Manual Transmission Repair Basics

April 6, 2012

Compare the value of manual transmission repair specialists vs. general mechanics, and find out what you can expect to pay for parts.

Manual Transmission

Manual transmission repair can be accomplished by just about anyone with the proper tools and sufficiently clear and concise instructions to follow. Manual transmissions change gears with the application of the clutch pedal and the shifting of gears using a stick shift. This action disengages the transmission from the flywheel temporarily in order to be realigned with another set of gears. Automatic transmission repair differs from manual transmission repair because of the clutch assembly.

Common Transmission Problems and Repairs

Most transmission problems can be traced to parts that the average person can easily change. If have a funny smell coupled with limited acceleration, most likely your clutch is slipping. Try and adjust the clutch to see if this is all that is needed. If this doesn't help, or the smell is accompanied by a scratching noise, you need to replace the clutch disc, pressure plate and throw out bearing. You may also need to have the flywheel turned, if there is excessive shininess or any grooves cut into the surface. If you are unable to shift gears when you depress the clutch, check to see if an adjustment is all that is required. If that doesn't fix the problem, then either the clutch master or slave cylinder need to be replaced. If the clutch arm doesn't move when the pedal is depressed, most likely the clutch master cylinder is faulty.

Average Transmission Repair Cost by Parts

The most common major transmission repair is a clutch replacement. Three parts are usually replaced during this repair, the pressure plate, clutch disc and throw out bearing. The pressure plate costs between $40 for a four cylinder economy car and $150 for a high performance eight cylinder. Clutch discs cost between $30 and $200, again with the high number being for a high performance vehicle. Throw out bearings cost between $20 and $50, depending on the application. Many parts stores carry matched set clutch repair kits. These cost between $100 and $800, again depending on the application and manufacturer. Other parts that are replaced often are the clutch cylinders, both master and slave. A clutch master cylinder runs between $20 and $50, while a slave cylinder costs between $10 and $40.

Loose Linkage Repair

Many manual transmission repairs are needed to fix a loose linkage.

  • Conduct a visual inspection. Before disassembling the transmission, check for leaks and loose parts. Check for damaged or missing parts.
  • Test drive. Sometimes the noises you believe is coming from the transmission are not in fact. While the car is running, step on the clutch and shift through the gears. Listen for any noises during the shifting. Also listen for any noises both before and after the clutch pedal is engaged. These noises can give you a hint as to what really needs repair. Sometimes noises are actually coming from the drive train.
  • Check the engine mounts. Sometimes noises stem from loose engine mounts that allow the engine to "dance" around during operation.
  • Raise the car. Using a floor jack, raise the car high enough to crawl underneath. Use jack stands to better secure the car so it will not fall off the floor jack and onto you.
  • Disconnect and mark the drive shaft. Disconnect all electrical connectors. Mark the drive shaft so that you can place it in the same position later. Remove the rear U joint and plug the extension housing with a rag to prevent fluid leakage.
  • Disconnect the linkages. Disconnect the speedometer cable and shift linkages. Inspect them for damage. Replace if necessary.
  • Disconnect the transmission. If repairing the linkages does not fix the problem, it may be necessary to rebuild or replace the transmission. This is done by placing a jack under the transmission for support and disconnecting it from the engine. Using another jack to support the engine, move the transmission toward the rear of the vehicle.
  • Replace the transmission. Move the transmission to another location nearby so that you can use the same jack for the new transmission. Place the new transmission on the jack and position it underneath the engine. Attach the new transmission to the engine and the vehicle.
  • Reconnect the linkages. Reconnect all speedometer cables and shift linkages. Replace the U joint and the drive shaft back to the same position you marked earlier. Reconnect electrical connectors.
  • Lower the car. Using the floor jack to support and stabilize the car, remove the jack stands. Lower the car by lowering the floor jack slowly and carefully.

Remember not every noise indicates trouble with the transmission. Careful inspection and listening can pinpoint the problem, which may not be as involved as you may have thought. It may be just as simple as tightening a nut or lubricating a joint.

The Pros and Cons of Manual Transmission Repair Specialists

Today, most cars have an automatic transmission and many mechanics don't have a lot of experience performing a manual transmission repair. Even though a manual transmission, in most cases, is an easier repair, many mechanics simply do not service these types of transmissions enough to be knowledgeable. So, if you need service for your manual transmission, consider visiting a specialist in manual transmission repair.

Maintenance for Manual Transmissions

Most of the service and repairs to a manual transmission are the replacement of pressure plates and the throw out bearing used to disengage the transmission and drive gears. Over time, the surface coatings on the pressure plates wear out and need to be replaced. Also the clutch pedal mechanism needs to be adjusted to completely disengage the transmission drive gears to allow for shifting to a different gear. Specialists in manual transmission repair can perform these types of repairs much faster and more efficiently than most general knowledge mechanics.

It is best to use a transmission service center certified for your type of vehicle and manual transmission. These shops will generally give a warranty for their service. They will have the parts needed in stock and any special tools needed for working on your vehicle's manual transmission.

Services Often Needed

Over time, the clutch needs adjustment. The cable may stretch or the hydraulic system may need to be bled. When depressing the clutch pedal, the pressure plates and transmission gear collar will not fully disengage. This will cause a grinding sound as you change gears or make the shifting difficult. Also, over time the coating on the pressure plates will wear off and the throw-out bearing can wear out. Additionally, the clutch is a wear item and will wear out over time, though often, they can last almost 100,000 miles on newer vehicles.

Specialized Manual Transmission Repair Shops

When repairs are needed you may feel inclined to take your vehicle to a specialized manual transmission shop. Though you will certainly get your vehicle repaired, a specialized shop will often charge more for repairs than a general automotive repair shop. Additional disadvantages may be the size of the shop and how long they take to complete the repairs.

Consider Other Mechanics for Easy Repairs

Many general automotive repair centers can perform manual transmission repairs even if they are not certified by the manufacturer to do so. You will probably save a lot of money. If there are major problems with your car's manual transmission, you may need to go to a specialized transmission repair center where the mechanics have been trained on your make and model of vehicle and transmission. These shops will also stock the replacement parts for your vehicle's transmission, which will reduce the wait time for your service to be completed.

Related Questions and Answers

How Often Does a Car Clutch Need to Be Replaced?

A car clutch needs to be replaced, in most cases, at between 50,000 and 100,000 miles. Although some clutches may last longer. Additionally, if a clutch is misused, it may fail sooner. A car clutch is the bridge between the car transmission and the gearbox. Depressing or engaging the clutch allows one to shift the transmission's gears. Replacing a clutch generally costs between $500 and $800, but it can cost up to $2,000 on some models, according to Cost Helper. The clutch replacement cost on front-wheel drive vehicles is generally higher than it is on rear-wheel drive vehicles.

What Are Some Reliable Manual Transmission Rebuild Kits?

Reliable manual transmission rebuild kits are sold by a number of companies, including Muncie and Summit Racing. Additionally, factory transmission rebuild kits are usually offered by original equipment manufacturing companies and automobile manufacturers. Transmission rebuild kits usually include the transmission's synchronization rings, bearings, springs, seals and gaskets. The price for a rebuild kit may range from $100 to $300, depending on the type of transmission. The transmission rebuild kit includes the necessary parts for one to properly rebuild the vehicle's transmission, which should be performed at a dependable shop.

What Is the Average Cost of a Rebuilt Manual Transmission?

The average cost for a rebuilt manual transmission tends to be approximately half of the cost of a new transmission. Likewise, the cost of rebuilding a manual or automatic transmission at a repair shop is about half the cost of replacing it with a new one. When a transmission specialist rebuilds a transmission, they usually repair the gears, seals, and springs with a manual transmission repair kit, which includes the necessary items. The cost of a new transmission usually ranges between $1,800 and $3,500, according to Cost Helper. Therefore, the average cost for a rebuilt manual transmission would be between $900 and $1,750.

What Are the Advantages of a Performance Flywheel?

A performance flywheel has a number of advantages over a standard flywheel. Typically, performance flywheels are lighter than standard flywheels. Many standard flywheels are made of cast iron, while performance flywheels are made from aluminium or a similar light-weight alloy. Because performance flywheels are lighter, they disengage between the engine and clutch much faster, which leads to improved throttle response time and acceleration. Performance flywheels may also be made thicker or with special substances designed to reduce heat and improve performance during hard clutching and shifting. This allows them to withstand the natural abuse of hard driving or racing.

What Is the Difference between a Cable and Hydraulic Clutch?

There is one main difference between a hydraulic clutch and a cable clutch, although they both perform the same task. A hydraulic clutch uses a hydraulic master cylinder to disengage the clutch, while a cable clutch uses a standard cable. Hydraulic clutches tend to disengage smoother and faster, although they may be more prone to failure than cable clutches. When one pushes the clutch pedal in a car with a cable clutch, the cable pulls forward, disengaging the clutch. When one pushes the clutch pedal in a car with a hydraulic clutch, the rotating arm on the hydraulic master cylinder pulls forward and opens.

What Are Aome Common Clutch Master Cylinder Problems?

Clutch master cylinder problems can leave you unable to engage your car's clutch, and therefore unable to properly shift gears. The clutch master cylinder is a hydraulic device that's directly connected to the clutch pedal. When you engage the pedal, the master cylinder rotates and operates the car's clutch. Because the clutch master cylinder is hydraulic, it's prone to mechanical failure. The rotating arm mechanism may physically break, or the clutch master cylinder seals may wear out. This can cause the hydraulic fluid inside to leak. When this happens, the clutch master cylinder likely has to be replaced.

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