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5R55 Shop Rebuild Question


EF Tranny Guru
Moderator Emeritus
February 8, 2003
Reaction score
City, State
Sacramento, CA 95827
Year, Model & Trim Level
1992 XLT
This was posted by SamRebel in the 5R55E Valve Body Thread. I am trying to restrict that thread to questions and answers directly VB related, so I moved it here. Sam is going to rebuild his VB and we hope that solves his problem. He wisely understands that it might not, so he has some questions on a possible eventual rebuild.


Sam wrote:

Hey guys. While I am waiting for my parts to come in, I have a question for all of you. I am not allowing my planning for rebuilding my valve body and replacement of the servos to make me overly optimistic that it will be a panacea for my transmission. While I would love for that to happen, this transmission has almost 140,000 miles on it. It will need a full rebuild eventually. I am only doing this work to: 1. possibly postpone the full rebuild as long as possible, 2. I normally do as much of my vehicle work as I can to save money, learn things, and be assured it is being done correctly. That being said, a full rebuild involves replacement of clutches, steels, friction bands, forward one-way clutch, pump, etc. (Name anything else anyone feels is mandatory on a quality rebuild.) How much can I expect a partial rebuild to cost, assuming I have already installed the TSB, superior kit, new servos and gaskets, and new EPC? I have friends who think that no transmission shop would be willing to take on a partial rebuild at a reduced price with their normal warranty, due to the fact that they did not do the valve body work. It seems to me that a fair and honest shop would simply check the valve body to verify that it was done correctly, rebuild the rest, and charge for the time and the actual parts. However, I am not naive and generally detest the automotive repair industry, and my gut tells me that most shops will either insist on a flat price (the normal price) for a rebuild, or not take on the job. What do you guys think?


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Bench Rebuild. 5R55E 1997 Explorer. This is an older post yet I am in the middle of a first 5R55E rebuild of my own. Pretty much involves a master rebuild kit with steels and bands. Re-man torque convertor, EPC solenoid and a good shift improvement kit. Neighborhood of $600 to $700 in parts. Hope that you don't need any other hard parts yet you won't know until you tear it down. If you have been into other transmissions then you know basically what to expect. You'll need the table space to spread it all out as you disassemble not to mention plenty of newpapers to catch what fluids leak out onto your shop table and floor. I always try to drain out on a tear down bench that is shaped like a shallow pan. Rebuild it on your "clean" table where no filth is allowed. Mechanics that can do this have basic knowledge yet it takes space, time and lots of money for parts. In the old days you could depend on the junk yards to keep cores stocked up to rebuild. Today - all the cores are bought up by shops or core companies. So cores cost much more than they use to. That runs the cost up at the shops. What cost even more is when they can't farm parts out of cores and have to buy OEM parts. So if some one has a rebuild going on with one of these models it would be interesting to see a pictorial step by step done in the future. The knowledge and printed manuals take time to gather yet if a young person wanted to learn a trade to make a living - transmission rebuilding would be a good one. They would have to be dedicated enough to learn from their mistakes and understand they will have to constantly educate themselves - especially with the electronics involved with the vehicle. So how much should a transmission shop charge for the work they do? Depends upon the models involved and the investment in parts. I shop around for competitve prices yet I ask people and family who they are happy with as far as a repair shop is concerned.

Shop owners don't usually piece out rebuild jobs according to what a customer has worked on. They might do it for other shops yet with no warranty involved. So unless you intend to do the job start to finish then don't expect a warranty from commercial businesses that may be able to be talked into doing part of your rebuild for you. Would you cook part of your meal and then turn the rest of the job over to another cook? That wouldn't be wise and if you did you'd have to live with how the meal taste when you set down to dinner!!! Good luck.

not that a lot (some)of customers can't do quality work, but...I've been in the auto repair business (VW) and have been repairing pool cues (officially since '03) for a while. whomever worked on something last is always blamed for many other's mistakes. this is not right, but that's the way things happen.

tune up a VW and the a/c stops working; the tune up guy is blamed and made look bad. put a new tip on a pool cue and the linen wrap starts to unravel, it's the cuerepair guy's fault.

uncle/brother/friend works on a car and now it won't crank. they bring it to a shop and expect all the ills caused by somebody else to be repaired for very few dollars. then they blame the shop/mechanic for all the problems that happen to their pos until it breathes its last breath.

been around for almost 59 years and seen all kinds of abuse to automobiles and their parts; most of it customer inflicted. worked for an auto parts store in the 60's. the boss had a saying, "there are no defective parts. there are improperly installed parts and there are abused parts."

shade tree mechanics and individuals not knowing how to properly diagnose a car's problem(s) has wreaked havoc on the auto parts industry. they are the primary reason that parts stores will not take back electrical items once they have been installed.

and that, my friends, is my Saturday afternoon rant.......jjf :salute:

UPDATE; on 5R55E rebuild problem.

After rebuilding unit, the dyno tested out with no 4th or 5th. Air test plated case and all clutches and bands worked fine. Disassembled valve body. No stuck or mis-installed valves found. Since a new shift kit was installed with new gaskets, there were no witness marks on the ends of the new gasket. Took valve body to friends engine building shop. Checked with machinist straight edge and feeler gauge. High all across the middle. Put valve body on milling machine and took several thousandths off until flat. Thoroughly cleaned and reassembled valve body. Put trans back together and dyno tested again. Everything works fine now. Must have had pinched valves when first torqued down. Now with the body completely flat it torqued down without being in a bind due to high spots. So there are reasons why the gaskets are blowing out. Warped valve bodies are one. Check the body with a straight edge. Check your gaskets if you have to take one off again. If the channels don't make indentations on the gasket then body is probably warped. A straight edge will help best. Mill them down since you will have the valves out of the body anyway. It was worth the extra effort to test out this fix by milling the valve body down flat. I hope this helps someone.

Could you post some pictures of the special valve body repair/testing tools, and machinery?

Warped Valve Body

Would post if I knew how to use the cell phone to do it with.

The basic dynometer machine a transmission shop uses is like having an engine, which is a high horse power electric motor, driving the rebuilt trans and torque convertor with a type of braking unit on the drive shaft end that provides torque control resistance to simulate road and vehicle weight resistance. The fluids are supplied by a storage unit with necessary hook up lines.

A valve body test stand used by the shops are specific plates per valve body that the body is bolted to. The pump on the machine provides hydraulic pressure to the valve body throughout the test. The electronic wiring harnesses are connected and a shift control box runs testing the electronic control solenoids. There is a plex glass cover that is closed during the test or you'd be drowned in trans fluid. This allows the valve body to under go test before going on a rebuilt trans or just after a shift kit is installed.

If I get permission from my friend ,the owner, I'll try to work in pictures in the future. The two dyno test cost me $55 each test. It takes time to run and set up for testing.

You can go to any transmission tool supplier and look at their products of test equipment. It is not cheap yet major rebuild shops have to have them. No one wants to install a unit just to see if it is going to work. Dyno testing saves time and money in the long run.

Get a machinist straight edge if you are going to work in a shop. Don't miss treat it by throwing it around. It comes in a protective container for a reason. Any professional machine shop can order you one. Take care of yor tools and they will take care of you.

As far as a milling machine - any professional machine shop will have one. Develope a good working relation with your local shop. Schedule in a time when you can bring the valve body by so they can see what it is you need help with. Most have never seen a valve body so they won't know what to charge - if anything - due that it could be done very fast without tying up the mill machine time. That's all they are concerned about. Machine time. The fee to mill a valve body should be very low and reasonably priced. It takes less than 15 to 30 seconds of actual contact with the belt and no pressure pushing down to true up the surface. You just hold the valve body as the belt passes below it. IF YOU PUSH DOWN HARD YOU COULD GO TOO FAR TOO FAST or YOU COULD NOT HOLD IT AND IT FLYS OFF THE BELT. You only want it flat. I'd do it a few times at 10 to 15 seconds each and then check with straight edge at the machine shop. That way you know when you have the high spots milled off. Flat from corner to corner and side to side.

That should do it. Now you have a flat valve body in a relaxed state. It's not warped any more. There should NOT be any more stuck valves nor gaskets blowing out because the valve body is NOT flat. Good luck. You'll like the results. You can think out side the box and fix it once.

This would definitely make an interesting thread if you could add pictures with an explaination of each machine, and what they do. You could call it: Valve body milling, and testing machinery.