Like engines, manual and automatic transmissions are typically replaced rather than repaired if the problem is big. Fortunately, there are tests you can perform on automatic transmissions. In addition, there are linkage adjustments for manual and automatic transmissions to make things better. If necessary, automatic transmissions can be adjusted without removing them from the car. Beyond that, call a transmission shop—and make sure your credit card limit is high.
Just a reminder: a transmission for front-wheel drive cars is combined with the differential, technically referred to as a transaxle. But I’m going to be stubborn and call them transmissions.
Manual Transmission Repair
Manual transmission repair starts with adjusting linkage. Linkage links the shifter with the transmission’s gears. Here, again, refer to the specific car’s owner’s manual as just about every car made since the last major war has its own unique linkage system. Having said that, most are similar. Typically, linkage is adjusted by finding and moving the nut on an adjustment rod located near the transmission. Staring at the adjustment for a minute or two—and maybe asking someone to move the shifter through the gears slowly as you watch—will teach you how the linkage works. It may also enlighten you on why it doesn’t.
Automatic Transmission Repair
Automatic transmissions, too, have linkage. And most linkage systems have adjustments somewhere near the side of the transmission. However, parts inside an automatic transmission, called bands, may require adjustment as well. This is why automatic transmission specialists go to school. If you’re a brave soul, follow instructions in your car’s service manual (preferably the professional version) for adjusting an automatic transmission.
Fortunately, manual and automatic transmissions are a commodity. That means you can replace your old, tired tranny with a new, slightly used, or rebuilt transmission. Removal is relatively easy once the car has sufficient room under it to lower the transmission. It will be attached on one end to the engine with bolts and on the other end to the transaxle differential or to the driveline, also with bolts.
CV Joint Repair
Note that front-engine transaxle cars deliver its power to the front wheels through CV or constant velocity joints. CV joints wear out more frequently than transmissions, so look to these first when you think the car may be having transmission problems. To protect CV joints, most have a sealed rubber cover called a boot that can leak and shorten the joint’s life. So inspect the CV joints while you’re under the car for maintenance.