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4.6L AWD New transmission not engaging


December 10, 2019
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City, State
Noblesville, IN
Year, Model & Trim Level
2004 Explorer XLT 4.6L
Hey guys so I’ve got an 04 Explorer with a new remanufactured transmission that will now not engage when put into gear. When I’d originally finished rebuilding the engine and installing the new transmission, the truck ran great and I had no problems with the transmission but then realized the catalytic converter was shot (rattling like crazy, reduced performance) pieces of it actually came falling out upon removal anyways I order the new cat and the torque converter adapter alignment tool for the 4.6L’s. I hadn’t used one the first time when I installed the trans because there were very visible marks left on the adapter plate from the 8 nuts and I figured I had it centered on there pretty well. But got to thinking about it and it bugged me that I didn’t use it so I bit the bullet and paid $50 for the tool I’m gonna probably use once but I digress. Note I only drove this truck maybe 300 miles total before I pulled it back in the garage and tore the old cat assembly off and removed the transmission again so I could use that tool on the plate which ended up being spot on anyways but I still removed all the nuts and used it anyways for peace of mind. I did also drain and replace fluid in the front & rear diffs (included fords friction modifier) as well as the transfer case. So now I get in the truck expecting everything to be in tip top shape, put it into drive and the f***ing thing won’t move. I’m at a loss, checked all my connections, pulled the solenoid connector out and blew some compressed air in there and the plug in case some debris managed to get in there but still nothing. The shift linkage is connected and shifting the NSS lever as it should, truck won’t start unless in park or neutral, reverse lights come on when in reverse but the transmission does not engage. I can roll the truck back and forth in the garage in any gear other than park while the truck is running, transmission fluid is full too. What could possibly be going on? *palm to face* There is also this noise that seems to be coming from the bell housing like an occasional rattle/grinding noise which I noticed the first time I had driven the truck. I used my stethoscope and I’ve isolated it to the bell housing, could something being going on with the flexplate and torque converter that’s causing the transmission not to engage? I used my all data diy manuals for everything I’ve done to this truck following torque specs and bolt sequences down to the last detail like I said the engine runs amazingly well especially with the new cats, but the transmission doesn’t even make the slightest attempt to engage. It was working perfectly the first time until I pulled it back off to gain access to the adapter plate, all I did was remove the driveshafts and electrical connections, pull it down and back about 6-7 inches to get my tools up in there and then hooked everything right back up the exact same way I had done before so I’m very confused what could’ve happened

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Sounds like you didn’t get converter seated and pump is broken. May want to take a cooler line off and start it and see if you have any flow. Or put a pressure gauge on it would be much less messy.

Thanks for the reply transman, that’s what my fear is :/ it’s really the only logical explanation at this point, at least that can be replaced though. Sucks if that’s the case as I just spent $2,000 on this transmission and I already might have f***ed it up oh well lesson learned I’ll be sure to report back what I find

Unfortunately can end up a costly education. Good luck.

Okay so just a little update, been taking a break for the past week or so but finally got the transmission back out to inspect things and it looks like where the torque converter slides into the pump has had some metal to metal contact because it’s been scored and looks like it got a little hot so clearly I didn’t have it seated properly. Will try to upload some pictures of what I’m talking about, also the input shaft that goes from the transmission into the TC will not spin by hand (put it in neutral in case, don’t know if that matters or not), is the shaft supposed to spin freely by hand? I thought it was supposed to, could that mean the pump did in fact get ruined and possibly bound up? Note when I removed the cooler lines nothing came out but maybe a couple drops, I know it wouldn’t come out as a steady flow or anything but if the pump was working there would’ve been SOME residual fluid in the lines that would’ve dribbled out right? But they were damn near bone dry so it’s definitely gotta be the pump. My next question is what exactly happened inside the pump or what should I expect to find in this case? Could this have ruined the rest of the transmission?




Going to need a pump and new converter. Also will need new pump bushing in bell housing. Those can give you a rough time as they are a machined it place. I have changed several without machining with no known issues. Do it at your own risk if you choose to change it out. Will also need an alignment tool to put pump on bell housing.
Good luck

Thanks man I appreciate the help, I may just take it to this local transmission shop and have them do it so I can just wash my hands of this mess. Do you think this could’ve ruined the rest of the transmission? Or does it just need to be thoroughly flushed out before refilling with new fluid? After the new pump and converter are installed that is

Never circulated the fluid so more than likely no worries on rest of transmission. Debris will be at pump converter area. Good luck man.

Thought I’d share this, just confirmation that it was the pump. Small gear broke on one side...any advice on joining the transmission and engine making sure the new converter is seated properly this time? Cost me almost $500 total (pump, TC and fluid) so would like NOT to make this mistake again lol


Okay so I’ve got the truck up and running again, replacing the pump and converter did fix the issue so the transmission now shifts properly again but I’m still hearing that slight rattling noise coming from the bell housing which only seems to be heard when put into gear. Park and neutral the sound pretty much dissipates under the sound of the engine running but is much more pronounced when put into drive or reverse. I’m not sure what’s going on, idk if I ordered a faulty converter or what but I spent so much time meticulously joining the transmission and engine to make sure I didn’t misalign anything this time. I made sure, double and triple checked that the torque converter was seated properly into the pump, used Vaseline on the dowel pins and converter hub that goes into the crank so that there wasn’t any binding and the transmission hooked up squarely with the engine a lot smoother than the last time I did it so I thought great surely this time everything will be A1 so still hearing that slight rattle makes me nervous that I’m tearing up this pump and converter too. I’ve had to remove and reinstall transmissions before on other vehicles and have never had this issue so I’m stumped. My mind wants me to just take it to the shop but my wallet sure doesn’t.

I had a 2002 V8 XLT that I bought with 49k miles on it that had a rattle that I thought was a serious transmission problem (used this to beat down the price). I took it to a local transmission shop to have it checked out. This shop had done plenty of transmission maintenance work on all our automatic vehicles and earned my trust over the years. They looked things over and I expected them to tell me the toque convertor needed replaced, or something worse. Instead they told there was nothing wrong and that numerous Explorers came from the plant with torque convertors that had a rattle got more noticeable over time and this did not effect performance or reliability. They said I could change it but it would be a waste of money. I decided to live with the rattle and I never had an issue with the transmission and sold it with almost 117k miles on it. From what you describe, this might be your issue. One way to tell is if the rattle goes away when the convertor locks up in overdrive. Mine would go dead silent when this occurred. I don't know why the rattle occurred but I never had any hint of a performance issue all the time I owned it. You might want to see if the noise disappears when the convertor locks up.

Okay thank you! That makes me feel better about this because I did notice it disappears when I get going, I only hear it pulling in and out of the garage. I think the reason the pump broke the first time was because I didn’t have the converter seated properly in the pump, I only remember it dropping once onto the splines the first time and the transmission gave me a hell of a time joining up but this time around realized there’s supposed to be a second drop which I felt and the transmission joined up much easier with the engine. Just heard that rattle and got worried I was tearing it all up again, I have an appointment Monday with a local transmission shop so I’ll still have them look over everything just in case.