Price Comparison: Automatic Transmission Repair vs. Manual Transmission Repair


Automotive Editor

Armaan Almeida is the Editor-in-Chief of the New Car Pricing Insider blog and publishes daily incentives on new cars in addition to newsworthy articles pertaining to the auto industry.

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, Automotive Editor - January 18, 2013

If you're trying to decide between a vehicle with an automatic transmission or a manual transmission, you should be aware that automatic transmission repair can be very expensive. Not only will an automatic transmission add significantly to the cost of a new vehicle, because of their complexity and increased number of moving parts, automatic transmission repair is usually more complicated, thus making it more expensive.

Common Manual Transmission Repair Costs

In general, manual transmissions are much simpler in design than automatic transmissions and have fewer parts or components that can fail and cause the transmission to not function properly. The most common problems with manual transmissions are not with the transmission itself but rather the clutch. Many people seem to have what is called as a "heavy clutch foot" and simply wear out the clutch or clutch plate assembly by overuse or improper use of the clutch. A total rebuild of the entire clutch system will generally run between $600 and $1500. However, manual transmission repair cost can be much lower if only one or two of the component pieces need to be replaced.

Automatic Transmission Repair Costs

Many of today's vehicles use complicated automatic transmissions that use not only moving mechanical parts, but difficult to diagnose and repair computer modules as well. In fact, many of the problems associated with today's modern automatic transmissions are electrical or computer related. Because not all of mechanics or technicians are equipped to work on these complicated transmissions, repair costs can be significantly more than with simpler manual transmissions. Many times, to repair or replace an automatic transmission may run as much as $3000 to $5000 depending if the transmission needs a major overhaul or needs to simply be replaced.

Though not the biggest deciding factor when choosing between an automatic or manual transmission, repair costs are certainly a factor to consider.

Related Questions and Answers

Is a 4 Speed Manual Transmission Cheaper to Repair than a 5 or 6 Speed?

A 4 speed manual transmission costs less to repair than a 5 or 6 speed transmission. While all three types of transmissions incorporate the use of a stepped cluster gear, the additional gear(s) are typically located at the back end of the transmission, and are therefore separate gears that would need to be replaced. Moreover, there is a difference in the number of teeth the synchro rings have, making synchro rings with larger tooth counts more expensive. Furthermore, transmissions with 5 or 6 gears will also require additional shifter cams, if replacement is required.

Where Should You Go to Get a Racing Manual Transmission Repaired?

The typical racing manual transmission is a 4 speed, T10 transmission, or one of its variants. The difference between the stock and racing configurations is the racing configuration uses parts that have a lighter weight. Even though the parts are lighter, they are just as strong as, or stronger, than the ones used in the stock configuration. These transmissions are very common, as are their parts. As such, most reputable transmission shops will have no problem repairing them. However, they may need to order the specialized racing parts, or ask you to provide them.

What about the Automatic Transmission Design Makes it more Expensive to Repair?

Automatic transmission design is complicated. In addition to the various gears, there are clutches and tiny valves that allow the transmission to change gears automatically. Any one of the tiny valves or springs could be damaged, and during a rebuild, they are all typically changed. What is more, newer computer controlled transmissions have external solenoids that control the valves, thereby making the repair even more costly. Especially, if the computer is involved. Moreover, there are types of transmissions that continuously vary their gear ratios, and these continuous variable (CV) types, once broken, require expensive replacement parts.

Does an Automatic Transmission Flush Cost More than a Manual Transmission Flush?

An automatic transmission flush requires more time and additional materials to perform, so the answer is yes. Manual transmissions contain a heavy gear lubricant similar to that used in vehicle rear ends. When the grease is drained, the gearbox is simply rinsed down with a solvent that dissolves sludge. Once dried, it is refilled. New automatic transmission fluid must be pumped through the transmission until all of the old fluid is removed. Additionally, in cases where restrictions and/or varnish build-up is suspected, the flush would begin with the cleaner, and end with clean fluid. Moreover, the transmission screen needs to be replaced once the flush is completed.

, Automotive Editor

Armaan Almeida is the Editor-in-Chief of the New Car Pricing Insider blog and publishes daily incentives on new cars in addition to newsworthy articles pertaining to the auto industry.

Follow On: Google+ | Website