Industry Outlook: The Modern Transmission

Well, the transmission business is changing quicker than ever before. The modern transmission is a fabulous piece of machinery. They are lightweight, smooth and super efficient. Five speed automatics have become standard with the six speed automatics following close behind. Nine speeds are not an unusual find in higher end late model luxury cars.

The modern transmission is highly adaptive to clutch wear and driver habits. Manufacturers have constantly improved the idiosyncrasies typically associated with the automatic transmission. With that said, the On/Off, Open/Closed shift solenoid is a thing of the past.  All the solenoids have gone to Pulse Width Modulated (P.W.M.) operation, like a dimmer switch as opposed to a light switch and they are specific to each gear change function.  One Electronic Pressure Control (E.P.C.) solenoid no longer covers all the gear shifts, it’s done at each individual shift solenoid and there are twice as many of them. The Transmission Control Module (T.C.M.) is more commonly moved to the valve body inside the transmission instead of behind the glove box.

All this being said, what does all this mean to our industry? Well, diagnostics can be considerably harder and a misdiagnosed transmission repair just got way more expensive. The cost of the transmission has gone up exponentially. The days of a Turbo 350 rebuild for $350 are history.

The cost of a valve body with an integral TCM like the one in the late model Nissan Frontier runs $1,000. That is just one commonly replaced component that would go into an overhaul/rebuilt or a remanufactured transmission. 

More than ever, manufacturers are trying to stay out ahead of the transmission rebuilder industry with more and more proprietary products. However, the transmission industry continues to shadow the manufacturers through organizations like A.T.R.A. or ATSG.  We are fixing more and more transmissions with scanners, pressure gauges, lap-tops and an internet connection. In other words, we change TCM parameters to make the transmission work better instead of replacing widgets, tweaking springs, adjusting T.V. cables or replacing vacuum modulators. 

In summary, we may not always like it, but it is our belief that we need to continue to learn, change and adapt in our industry. This means staying current with quarterly schooling, take full advantage of our technical support and to continue to embrace the change.  With the price of a transmission going way up and a weak economy,  if we can fix a transmission for a customer without replacing it, our value has skyrocketed to the consumer and that’s where we continue to choose to be.

Dave Riccio is the owner of Tri-City Transmission in Tempe, AZ and the host of Bumper to Bumper Radio every Saturday from 11:00am to noon on KTAR NewsTalk Radio, 92.3 FM in Phoenix. For more information, see http://www.tricitytransmission.com.