How to Change a Transmission on a Car

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If your gears stop changing, it's time to change your gears. Switching the automatic transmission in a rear-wheel-drive car can be difficult, but it is one of the most rewarding experiences in automobile maintenance.

Things You'll Need

  • Line wrenches
  • Long extension for socket wrenches
  • Remote starter switch
  • Container for nuts and bolts
  • Standard set of hand tools
  • Transmission jack (if you don't think your floor jack will handle the transmission)
  • Park the vehicle on a flat, swept surface.

  • Put the car in neutral, and jack it up enough to allow you to remove the old transmission and slide the new one in place. Support it with jack stands.

  • Loosen the drive shaft at the rear end. Usually, U-bolts hold the universal joint to the rear end. Loosen the U-bolts. When the second U-bolt is loose, pry the drive shaft toward the front of the car until it clears the little ears on the rear end housing. After the rear of the drive shaft drops down, pull the front out of the transmission.

  • Loosen the coolant lines that run from the radiator to the transmission. Take the loose ends at the transmission and tie them out of your way.

  • Loosen the front of the transmission, which should have some type of access cover. The bottom of the torque converter should be visible.

  • Rotate the motor so you can take out the nuts holding the torque converter to the flywheel of the motor.

  • Hook the remote starter switch to the starter or solenoid.

  • Stay out from under the car and “bump” your switch to see if the motor rotates safely. Take your loose coil wire and safely store it so your motor does not start during this process.

  • Go under the car and “bump” the motor around until you see the torque converter nuts and loosen one at a time.

  • Loosen the negative battery cable and remove the starter.

  • Position the jack under the transmission.

  • Remove all the bolts holding the transmission to the motor. Leave two or three in (finger-tight) that are readily accessible.

  • Grasp the tail shaft of the transmission and, while shaking it back and forth, pull it toward the rear of the car at the same time. The transmission should come loose from the motor at this time.

  • Remove the finger-tight bolts that you left in, pull the transmission loose from the motor, and remove it from under the car.

  • Rotate your torque converter (the round appliance at the front of the transmission) about 90 or so degrees and remove it from the old transmission. Reinstall it on the new transmission the same way. Make sure you hear a locking sound during re-installation. Pull straight out on it and it should not come out.

  • Installing the new transmission is merely the reverse of removal.

Tips & Warnings

  • See if your local community college has an auto course that will let you work on your own vehicle. This should give you access to the tools and jacks you need, and possibly some knowledgeable help.
  • Check the threads on the studs that hold the torque converter in the flywheel to make sure you have not stripped any of them during removal.
  • It would be a good idea to have the torque converter professionally cleaned; the bulk of your old transmission fluid is still in the torque converter.
  • When you get ready to put your transmission back in, make sure you have a new filter and that you have reinstalled your cleaned torque converter.
  • If you are worried about making a mess, put something under the rear of transmission to catch any transmission fluid that may run out.
  • When taking out the second U-bolt, make sure you support the drive shaft with your hand or tie it off to something.
  • Do not bend the coolant lines; it will make it that much harder to reconnect them during re-installation.

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  • Photo Credit yellow car, a honda japanese sport car model image by alma_sacra from Fotolia.com
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