After driving a long distance we pull off the interstate and stop for fuel. Resuming our trip, the transmission makes a hard shift and sticks in second gear. Many fears may come to mind such as, what’s happening, can I make it home and how much is this going to cost?
We need to know what is wrong
The first thing many people do is to start calling repair shops looking for information. Often we may ask, "How much is a rebuilt transmission?" This may seem reasonable but may also set the unsuspecting driver up for a very expensive lesson. So what is so wrong with asking for a price?
The first problem is we don’t know what we need. We may think we need a transmission, but what we need to know is the real problem. Many things unrelated to the transmission can cause such problems.
Most auto repair shops are honest but as with anything shady operators also exist. An automatic transmission is expensive and few people know much about them. "How much is a rebuilt transmission,” is a tip off to unscrupulous operators that the caller is primed for a big repair?
“How much” announces that the caller is in the market for a transmission. Shady operators design their entire approach around just such an opportunity. They study the market, know what others are likely to say and have an answer in advance for every objection.
Such shops will rattle off a price that is near the low end of the market. They often offer free towing and inspection. In such an operation price is merely a tool designed to get the vehicle in the shop. Once in the shop, they quickly disable the vehicle, (i.e., take the transmission apart.) With the automatic transmission in pieces the odds are much higher the vehicle will not leave. If we tow the vehicle out, it may not leave with its original parts.
A better approach
In the above example, no one established that the transmission was bad in the first place. More likely the vehicle has an electrical problem and is in "limp mode." Limp is a default mode built into many transmissions. Interrupting the control circuit causes the transmission to lose the ability to find the proper gear. It locks in second to allow the driver to "limp" home and seek service. Something as simple as a loose wire could be the cause.
A quality repair shop will not quote a price without testing to see what is wrong. They will quote an amount per hour to diagnose the problem. All professionals charge for their time and “Free” is a tip off that something is wrong.
Finding a great shop
Seeking an honest and dependable shop is far wiser than wasting time calling around for prices. Tell the shop the symptoms. For instance my transmission will not shift out of second gear.
A quality shop will diagnose the problem and go from there. Diagnosing such a problem without seeing the vehicle is impossible. If the vehicle does not drive, it will be far less expensive to tow to a quality shop. A shop that offers free towing expects to make it back, and more. An honest shop does not use such a ploy.
Free diagnosis is the same. A shop offering free diagnosis knows we only pay them if they find something wrong. They spend money to tow the vehicle and several hours to disassemble the transmission. It is not likely they will absorb the loss and connect a loose wire should that be the problem.
In an honest shop the price will be fair and they will resolve the problem. Such a shop will not disable the vehicle as all diagnosis ends at that point. Think it through before you make an expensive mistake.