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Another transmission won't go after fluid change

Discussion in 'Explorer & Ranger Transmissions, Transfer Cases, &' started by jkfoote, March 14, 2009.

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    1. jkfoote

      jkfoote New Member

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      My high mileage (226K) '98 XLT SOHC 4wd now won't shift at all following a fluid change - can anybody recommend threads that I should check? I've studied the 5R55E VB rebuild diary (since it looks like that might be in my future). And I've found several threads warning me to not do what I've done. So far this has been the most helpful thread:
      http://www.explorerforum.com/forums/showthread.php?t=121812&highlight=shift+flush with a good suggestion about checking the O-rings on the filter. Anybody know of any other threads I should check out?


      Here's more than you want to know:

      This was not a flush, but a dialysis (what's the correct name for this method?) where you disconnect the return line at the output of the cooler and pump out old fluid and refill new fluid 1 quart at a time. The sequence was: I did a pan drop, filter change, added drain valve to the pan, then reassemble and refill. Test drive was fine, shifting seemed to work exactly as before. Get back and go to check level again - notice smoke coming from under the car. Drop down and see the catalytic converter smoking pretty good - ok that makes sense, I dropped alot of oil on it getting the pan out. So maybe it just needs time to burn it off. So far so good.

      The next day I tempted the fates and did what some have recommended against: a fluid exchange. Disconnected the cooler return line, plugged the line back to the transmission and collected the output in a graduated milk jug. Start up, put a quart in the jug, shut down, add a quart repeat. The fluid looked pretty good by the 6th quart (remember that I'd put in 4 new quarts the day before after the pan drop) but I did a total of 9 quarts since I had them. Reconnected, started up, ran through the gears, warmed up, checked fluid level. Fluid level might have been a little high, like maybe 1/2 a quart or so. No sign of any leakage.

      Test drive. Uh oh. Long pause when shifting into reverse. Long pause when shifting into drive. Slipping then flare between 1 and 2. Some hunting. Drive around the block a couple of times. Things maybe getting a little better. Pull back in the driveway and check level, maybe a little low. No sign of any leakage. Top it off.

      Next morning: Same as the day before. No signs of leakage under the truck, cold level looks good. Long pause shifting into reverse, another long pause shifting into drive. Drive around the block a couple of times. Things may be getting a little better as it warms up. Park it. Go back later in the day, recheck levels - maybe a little high. Start up, warm up check levels, maybe a little low (hard to tell since the new oil is about transparent on the dipstick). Try to drive - no shift. Reverse, Drive, first or second same story.

      Here's my game plan - let me know if you see a better strategy:

      1. Verify that the shift linkage is connected. I didn't do anything with the linkage so there's no reason it should be disconnected, but it's easy to check.

      2. Verify flow out of the cooler. It was flowing nicely for the dialysis, but maybe it's not flowing now? Easy to check.

      3. Chip out the rusted/frozen/seized bolts on the catalytic converter. On this X you can't get the pan out without removing the catalytic converter or disconnecting the forward drive shaft. I couldn't get the catalytic converter disconnected the other day so I disconnected the forward drive shaft which isn't as bad as it sounds. But getting the catalytic converter out of the way will make the next step easier. And I may have a long future of peering into the transmission ahead so go ahead and get this done.

      4. Redo the pan drop and filter change. Hope that the problem is an issue with the filter O-rings. Check the torque on the VB bolts while I'm there? Carefully check its gasket while I'm there?

      5. If that doesn't work then what? Would Autozone have a transmission pressure tester that I could use to verify the pump was actually working? Dive right in to a VB rebuild and EPC replace? Admit my sins (and limitations) and have it towed to a transmission shop?


      I was living on borrowed time with 225K miles on what I think is the original transmission (I've had it since 100K). I thought long and hard about the fluid change knowing that this outcome was a real possibility. In the end I was swayed by the argument: if changing the fluids is going to kill your transmission then it's gonna die soon anyway, so let's get on with the program. Probably changing my tune now...

      I'm a rookie at this stuff - my skill levels are at the low end but getting better thanks to all the great articles in this forum. Thanks in advance.
       
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    3. BobWiersema

      BobWiersema Well-Known Member

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      Dude,
      You expect us to read all that, what's the question?
      Trans with 250K and something is wrong, what?

      Sorry,
      Its late, Keep It Simple.

      Bob
       
    4. jkfoote

      jkfoote New Member

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      Sorry Bob,

      The first sentence is the question - the rest is background:

      My high mileage (226K) '98 XLT SOHC 4wd now won't shift at all following a fluid change - can anybody recommend threads that I should check?
       
    5. rumpledoll

      rumpledoll Active Member

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      If the 1998 has an electronic control for the transmission as does my 2002, try disconnecting the battery for a while (say 1/2 hour). This causes the electronic control module to lose it's setting and start from scratch in finding the right shift points, timings and pressures to use.

      On my 2002 after a pan drop, filter change and cooling line exchange via the engine pump method of 12 quarts of fluid, the transmission shifted with a flare and at high RPM's the first few miles but as the electronic control adjusts to the new fluid the shifting is now better than ever.

      Rumple


       
    6. muhl5443

      muhl5443 Active Member

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      what kind of trans. fluid were you using?? mercon v or dexron mercon3? if u werent using mercon 5 u shuld have added a bottle of additive to the trans. fluid to help make it a higher friction fluid.
       
    7. jkfoote

      jkfoote New Member

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      Mercon V

      I'm using Mercon V. Granted, not high end Mercon V but just the Castrol Mercon V that Autozone carries.
       
    8. Blee1099

      Blee1099 Evil Asian Moderator Emeritus EF Vendor

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      Re-check the fluid level. If you did a flush by disconnecting a line and repeatedly re-filling you may have clogged up the filter if you replacd it prior to the flush/change method. Umm.. I think you may be short on fluid honestly. When I did my flush I bought 1.5 cases of mercon V. If I remember right a complete change is close to 13.9 quarts to completely fill a 5R55E.
       
    9. eXcali

      eXcali Active Member

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      I think Blee is on the right track, sounds like low fluid. Some where in there you mentioned 9 quarts total added should be closer to 14.
       
    10. jkfoote

      jkfoote New Member

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      Low Fluid Level?

      Thanks for the suggestions guys.

      Yes, I like the low fluid theory and I'll grant that I'm having some difficulty convincing myself of what the cold and warm levels really are. It was easier with dirty ATF! With the new fluid in it's hard to distinguish a true level mark from the drips that contact the dipstick as it's being inserted and removed.

      If that doesn't work my next theory is that either the filter is clogged or I somehow messed up the o-rings on the filter so that the pump can't prime. I think that would result in the same symptoms as low fluid(?).

      > Some where in there you mentioned 9 quarts total added should be closer to 14.

      Ok, I'll recheck. But with the 'dialysis' method I used I was adding a quart and removing a quart so there should never have been a moment when it was less than a quart down (and mostly it was a quart up). At least I think. In other words it isn't like I tried to drain it empty then refill with 9 quarts instead of 14. But it's still possible that it was low to start with and my efforts worsened the situation.

      Thanks again for the ideas.
       
    11. jkfoote

      jkfoote New Member

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      More info

      I double checked the fluid level - it was good, but I intentionally overfilled it slightly - just above the cross hatch on the dipstick.

      Checked the shift linkage - fine.

      But here we go: no flow out of the cooler. Hmm. So something bad happened after I finished the 'dialysis' fluid change where the flow was fine. The logical thing to check next is flow into the cooler but I ran out of time to check that today. Later tonight I'll study up on threads relating to pump and regulator problems.

      I also managed to grind off one of the two rear catalytic converter bolts. Tough to get to the upper bolt so it'll take a little longer to get it out. Picked up a new filter and pan gasket at Autozone, but was bummed to learn that they don't have a transmission pressure gage in their loaner collection. (Should I buy one?)

      My new game plan (stop me if you see a better plan):

      1. Study up on pump and regulator problems
      2. Find out if there is pressure into the cooler
      3. Get that second bolt off the catalytic converter
      4. Drop the pan and replace the filter, inspecting the o-rings carefully, check the VB bolts and seperator plate gasket.

      Ahh, the smell of Mercon V!
       
    12. Blee1099

      Blee1099 Evil Asian Moderator Emeritus EF Vendor

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      Were you doing this "dialysis" with the engine running?
       
    13. jkfoote

      jkfoote New Member

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    14. Blee1099

      Blee1099 Evil Asian Moderator Emeritus EF Vendor

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      After re-reading your original post, I'm kind of wondering if you have an issue with the EPC or maybe even the valve body since you had delayed engagement. I'd hook up a pressure guage to your port on your tranny and check the pressure readings in all positions. Something isn't right.. If you look at BrooklynBay's signature he has some useful links on transmission related diagnosing..
       
    15. Glacier991

      Glacier991 EF Tranny Guru Moderator Emeritus

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      I want to thank you for the detailed history... that was helpful.

      Certainly sounds like the new fluid detergent released accumulated gunk and clogged something up. Your choice to check pump output was good. These pumps will pump some pretty gunky stuff, so the idea the pump impeller vanes are clogged is remote. I'd drop the pan and check the filter and O rings first, let us know what you find.

      Glacier
       
    16. jkfoote

      jkfoote New Member

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      Thanks guys - it's surprisingly reassuring to have experts double checking me.

      I like BLee1099's theory of an EPC issue. That's consistent with all the discusson in the VB rebuild diary thread. I'm not sure if it's consistent with no flow at all out of the cooler, but I'll know better when I get the pan off. Suppose I somehow did foam things during dialysis to the point that the pump lost prime - is there some kind of priming procedure that should be considered when I get back to that point?

      In the meantime I've ordered a transmission pressure gauge. Once that shows up I'll get more data. I'm also starting my shopping list for a VB rebuild. From reading the VB rebuild diary it's clear I'm overdue for this, and I'm now as familiar with the underside of my X as I'm ever gonna be. I won't pull the trigger on these parts until I get the pan off and see what's going on, but my guess is that the EPC is implicated one way or another.

      Again, profuse thanks for the help.
       
    17. ranger7ltr

      ranger7ltr Elite Explorer

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      Quick Question: Did the 2 NEW orings get put onto the filter?

      When I pulled my pan and filter, one of the orings stayed in the vb... I almost missed it and started installing the filter with the new orings on it and the one o-ring still in the small bore of the vb...

      I would just double-check the old filter for the 2 old orings still being on the filter or in the drain pan...

      As far as a vb rebuild and/or EPC and other solenoids, I have 151k on a 99 Sport tranny that had brown fluid... It also had a flare when shifting either 2-3 or 3-4 and reverse engagement was slow to happen.. Oh and the upshifts were mushy and soft... I bought a new Ford vb with all 6 solenoids[EPC, TCC, and 4 shift solenoids] for 80 bucks +shipping.. I also bought 6 solenoids as well as I didn't know if I wanted to pull the vb and replace it or just replace the solenoids with the filter and fluid..

      Get an inch/oz. torque wrench, torx sockets, and a 1/4" socket set before you get started.. And I would recommend installing a drain plug in the pan for future work... Draining the pan is oh so easy with a drain plug when you need to change the filter again...

      The link is http://www.800700tran.com/ and they are easy to work with...You can check their site and verify the prices of the parts needed to fix your tranny... And be certain to torque the vb when changing it or if reusing the old one...
       
    18. jkfoote

      jkfoote New Member

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      My goof

      I checked the fluid flow at the input to the aux cooler and found flow. Hooked the lines up again and checked for flow at the output of the aux cooler: again no flow. Ah ha! Clogged aux cooler! Negative - red herring as you'll see later.

      I hooked things back up and proceeded with my latest game plan. Finally got the second bolt off the catalytic converter's rear exhaust coupling and got that section removed. What a difference access makes! Clear view all around. Use my nifty new pan drain and cleanly drop the ATF into the catch pan. Uh oh, not nearly enough fluid comes out. About a quart. Uh oh. Where'd the rest of the fluid go?

      Drop the pan and don't get a bath. Examine the pan gasket and find this:

      [​IMG]

      Gasket torn through in one place and almost torn through in another place. Check out how badly I crushed that gasket! Rookie mistake - grossly over tightening the pan bolts. Sigh. The torn piece of the gasket was directly over the catalytic converter. Hmm. Remember this from my original post:

      > Drop down and see the catalytic converter smoking pretty good - ok that makes sense, I dropped alot of oil on it getting the pan out. So maybe it just needs time to burn it off. So far so good.

      Negative. Add this to the catalog of mistakes I've made so far.


      Both BLee1099 and eXcali got this right - they called low fluid levels as the cause of my failed shifts following my fluid change. I suspect all the stuff about the flow into and out of the aux cooler is misleading: there was probably just enough standing fluid in the bottom of the pan to get the flow started into the aux cooler, but not enough to fill it and result in output.


      Closely examine the inside of the pan, it all looks good - just as clean as after my pan drop and filter change last week. I'm reassured by not finding chunks of metal, but it's too soon to celebrate.

      Pull off the filter - O rings look good. Compare the filter I installed last week with the new one I've got ready for this time and they look about identical. I can't see any sign of major gunking in the used filter.

      Peer up into the valve body and inspect closely. No sign of extra O rings in the filter connection ports. No sign of any damage to the valve body gasket. No sign of anything bad. In fact the whole thing looks remarkably clean. I do notice that there are a couple of hand written marks (looks like from a sharpie) on the side of the valve body. The upper mark is '2', right under it is 'X'. No idea what this means. Someone's been in here before? Is it possible to tell from looking at the valve body if the TSB has been applied? Or do you have to take it off the transmission and open it up to check?

      Following advice I check and re-torque the 23 valve body bolts in accordance with the Ford instructions (somebody posted these on the 5R55E rebuild diary thread). I set my torque wrench for the middle of the spec range - all of the bolts tightened a little, probably 1/8th of a turn on average. That seemed about right to account for the age of the gasket and also possibly the original torque at the lower end of the range.

      While I had the pan off I also followed another suggestion from another thread and applied RTV to the threads of my new drain valve just to minimize the chance of leaks.

      Installed the new filter with new O rings. Reinstalled the pan and gasket finger tight - I'm now off looking for a torque spec for these bolts so I don't repeat my blunder. You experts have the right torque in your muscle memory, us rookies need to follow a spec!


      I'm still wringing my hands.

      First, does the torn gasket and the smoking catalytic converter really account for the lost ATF? I'm nervous about this. I'm supposed to believe my indications, and the solid indications I have are a torn gasket and smoke from the converter and too low an ATF level. But if this was really the problem, wouldn't I have seen it puking ATF in the driveway when I did my test drive? Is it possible to have taken the test drive, puking out the ATF and not noticed? Well, where else could the fluid have run off to?

      Second, have I damaged anything? Can't really know until I refill it and try to test drive it again.

      The new game plan:

      1. Find a torque spec for the pan bolts.
      2. Reinstall the catalytic converter (wow that O2 sensor connector is hard to reach).
      3. Fire it up in the driveway, shifting through the gears, keeping a close watch on levels and looking closely for leaks.
      4. If it passes #4 then try to drive it.

      Let me know if you see a better plan!
       
      Last edited: March 18, 2009
    19. jkfoote

      jkfoote New Member

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    20. coreman021

      coreman021 New Member

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      Ranger7ltr...

      I like your style!! I have a 99 sport too.. bought it in july of 99 with 10 miles on it.. 10 years later I have 145,000 miles on it and have the exact same problems with my transmission who would have thunk it! I just got a new valve body, servo rings, gaskets, and a filter and am about to make the change very soon. Did all this fix your transmission problems?? I can't wait to get started fixing this. I also just did all of my ball joints and herculinered my running boards that were rusting up but other than that runs great:exp: <looks just like this one!!
       
    21. ranger7ltr

      ranger7ltr Elite Explorer

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      Looking for lost fluid...

      Look under the truck at the gas tank and the rear end.. My tranny was overfilled a little and I thought I blew a new shock or something with all the oil leaking off of it...There was no smoke that I know of and the rear window was covered with oil spots...
       
    22. jkfoote

      jkfoote New Member

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      She lives!

      I put everything back together and refilled following the instructions given by CDW6212R on post #7 of this thread:
      http://www.explorerforum.com/forums/showthread.php?p=1731879&highlight=hatched#post1731879

      Everything works fine. I'm going to let the dust settle a few days keeping a close eye on ATF level and checking carefully for leaks. Once my nerves settle I may go back in and do the valve body rebuild.

      In retrospect it is probable that this entire thread is bogus, and that my only problem was insufficient fluid following the fluid exchange as suggested by the experts. The core cause of the low fluid level was probably just operator error rather than the pan gasket tear. Mind you, the pan gasket was a problem and I'm glad I went back and fixed it. But it probably wasn't actually leaking, and might not even have been torn until I took it out.

      I ended up putting more than 5 quarts in this time, which is at least a quart more than expected for a pan drop and filter change. You'd think a dipstick would be a dead easy device to use but I really struggled. Every time I added fluid the next few pulls of the dipstick would come back up with fluid along the entire length of the dipstick. At some point last week I'm sure I drained a quart when I should have added one! CDW6212R's method worked for me today.


      If you're reading this and wondering if you should do a full fluid exchange ('dialysis') or just a pan drop and filter change: I don't think this thread will help you decide. I don't think it offers any useful insight on either side of the debate. Yes, I ran into trouble after the exchange, but I don't think there's any evidence that the exchange was the cause - it was just operator error. Conversely, today it feels like the full fluid exchange worked out OK even in my high mileage transmission, but the EPC may be days away from clogging up from the new fluid detergents knocking loose gunk - it's too soon to tell. I'll try to remember to update this thread after I get more miles on.

      Thanks again to everyone for all the good advice.
       
    23. jkfoote

      jkfoote New Member

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      Update: Still going strong

      I was reminded of my promise to update this thread:

      So far so good - now 255K miles on the original tranny.

      Still not sure you can read too much into my experiences.
       
    24. 2TimingTom

      2TimingTom Well-Known Member

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      Thanks for the update.
       
    25. EasyRhino

      EasyRhino Well-Known Member

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      I actually think that this thread is useful, as many of us try to 'go it alone' in repairs and can make unrelated errors that lead us down dead ends.

      Heck, even the pros do it from time to time.

      Glad it all turned out okay, and great high miles on that tranny.
       

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