Cost of cheap rebuilds - how to save $50 and spend $1400 at the same time

Discussion in 'General Motoring' started by Ted Mittelstaedt, Sep 8, 2005.

  1. Hi All,

    Here's some links I thought you all might be interested in. As you know
    I've been working
    on my 94 T&C project. Today the transmission rebuilder called and the
    transmission will be
    ready to pick up tomorrow.

    Here's the part that failed. It is the Front Sun Gear assembly. The
    center hub you see removed
    is supposed to be welded in. Notice the coarse machining, I am pretty sure
    this is a cheap
    aftermarket Chinese gear from the first rebuild that was done on this

    The rebuilder did say that it is at times difficult to identify whether a
    particular gear is a
    good quality one or not. One thing to look for is the absense of a part
    (this gear did not have one on it) I wish I had a pic of the real Mopar
    gear to post
    here but the local Mopar dealer does not have one in stock and I didn't
    think to take
    a picture of the gear that the rebuilder is replacing this with.

    Ted Mittelstaedt, Sep 8, 2005
  2. Ted Mittelstaedt

    kmatheson Guest

    Are there any quality aftermarket transmission parts, or is it best to
    stay with OEM? When I had the transmission rebuilt in my Dodge Spirit,
    the first two converters self-destructed. They used one from a
    different manufacturer for the third attempt. It has now been close to
    three years, and it continues to work fine.

    -Kirk Matheson
    kmatheson, Sep 8, 2005
  3. There are a lot of quality aftermarket transmission parts but you have to
    know what to look for. The aftermarket seems to be aimed at 3 segments,
    racing, heavy duty(towing, service vehicles, etc.) and passenger car
    The first segment is super expensive, the second is expensive, and the third
    cheap. There is definitely some blurring with racing and commercial with a
    number of vendors simply relabeling heavy duty commercial parts as race
    parts and charging more money for them.

    I think a lot of the AAMCO and other such retail places go for the cheap
    as they are bidding against each other purely on price. The place I took
    to pretty much specializes in contracted commercial work with some racing,
    they don't do in and out and don't have a lot of walk in traffic. They can
    in cheap if you demand it. ;-)

    In my case the transmission place replaced my broken gear with what they
    call "good used" which basically means an intact gear out of some previous
    rebuild. I saw the used gear they put in and it looked brand new to me you
    could barely tell that it had already seen duty. It also had a part number
    on it
    unlike the broken gear that came out so I'm pretty sure it was an OEM gear.
    Since they warranty these transmissions for a year they must be pretty
    comfortable with it.

    The Allpar site has a number of statements from various transmission people
    and they caution against use of non-Mopar gear sets. For the 41TE I have
    Mopar front carrier gear is $157.51 and the rear carrier gear is $179.17
    So you can easily see that only someone using this transmission for racing
    pay more than $300 for race-quality gears, and that most people in the
    would be looking to pay less than $300 for gearsets. That is why I think
    caution on the Allpar site that the aftermarket Chinese gears are junk.
    so many of these transmissions busted gears in the 1993-and-earlier
    there must have been a fairly strong demand for replacement gearsets at
    one time and the Chinese manufacturers stepped in to meet it with cheap

    As for other things besides gears, the aftermarket does produce a clutch
    pack with
    an extra 1-2 clutch which is better than the OEM and it produces heavy duty
    torque converters which are better than OEM. And it produces shift kits for
    this particular transmission, there seem to be 2 on the market. The one I
    was not a "performance" shift kit, it is an "improvement" one which upgrades
    accumulator and valve body to later specs. The performance shift kits I've
    are the Transgo 30-32RH 66-Up for the A604(41TE) that are advertised to
    "correct soft mushy 1-2 shift and late or extended 2-3 shift" As I had a
    shift kit in a C-4 once that stripped the splines on a torque converter, I
    a rather low opinion of "performance" shift kits in automatic transmissions.

    As to torque converters, the company I used remanufacturers their own
    in a different building, they make a "regular" and a "heavy duty" converter
    for the 41TE
    transmission. They didn't tell me what the difference is but they only use
    the heavy
    duty ones in reman transmissions they warranty, and these converters cost
    what the regular ones cost. Supposedly, Dacco Performance Plus will make up
    high stall converter for the 41TE, I cannot guess what the transmission
    might think about this, however.

    Now, if you happen to have a minivan with the 3 speed automatic in it, the
    31TH, then
    you have a whole range of race parts for it since this is the same trans as
    used in the PT
    cruiser and the 95-2000 Neon a lot of people are souping up those
    Many companies make high stall converters, performance shift kits, and other
    race-hardened internal parts for those transmissions. Performace
    Transmissions is
    said to warranty their race transmissions up to 400 hp though the 31TH.
    Since there's
    no computer with those transes, the go-fast techniques for those
    transmissions are
    the same ones that have been used on older transmissions. But all that
    stuff is terribly
    expensive. Obviously good quality if your willing to pay for it.

    Ted Mittelstaedt, Sep 9, 2005
  4. That's a really informative reply that explains a whole lot. Was most
    of the info just talking with the rebuilders? They seem pretty good.
    Your explanation really captured what was going on with your problem.
    treeline12345, Sep 9, 2005
  5. Ted Mittelstaedt

    kmatheson Guest

    Thanks for the useful info. Next time I need a rebuild, I am going to
    ask more questions about the parts that they use. I look forward to
    seeing more pictures as you start putting your T&C back together.

    I have a 1993 Voyager. The transmission was *rebuilt* by the dealer ten
    years ago, to fix the *bump stop* problem. It was under warranty. While
    it has worked fine since, I know that there have been further updates
    since that time. I am concerned that when the transmission starts to
    cause problems, the cost will exceed the value of the vehicle. While I
    have tried to keep it in good shape, I can't stop the depreciation

    -Kirk Matheson
    kmatheson, Sep 9, 2005
  6. Ted Mittelstaedt

    Steve Guest

    I NEVER understand this argument. OK, let's say the transmission costs
    (pulling a number out of my ear) $2500 to repair. And that "exceeds the
    value" of the vehicle, presumably meaning that the blue book value of
    the vehicle is less than $2500.

    So what?

    Can you buy a functioning equivalent replacement vehicle for $2500? One
    that you're SURE is in as as good a shape as the one you've, in your own
    words, "tried to keep in good shape?" If the answer is "no" (and it
    WILL be) then it really didn't "exceed the value" of the vehicle, did it?
    Steve, Sep 9, 2005
  7. In this particular case, it's about the same so it's a tough call. One
    could say that the devil you know is better than the one you don't
    know. But on the other hand, you can get a new devil. A very good
    conditionws, well-kept version of this minivan can be had for around
    $2500, yes?
    treeline12345, Sep 10, 2005
  8. KBB book on a 93 Grand Voyager (long wheelbase van) with a big engine
    (3.3L preferably) is about $3K for a private party sale, a lot of it depends
    on the
    location your at. Here in the Pacific NW they don't salt the roads and so
    bodies literally do not rust out - you've seen the pics of the underside of
    11 year old van, and that van was abused by deliberately driving in the mud.
    Yet, no rust. Minivans here are also popular - we got a lot of skiers,
    fanatics, boaters, and such that like big vehicles to haul all their shit
    around in.
    Pickups are also very popular. So a used specimen that had working AC
    in it and perhaps slight denting would certainly fetch $3K maybe more.

    Now, if you have a short wheelbase van with the smaller 2.5 engine in it,
    2500 would probably be high. But, maybe not - with gas prices what
    they are now, you probably would get someone who would want it.

    The $64 question with these minivans, though, is in that year anything with
    the 4
    speed Ultradrive transmission is a risk. The Ultradrive (A604/41TE) wasn't
    really fully debugged until after 2000. By now, most vans still on the road
    that date from 1995 or earlier have almost certainly had 1 rebuilt
    in them - and that rebuild could have been done in before the strengthened
    packs and such were widely known about. So it kind of comes down to
    the need for a big fat-assed vehicle to go skiing with up on Mt Bachelor,
    vs the risk of your purchase blowing up and you having to drop $2500 into a
    new trans. Most people in that situation will take the risk, they figure
    they will
    get at least 1 good season out of them - that is why these
    vans still fetch a good price on the used market - if they are running. If
    nobody wants them.

    Ted Mittelstaedt, Sep 10, 2005
  9. Unfortunately, no. The rebuilders like to keep the people that actually
    on the transmissions away from time-wasting customers. ;-) Seriously,
    while this may seem annoying it is actually a sign of a good business and
    that's what you want. Good businesses tend to make enough money to
    pay well, and good techs aren't going to waste their time
    working for peanuts. The key thing though, is whether or not that
    "front door" person, or service advisor, or whatever you want to call
    them, is really relaying your questions to someone in the back that
    knows what they are doing, or whether they are just BSing you.

    I did a lot of research online, the Allpar site helped, and then asked a
    of specific questions of the front end person at the rebuild place. That
    person then answered what they knew, and for the ones they didn't they
    talked to the actual tech and returned with the answers.
    I'm used to this kind of scenario and am used to separating the fact from
    fiction, and I'm not above asking questions
    that I already know the answer to just to see if the front door person
    is really talking to the rebuilder tech or just trying to BS me. ;-)
    In this case the rebuilder wasn't really willing to speculate - of course
    they knew it was that gear once they got it apart, but beyond that I
    was pretty much on my own as to determining the cause that that gear
    was broken. But, once you see the entire set of carrier gears and every
    one of them looks great except for this one that looks beat to crap, it's
    pretty easy to deduce that the gear that's beat to hell is poorer quality,
    and why would the OEM go to the trouble of making a complex set of
    gears out of top-grade steel and in the middle of that set put in 1 poor
    quality gear? Then when the rebuilder confirmed that the trans had indeed
    been gone into once before, well now you know how that 1 gear got into
    the trans.

    I also know positively that the prior owner (the person I bought it
    from) was responsible for breaking the transmission. I know this because
    he never bothered retitling it when he bought it and it still had the old
    and old bill of sale, which listed a $1000 sale price. And if he was too
    cheap to retitle this, he would never have spent a grand on a van with a
    broken transmission. Since he gave me a cock and bull story about
    how the transmisson died, I also know he was doing something really
    stupid when he broke it. He was probably trying to pull a stump or some

    Ted Mittelstaedt, Sep 10, 2005
  10. That's another great reply which has me thinking. A 1994 minivan, short
    wheel base, 3.0 liter, not leaking oil but 199,000 miles. Trans has
    been rebuilt and reprogrammed so seems pretty good so far. Clean car
    but has the gray metallic paint which is peeling a bit on the hood and
    can see start of delamination, a little bit on the roof - would $2000
    be unreasonable then for this vehicle? It's a plain vanilla model, no
    power windows but power door locks but that's about it. The infamous
    overdrive tranny, A604 now 41TE, cruise control but not the fancy trip
    computer. I'm asking because I'm just not sure. The rust is not much at
    all. Almost none. Maybe a little bit on the edge of one door which I
    can touch up since it's on the bottom edge of the door which appears to
    have been replaced, probably an accident on the driver's side. Any
    ideas? Car spent most of its life in south New Jersey, some snow, but
    was probably washed fairly regularly until I got it. Afraid the water
    will make it come apart.
    treeline12345, Sep 10, 2005
  11. Probably. The big detractor is the 3.0L engine which has known long
    term problems with the valve guides and valve seals. Now, if the heads
    had been done on it already (if there's receipts for them) that would be
    different. I would guess that most 3.0's to make it to 199,000 miles
    would have had the valve guides fall out and would have been redone once.

    Also the paint delamination might scare off some buyers at
    that price. However, there's lots of people who do cheap repaints on just
    hood and roof by just sanding down to the primer, repriming and painting
    and clearcoating. If the primer hasn't been compromised the results last
    pretty well, and a lot of times people don't bother to paint match on that
    kind of a job since it's hard to see the different colors anyway, espically
    a light colored metallic, and the whole point is to keep the paint
    from letting rust hole the sheetmetal. You might find someone who would
    repaint those areas for $300 or so, you really ought to look into it before
    the delamination gets to the point that water is getting through the primer
    and rusting the base sheetmetal. Or if you don't care about the looks, you
    can do it yourself with wet grit sandpaper and masking tape and a rattle
    can. (the paint will not take a car wax readily, but it will seal out
    the water) You can easily practice on the hood by unbolting it and
    putting it in a makeshift paint booth and if your totally disgusted with
    the results, take the hood to a pro or find a good one in a wrecking yard.
    What probably happened is the drivers door got smashed and they just
    got some random door out of a wrecker and did a quick repaint on it
    without proper prep, and now the cheap paint they used is failing.

    Your actually a lot better off looking in the wrecking yards for a
    grey metallic door with the original factory paint on it. Too bad you don't
    live out here, I just saw one in a U pullit yard a couple days ago. Grey
    is like one of the most common colors they used.

    Touchup paint over rust is a waste the rust will just keep going unless you
    take the door off, strip everything out of it (glass, door crank, inside
    weatherstripping, etc.) and take it in to be bead blasted with plastic media
    which will strip it completely down to bare metal, then reprime and repaint.
    And they have to blast inside the door if there's rust there.
    And even if you do that with the best paint available it won't match the
    paint which was oven-baked on to the door originally - it's a hell of a lot
    cheaper to just find another door in a yard that is the right color.
    How is the undercarriage? If it's not rusty then keep it that way by
    the underside regularly.

    What you have is actually at the mileage point that a lot of people might
    want to take a risk on buying it. You could get another 50K miles out of it
    by just keeping oil in it, or you could get another 5K. It is at that point
    now the kind of maintainence that was done on it in it's history really
    If the oil was regularly changed and the vehicle was maintained, then your
    OK. But a prospective buyer pretty much has to assume the worst and so
    they are going to assume the engine is ready to go kaput.

    If it's got another 50K in it then it's definitely worth the $2K but there's
    way to assure a buyer that it does, so your really best off just getting
    50K miles out of it yourself.

    If it's straight, never been in an accident, and the interior is in good
    shape, and
    you really like it, then fix the door and hood and roof, and just wait for
    engine to blow and when it does pull it out and have it rebuilt. Those
    are great rebuild candidates since the short block itself doesen't have any
    fundamental problems and the top end stuff that they did wrong any good
    rebuilder is going to know about and know the fixes for. And those engines
    were common so rebuildable cores are cheap and plentiful.

    Ted Mittelstaedt, Sep 11, 2005
  12. I think the last computer update for the 41TE of that year was in 1995 or
    1996 at the latest, it is probably running that code. However there have
    lots of updates for internal parts.
    The depreciation tables for vehicle value make the assumption that NO
    significant mechanical work has been done to the vehicle. It is really
    quite silly if you think about it. For example Kelly Blue Book only rates
    vehicles up to 20 years old. Most vehicles can't make it much beyond 200K
    miles without significant mechanical work. Thus, assuming 225K miles over a
    20 year period, (11.25K miles per year) a vehicle's value depreciates to
    zero. So far so good.

    However, what about a vehicle that has had 225K miles on the body, and
    had the powertrain replaced (both engine and transmission) with units with a
    warranty and has 0 miles on thise? It's value surely isn't zero, and it
    is a bit more than the individual parts. For example suppose a rebuilt
    costs $5000, for a vehicle that is straight, no rust, good paint, immaculate
    interior, cleaned, and a rebuilt powertrain in it with no miles on that and
    warranty, what do you think it's worth? In my opinion, more than $5000.
    Kelly Blue Book cannot establish a value for something like this because
    the quality of such vehicles varies all over the map. You could for example
    replace the powertrain with a junkyard one that has about 10K miles
    left on it, or you could replace only the engine and the transmission has
    about 50K miles left in it while the rebuilt engine will go 150K. And how
    are you going to rate those? That's why the depreciation tables ignore such

    Keep in mind that houses do not depreciate, yet everyone who has owned a
    home knows that houses are -constantly- having things go wrong with them
    that need repair. The reason they don't depreciate (usually) is that people
    continually repair them. The reason that vehicles DO depreciate is that
    most people do NOT maintain them to the level they maintain a home -
    thus their ownership is "extractive", they extract the value out of the
    by letting the little stuff go.

    So what it really boils down to with your Voyager is the following:

    1) Do you really like the vehicle a lot and want to keep it for a long time?
    2) Is the vehicle's bodywork and interior in good repair?
    3) If you do put a lot of money into it could you insure it with a collision
    policy that would value the vehicle plus your repairs, not just book value?
    (most insurance companies do take this kind of thing into account)

    If you can answer yes to all of these then you shouldn't worry about
    doing a major engine or transmission rebuild on your '93 Voyager.

    Ted Mittelstaedt, Sep 11, 2005
  13. That's a lot of really good info. Getting a new door cheaper than
    repainting a bad one. I'm sorry I moved away from a bunch of wrecking
    yards. Not unhappy either because some of the yards were for stolen
    cars - so either chop shops or squash them into scrap metal depending
    on new or old stolen cars. You could always tell the criminal junk
    yards, the people inside were nasty and seemed right out of the
    Sopranos. Funny on tv. Not so funny in real life.

    Anyway, I think I may be lucky in regard to the valves. I have a 1994
    Voyager and was told by the dealer parts' guy that they fixed the
    valves in 1994. So I may have lucked on that one problem.

    THanks for the detailed info. I really liked your metaphor about the
    house. Explains a lot. This mitsu engine has had not work on it that I
    know of. That's good and that's bad. I don't even know if the timing
    chain has been replaced in the last 120,000 miles. Oops, timing belt.
    So the car really needs $1,000 worth of basic maintenance I would
    reckon. Timing belt and water pump replacement, replace one sealed
    front wheel bearing just starting to go, replace one failing oxygen
    sensor, replace coolant fluid, and should last for a while longer.
    About $300+ in parts and $700+ in labor - if I do it, subtract labor
    and add $100+ in tools and $100+ in medical repairs.
    treeline12345, Sep 11, 2005
Ask a Question

Want to reply to this thread or ask your own question?

You'll need to choose a username for the site, which only take a couple of moments (here). After that, you can post your question and our members will help you out.