December 12, 2012 10:11 AM | By Mark Toljagic for MSN Autos
Worst car service rip-offs

The transmission scam

The transmission scam (© Photo: Dmitry Mordvintsev/Vetta/Getty Images)
  • Common ways you could be swindled at the repair shop
  • Battery and assault (on your wallet) (© Photo: Vstock LLC/Tetra images/Getty Images)
  • The bogus tune-up (© Photo: Adam Gault/OJO Images/Getty Images)
  • Broken brakes (© Photo: Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)
  • The oil change come-on (© Photo: Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images)
  • Overselling of fluids (© Photo: momentimages/Tetra images/Getty Images)
  • The transmission scam (© Photo: Dmitry Mordvintsev/Vetta/Getty Images)
  • The lifetime guarantee (© Photo: Adrian Peacock/Digital Vision/Getty Images)
Photo: Dmitry Mordvintsev/Vetta/Getty ImagesShow Thumbnails
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Among the most frightening of all automotive repairs is a faulty automatic transmission. A common tactic practiced by unscrupulous transmission repair shops is low-balling, which involves quoting a seductively low price on the repair. But pay attention: many times correctly diagnosing a transmission problem will take some time you should be willing to pay for, and not just a few minutes.

Low-ball quotes often rise dramatically after the shop has your transmission opened up on the workbench. That's when the real (read: higher) cost of the repair will be revealed. At that point, with your car held hostage, what choice do you have? Get your transmission repair quote in writing up front.

Sometimes, linkage problems can cause symptoms that feel similar to a faulty transmission. Shady shops take advantage of the situation by telling customers they need their transmission completely rebuilt — a $3,000 to $5,000 bill — when only the shift linkage needs to be adjusted for a small fee.

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