How to Replace a Transmission

how to replace a transmissionIf you’re wondering how to replace a transmission, you’re probably in a tight spot.  Replacing the transmission on your car is no easy job, but if yours isn’t working properly, then you may not have much of an option.  Before you go jacking your car up and turning wrenches you may want to consider the cost.  Remember, even if your car doesn’t drive it is still worth something.  You can always advertize it as a mechanics special in your local car listing, donate it one of the many car donation programs like Kidney Cars, or sell it to a junkyard.  Once you add up the cost of all the parts you will need, including a new transmission, and the labor to replace your transmission or the time it will take you to do it, you may be better off cutting your loses and finding a new vehicle.

You may also consider rebuilding your transmission rather than replacing it.  More than likely, most of your transmission is fine and reusable, there are just a few parts that need to be replaced.  It may be more economical to rebuild your transmission and reinstall it rather than installing a new, or used transmission.

If you’re still interested in replacing your transmission, know the procedure will vary significantly whether you are doing it on a front wheel drive car, all-wheel drive vehicle or a truck.  Because of that, our procedure will be very general and only cover the basics involved in any transmission replacement.  With any maintenance item on your vehicle, start by disconnecting the negative battery cable and blocking your vehicle so it cannot roll or move.  In most cases, you will have to significantly raise your vehicle in order to have enough room to remove your transmission from the bottom.  Having approximately twice the height of your transmission will make the job much easier.  A lift is the easiest way to do this, but if you do not have a lift, use extra care in lifting and securing your vehicle.  Jack stands should be placed under frame rails, pinch welds or axles.  Before you crawl under your vehicle, make sure it is absolutely secure.

To minimize the number of times you are up and down, it is smart to do everything you can under the hood before you crawl under.  This can include loosening bolts, unplugging wiring harnesses and moving shift linkages.  In some cases, you may even need to remove interior components like the center console to move shift linkages or gain access to wiring clips and plugs.  The goal of this step is to make sure you remove anything that may be connected to the transmission so it isn’t damaged during removal.

Next, slide underneath your vehicle.  Again check for wiring and connectors that you can remove as well as hoses or pipes that cross under your transmission that you may need to remove so you have room to take the transmission out.  Next, drain the transmission fluid and remove the axles or drive shafts.  If you have a 4 wheel drive vehicle, you may consider removing your transfer case before you remove the transmission, or it may be easier to remove them as a unit and separate them once they are out of the vehicle.  Once you have all the wires, hoses and other equipment removed from the transmission, the fluid drained and the axles or drive shafts removed, you are ready to start removing the transmission.

Start by removing the bolts that attached the bell housing to the engine block.  Some of these may be easier to remove from the top and some of them may require long extensions or universal joints on your sockets to remove them.  Your transmission will be held in place by the alignment dowels and the input shaft so you should be safe to remove all the bolts without the transmission sliding out, but be careful as you remove the last few bolts.

how to replace a transmissionYou then need to slide the transmission straight away from the engine in order to not damage the clutch or torque converter.  Your transmission is supported by a cross member or an engine mount so you need to first remove that.  In removing the cross member or mount, make sure you are supporting the weight of the transmission and engine with a jack or stand to keep from damaging the mounts.  You need to support the transmission with a jack with wheels so you can use it to support the weight of the transmission as you slide it straight away from the engine.  Once you can see the entire input shaft or torque converter you can start to lower the transmission and pull it out from under your vehicle.

Installation of your new transmission can go in the opposite order.  Things can be made simpler by labeling components you remove properly and saving and labeling the nuts and bolts you remove so you can put everything back together the right way.

If this explanation sounds long and arduous you’re right.  Knowing how to replace a transmission doesn’t always make the job easier as they are heavy and awkward to handle and require the removal of a lot of equipment.  To make sure you won’t have to replace your transmission anytime soon, make sure you do everything you can to maintain your current transmission.  The best thing you can do is regularly check your transmission fluid to make sure the level is where it needs to be.  The other thing you can do is make sure to change your transmission fluid at the factory recommended intervals.

Old transmission fluid can cause premature wear to your transmission necessitating a replacement, but low transmissions fluid levels are just as bad for your transmission.  Regularly checking your transmission fluid level can help you catch a leak and add fluid before any damage is done.  If you find your transmission fluid level low, add BlueDevil Transmission Sealer along with your new fluid to seal the leak and prevent another low fluid level in your transmission.

BlueDevil Transmission Sealer

You can learn more about BlueDevil Transmission Sealer here: Transmission Sealer

You can purchase BlueDevil Transmission Sealer from any of our partnering local auto parts stores like:

  • AutoZone
  • Advance Auto Parts
  • Bennett Auto Supply
  • CarQuest Auto parts
  • NAPA Auto Parts
  • O’Reilly Auto Parts
  • Pep Boys
  • Fast Track
  • Bumper to Bumper Auto Parts Specialists
  • S&E Quick Lube Distributer
  • DYK Automotive

 

Pictures provided by:

transmission.jpg – by Bill Wrigley – Licensed By Creative Commons via Wikimedia – Original Link
transmission_removal.jpg – by EMcCutuchan By Creative Commons via Wikimedia – Original Link

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14 responses to “How to Replace a Transmission

    1. Erin-

      It is difficult for us to give you an idea of what is going on without a little more information. You could always have a certified mechanic run a diagnostic on the vehicle to help you pinpoint the possible cause of any abnormal noise.

      Thank You!

      -BDP

      1. I want to replace an automatic transmission in a 2000 vw vr6, what else do I need aside from a transmission (e.g. Tranny fluid, seals, filter) ?

        1. Josh,

          Thanks for your question about your VW. If you’ve got a new or rebuilt transmission you should really only need the transmission fluid to add to the new transmission after it has been installed. It should come with a new filter and new seals and gaskets already installed so the process should be as simple as removing the old transmission and installing the new one. Since you’re doing all that work you may consider replacing your CV axles while you’re there.

          If you intend on rebuilding the transmission you already have you will need a transmission rebuild kit which should come with all the necessary seals and gaskets you will need.

          Thanks again for your question!
          -BD Auto Pro

  1. I want to change my 3 speed on the tree to a 4 speed automatic. What do I need? How hard is the conversion? Do I need anything else do I need a different radiator transfer case?

    1. Clint,

      Thanks for your question about your transmission. it sounds like you’re looking to replace your whole transmission which can be a pretty involved job. You’ll need a transmission that can mate to the motor you have in your car which will include the proper torque converter and bell housing. You’ll also most likely need to have a new driveshaft made as most transmissions are different lengths. Since the new transmission will be a different size you’ll also most likely need to build a new cross member to bolt to the new transmission. You may also consider changing your rear end gear ratios to better match the new transmission. Lastly, you’ll need to correct interior pieces to allow for the shift lever or a console shifter depending on your preference. All that will be more or less complicated depending on the make and model of vehicle you’re working on.

      Thanks again for your question!
      -BD Auto Pro

  2. If you put a new motor into your vehicle because the last one had to many miles, should you change your transmission too even if it looks like it’s still in good condition?

    1. Mari-

      Thank you for your question. It is not necessary to replace your transmission just because you are replacing the engine. If you are not noticing any slipping or jerking, and the fluid seems to be clean and at the proper level, then the transmission would not need to be replaced. It may be a good idea, however, to have the transmission flushed, as this is recommended maintenance in higher mileage vehicles.

      Hope this helps!

      -BDP

    1. Dean,

      Thanks for your question about your Ford Escape. You should be able to remove the transmission with the engine in place, or by removing them together. Each procedure has its benefits and its challenges so you may consider finding someone who has done the job before and asking them which way they did and what the challenges are. If you’ve got an automotive lift then you will likely have better luck getting the transmission out from under the vehicle without removing the engine. If you have an engine hoist, you may consider removing them together from the top.

      Thanks again for your question!
      -BD Auto Pro

  3. Going to change my tranny on ford e 350 cargo van.what kinda gasgetts other stuff will i need to complete this job properly. Thank you for your time.

    1. Michael,

      Thanks for your question about your Ford E350 Cargo Van. Changing a transmission is a big job so our recommendation would be to find a repair manual for your specific model and year van. You’ll need that repair manual for lots of different bolt torque information as well as what the best procedure is to remove the transmission. You often can download these repair manuals online for free.

      If you plan on simply replacing the transmission on your van with a new or rebuilt one the new transmission should come with all the new gaskets and seals installed so you shouldn’t anything like that, just possibly a new transmission mount if your old one is worn out. If you plan on rebuilding the old transmission we would recommend getting a full rebuild kit which should come with all the gaskets and other components you need for the job.

      Thanks again for your question!
      -BD Auto Pro

  4. I’m looking to change the transmission in my 2009 Nissan Rogue. This may sound like a dumb question but is there a particular size or anything like that I should be looking for if I’m looking to buy one out of another car?

    1. Allijiah-

      Thank you for asking about your Nissan Rogue. Are you asking about replacing the transmission with a non CVT transmission or replacing it with a CVT transmission from a different vehicle? Please contact our technical support line at 888-863-0426 so that we can get a better understanding of your question and be able to make any appropriate recommendations.

      Thank you!

      -BDP

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