pricing in this industry.
WHY ARE THE PRICES FOR MAJOR REPAIRS SO HIGH? I CAN REMEMBER WHEN……..ETC.
This is another question with a multifaceted answer.
- Inflation accounts for much of the difference in price between yesteryear and now. When I started in the transmission business back in 1970 it was common for us to do a complete overhaul on a Chevrolet with a 2 speed Powerglide for about $125.00. In those days my pay was just over $2.00 per hour. The rent on my 2 bedroom house was $65.00 per month. Gas was $.25 per gallon. $20.00 would buy a week's worth of groceries for my family and me. The price on a brand new BMW 1600 (my first new car) was $3400.00. I could go on, but I think you get the idea.
- Technology advances in the field of automotive repair have made the technician's job far more difficult than it was just a few years ago. Thousands of dollars must be spent on diagnostic equipment and training to stay on the cutting edge of all the changes coming our way. We no longer have simple 2 speed automatic transmissions to deal with. We now have 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and even 9 speed automatic transmissions. They are computer controlled units with many times the number of parts as the old ones I grew up with. Along with the greater complexity comes a need for more time, tools, and electronic equipment to effectively diagnose and repair transmission problems. That is the price we pay for the convenience and enhanced fuel mileage offered by modern vehicles.
- As a consequence of the trend away from the relative simplicity of yesteryear's vehicles toward the highly complex systems found in today's vehicles, many technicians have moved on to find less frustrating ways of making a living. In short, manufacturers long ago took the fun right out of working on cars. Those who have chosen to remain in the automotive repair business, investing both time and money toward staying on the cutting edge of rapidly changing technologies, demand far higher compensation than anyone would have dreamed just a couple of decades ago.
HOW DO I FIND A TRANSMISSION REPAIR FACILITY I CAN TRUST AND DEPEND ON?
This question could be asked about many professions. How to find a competent doctor, plumber, carpenter, electrician, and so on is the type of question that has precipitated the popularity of internet sites such as Angie's List. I think the most dependable way of getting good information about the reliability and ethics of any business is to ask your friends, family, and those you work with about their experiences in dealing with the type of professional help you are in need of. Google reviews are a good way to get instantaneous input from others who might have had experience with a company you might be considering. It is rare in the transmission business to get happy reviews from everyone, as no one wants to have their transmission worked on if they don't have to. There are those who think we should be a community service and work for free, but as an intelligent individual, you can likely see right past those kind of reviews if you try.
I really do not wish to dwell on negative issues here. However, if you aren't aware of reality in this business you might end up being one of those unfortunate persons who find out too late that not everyone shares the same concern for ethics as you and I do. For most people, having to deal with transmission problems, or any auto repair problem, is something less than a joyful experience. I would encourage you to minimize the difficulties by entrusting your vehicle to a reputable establishment.
IS THERE A WARRANTY ON MY TRANSMISSION?
While we do our best to insure you have been supplied with the highest quality transmission work available, this complex field of endeavor does provide opportunity for human error to show itself occasionally. That is simply an honest fact.
The Trans-Mission Man has developed an excellent warranty program, allowing you to choose the warranty that best fits your particular needs. Our in house warranty is the standard for most local jobs. It is a 12 month or 12,000 mile warranty, covering both parts and labor on jobs brought back to us for further attention. Even though we are specific as to the length of time or mileage covered by our warranty, we do not usually stick to the day or the mile should you come to us with a problem. If the evidence indicates your transmission has a premature problem that might have been the result of poor workmanship or faulty parts, we won't turn you away.
Here's another hint for you. If you ever talk to a rebuilder or shop owner that tells you he's never had a
comeback, get away from there as fast as you can. (A person that will lie about one thing will lie about other
things, too.) Everyone has a comeback now and then. The complexities involved in this business dictate that
occasionally something will not go as planned. Beware of those who won't admit that fact. When you have to talk
to a shop owner or service manager about a warranty issue, the last thing you want to hear is, "Its not my fault."
If you are on vacation, or visiting in the Flagstaff area from out of state, and your transmission has failed, we would encourage you to use a remanufactured transmission from Jasper. These units are very high quality, and have a 3 year or 100,000 mile warranty. With a remanufactured transmission from Jasper your warranty is good no matter where you may be. We have had very few warranty issues with the Jasper transmissions we have sold. Those few issues that did occur were taken care of very efficiently by Jasper representatives in the towns where the problems occurred.
IF YOU HAVE ANY OTHER QUESTIONS PLEASE CONTACT ME BY PHONE OR BY EMAIL.
I'LL BE HAPPY TO ANSWER ANYTHING YOU WOULD LIKE TO ASK ABOUT YOUR TRANSMISSION ISSUES---OR ANY OTHER AUTOMOTIVE RELATED INQUIRIES I MIGHT BE QUALIFIED TO ANSWER.