Is a junkyard transmission worth the risk?



I have a 22-year old Jetta which has been lovingly maintained, lots of newer parts. Its transmission has died and parts are not available. The only way it could be repaired is with a transmission from a junked car. Would such a transmission likely to be good or too chancy? Do you recommend trying to repair it this way? Otherwise, all I can do is get another vehicle.


It is, indeed, a crap-shoot…SOME salvage yards are pretty careful with their engines and transmissions and mark on them the mileage of the car they removed them from. Most give a 90 day or 6 month exchange guarantee, but the labor involved to swap transmissions greatly diminishes the value of that…But with most yards, what you see is what you get…Ask a local transmission shop what they would charge to R&R your transmission.

I have a feeling, it might be time to kiss your Jetta good-by…


When it comes to used major components for a vehicle, they’re usually tested/inspected before sold from a recycler. Because if you sell junk parts, it gets around and nobody buys parts from you,. Unless it’s from a U-PULL-IT yard.

A used part from a recycler is the cheapest way to go. And even cheaper if you install the part yourself!



These things are a toss-up. A good number (but not a majority) of the salvage yard engines, transmissions, or rear axles I’ve gotten involved with have had an issue of some sort. Some were comparatively minor and others were just that; salvage.

You did not state if the transmission is an automatic or manual but an automatic would be the one that would have a tendency to be more trouble-prone.

I would say that it’s worth a shot depending on the price of the transmission and the amount of labor involved and that’s a maybe at best.
You might check around with some yards that also do installations for what they sell. They often do the install for a nominal fee and if there’s a problem with what they installed then they’re on the hook for a refund or redoing it for free.


If a manual transmission I would not be too concerned about a junkyard version. Failures are quite rare.

If an automatic it is a pure crap shoot.


Your luck is better with a vehicle that’s been totaled.

Then you can rest assured that it was at least in running condition when it got there.

The riskiest car is one that’s in the junkyard with no crash damage. It’s likely mechanical problems sent it there.


I Googled “rebuilt VW Jetta automatic transmission” and immediately found a rebuilt 1987 3 speed at for $1020. Shop around!

Will a transmission from another year fit? Ask this question too.


I’ve probably bought 15 or 20 salvage yard transmissions in the last 10 years. I’ve only been stung once, and the yard gave me another one with fewer miles as a replacement. Of course I was out the labor for installation. The “test” that many yards use is the time honored “it was running when it was wrecked” test. A “totalled” car is definitely the way to go, however any 22 year old tranny is likely to have A LOT of miles on it.

Check for a used tranny near you. It will also tell you what other years and models will fit. There were SEVERAL different transmissions used in '88 VWs, so it will also ask which you need.