If your transmission is dripping or you’re seeing pools of reddish liquid under your car, it’s time to fix the leak.
Modern transmissions are partially hydraulic, meaning that even a small leak could reduce the pressure enough to destroy the transmission. But, even losing transmission fluid as a lubricant can cause your transmission to overheat and experience more wear and tear.
Acting fast and fixing the leak is always the cheapest option for your car.
However, the average cost of repairing a transmission leak can vary quite a bit. Simple seal leaks can be fixed for as little as $100. On the other hand, if parts are failing and you have to replace a torque converter, you might be looking at $1,000+.
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How Much Does Transmission Leak Repair Cost?*
The cost of repairing your transmission will always depend on which part is causing the leak. This means that you’ll need a diagnostics check before you can get an accurate quote.
In some cases, a simple inspection under the car will tell you everything you need to know. In other, you’ll want to run a computer diagnostics check or even take apart the transmission before you can see the issue.
Some common causes of leaks include:
|Cost of Part
|Cost of Labor
|Input Shaft Seal
|Output Shaft Seal
*These cost estimates are based on pricing and quotes from December 2022. Pricing may change at any time. Please use this research as a starting point for your own.
Transmission Leak Repairing Price Factors
With numerous reasons why your transmission might be leaking, there are numerous factors that will impact the total cost of the repair.
Here, the most important factors are normally the make and model of your vehicle, the cost of labor in your area, and the cost of the part.
Make and Model
The make and model of your vehicle can have a significant impact on the total cost of repairing your transmission. For example, depending on the frame in your vehicle, you can spend anywhere from 1-8 hours on replacing an oil pan.
Why? In many vehicles, the oil pan is under the frame. This means you may have to remove cross members to drop the oil pan out.
In other cases, you may actually have to drop the transmission to get the oil pan out. In other cars, you’ll simply have to remove a few bolts.
So, the make and model of your car will significantly impact labor for some types of transmission repair. Here, the oil pan, oil pan gasket, and seals are the most likely to be impacted.
Cost of Labor
The cost of labor can vary significantly depending on where you go.
For example, low-end mom-and-pop style mechanics can charge as little as $15 per hour. On the other hand, chain shops like Valvoline and YourMechanic normally charge around $95. And, dealers average around $150-$170 per hour.
If you live in a high-density urban area, rates can go up well over $200 an hour.
Depending on your transmission leak repair, you can expect hours to run anywhere from 1 to over 8. Most mechanics will charge a minimum of one hour of work, meaning you’ll pay at least their minimum hourly fee. That averages out to around $95 in most places.
In addition, if you have a longer job, you can expect to pay shop and lot fees as well. Shop fees are usually 5-20% of the total bill and are intended to cover reception, phones, etc.
Lot fees come into play when you have to leave your car overnight and usually run between $5 and $25 per day.
Cost of Parts
Repairing a transmission leak might be a matter of replacing the oil pan plug, which will cost you a few dollars. On the other hand, you might need a new torque converter, which can cost you over $1,000.
In addition, any of those parts can be aftermarket, secondhand, or top-dollar original equipment manufacturer parts from the dealer.
If you’re replacing a seal or a gasket, you can normally expect the cost of parts to be relatively low. However, a transmission pan gasket can actually cost close to $100 from the dealer. So, the cost of parts can be significant, even for relatively small parts.
If you’re dropping the transmission, it often makes sense to do other work at the same time.
In addition, if your transmission has sprung a leak, it’s important to figure out why and to do any preventive work at the same time. This can mean that you do more than just fix the leak when you take your car in.
That can cause the total cost of repair to skyrocket very quickly.
6 Causes of Transmission Leak Fluid Leaks
Any part of your transmission could fail. Most of those parts use transmission fluid for lubricant. Others use transmission fluid to maintain hydraulic pressure. Cracks, damaged seals, or even worn fittings can all result in leaks.
The following includes six of the most common reasons transmissions start leaking.
1. Transmission Pan Leaks
The cost of repairing a transmission pan ranges between $300 and $1500.
Transmission pans normally develop leaks because of road wear and tear, debris, or because of accidents.
The metal pan may be chipped, cracked, or dented, or even twisted. This can cause it to leak from a hole or because it no longer fits snugly against the transmission.
When this happens, you’ll have to either fill the hole with resin-based putty or replace the pan.
Here, transmission pans normally cost $160 to about $1,072. While a simple metal pan, most transmission pans never have to be replaced.
Often, you can reduce the cost by choosing a secondhand part from a junkyard or a mechanic. The rest will be labor, which heavily depends on the make and model of the vehicle and the labor involved in removing the pan.
2. Transmission Pan Gasket
Replacing a transmission pan gasket normally costs between $100 and $1100.
Here, most of the cost is associated with the cost of removing the transmission pan, so that you can remove the gasket to replace it.
In almost every case, the transmission pan gasket will cost between $10 and $85. However, you may pay more from some dealers.
3. Leaking Transmission Plug
Replacing a leaking transmission plug should cost you between $20 and $150.
The transmission oil plug is a small, screw-in plug that allows you to drain the pan. If it’s been improperly installed, has cracked, or has worn down, it could start leaking.
Here, replacements normally cost between $3 and $25 for parts. The costs of installing the part are also normally very low. However, you’ll also normally have to pay for replacement transmission fluid, which can be pricey.
4. Damaged or Worn Seals
Replacing a transmission seal normally costs $85-$400.
Your transmission uses seals at the drive shaft, input shaft, and output shaft. Each of these is designed to maintain the fluid inside the transmission and torque converter. When they wear down, tear, or start to harden from age, they can cause leaks.
Replacing those seals normally means decoupling the relevant shaft, removing the old seal, and replacing the seal. That may mean dropping the transmission.
However, in some cases, it can be a simple matter of removing a few bolts and pulling the shaft out and down. For this reason, you can expect labor to take anywhere between 1 and 4 hours.
5. Torque Converter
The average cost of replacing a leaking torque converter runs between $400 and $1,200.
The torque converter holds about half of the transmission fluid in your vehicle at any given time. Removing it means releasing the drive shaft, dropping the transmission, and then removing the flywheel.
From there, you can remove the torque converter and install a new one. Often, it’s a good idea to replace all relevant seals at the same time, because seals are cheap and the labor is not.
6. Damaged Fluid Lines
Replacing transmission fluid lines normally costs $100-$500.
Filler tubes, coolant lines, and fluid lines are very prone to leaking. However, they can be very inexpensive to repair.
In other cases, you may actually have to drop the transmission to fully access them. Here, fluid lines are metal or plastic tubes, which can rust or break when exposed to harsh weather conditions, road salt, or debris.
When they start leaking, replacing them is the only option.
Signs Of Transmission Leaks
The most obvious sign of a leaking transmission is visible fluid pooling under the car. This might take the form of spots, pools, or discolored areas when you move the car.
However, fluid leaks can be so subtle that it takes a long time to notice the visible signs. In other cases, your transmission fluid may leak onto the drive shaft and actually burn off before leaking.
So, you’ll also want to pay attention to your vehicle’s performance, sound, and fluid levels.
Losing Fluid Quickly
If you frequently have to refill the transmission fluid, it means your transmission is either running too hot or you have a leak.
Normally, when you change your fluid at 30,000-60,000 miles, it shouldn’t be low. If you check the dipstick and your transmission fluid keeps going lower, you most likely have a leak.
Grinding and Clunking Sounds
Most transmissions run relatively silently. Therefore, if you start to hear noises from the transmission, in the middle of the car, it’s a good sign something is going wrong.
If you’re hearing grinding, clunking, or rattling sounds, it may mean that the transmission fluid is low and is no longer properly lubricating the transmission.
When this happens, it’s crucial to have the issue checked as quickly as possible to avoid permanently damaging the transmission. Checking your transmission fluid via the dipstick under the hood is a good first step.
In addition, if the problem is very bad, your car may actually make noises while in neutral. This is always a sign to immediately check your transmission.
Low transmission fluid can cause your vehicle to start vibrating, especially when you attempt to accelerate or increase power. This normally happens because the gears are slipping, meaning your vehicle vibrates and performs unreliably.
This is also true if your car shudders to start or takes longer to accelerate than you’re used to. Often, that means there are issues with gears, which may be that they are slipping or sticking.
Transmission fluid overheats and burns off when it hits the drive shaft, when the transmission runs too hot, or when it pools on top of the transmission. Here, issues may be a leak or low transmission fluid.
However, if you smell something burning when driving or when getting out of your car, it’s always a good idea to check and have your vehicle inspected to see where the problem is coming from.
Transmission Running Hot
If your vehicle is running so hot that you can feel the heat rising through the floorboards from the transmission case, it almost always means there is a leak or another problem with the transmission.
Here, the transmission normally runs hot because the gears aren’t lubricated enough so they create more friction and more heat.
Fixing Transmission Leaks Process: 15 Steps
There are dozens of reasons your transmission fluid may be leaking.
However, the transmission gasket has to be replaced every 30,000-100,000 miles. This means the gasket is a common reason for fluid leaks.
We’ll cover how to replace it here.
- Jack up the car and stabilize it on jack stands or use a lift.
- Drain the transmission fluid.
- Loosen and remove all of the bolts on the transmission pan. Leave the corner bolts for last.
- Loosen the corner bolts on the transmission pan but leave them firmly in place.
- Use a flat screwdriver to pry around the oil pan to separate it from the transmission case. You can support it with your hands but the corner bolts should support the weight.
- Remove the oil pan by supporting the pan in the middle and undoing the bolts. Be careful not to splash fluid.
- Take a photo of the oil filter and gasket. You’ll want to put these back in the same way.
- Remove the oil filter and gasket.
- Use a gasket scraper to remove the old gasket from the oil pan and the transmission. Clean it, being careful of any magnets, and be careful to look for signs of transmission damage, such as metal shavings.
- Replace the oil filter.
- Replace the gasket on the pan.
- Bolt the transmission pan back into place, starting with each of the four corners.
- Tighten the bolts to the torque recommendations on your vehicle. Do not overtighten as it will ruin the pan.
- Refill the transmission fluid.
- Slowly warm up the engine and start shifting through gears. Once the engine is fully warm, check and top up the transmission fluid, being careful not to overfill it.
In some vehicles, this process can be more complicated because the frame is in the way.
In this case, you may have to either jack up the transmission or remove the cross member from the frame to remove the pan.
Transmission Leak Prevention Tips
In some cases, you can prevent transmission leaks through simple, regular maintenance.
In others, transmission leaks are a result of accidents or unavoidable road damage.
- Change your fluid as recommended. Old fluid can change consistency, causing more wear and tear on seals and lines. Depending on your vehicle, that’s every 30,000 to 60,000 miles.
- Replace filters and lines on schedule. In most cases, filters, gaskets, and lines should be replaced every 30,000-100,000 miles. Taking time to invest in replacing potentially worn-down parts of your transmission every 60,000 miles can reduce the risk of major transmission damage.
- Check your transmission fluid at every oil change. The fluid should be pink. If the fluid is new, it should be red. Brown, sludge, or very dark colors are all signs that something is going wrong.
Can You Drive With A Transmission Leak?
A leaking transmission runs hotter, causes chemical spills, and causes more wear and tear on the transmission.
It may be safe to drive your vehicle with a leaking transmission, providing you keep the transmission fluid full. However, it is never advised to do so.
If you have to drive with a leaking transmission, try to make it to the mechanic or technician who will be fixing the issue for you.
Money Saving Tips
Fixing a leaking transmission can be costly. These tips should help you to save money in the process.
- Consider DIY. If you know your way around a car, most transmission jobs can be completed within a day. You’ll need good jacks if you have to drop the transmission. However, you can save a larger part of the cost of the repair.
- Consider doing more work at once. For example, if you have to drop the transmission, make sure you check all of the seals, the filters, and the clutch and flywheel. Spending more on parts could save you costly repairs in the future, because dropping the transmission is most of the work and most of the cost.
- Choose your mechanic based on value not on the rate. For example, dealers are expensive but if something goes wrong, they will often replace your transmission. A very low-cost mechanic may not even have proper insurance. Do your research and choose for value, not upfront cost.
If your transmission starts leaking, it’s crucial that you fix it as soon as possible. Leaks can cause a transmission to run hot, increase wear and tear on internal parts, and may cause the gears to slip. Eventually, it could result in irreparable damage to the transmission. However, the cost of replacing a transmission depends on the damaged part and the make and model of your vehicle. In most cases, you can expect costs to average at $500. However, some seals and gaskets can be replaced in as little as an hour for less than $200.
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