When your car needs a new automatic transmission, there are generally two different options to choose: You can have it custom rebuilt in a local transmission shop, or you can buy one from a factory-style remanufacturer and have it installed. These factory rebuilds are called remans.

So which is better, a custom rebuild or a reman? To be honest, there isn’t generally a lot of difference between a good quality reman and a custom rebuild. In fact, many Cottman centers use remans when a transmission is so badly damaged that a custom rebuild would be cost-prohibitive.

Difference Between Rebuild Vs. Reman

The real difference is more about who’s doing the repair than it is the parts they’re using.

That’s because a lot of general repair shops have suddenly started offering transmission repair using remans. They order up a reman, pop it into the car, and just like that they’re a transmission shop. Except, in too many cases, that’s all they know about an automatic transmission.

The Law of the Instrument, also known as Maslow’s Hammer, basically says, If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” It’s all too true, and it can be a real problem if the hammer is a reman, and they guys with it are the ones deciding how to fix your car.

Yes, they can handle the computer system diagnosis, and maybe they’re okay with a simple leak. But what about the damaged servo or sticking pressure valve? Repairs that are a little more involved, but well short of a rebuild. If they aren’t familiar with your transmission, they could miss a perfectly reasonable repair and jump right to a reman.

Sure it’ll work. But using a reman instead of a simpler alternative will cost you a lot more than a targeted repair.

The one thing that all transmission shops have discovered is that the vast majority of “transmission” problems aren’t the transmission itself. There are a lot of other issues that can cause a transmission to shift improperly, or not shift at all.

A reman will take care of many of those problems… but at a cost that’s far greater than you might have paid if you’d taken your car to a knowledgeable transmission repair shop.

It’s not the technicians’ fault; they’re not trying to cheat you. It’s just that many technicians don’t understand transmissions well enough to identify and repair those in-between conditions: the ones that are bad enough to affect transmission operation but could be fixed without a complete rebuild.

Transmission Repair Services

So, if you don’t mind spending more than necessary, then by all means take your car to any shop that’s willing to replace the transmission. When you get it back, the car will probably shift just fine and you won’t have any real problems with it.

But if you’d rather not spend more than you have to, your best bet is to choose a shop where the technicians know transmissions… whether they custom rebuild or use a reman.

Like your local Cottman center.