Ford Explorer Manual Transmission / 5 speed / M5OD
 Fluid Change and Problem Solving

Contributed by Bill Wilhelmi

My transmission failed on me on Interstate 5 on Christmas day with the family in the car on the way to Grandma's house. It was my fault. The transmission had been whining for months and I finally made an appointment for after Christmas. The transmission is a 5-speed manual, 4wd.

I had the car hauled to a transmission shop back in town (I can't recommend AAA plus enough), and waited for the long weekend to be over. The guy at the transmission shop knew what happened right away. He's seen this over and over again on Ford trucks. The problem here is that Ford uses a Mazda transmission with 3 rubber plugs to patch the holes where the gear rails go. These plugs crack and shrink ultimately leading to the transmission spewing all its oil. This is apparently very common at around 100,000 miles. I had 103,000.

After rebuilding the transmission, he installed metal freeze plugs--basically like bottle caps that are hammered into the holes. While he was at it, he changed the clutch and related bearings.

This apparently is a very common problem.

Part Numbers for the Plugs

The part numbers for the metal plugs are Dana #219-3052 or Dorman #555-108 and as was mentioned you need three plugs to do the job.

Contributed by Mike Hotz

Thought I would pass along my experience replacing those 3 silly shift rail plugs. I tried getting them out from down below with nothing but bloody hands to show for my effort. Scratched my head a bit and decided to go from the top down.

It seems that there is a rather large access panel under the carpet. In order to gain access to this panel you have to remove the shift lever boot. The other problem is how to get the carpet around the shift lever. I cut the carpet in the middle from the dash to the shift lever and pulled it back gaining access to the bolts that secure the panel to the body. After removing the panel and turning it side ways the plugs are easily accessible and take just a couple of minutes to replace. Carpet tape secures the cut carpet quite nicely.

The other method I've heard of is to let plugs dry out and crack so they fall out. Once they do that and the tranny cooks itself they are easy to get to with the tranny out while it gets rebuilt!


Contributed by Mike Hotz

Here is another idea that speeds up the manual tranny fluid change:

Before draining your tranny go to your local hardware store and get a piece of rubber hose about the diameter of your little finger (1/2 to 5/8th inch) and four (4) feet long. After draining the fluid and cleaning off the magnet at the end of the drain plug feed the piece of hose from the engine compartment down to the tranny filler plug. You will be able to push the hose about 3 inches into the body of the tranny. Connect the hose to a funnel or one of those adapters made for bottles that you can open and close. After filling the tranny with 2.5 quarts of the red stuff disconnect the hose from the adapter or funnel and blow through it (that way you avoid getting the engine coated with fluid.) Replace the filler plug, pull the hose and your done!

Contributed by Matt Bobbitt

Here is how I cahnged those 3 plugs


  1. 10mm wrench
  2. 8mm socket
  3. 10mm socket
  4. 13mm socket
  5. Phillips Screwdriver
  6. Flathead Screw driver

This is for a Ranger Supercab, but should be similar with the explorers. First, remove the center console. Do this by removing in the back the 2 caps that cover the access to the 8mm bolts to remove the arm rest. Once the bolts are removed, them lift the arm rest out. Then in the cup holders in the front, remove the 4 phillips on the black portion of the armrest. Then you can lift out the cupholder/change holder part of the center console. Then there are 2 black phillips screws that have a washer head on them. Remove both of those, then lift the console free from the truck. Next, remove the trim around the E-brake lever and the kick panel on the passenger side. Then the trim that goes along the inside of the door sill. Phillips screws-4 per side- hold these pieces on. Then there are 4 phillips screws that hold the shift boot to the floor. Remove those 4, then lift the shift knob vertically from the handle to remove it. Then take the shift boot from the truck. Now you are ready to remove the seats. There were some tim pieces that needed to be removed to get access to the 13mm bolts in the rear. 2 bolts in the rear removed, then 2 -13mm bolts in the front removed. Then I disconnected the wiring harness for the lumbar support. Now you need to remove the seat from the seat belt rail. Take the 10mm wrench and remove the nut in the front of the rail. Then with a 10mm socket, remove the bolt that holds the belt buckle to the seat. Of course repeat for both sides, and now you can lift the seats from the truck. At this point, my Ranger was looking really empty. I took the vacuum and got the carpet and the edges clean before lifting the carpet back. When you lift the carpet back, on the edges of the transmission tunnel there is some velcro that holds the carpet down securely. Once the was removed, put the tranny in 4th and lift the carpet back. I only have to fold it over at the start of the seats. Once the carpet is pulled back, I again vacuumed the floor pan out. Now you can see the inspection plate in the floor. Remove the 8mm bolts and then you can remove the plate. Now you have access to the plugs or 3 holes. remove the plugs with some vice-grips and then take a hammer and punch to put the new metal plugs in.

From there, it is just a reverse procedure to get it all back together. It takes a lot of time to get access to the plugs, and about 5 minutes to put the new ones in. But well worth it since my driveway now does not have fluid stains on it.




Updated September 10, 1998

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