Transmission Solenoid: Symptoms & Replacement Cost

Modern automatic transmissions use pressurized hydraulic fluid to change gears. Every time a gear change is required, the car’s computer activates a transmission solenoid, which directs transmission fluid into the valve body to engage the correct gear. If one of these electro-mechanical valves fail, then all sorts of transmission problems can ensue. So let’s take a closer look at the shift solenoid, and the common problems associated with it.

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What Transmission Do I Have?

How Does a Transmission Solenoid Work?

As you’re going down the road, the car’s computer analyzes data being sent by vehicle speed sensors and engine speed sensors. Based on this information, the Engine Control Unit (ECU), or the Transmission Control Unit (TCM), executes the appropriate upshift / downshift by sending a signal to one of several shift solenoids. These transmission solenoids have a spring-loaded plunger inside, which are wrapped with wire. When this coil of wire receives an electrical charge from the TCM / ECU, it causes the plunger to open, allowing transmission fluid to flow into the valve body and pressurize the desired clutches and bands. When this happens, the transmission changes gears and you continue down the road.

The car’s computer can control the transmission solenoid in several ways. If the vehicle is equipped with a dedicated Transmission Control Unit, it can open or close the hydraulic circuit using a direct 12v signal. Or, the Engine Control Unit can control the solenoid’s plunger by turning the ground circuit on and off. A solenoid can be used to control a single gear or multiple gears, depending upon the complexity of the design.
Transmission Solenoid Locations

Symptoms of a Transmission Solenoid Problem

Solenoid A transmission solenoid can fail due to electrical issues, or dirty fluid that’s caused the shift solenoid to become stuck open / closed. Any change in the transmission fluid pressure can cause numerous problems, including:

Erratic Shifting – If you’re dealing with a failed transmission solenoid, the gearbox can skip a gear up or down, shift back and forth between gears repeatedly, or get stuck in a gear and refuse to shift.

Transmission Won’t Downshift – If the transmission will not downshift, one of the shift solenoids may have become stuck open / closed, preventing fluid from entering the transmission valve body to pressurize the correct gear.

Severe Shifting Delay / Stuck in Neutral – In order for an electronically controlled automatic transmission to shift gears, the solenoid must be able to regulate the fluid pressure to activate the appropriate gear. If the shift solenoid is receiving too much or too little electric current, or dirty transmission fluid has caused it to become stuck open / closed, gear engagement maybe become difficult or delayed, which can cause the transmission to act as if it is temporarily locked in neutral.

Because the solenoids are connected to a vehicle’s electrical system, the ECU will usually register an error code and trigger the check engine light if something goes wrong. If this happens, the transmission can go into limp / fail mode, where it will only engage second / third gear to limit the vehicle speed without immobilizing it.

The first thing that your mechanic should look at are the error codes. Using a scan tool, the technician can determine the source of the solenoid’s problem. It could be as simple as a bad ground, or as complex as a failed solenoid pack (a grouping of individual shift solenoids).

Transmission Solenoid Replacement Cost – Parts & Labor

In most cases, solenoids are located inside of the oil pan, connected to the valve body. Depending on what you drive, the technician may be able to replace just the failed shift solenoid. However in some cases, the solenoids come in these multiple unit packs so if there is a problem with one, the entire pack must be replaced. This job typically takes 2-4 hours to complete, and shop time is generally billed at $60 – $100 per hour. The average total cost to diagnose and replace one ranges between $150 and $400.

Depending on the make and model of your vehicle, expect to pay between $15 – $100 for a single transmission shift solenoid. A pack can cost $50 to $300.

TypeCost Range
Single$15 to $100
Pack$50 to $300
Labor$120 to $400
Total (Pack)$250 to $600

Solenoid Pack

Although it isn’t unusual for transmission shift solenoids to wear out over time, you can extend their life by changing your transmission fluid at the factory recommended intervals. This will clean out all of the dirt and sludge that builds up, and the fresh fluid will keep the plungers on the inside of the solenoids from sticking. If you don’t know what your vehicle’s recommended transmission service intervals are, check the back of your owner’s manual, or simply ask Google.

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Fair Replacement Transmission Cost by Vehicle

  1. Find your transmission model in the table below for fair prices from reputable suppliers. Also fair labor cost for local installation at a local auto repair shop.

  2. Not Sure Which Transmission You Have?
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Fair Remanufactured Transmission Price Ranges by Transmission Model Updated for 2019

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Leave a Comment

Mike Bailey

I was about to purchase a 1996 Mustang V6. It goes into reverse easily, but has trouble getting into drive. It’s an automatic.

Steven cupples

I have a 2006 Impala was sitting at the red light and drive and went to take off easily and I felt something give now I am driving it but I have to manually shift though very weak low gear second once it gets in gear it strong 3rd it strong drive it strong but car will not take off in any gear but low how do I know what solenoid it is or if it’s even a solenoid

Tammy Isbell

Now it won’t shift at all

Tammy Isbell

Hey I have a 97 Ford Ranger XLT excited cab automatic it was shifting into 1 and second but made like a clunking noise and hard to stuff what’s solenoid do I need and how to replace it

Scotty

Where is Pressure solenoid A for 2004 honda pilot location

Scotty

Where is Pressure solenoid A for 2004 honda pilot location

Mike

2002 f150 5.4.4×4 Slips between neutral and first.

Barbara,

I have a 2000 Lincoln mercury mountaineer. The check engine light has been intermittent for a while. Now the O/D light is blinking. Brought to my mechanic who changed the fluids and did other things. He says to baby it while driving. everything was fine for a few days, now the O/D light is blinking again. What should I do. Chuck the car for a new one? I’m not ready for a new car now. I don’t think the car is worth the cost of a new transmission.

Keiha

Hi,yesterday I changed a flat tyre,all sorted,jumped in to start her up,nothing,I noticed the gear selection was on 2,flashing,I have no gears at all,nothing,I read a few reviews regarding this problem,don’t know whether to fix it or just flog it off to a car wreckers,..

Heywood

Needs to be trouble shooted to pinpoint the problem,and then get a price on parts and labor.40yrs exp.

Patrick

I have a error code P0722 on my chevy cruze Output speed sensor circuit no signal. The car is able to start but when u shift the gear it moves at the low gear but does not change to upper or lower. Reverse works fine. My concern is this due to problem with the output sensor since there is 2 sensor which is output n input sensor. To replace this can we do it without removing the transmission. Could it selonied problem. Need advice wht to change and check.

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