Hahahaha. I know a pile about these transmissions, but believe me, you don't want me working on it. I've rebuilt the old tough rear-wheel-drive units from the '70s but that's as far as my experience goes.
Something to keep in mind is starting with the '96 models, getting the transmission out is harder than on my '95 model so it will take longer. Also, there were a lot of updated parts in use by the time your van was built but there have been a lot of other improvements since then too. To do a quality job, the more reputable shops will install those better parts which means more money. If your transmission was rebuilt once before, it may have some of those new parts already in it. Unless the same shop is working on it and has a record, they won't know that until they take it apart. It's not unheard of to be handed a final bill that is lower than the estimate for that reason.
Some shops might try to undercut a competitor's estimate by not using those new parts so be aware that the lowest price isn't always the best value. Ask them exactly what is included in their estimate and how long they will guarantee the job. Most shops go by a "flat rate " guide that spells out exactly how long the job should take, and they charge according to that stated time for their labor. That way, every shop charges the same amount of time, only their hourly rate is different. Here again, there is often a reason some shops charge a lower rate. They might have less-experienced mechanics, but that does not mean less conscientious. Larger shops including dealerships have much higher expenses including required tools they must buy, time off for advanced training, even loaner cars and shuttle services. The free coffee and donuts cost money too. The dealership is not always the most expensive place to go so it pays to get an estimate from there too. They will typically not rebuild your transmission. They will install one right from a Chrysler-approved rebuilder who does that all day long so they know how to get it right the first time.
Sunday, November 28th, 2010 AT 1:32 AM