Why you should choose a general auto repair shop vs. a transmission repair shop.
by Tom Lambert | Owner of Shadetree Automotive
Transmissions are not only one of the more expensive components of your vehicle, but they are also one of the more misdiagnosed components as well.
Over the past 20+ years (dang I am getting old) of running our local family business, I have had countless customers come to me for transmission repairs and service.
The top customer concerns I see are Slipping, not shifting properly, not shifting at all, shuddering, noises, and leaks: I would dare say that 50% of the time the customer brings their car to me suspecting it needs a transmission service, we find a separate problem with the car that is actually causing the problem. I love these phone calls.
If you bring your car to our shop suspecting it needs a transmission service repair or replacement, you are having a rough day and expecting the worst. Nothing beats getting to call you and tell you it needs something way easier and less money than a transmission replacement.
Now don’t get your hopes too high…you have to remember that the other 50% of the time I am verifying through specific testing that your suspicions were correct and that you do indeed need a transmission service repair or replacement.
To finish my point of why I strongly recommend you take your vehicle to your trusted auto repair shop rather than taking it to one of the Transmission only shops is the likelihood that the problem is not 100% transmission-related. You want a qualified technician that knows your vehicle well. The whole vehicle, not just one component.
Here is one good example from the other day:
Customer’s concern: “My Chevrolet Silverado is not shifting properly and when it does shift…it slams into gear. It happens especially during downshift on off-ramp after driving the freeway. It has 130,00 miles so I need a price on a transmission”
We had the customer drop their truck off with us for proper transmission service diagnosis and sent them on their way for the day in one of our loaner cars.
We dispatched our Chevrolet/ GMC technician to test drive and duplicate the customer’s transmission shifting concern.
The technician drove it for about 20 minutes with his diagnostic scan tool equipment connected and was able to duplicate the customer’s shifting concern. While watching the data on his scan tool, he noticed that the signal from the throttle position sensor was changing dramatically every time the vehicle had a hard time shifting.
Once we received approval from our customer for us to move forward with the diagnosis, our technician performed specific tests on the transmission and found no major problems. He also performed a specific test on the throttle position sensor and found it to be faulty. The throttle position sensor sends a signal to the truck’s computer to tell it where the accelerator is at. The computer then utilizes that signal and data from several other components to determine when and how to shift. When the throttle signal was making dramatic changes, it was giving the truck’s computer false data on when and how hard to shift therefore causing all the customer’s transmission shifting concerns.
Once approved by our customer, our technician replaced the throttle position sensor, performed a couple more specific tests to verify no other problems were found, then performed an extended test drive to confirm that all the customer’s concerns were fixed.
This was a good day. A customer brought their Chevrolet Silverado in expecting a major transmission service repair and ended up leaving the shop the next day with a fairly simple and inexpensive repair.
Another good example from the other day:
Customers’ concern: “Our Nissan Xterra’s transmission went out. We need you to tow it in and give us an estimate”
Dispatched the Xterra to one of our Nissan technicians for him to perform his initial diagnosis and create an estimate for repair.
The technician pushed the vehicle into the shop and performed his initial inspection. One of the first steps of our initial inspection is to test all fluids under the hood. Our technician found the transmission fluid to be overfilled and the coolant to be a little low. He also found that the transmission fluid sample did not look quite right. In looking into it a little further he found that the transmission fluid cooler is built into the bottom half of the radiator. This transmission cooler portion of the radiator had failed and allowed the coolant to enter into the transmission fluid.
Once approved by our customer, our technician replace the radiator and exchanged all the fluid in the transmission using our fluid exchange machine. He then performed an extended test drive to verify that the transmission was functioning properly and was not damaged by the fluid contamination.
This was another good day. Although the customer was slightly skeptical about our diagnosis, we were able to get their vehicle fixed up for a lot less than the transmission service they were suspecting.
One more quick example:
Customer’s concern: “The transmission on my Audi is slipping. It barely had enough power to get me here. It just revs up like the transmission is bad”
What our Audi/ Volkswagen technician found was that the transmission fluid level was a little low. This is a little more difficult vehicle to check. It doesn’t have a dipstick. It requires a specific process to check the fluid level through a plug under the vehicle and the operating temp has to be in a specific range. Further, into his diagnostic efforts, he found that the seal in between the transmission and the front differential failed. He separated the two components, resealed them, and filled them to the proper fluid levels. The transmission was back in proper working condition and we had one happy customer.