If you're having problems with your transmission – slipping out of gear, clunking when shifting, or even transmission fluid leaking underneath your car – then you know you need to take your car in to a mechanic. But for such important (and often expensive) work, how can you be sure you're taking it to the right place?
Because of how complex the transmissions of today's cars are, it's often not enough to simply have a good mechanic – you need a good mechanic who is also a transmission expert. You don't want to end up with a repair job that only lasts a few months and and leads to another transmission problem down the road.
Diagnosing and repairing a transmission often involves disassembling, testing, and adjusting hundreds of components in order to find where the problem lies; with today's computerized systems, there's even the possibility that transmission issues are coming from outside the transmission system.
That means you don't want someone working on your car if your transmission will be their first try. Instead, choose a repair shop that advertises as specializing in transmissions so that you know where their interest and expertise lies.
There are multiple groups that certify technicians in transmission repair, such as the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence and the Automatic Transmission Rebuilders Association. Finding a technician who has been certified means you will know you are getting an expert; beyond someone who has just studied transmissions, you are also getting someone who spends time staying up-to-date in the field. With the constantly advancing technology used in cars and transmissions today, this is crucial to getting a good repair job.
For such major repairs, you don't want anything to come as a surprise. No matter which repair shop you choose, make sure you keep in contact with them throughout the work. From the start, be clear about how much it will cost to diagnose your transmission problems.
Once the problem is diagnosed, get a sense of how they are going to fix it. Are they planning to replace parts of your transmission or the entire thing? Where will the replacements come from – are you getting used parts or new? What sort of warranty will you get on them? Getting the answers to these questions should definitely not feel like pulling teeth; if you think the shop doesn't want to discuss them with you, consider finding a shop you can be more comfortable with.
Hopefully, when you find a place you click with, you'll end up with a shop that you can rely on for any future problems as well – and you can feel confident that you're getting the best repairs possible for your car.