Is It Worth Replacing Your Truck’s Transmission?

Few components in a truck work harder than the transmission. The transmission takes all of the power your truck’s engine can send and converts it to usable kinetic motion that can move the freight that keeps our country going. With some truckers driving hundreds of thousands of miles, even upwards of a million in some cases, needing transmission work is going to be inevitable.

Every time your truck shifts gears or changes torque settings, the gears, rings, bands, and clutches that make up the transmission get a workout by activating or disengaging as needed. This happens so frequently that we rarely think about it but over time this activity can create significant amounts of wear on transmission components. Enough heavy-duty use can eventually create a diminished performance or even catastrophic failure. When this happens, the first question on every truck driver’s mind is whether it’s worth it to repair or rebuild the transmission, or if they should just buy a new one. 

We’re going to take a look at what it might cost you to get your truck’s transmission repaired or rebuilt, and why those services are often so costly. Then, we’ll dig into the various factors that can affect the average overall cost, as well as when you will want to stick with transmission repairs compared to getting an entirely new transmission or even a completely new truck. In the end, we’ll point you toward a trusted Minnesota-local resource for all of your heavy-duty diesel engine and transmission needs.


How Much Does It Cost to Repair a Heavy-Duty Truck Transmission?

Many factors will determine the eventual cost of repairing the transmission in your truck, but the average heavy-duty truck transmission repair will cost at least $500 to $1,000. More intensive repairs or rebuild efforts can cost several thousand dollars.


Why Is Transmission Repair So Expensive?

There is no single answer to this question, and it can depend on a long list of potential variables. Some transmissions have many more moving parts than others, which is the reason manuals are far cheaper than automatics. Other transmissions use very advanced gearing setups, complex sensors and multiple solenoids, which can dramatically increase the potential points of failure, as well as the cost to repair. 


Transmission Repair Cost Factors

Many different variables can affect the cost of transmission repair for your truck. Here are just a few. 

Manual Or Automatic?

One of the single biggest factors in the potential cost of transmission repair is whether the transmission is manual or automatic. While manual transmissions are far less common in heavy-duty trucks these days, having one can save you untold thousands in repair or rebuild costs over the years. 

Manual transmissions have far fewer moving parts and are generally much quicker and cheaper to repair than automatic transmissions. Automatic transmissions are far more complex and have many more points of potential failure than manual transmissions, but they are much less complicated for the driver to operate.

Vehicle Age

This is another factor that ties in closely with the complexity difference between manual and automatic transmissions. Older transmissions are much easier to work on because they are not as high-tech as many of today’s newer transmissions. This can reduce the diagnostic and eventual labor cost of any needed repairs.

However, the flip side of that coin is that older transmissions are becoming harder and harder to find parts for. For those who are operating transmissions that are approaching 20, 30 or even 40+ years old, while they may be easier to fix than modern transmissions, keeping them in service is becoming more and more expensive due to limited component availability.

Vehicle Manufacturer

The manufacturer of the truck or the transmission, if not original to the truck, also has a considerable effect on the cost of the repairs for that transmission. Some manufacturers make their parts and repair components widely available, which by nature makes them much more affordable. 

On the other hand, some manufacturers restrict part availability or price them out of reach for many repair locations that aren’t authorized dealership shops. This means that only the most experienced and capable shops will have the components needed to complete transmission repairs if the truck isn’t taken to a dealer mechanic.

Repair Location

Where you get the transmission repaired is another incredibly influential factor in the eventual cost of the repair. The most expensive location to have any service or repair done is the dealership mechanic. Not only will more rigid labor cost frameworks be in place, but they will also use manufacturer parts and components that will be priced at a premium.

The least expensive option is getting the repair done by the local “truck guy”, who may or may not have the qualifications and skills required to properly and effectively diagnose and repair your transmission issues. For many drivers, this simply isn’t an option for their truck, since their livelihood depends on it.

The option most truck drivers use is bringing their rig to a trusted local heavy-duty truck technician. While it will be more costly than using unskilled or uncertified help, it will always be cheaper than using a dealership mechanic.


When to Repair Your Transmission vs. Replace Your Vehicle

Many truckers wonder what criteria they should look for when determining if it’s a wiser move to repair the transmission, to replace the transmission or even to replace the entire truck. Fortunately, while many light-duty cars and trucks may only have a value roughly equivalent to a new transmission, heavy-duty trucks retain a much more significant value that remains higher than the cost of a new transmission for quite some time. Nevertheless, there are still situations where you may want to repair, and some  cases where you should consider replacing the vehicle entirely.


When It’s Time to Repair

In most cases, the cost and effort required to repair a transmission will be far less than the replacement of the transmission or the vehicle. Since you may only be looking at $2,000 to $5,000 to repair your transmission, that is often dwarfed by the potential cost of replacement, which can reach $10,000 or even more. Have your transmission repaired in these situations:

  • If a trusted local technician determines that a repair or rebuild can give you a significant lifespan extension on your transmission.
  • It is more cost-efficient than a complete transmission or vehicle replacement.
  • It will help keep more components and parts out of scrap yards and landfills, making it a more eco-conscious choice.


When It’s Time to Replace Your Truck

While, more often than not, a repair will be the most economical and the fastest way to get your rig back on the road, this may not always be the case. Here are some situations where the operator may decide that the cost of a transmission repair or replacement simply isn’t worth it:

  • The truck itself, engine included, doesn’t have much life left even with a brand-new transmission.
  • The cost of the transmission replacement is more than the truck is worth or more than you can reasonably get for it. 
  • If the truck is in bad enough shape that it is no longer safe to operate.


How to Know When Your Truck’s Transmission Needs Repairing

Transmissions will seldom simply fail. In nearly all cases, there will be some signs or symptoms that the transmission is having issues. If you notice any of the following signs, it would be a great time to make an appointment with your local truck repair partner to get it checked out:

  • Erratic Shifting When your transmission is working well, there should be very little noticeable action when shifting, and it should be smooth. If there is hesitation, jerkiness or shaking when a new gear is trying to engage, there may be problems that need to be addressed before they worsen. If there is a spike in RPM during a shift, it means that the shift is being delayed and that there may have been a drop in the transmission fluid level. Delays may or may not come with unexpected noises.
  • Leaking Transmission Fluid One of the telltale signs that your truck’s transmission needs to be looked at is when it’s leaking fluid. Transmission fluid is essential to the transmission operation and performs several different functions. It acts as a coolant, keeping the incredible amounts of friction from creating transmission-destroying heat. It also acts as a lubricant, as well as a hydraulic fluid to assist in shifting.
  • Unusual Noises – This is a sign that will cause any truck driver immediate concern. Any noises that suddenly develop while your truck is shifting or operating under load can be indicative of a transmission issue. Noises can commonly be described as rattling, grinding, growling or chattering.


Get Back on the Road With Expert Transmission Repair

If you have started to see any signs that your transmission is having problems, or if you’ve seen a warning light or two come on in your dashboard, it may be time to get your truck in to the experts at Blaine Brothers. We can have one of our technicians diagnose the problem and provide you with more detailed repair information than any other shop!

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Minneapolis, MN 55449

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