Transmissions: Repair or Replace?

The factors to consider before deciding the best option.

Doing so, the level of certainty in the uncertain world of replace versus repair is sure to deliver better reliability, performance and lower total lifecycle costs.


Dennis Breedlove, director, global channel development and aftermarket programs for Allison Transmission, provided the following information.

- Repairing - Qualified repair facilities can correct nearly any transmission problem.  These types of repairs are done on a “time and material” basis. 

In these cases, the technicians diagnose the problem, disassemble the transmission to the extent necessary and then reassemble the unit with needed new parts. As a final step, the unit is dyno and/or road tested. 

- Replacing with a remanufactured transmission - Replacing a failed unit with a remanufactured one - also referred to as rebuilt, overhauled or reconditioned - offers customers the advantages of typically faster repairs, as well as the assurance of a quality repair. In this process, it is obviously important to use quality remanufactured products. 

Unfortunately, there are many rebuilders that use improperly trained technicians and inferior quality new parts or excessively worn used parts. Such shortcuts typically render a competitively priced transmission, but the unit reliability most often suffers. 

In the world of remanufactured transmissions, the old saying of “you get what you pay for” usually applies.

- Replacing with a new or used transmission - Usually, failed transmissions are replaced with new transmissions only if the vehicle itself is of recent vintage. 

As with most modern commercial transportation products, transmissions rely on electronic controls for an ever-increasing level of performance. As these products are commonly updated with more and more capable controllers, it is important to match the proper transmission vintage to the vehicle being repaired. 

For example, it would usually not make financial sense, nor may it even be possible, to service a 10-year-old vehicle with a new vintage transmission. There would likely be compatibility issues with the integration of the new transmission electronics and those of the old vehicle.


If the transmission problem is relatively minor, repairing the unit is usually the most cost-effective and quickest method to get the vehicle back into revenue service. However, if the extent of a failure is significant, the time necessary to make repairs will obviously increase correspondingly. 

At some point replacing a failed unit with a new or remanufactured transmission can often be the fastest and most cost-effective method.

Another consideration when major repairs are needed is with regard to warranties. Often, companies provide a longer and more comprehensive warranty for completely remanufactured transmissions relative to a simple time and material repairs. Of course the extent and cost of the necessary transmission repair is a major factor in this decision process.

Total cost is usually the key factor when deciding on repair options. Total costs include not only the expense of the actual repair, but the cost of lost revenue opportunity when the vehicle is out of service. 

Particularly since the economic recession began, customers have become increasingly interested in minimizing fleet downtime. The costs associated with vehicle removal from revenue generating service becomes one of the areas of greatest concern. 

Failures that in the past may have been repaired by a transmission shop are often replaced with a remanufactured or new unit as the preferred method to get the vehicle on the road as quickly as possible.

Additionally, the age of a vehicle is usually considered when deciding on repair options.  Owners of late model vehicles typically will give greater consideration to quality remanufactured or new replacement units as they have interest in long-term reliability and durability. 

On the other hand, owners of late-in-life vehicles often seek an option that will enable the vehicle to return to operation at the lowest price point. Long-term durability of these type repairs is of secondary concern.


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