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5R55E shift saga

2000StreetRod

Moderator Emeritus
Joined
May 26, 2009
Messages
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City, State
Greenville, SC
Year, Model & Trim Level
00 Sport FI, 03 Ltd V8
When I told my local transmission builder that I was thinking about purchasing a second generation Explorer he advised me to get one with the 4R70W transmission instead of the 5R55E. He provided me with technical reasons why but I didn't understand them at the time and have since forgotten them. In general he said he could add mods to make the 5R55E stronger but not as strong and reliable as the 4R70W.

My 2000 Sport had 150,000 miles on the odometer when I purchased it in May, 2009. I told my wife that the engine and transmission would probably have to rebuilt in a year or two. Unfortunately, both predictions have come true to some degree. My SOHC V6 rear timing chain guide broke in less than six months (which I have repaired) and this past week I detected an abnormal upshift.

A check of the ATF level revealed that it was just above the maximum on the dipstick so I replaced my remote ATF filter. That dropped the level to just below the minimum. I drove the vehicle on some errands this morning and when the ATF was cold I detected a soft 3>4 upshift. As the ATF temperature increased a significant flare began to occur on the 2>3 (I think) upshift. The flare is much more noticeable now possibly because of the lower ATF level or because of rapid deterioration.

In the next few days I will perform a data log to determine for sure which shifts have a problem. I have read some of the forum posts regarding the 2>3 flare symptoms and what to replace to correct the problem. I'm hoping to get by with replacing the EPC solenoid and rebuilt valve body myself.

Since I plan to perform a double powertrain swap in the near future, I don't want to spend the money to have the 5R55E completely rebuilt. I'd much rather spend the money on the rebuild of the to be acquired 4R70W.
 



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3>4 flare

Some people claim that bad things happen in threes. Yesterday reinforced that claim. I spent about 20 minutes setting up the data parmeters to record to analyze my shift problem. When I was finally ready and attempted to start the engine the battery charge was insufficient to crank the engine. So I saved the parameters and hooked up the battery charger. While the battery was charging I pulled off the cell caps and noticed the electrolyte level was low. I added distilled water to bring the level up to normal. While waiting for the battery to charge I checked the coolant level in the radiator. I was surprised that it was low since I had just topped it off a week ago. I noticed the cap larger gasket was cracked so I replaced the cap after topping off the coolant. By then the battery was charged enough to start the engine so I went on my data log drive.

By counting shifts I confirmed my initial suspicion that the flare occurs on the 3 to 4 upshift. I also noted that immediately after cold start the flare is not detectable but after 20 minutes of driving becomes very noticeable. Analysis of the recorded data indicates that at 8 minutes and a transmission temperature of 110 degrees there is no detectable flare and the upshift time is 0.3 seconds. After 22 minutes and a transmission temperature of 152 degrees the upshift flare was 366 rpm and the shift time increased to 3.6 seconds. I detected no deterioration in the 1>2 or 2>3 shifts.

After my drive I noticed engine coolant leaking on the driveway. So now I need a new battery, I need to fix an engine coolant leak, and I need to fix my transmission. I parked my Sport in my garage, raised the front end and supported with jack stands, and sprayed the left catalytic converter to muffler bolts with Blaster.

I am disappointed and somewhat concerned that I am experiencing a 3>4 shift flare instead of the more common 2>3 shift flare. I've spent the last few days reading posts about the 2>3 shift flare. Now I have to research something else. Hopefully, a rebuilt valve body will solve the problem but I intend to inspect before ordering any parts.
 












Band adjustments

You could do a band adjustment. Not sure if it will help, but its fast and free:)

http://www.explorerforum.com/forums/showthread.php?t=158160

Thanks for the suggestion. I plan to check the band adjustments but doubt the band clearance would cause the 3>4 flare. The OD band is only applied in 2nd and 5th speed. The intermediate band is only applied in 3rd speed. The low/reverse band is not adjustable.

I'm guessing the TCC solenoid may be sticking and delaying the shift. It is energized in 4th and 5th speed but would already be in position when shifting from 4th to 5th. I'm hoping when I inspect to find the separater plate gasket blown out adjacent to the TCC fluid path.
 






******'s exhaust system

The past difficulty I encountered when removing the bolts that connect the exhaust manifolds to the downpipes made me suspect that my exhaust system had been assembled by a ******. Since I applied anti-seize compound to the new bolts upon reassembly I was not too concerned about removing the driver side cat/pipe assembly shown in the photo below.
Cats.jpg


I began soaking the two rusty bolts and nuts at the extreme right of the photo with Blaster two days ago. This afternoon I decided to tackle the one most accessible that is just barely in the photo. Having "rounded" the head of one of the downpipe to exhaust manifold bolts in the past, I spent a lot of time testing various sockets for the best fit. I learned that a 1/2 inch 6 point socket fit snugly on the bolt head but nothing fit snugly on the nut. A 9/16 inch and a 14mm socket were both too small but a 5/8 inch and a 15mm socket were both too big. Fortunately, there is a short lever welded to the inner side of the nut that binds against the pipe to keep it from turning with the bolt head. I was able to loosen the bolt a couple of turns without rounding the head or breaking the shaft. I applied penetrating oil to the newly exposed threads and tightened the bolt to work the oil into the nut. Then I completely loosened the entire bolt uneventfully.

In the photo above the upper nut is quite visible and appears to be easily accessible. However, the welded lever requires the bolt to be removed by installing a socket onto the bolt head. When I attempted to install a socket onto the bolt head I confirmed my suspicion about the sadistic assembler. Access from the passenger side is blocked by the other cat/pipe assembly which appears to be difficult to remove. It looks like access thru the inspection plate above the O2 sensors is not possible because the bolt head is aft and to the right of the opening. I pieced together 3 wobble extensions but still could not succeed in getting the socket to fit squarely on the bolt head. I was saved from further misery and failure when my wife notified me that I had an unexpected errand to take care of. My next attempt will be with a universal joint at the socket.

In case you're wondering about the two O2 sensors installed in the downpipe prior to the cat, the lower one is a wideband sensor for my A/F ratio meter.
 






I would suspect you may have a blown valve body gasket and no more. You don't need to remove the cat to get the tranny pan off, just the front drive shaft in one location (front Axel or TC) I always took off the six 10mm bolts from the TC output flange and wire the drive shaft up and out off the way. Slide the pan down and to one side. Valve boday can then be removed.

As you likely know there is a Ford update kit with a bonded separator plate.
 






Hopefully you're correct

I would suspect you may have a blown valve body gasket and no more. You don't need to remove the cat to get the tranny pan off, just the front drive shaft in one location (front Axel or TC) I always took off the six 10mm bolts from the TC output flange and wire the drive shaft up and out off the way. Slide the pan down and to one side. Valve boday can then be removed.

As you likely know there is a Ford update kit with a bonded separator plate.

Thanks for the response. I hope that you are correct and I can get by with the bonded separator plate update.

Since I only have 2WD I don't have to deal with the front drive shaft. I suspected that I didn't need to remove the cat/pipe assembly to remove the pan and valve body. However, I wanted an unobstructed view and access to the valve body. Also, I plan for a double powertrain swap in the future (SOHC V6/5R55E with 5.0L V8/4R70W) and I don't want to have to tackle all of the rusted exhaust bolts at one time.
 






Heat shield and nut

I attached a 3/8 in. drive universal joint between the socket and an extension and made sure the socket was fully seated tightly on the bolt. Unfortunately, there was so much flex in the joint that the torque wrench ratchet wouldn't increment in the limited work space. So I reverted to the wobble joint configuration shown below.

Wobbles.jpg


Socket.jpg


There are two wobble joints at the very end of the extension that results in enough angle to attach the socket to the bolt.

The photo below shows the position of the torque wrench that allowed loosening of the bolt.
Angle.jpg

Unfortunately, I soon realized that the "lever" welded to the nut was binding against the heat shield and might damage it so I used KaiserM715's excellent instructions in the following thread to position the heat shield out of the way: http://www.explorerforum.com/forums/showpost.php?p=1319743&postcount=117

The photo below shows the removed cat/pipe nuts and bolts and the 10mm nut that holds the heat shield in place.
NtsnBlts.jpg
 






Troubleshooting tips for the 4R44E & 5R55E

According to some tips posted on the Sonnax website an uncommon source for the 3>4 flare in the 5R55E is the servo pin bore is worn on the intermediate servo or the spring on the piston is too strong: TS6-BW-106-109

It also states in the tips that the torque converter fluid must reach 150 degrees before the internal thermal element opens allowing for external cooler flow. This is the temperature above which my 3>4 flare becomes very significant.
 






Keep in mind with a blown valve body gasket when the fluid is cold it is thick and does not leak past the gasket as bad as when the fluid is hot. I had both the 2-3 flare and the 3-4 flare and it was much worse when warm. My gasket was blown by the reverse servo. Before I took it to my Ford dealer who said I needed a re-built tranny for $3500. I fixed it myself for under $100 and that was three years ago. Runs great today..

I am putting my money on a blown valve body gasket for you. Let us know what you find...
 






You may want to change the o-ring on the reverse servo to the Viton D style ring. It seems to help a bit with the slow reverse engagement

trans004c.jpg
 






Good idea

You may want to change the o-ring on the reverse servo to the Viton D style ring. It seems to help a bit with the slow reverse engagement

I haven't noticed reverse being slow to engage but I agree that with 150,000 miles and probably little or no past maintenance installing the new rings is a good idea. The servo rings and gasket cost less than $5 plus shipping. Does the flat side of the D ring contact the cylinder or the piston? If the cylinder, is it hard to keep it in position prior to inserting the piston?
 






cat/pipe assembly removed

I was surprised how difficult it was to loosen the exhaust manifold to downpipe bolts even though new ones coated with anti-seize compound were installed in May. When I installed them with the anti-seize I was a little concerned that they might work loose but not any more. The photo below shows the removed driver side cat/pipe assembly.
CatD.jpg

Now I have much better visibility of the transmission pan and nothing will block the use of a torque wrench when installing the valve body bolts.
TransPan.jpg


Since only the front of the vehicle is raised I loosened and removed some of the rear transmission pan retaining bolts until ATF began to leak out. In a few hours all of the ATF above the pan gasket had leaked out into my catch pan. Tomorrow I will lower the pan more and attempt to siphon out the ATF remaining in the pan. I'm trying to avoid making a huge mess on the garage floor. If I were going to keep this transmission I would probably install a drain plug. The draining ATF looks and smells comparable to new ATF which is encouraging. I will strain all of the old ATF before disposal checking for gasket fragments, check balls, etc. I anticipate finding the original transmission filter when I remove the pan.
 






This is what I did to avoid the mess...

When I changed my vb I drilled a hole in the rear of the pan while the truck was on the ramps so it would drain out and go into my drain pan...

I was planning to install a drain plug anyway so I located the hole where I wanted to drill it larger and install my Fumoto drain plug...That way the pan drained out and I was able to remove the pan without spilling any fluid...

When I removed the vb, I used the same black drain pan with a flat drain pan under the round pan as backup...Even with the flat pan under the round pan, I did not spill or drip any fluid onto the ground when the vb was out...The black drain pan is big enough to catch any dripping fluid from the vb removal...

When I refilled the tranny, I forgot to start the engine after the 5th quart of fluid and lost a half quart of clean new fluid out the damn overflow...That was the only spillage and I was done with the hard work at that point...
 






drain plug would help

It sounds like you have an excellent process ranger7ltr. A drain plug would definitely help but as I found out this morning, even when the pan is empty more ATF drops when the filter is removed. I've read that it happens again when the valve body is removed. I need to find a catch pan wider and longer than the 4R70W transmission pan. If things go well, this should be the only time I'll ever pull the pan on this 5R55E transmission.
 






You are right...

More fluid drains when you pull the filter and a LOT more comes out when the valve body is removed...But if you drain the pan first. then remove it after closing the drain plug, you have an empty pan to let the rest of the fluid to drop into...An empty pan will not spill fluid...But I had no spills with the drain pan I used...It was big enough to catch all the drips...

On the 3-4 flaring I replaced my vb with one from Central and I still need to replace the intermediate servo...The net result was the shifting became more stable and definite...The flare is not as bad but since the 1-2 and 2-3 shift are nice and firm it would seem that the intermediate servo is not actuating quickly enough when the direct clutch starts to release...I bought the servo cover compressor tool I just have not had the time to replace the servo yet... But the net result is the tranny is better shifting than before I changed the vb...

But my bigger question is based on the first post you did here are you going to redo a 4R70W to install behind the SOHC or is this a prelude to the v8 conversion? BTW I did the same thing on the 4R70Ws' I used in my Ranger conversions...The drain plug was a wonderful tool for everyone...
 






Solenoid bracket

After removing the transmission pan and filter and inspecting I believe I have found at least one of the causes of my 3>4 shift flare. The photo below shows the four solenoids mounted on the valve body.
SolBrkt.jpg

I pushed on the end of each solenoid with my finger and noticed that the TCC solenoid moved almost 0.25 inches. I found that I could loosen the bolt identified with the yellow arrow with my fingers. I also noticed that the solenoid mounting bracket was broken at the location identified by the red arrow. After studying the shift logic I had predicted in Post #4 the TCC solenoid might be sticking so I'm encouraged with my findings. However, I'm concerned that after checking the pan and screening the ATF I haven't yet found the broken off bracket piece. Hopefully it's in the filter which I will examine next.

Now I have to decide whether to just replace the bracket or proceed with pulling the valve body and replace the separator plate with the bonded one.

Does anyone know what year Ford started incorporating the bonded separator plate into the production 5R55E?
 






Bonded seperator plate gaskets started in 97 I believe...

And the solenoid bracket being bent or broken is not unusual...In fact it is common...You can replace the bracket for little cost...

But please replace the seperator plate with the gaskets...Just retorquing them will break the gaskets and they will not seal...I know its a PITA to remove the vb just to replace the plate and gaskets but my previous attempt to retighten the vb bolts made matters worse...
 






You are incorrect in your statement that the 1st/reverse band cannot be adjusted. By using different length rods you can adjust the apply distance using the Ford tool to find the right length rod.
 



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Double powertrain swap

. . . But my bigger question is based on the first post you did here are you going to redo a 4R70W to install behind the SOHC or is this a prelude to the v8 conversion? . . .

I plan to purchase a 2000 4 door with a 5.0L V8/4R70W and swap the powertrain with my Sport SOHC V6/5R55E which will be installed in the 4 door and then sold.
 






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