Trade-in or get repaired

Question 1) Please advise whether it’s worth getting the car repaired or better to trade-in?
Question 2) How much does rebuilding a transmission cost? When is it better than replacing transmission

Car: Acura 3.2TL (2002), 123k miles
Total repair estimate by dealer: $8400
Acura/dealer willing to assist with: $3000
My payment: $5400


  1. Replace transmission [est. $6500] (not shifting automatically from third to fourth gear, need to shift manually using triptronic)
  2. Replace ball-bearings of the front wheels (very noisy now)
  3. Replace heat shield of catalytic converter
  4. Other minor issues


Get another estimate from an independent shop, possibly installing a used or rebuilt transmission. Dealer prices are typically high and dealer electronics/software expertise is not necessary on these items.

If you are able to shift manually, do so until the whole thing goes up in smoke.

Trading it in is the worst option. You might get $1500 for the car. If you are lucky.

I agree with getting an estimate from an independent transmission shop, as they can almost always beat dealer prices. Do NOT go to AAMCO, Lee Myles, Cottman, Mr. Transmission, or any other chain operation unless you want to be told that you need a new transmission–whether you really do or not.

However–a used transmission?
Given the track record of Honda/Acura transmissions, a used trans has a high probability of failing, just as the OP’s original trans did.

I would advise having the trans rebuilt by an independent transmission shop that has been in business for at least 3 years. Try to get recommendations from friends, co-workers, relatives, and neighbors.

Actually, I’m going to ask more questions than give answers, I think.

Bearings are no big deal, if you decide to repair it, just get those done. Heat shield same.

I’m curious as to why the transmission has failed. Have you had regular services on it? Every 30K miles you should have it serviced. At a minimum, a drain a refill. What is the fluid in there like now? Is it nice a bright red, or is it getting brown and smelling slightly (or a lot) burnt?

Dealer retail on this (Assuming it’s not the type “S”) is only $4585 (private party sale $3672). So you’re getting ready to invest more than it’s worth. Trading it in with a bad transmission won’t net you much for it, though - if anything at all.

Repairing it may still get you years out of it, however. What condition is the rest of the car in? Is it worth it - to you - to fix it? That matters more than actual value, IMO.


Thanks a lot for your replies. As many of you have suggested, I will get estimates from independent shops.

Chaissos: Dealer did not want to speculate why transmission failed. I got all recommended maintenance done at the dealer. I am not aware of the oil color though.

Incidentally, this model (2002 TL) had a transmission recall which got warranty extended to 110k mile. But, my problems started at 116k miles (nice timing!).

Estimate for changing bearings is $700, so it’s a slightly bigger deal.

Get with an independent. There’s no reason to continue with the dealer once the warranties are done. You’ll almost certainly get better pricing, as above, for bearings, transmission and the rest.

I’m not certain what the dealer recommended maintenance is. I would guess that there’s not enough when it comes to the transmission, though. Especially with high failure rates. If you’re really just six thousand over the extended warranty for that one part, you can ask/almost beg for some good will on their part. They don’t have to, but they might. You most likely won’t get it from the service writer, though. You’ll have to talk to someone in management. And with that in mind, I would also guess a replacement trans may be the way to go. Of course, I’d also need to figure out what the problems were, and what they did to correct them up to that 110K mark. I’m not the transmission guy here, so what I think probably wouldn’t hold too much water.

If it was really a recall, you should still be able to get it done. If it was just a warranty extension, you may be toast.

Still, IMO it comes down to you, and how you feel about fixing it up. If you think you’ll get a couple more years out of it relatively trouble free, then fix it. If it’s merely an appliance, and you’re not that worried about it, replacing the whole car might be the way to go. Sorry I have no worldly advice. :frowning: Personally, I’d say get more estimates from an independent, and if the costs don’t become reasonable, dump it while you can. Someone will buy it in a private sale.


Hi Chase
I understand that there are too many parameters involved here so there is no “right advice”. Thanks for your comments though, they make lot of sense. I reported these problems to dealer at 116k miles but he did not inform me about recall at that time. I read about the recall recently, a year later at 123k miles. Now Acura says I am too far away from the warranty. They offered a $3000 assistance on estimate of $8400 as a goodwill gesture (so I have to pay $5400).

Transmission recall: follow these links about 2002 models:

Thanks again.

I’m a bit puzzled by the original post compared to some of the responses, including by the OP. In the original post, the OP states that the dealer wants to replace the transmission in the car because it will not shift from third to fourth unless the manumatic (Tiptronic in the Porsche/VW world, SportShift to Honda/Acura) feature is used. Have you gotten a second opinion on this? Normally, this type of problem is not caused by the hard parts in the transmission, but rather by electronics. It would seem odd that the only way to solve a problem like this is to replace the entire transmission at great expense.

Amen mark9207, at $8400 - $3000 they are not doing you ant favor, just reducing the outrageous profit they were trying to make in the first place. If you can shift fine manually, there is nothing wrong with the transmission itself. Why on earth would you pay more to get it fixed than the car is worth. Keep driving it like this for as long as you can and put money away every month for another car.

I am planning to get second opinion next week from independent shops.
Dealer inspected the car (for $125) and concluded that transmission and control module need to be replaced. This problem is not consistent. The car does shift gears automatically occasionally. At other times, I have to upshift using triptronic a couple of times to shift from third to fourth gear.

Following the advice in this discussion, I will continue to drive as long as possible by using manual triptronic shifting.

This is a case that getting another opinion from a different Acura dealer might be in order too. The recommendations from the dealer are suspect. So maybe a different dealership would be able to just fix the electronics involved and call it a day.