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A4LD Automatic Trans Cold 1-2 Shift Solved

natenkiki2004

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I know a lot of you guys have had or read about this issue with the governor sticking in the A4LD trans. The following is what I've experienced on my 1991 Explorer, it should not be an all-purpose fix but rather general information for troubleshooting.

--- Story
All winter long I experienced cold 1-2 shift issues in my A4LD. My way of combatting this was to let the truck idle for a while until it warmed up a bit, usually close to the thermostat opening. If I took off right after starting, it would take significant RPM (up past 3000 at over 30-35MPH) and some driving time to get it to shift into second. I hated doing either of these.

While browsing around, I noticed Seafoam makes a product for transmissions called Trans Tune. Knowing that I probably had to replace the governor in the transmission, forking over $10 for a bottle of fluid seemed like something worthwhile even if it didn't cure my problem. I got it and dumped half a bottle in. There was no immediate effects.

About a month later, after reading about people adding secondary spin-on filters after the radiator cooler, I decided to do the same. When I installed the filter, I first poured the other half container of Trans Tune in the filter and filled the rest with regular ATF.


--- Parts
- Trans Dapt 1028 3/4-16 thread remote oil filter bracket.
- Quality filter, same style that fits your oil (FL-1A, 51515, P8HA, etc).
- 2x 1/2" MPT to 3/8" brass hose barb fittings.
- Various length Parker 300PSI push-loc hose.
- Hose clamps for above hose.
- Wire loom, large enough for above hose (to prevent rubbing on metal).
- Super strong magnets (I used some from a computer hard drive, attach to outside of oil filter).

Notes: The filter bracket isn't great quality. It's a poor cast. While I purchased mine used, I would look a new casting over quite well before using it. Before installation, I opted to apply JB Weld to various places on the cast. One critical spot was the 1/2" NPT threads, there was a crack inside. It could have been from the previous owner but it wasn't severe enough for me to throw it away. I JB Welded the brass fittings inside and caked the area as well. I don't know if hot ATF will eat away at JB Weld, I doubt it will since gasoline doesn't but I'm confident that most anything that would break off would get caught by the magnet or the filter itself. Mine's been on for 7 months without any weeping, leaking or loss of flow through the unit.


--- Results
Now, it's been 2 months and 500 miles since the original dose of Seafoam Trans Tune and it's fixed. I can start the truck, get my seatbelt on and get down the driveway to the main road and from there, at about 20MPH and 1800-2000 RPM, it shifts smoothly into second. That's probably not as early as it should but it's much better than it used to be, effectively solved.

7 Months later - IT'S FIXED!!! http://www.explorerforum.com/forums/showthread.php?p=3356858


--- Thoughts
I can't say for certain that it was the Seafoam alone that fixed the issue or if it was a combination of the spin-on filter and Seafoam. I do know that it is NOT related to the warmer temperatures as the previous owner said this problem existed year-round.

I installed the spin-on filter between the radiator tank cooler and factory auxiliary transmission cooler. Some people say it's better to filter first and then run through both coolers. I would have gone that route but installing it the way I did meant I only had to cut a rubber hose (which I had replaced at the time). The total cost including new hose, filter, fittings & bracket was under $50. Even if you don't have the cold shift issue, I highly recommend a secondary filter. It's cheap, gives you a way to replace about a quart of fluid easily and gives supplemental cooling and filtration. I use the standard Motorcraft FL-1A filter.

I opted to mount the filter right behind the bumper, providing easy access and use the least amount of rubber hose I could. I don't plan on hitting anything but if something damages the bumper enough to break the filter/mount, it takes a screwdriver to remove the hoses and bypass the whole assembly.

Every time I change oil from here on out, a new trans filter will go on with fresh fluid. I am also planning to drop the pan and change out the internal filter and the majority of the fluid in the near future.


--- Pictures (click to view larger)
https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/464376/vehicles/1991 Explorer/Pictures/IMG_20140308_095818.jpg
https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/464376/vehicles/1991 Explorer/Pictures/IMG_20140308_095840.jpg
IMG_20140308_095818.jpg
IMG_20140308_095831.jpg
IMG_20140308_095840.jpg
 
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natenkiki2004

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It's been 700 miles since I installed the spin-on filter. Today I dropped the pan to change more fluid and the internal filter. I also took off the spin-on filter and cut it open. I found a fair amount of particle gathering where I had placed magnets on the outside of the filter:
https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u...Transmission Pan Drop/2014-06-30 17.33.52.jpg
2014-06-30 17.33.52.jpg


Inside the filter shell:
https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u...mission Pan Drop/2014-06-30 17.35.03_crop.jpg
https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u...mission Pan Drop/2014-06-30 17.36.28_crop.jpg
2014-06-30 17.35.03_crop.jpg

2014-06-30 17.36.28_crop.jpg




Overall I'm pleased with the filter. Any extra crud I can keep out of the fluid and the oodles of moving parts in the trans, the better off it will be. I had thought of keeping magnets on the outside of the trans pan but decided I would rather the pickup tube suck them up and send them into the spin-on filter that I can discard easily rather than keeping a stockpile in the pan that I have to clean out with much more difficulty.

Seeing how many of the pleats in the spin-on filter were still very clean, I think I will just spin off the filter each time I change oil, dump the old fluid out and fill with fresh. This will allow me to change about half a quart of trans fluid and keep it freshened up. I'm thinking of changing out the filter for a fresh one every other oil change or maybe once every 3 oil changes. They are cheap enough but then again, I could spend that couple of bucks elsewhere.

I don't know what the long term effects of the filter will be, how it affects longevity or performance. What I have seen though is good and for the cost of the mod, I highly suggest it to anyone that tows or offroads with the A4LD.
 
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cklinejr

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I'd bet it was the filter that fixed it for ya, I've read that the governor is the first place the fluid goes after leaving the coolers. It gets plugged up and sticks from the little bits that make it through the screen pan filter.

Thanks for the photos, they're neat to see.

-Charles
 
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natenkiki2004

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I'll find out for sure when winter comes and I try to drive when it's freezing out :)

I've never once had the issue again, even leaving early on cool mornings. The internal trans filter is a poor screen and will let powdery material fly right through all parts of the trans. The spin-on filter caught a LOT of that crud and even so, there was still a lot of it coating the internal filter and sitting on top of it. Even if you get a little bit of that sediment into the governor valve, I could easily see it sticking. There's not a ton of centrifugal force there.

There certainly aren't any negatives so far. The trans seems happy with new and clean fluid. Smooth shifting to the point where the tach is the only indication of it shifting.

Thanks for your comments.
 
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natenkiki2004

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A happy update to this thread:
For over 24 hours, it's been below freezing out. It was 20's today with some severe wind chill. My Explorer hadn't been started or run since before the freezing weather started. I fired it up today, walked back inside to get something, came back out and drove off. It shifted perfectly fine into 2nd at about 17MPH and 1850RPM. No more difficult than it normally is. It was damn cold. The kind of cold where you don't even want to touch the steering wheel.
 
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larrydd999

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I like it that the FL-1 fits your filter unit. What make/model filter housing is that?
 
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natenkiki2004

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Thanks. I updated the original post with a parts list. The housing is a Trans-Dapt 1028.
 
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natenkiki2004

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It's been about 3,100 miles since I've done this mod and still couldn't be happier with the outcome.

More out of curiosity, I replaced the spin-on filter the other day which had almost 2,400 miles on it. I cut it open to see what was inside and I'm now thinking that these should be changed every time you change your oil. There was a fair amount of buildup but the filter was less than halfway clogged. Still, to keep flow optimum and since the Motorcraft filters are cheap, every oil change is probably just about right.

I cut open the filter and cut out the element to laid it out and see the contamination:
https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u...rans Filter 5-26-2015/IMG_20150526_190057.jpg
IMG_20150526_190057.jpg



Holding it up in the sun makes it easier to see the crud:
https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u...rans Filter 5-26-2015/IMG_20150526_190117.jpg
IMG_20150526_190117.jpg



As usual, more metallic material stuck to the canister due to the strong magnets put on the outside:
https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u...rans Filter 5-26-2015/IMG_20150526_185824.jpg
IMG_20150526_185824.jpg
 
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iLoveMyExploder

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hell yes!

i had this exact same problem with my 93 exploder (the one that got stolen). I wish I had known about this- I would have done it. I think its a damn good idea! when the funds are available- I will do this on the 4X4 for sure!
 
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tmwalsh

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Be careful if you take it to a quick lube joint. They might replace the transmission filter instead of the engine filter....
That is a lot of 'crud' sloshing around for an A4LD. They mostly don't make that much unless something is coming apart. The factory pan that had a round spot near one of the corners has a magnet in that spot. I took one apart, and repaired it, that had a magnet that was not as loaded up as the stuff you are showing. The clutches had burned and slipped so that the A* wouldn't move any more. (extended body 4.0 with about 190K, towing a horse trailer too) Did some hard parts, clutches, steels and seals, and it went on down the road. I did mess up the internal alignment and it was slightly slow to engage R, but all else worked fine.
I don't remember it having dark particles on the magnet.
tom
 
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natenkiki2004

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I won't be taking it to a quick lube place :)

I don't know if it's because mine is a 1991 or what but my pan didn't have a magnet in it. That might be part of the issue.
 
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Rhett

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Mine is a 94 and it did not have a magnet in the pan (4x4, long pickup tube, towing package)
 
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natenkiki2004

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Mine is a 94 and it did not have a magnet in the pan (4x4, long pickup tube, towing package)

Maybe the 4x4 pans didn't have a magnet for some odd reason? I do know that the previous owner of mine had the trans out twice, the magnet could have been lost but I doubt it.
 
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Rhett

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Maybe the 4x4 pans didn't have a magnet for some odd reason? I do know that the previous owner of mine had the trans out twice, the magnet could have been lost but I doubt it.

I don't know. My previous owner might have lost the magnet, too. He said he had it "Flushed" whatever that meant. Prob one of those Jiffy Lube pump out machines.

I do my own flushes using the aux cooler hoses. Last time, I flushed by accident because I (stupidly) used vac line instead of reeinforced tube for the aux hoses. Took it about 2 months to vibrate/wobble thru and break the vac tube at the clamps. Not one of my better moments in auto repair, but at least I didn't Herculine my hootus.
 
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natenkiki2004

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That's why I recommend the Parker push-loc hose. Works great and is thicker than the OEM stuff, rated up to 300PSI too.

Hootus :D
 
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natenkiki2004

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3,400 miles after my previous post with pictures, I pulled the spin-on filter again. Looks like less particulate caught this time and plenty of un-used media left so the filter I just put on will stay on there a couple years.

I've now had this setup installed for over 2 years and 6,500 miles. Absolutely no problems and I haven't once had a delayed 1-2 shift since it first disappeared. Even more now, I'm still a big advocate of auxiliary filters.

Also just finished re-uploading these images to this site now that I have Elite Explorer.

All images:
https://www.dropbox.com/sh/cowtizs14nt8did/AAAejdhBNzn8o8wMNQCy_Awea?dl=0

2016-07-03 19.23.43.jpg
2016-07-03 19.25.25.jpg
2016-07-03 19.32.23.jpg
2016-07-03 19.33.02.jpg
 
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tmwalsh

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The only comment is that the filter & mount sure look exposed to any road debris and tall curbs. Maybe it is the context, and it is protected, but it sure looks as if just about anything can whack it.
I would bet that the Seafoam dissolved some sort of varnish on the governor as they are usually not 'sticky' and bothered by low temperatures. Should oughta work for a good while w/o problem now.
tom
 
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natenkiki2004

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The only comment is that the filter & mount sure look exposed to any road debris and tall curbs. Maybe it is the context, and it is protected, but it sure looks as if just about anything can whack it.
I would bet that the Seafoam dissolved some sort of varnish on the governor as they are usually not 'sticky' and bothered by low temperatures. Should oughta work for a good while w/o problem now.
tom
In a way, you're right. The bottom of the oil filter is a pinch lower than the bottom of the bumper. However, it would have to be something in front of me at just the right height to squash the filter/housing. If I was driving at any speed to crush through the bumper and into the filter, it would likely cause radiator damage as well. Even if that freak circumstance happened, I can whip out a flat head screwdriver and plumb the lines together, bypassing the filter. No big deal really.

I still don't know if it's the Seafoam that did the trick or the filter or both. The trans was rebuilt so there shouldn't have been a ton of varnish. There was a fair amount of crud/sediment as you can see in the pictures above.
 
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92exp4x4

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There is a reason that all the equipment I have ever worked on has transmission and hydraulic system filters. Most have multiple filters in line. Clean fluid means happy components. The only other battle is keeping things cool, which you should have no trouble with! You can never go wrong with bigger coolers and extra filtration.

This is a great idea and you only have to stock one type of filter for your vehicle. I will be doing the same thing. I have a filter head and fittings that are for this purpose on some older model Cat forklifts. I took them from a scrap unit. I'm now curious if an FL-1A will fit.
 
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natenkiki2004

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Exactly. Ford had horrible "filters" in these transmissions. Combine that with a heavy vehicle weight and highest torque engine they mated to the A4LD and then combine that with OPTIONAL transmission cooler and, well, we end up with the reputation the A4LD has.

Clean and cool fluid will last forever. I've often thought of adding another cooler in parallel with the factory unit. This would mean slower fluid through the cooler and have more time for cooling. It would also help in the winter time to block airflow over the radiator since mine has the condenser removed.

Hydraulic filters like those on heavy equipment would be fantastic. Some of those Baldwin units do better at filtration than automotive style. I've found the FL-1A style doesn't affect performance (flow) at all nor does a Magnefine. I don't know if a finer filter would have a negative effect. They do make adapters so you can use for scrap head unit. But if I were you, I'd plumb it in and get a quality Baldwin or similar and let it be for 10,000 miles.
 
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