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Finding a good used transmission

Hi! I have a 1999 Ford Escort which needs a new transmission. My transmission guy can’t find a suitable one in the area, but said he would install anything we brought him. I’ve looked online and found hundreds for sale. How/where can I be sure to get one in good condition? Is this even possible with a car so old?? Thanks for your help.

Buying a used automatic transmission is one of the biggest automotive gambles in the world. There is absolutely no way of being certain if it’s good or not unless you know firsthand the car it came out of.

Even buying a used one with low miles is no guarantee of zero problems because a transmission that has been sitting for years may develop problems once put back in use.

About the only thing you can do is acquire a trans with comparatively low miles, pull the pan to make sure there is no debris in it and that the fluid is clean, and pray.

Most wrecking yards have a nationwide locator and can bring one in.
Buy from a recycler who offers a warranty so you have some recourse if this one doesn’t work right.
An LKQ affiliated yard is a great place to buy.

Yes, it is very possible to find a transmission for a car this “old.” Actually the best way to find out where to find a good one is to find a junkyard with a parts interchange. They’ll be able to tell you which years, and other makes/models you can take a transmission from.

I’ll warn you though, do not take a transmission from a vehicle that was hit on the sides ahead of the front doors. The reason is there may be unknown damage. Take one from a vehicle that was hit head on with light damage, or that has been hit in the rear end. Usually these are safe. Just be careful to get a warranty from the salvage yard, if you put it in and it dies within a month, they should normally replace it. (Not the labor, just the used transmission).

Also, when you go to the junk yard for a transmission, be sure to check out the fluid. You want it to be Red, and you want to make sure there are no metal flakes in the fluid either. One way to find out is, if you go to a U-PULL-IT yard, where you take the transmission out, take a good drainpan with you and take the transmission pan off. This will let you look in the pan, and into the transmission itself for any obvious damage or metal flakes. A very small amount of metal in the bottom of the pan on a magnet (some transmissions have magnets on the bottom of the pan) is normal. Anything more than a slight amount is no good.