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How to: A4LD transmission rebuild diary

Prefix for threads which are instructional.
Ok, I started doing some research on parts pricing. I do not have all the specifics but I was astonished at the differential in prices between some of the local outlets. Aceomatic for example quoted me $45 on an aftermarket heavy duty OD planetary. Transtar wanted $90 for the OE one, said they found it as good as the aftermarket HD units (maybe they liked the markup better?). Sonnax's website has the Reamer and jig for the oversized boost valve for $105. Transtar wanted $200 for it. Rebuild kits go all over the map, as they contain varying things. Tough to do an apples and oranges comparison as a result. I'll try and have more info tomorrow on pricing - just a caveat... SHOP around.

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The engine stand comes with four L mounting brackets. These are basically flat steel with a long slot in it. On the end is welded a couple inch pipe section you pass a bolt through to the pan holes. I think I put a couple oversize nuts and a washer on to extend it out a little further. This may have been only because my bolts were extra long. On the engine stand is just a flat plate that you bolt these adaptors to. Three is just all you need to suport it. So the only thing you need to buy extra is three long metric bolts. The rotational section of the stand easily removes so you don't have to be supporting the transmission while you are putting in the bolts.

From what I have gathered, the planetary gear was only a common problem the first two years. Transtar has a rebuilt TC for about $120. Do most people really need anything better? Are you doing walk in with Transtar? A little wierd to deal with but I like their prices. Being able to walk in with a TC saves you $80 in shipping.

Opera - yeah I am fortunate, I have several suppliers locally (including Transtar) so I can do a walk in with whomever. There is even a TC rebuilding company (PDQ) locally as well. One trans shop I spoke with was for one reason or another unhappy with PDQ, I'll check into that before I'd buy there again - but have bought TC's from them before, and have no personal knowledge of anything bad or wrong with them. I'll admit that at the moment my knowledge quotient about the differences between TC's in terms of quality is limited - still have homework to do on that front. And for the record, for MY application, I don;t plan to go the Pro Torque route - too much money. If I was a rock crawler, I might - it DOES sound "state of the art".

Originally posted by Glacier991
..... Rebuild kits go all over the map, as they contain varying things. Tough to do an apples and oranges comparison as a result. I'll try and have more info tomorrow on pricing - just a caveat... SHOP around.

Glacier, don't know if this will help some, but the following text is from an e-mail from txchange company. I asked them what was the differences in all these different kits, so here is the answer I got, as far as how they are supposed to be marketed:

----- Original Message -----
From: "Spencer" <>
To: "Elias" <>
Sent: Thursday, January 29, 2004 2:06 PM
Subject: Re: Question for seller -- Item #2456753076

Hey thanks, the kit does include the frictions (aka clutches). As far as kits go, the way they are supposed to be marketed is in the following order...

=seal-up kit (includes paper gaskets and rubber o-rings)
=basic overhaul kit (includes the previous plus sealing rings, metal clad seals)
=banner kit (includes basic overhaul kit plus frictions)
=master kit (includes banner kit plus steel plates)
=super kit (includes master kit plus front band, filter, front/rear bushings, modulator)

The kit in this auction is the super kit and is about as complete as they get. Only things missing are hard parts, washers and sprags which I have
never personally seen in a kit. If you do the complete HD package, that has the super kit as well as the cooler kits, the converter, and the transgo valve body kit (also comes with rebuild manual), so that pretty well covers
everything around the trans as well as the internal soft parts. At 01:29 PM
1/29/2004 -0800, you wrote:

For me, it kinda helped, but what one company markets, might be different from another.

I'm wondering which "washers" he's talking about that aren't included. All thrust washers?

Well, first go at parts shopping. My initial estimate of about $750 is going to be pretty close I think. (omitting certain tool costs).

I bought my parts from the new owners of Aceomatic, which is now called ATC Distribution Group. They were interested in the project and were very helpful. I have only gotten part of my list, but here goes.

Super Rebuilder Kit (soft parts, bands, bushings, frictions, etc) The soft parts (seals and gaskets) were Transtec - my brand of choice by far. Part 56007GBF $131.51

Adjustable Modulator wheel type - they swapped right out of the soft parts kit for the non-adjustable one. Get the WHEEL type adjustable.

Full set of new clutch steels Part 56139G 21.74

Reverse Low Band Part 56024 5.71

HD OD Planet Part A56580 44.21

6 pinion front planet - steel with hub & bearing
Part No. 56582G 71.00

Torque Converter * Part FM68HD 142.35

New Bearing Type Center Support
Part A56630B 71.06

Sonnax Sprag Update Kit 52.33

Cast iron Forward Drum 37.98

OD star washer 2.85

Flywheel Spacer 11.51

Thicker (.015 vs .009) valve body gasket set 4.41

#3 bearing - Center Support to OD 39.70
(this item is an upgrade from a thrust washer to an impossibly skinny torrington needle bearing - price NOT so skinny)

* Torque converter has brazed front fins, heat treated turbine splines, redone with upgrader stator with torrington bearings, then dnyamically balanced. A HD low stall unit.

Replacement rear planetary $55.31 **

Replacement rear ring gear 35 **

Replacement ring gear Hub 25 **

Rear Sprag 55.45 ** ??

Intermediate Servo piston 5.79

Overdrive Servo Piston 6.19

Superior Shift Kit 48.65

TransGo Shift Kit - A4LD JR 22.31

Solenoid 3-4 TechPak 20.48

Overdrive assembly tin plate washer 4.16

I still have a number of parts (thrust washers and bearings, clutch drums, (and a new pump from FORD) etc to buy. It's going to be around $750 to $850 when I am through. At least. [a damaged reverse low assembly hs added tothis! - the parts marked ** above ar replacements for those damaged]

ps. I'm thinking after THIS project we should do a "good enough" rebuild, and see how INexpensively we can go while doing a decent job. (g) [Maybe Eli might want to be the guinea pig on this one]

pps. If you have never bought a rebuild kit of o-rings, gaskets and seals before, you are in for a surprise. You get what looks like a "grab bag" of items, no labels, no explanation, nothing - it's a match as you go situation, we will address later. Also steel hard parts come wrapped in a corrosion resistant paper. Don't throw it away, instead cut it into pieces and put them in your tool boxes or tool box drawers. Works like a charm there too.

Okay.... I went out and picked up an engine stand (I just needed a reason, thanks Opera House!) and put it together. Bought some 8mm x65 mm bolts, washers etc, so I was ready to pull the pan on this puppy, remove the filter and valve body and low/reverse servo and mount it on the stand - which I have done. It occurred to me alng the way that for those sufferring the dreaded inititial engagement - in forward or reverse - "klunk" it might be a good way for them to see the low-reverse servo location and to see hw easy it is to get at it - and IT my friends IS the source of THAT problem - the seal leaks. So this thread might help someone solve THAT annoying (but non-serious) complaint as well.

I have a batch of photos to upload and put in here, so bear with me. This will kind of be the end of the preliminaries, and the beginning of phase two - tear down.

As we last left off with pictures, the poor trannie was in a wheelbarrow. This picks up there.

I rolled over the transmission and remove the pan... (note that on this transmission there was no heat shield, it wasn't from an Explorer where the heat shield is used.)


Other than being right side up, this is what you will find under the Explorer if you remove the pan. One problem area that can be easily fixed with the transmission in the car is the low/reverse servo leakage problem - the delayed engagement in drive or reverse and the "jerk" on engagment. Here's the servo cover you need to remove:


But before we get too far into this for those of us rebuilding the trannie, lets talk about making our lives easier. Auto trannies DO have a lot of parts - so as we disassemble this, let's bag them and label them. Lots of ways to do this - here's my favorite... baggies and a new version dymo paper tape labeller...


So the pan bolts for example, go into the bag and get a label:

Ok so, for those wanting to just fix the low reverse servo... it IS spring loaded, but it is not a strong spring... just be mindful there is a spring behind that cover, remove the cover bolts evenly.... and voila....


Here's the servo out of the bore. Replace the seals using a new version and your delayed engagement problem will be solved. Use vaseline lubricant (you know how to do THIS right ?) to carefully put it back in the bore.... make sure you first remove the gasket - it tends to stay on the valve body - put IT on the servo cover which goes on last after the servo body is in the bore.


Next remove the shifter detent spring...


carefully pull off the wires to the 3-4shift solenoid and the tcc solenoid - the wires stay with the tranny case so need to be disconnected.


For those of us going on past just replacing the low reverse servo.... the next step is to remove the valve body - the "brains" of the unit. There are a zillion small longish bolts. I broke them all free using a 1/4 inch socket set (10mm again) and then, being lazy -did the unthinkable! on an automatic trannie - USED AN AIR TOOL ! (not a good idea usually). Made fast work of removing the 20 something bolts. (Don't try this at home!) Seriously airtools and an aluminum case trannie should rarely ever be used together. NEVER USE AIRTOOLS TO REASSEMBLE A TRANSMISSION!!!! I think too often people pass up cleaning the valve body - I'd recommend against that. This transmission was supposedly rebuilt 5 to 10,000 miles ago, the valve body was cruddy - IT hadn't been opened up and cleaned.


When you remove the valve body, it will at first seem stuck, when it comes free it suddenly pops loose, so be careful!. There is a "Z" bracket on a valve plunger, it needs to come off SIDEWAYS - be careful here... not to pull up but sideways... this is the "Z" backet:


NOW, we are ready to attach the engine stand. But lets look at what we have in bags - YOU DID follow my suggestion DIDN'T YOU?


Ok, the "head" of the engine stand can be separated from the stand. Do that to attach it to the trannie. The pan bolts are metric - 8mm. I bought 65mm long bolts and 2 washers - an 8 and a 10.... I used cardboard standoffs to protect the pan part of the case, like this:


the head unit attached looked like this:


and this installment ends with the trannie on the stand, for further disassembly:


Just remember, that although it looks heavy, is a fraction the weight of an engine. The engine stand is a terrific idea - kudos to Opera House! When we start again here, we'll gut this transmission, and start comparing old parts to the ones we plan to add in! Bulletproof ? I don't know but we're going to try! Yah it's in the garden, GF was not happy about the trannie fluid leaking on her patio! (warning to guys married or living with women - put newspaper under the trannie!)

Yeah baby, naked tranny exposed! :)

This is greatly appreciated. My new manuals have made for some good reading, but a picture tells a thousand words.

Your tranny looks way cleaner than mine. As soon as I remove it off the truck, I will start taking pictures to show you guys how bad it looks and what failed.

How much did your engine mount cost? Is there a specific kind/size? (sorry don't know jack about stands)


The engine stand I got at Harbor Freight for $39.95 - it's a thousand pound stand - enough for any engine we'll ever work on... the trannie spins around on it easily.


May want to put a big catch pan on the legs of the stand. You can bolt a plastic pan onto the legs and then use some disposable aluminum oven pans to catch the trans fluid that will drip out, both on disassembly, and reassembly.

Looks good.

Steve, good idea. Thanks! Maybe I'll use velcro...

You must be one of those guys who can work on an engine in a white shirt and not get dirty. I used a bunch of biohazard plastic bags marked with a sharpie. In no time my oily fingers were erasing everything I had written. Had to go to paper slips in the bags.

whats the fun in not getting dirty? When I get home from work i am covered in greese and grime

Well, I'd like to claim the "white lab coat" award for cleanliness in auto mechanics, but unfortunately my GF would rat me out in a heartbeat - she won't even let me wash my auto work clothes in the same wash batch as her things. In the past, I had resorted to Opera House's method of paper INSIDE the baggies. But - I got this Dymo thingie for Christmas, and it seemed like a great use for it - and hey - so far it seems to work! So chalk it up to childlike joy in using a new toy. Plus, it looks kinda snazzy and professional, no?

More seriously though, of most auto repairs, you DO want to maintain a higher degree of cleanliness in auto transmission work (than in say, brake work, or repacking bearings (g)).

On another note - I had intended to add the upgraded 3-4 shift solenoid. (The newer version was less prone to getting clogged causing shifting problems.) I did at least until I priced the new Ford part - a shift solenoid (I'm figuring to myself, probably 30-40 bucks - in other words twice what it's worth.) FORD quoted me $179. Yep, really. NO way am I going to pop that much. I'll make sure the old one is really clean and the add on filtration and attention to drain intervals should make this pretty much a no brainer... $179 ? who are they kidding????

ELI - I brought the trannie home and degreased and pressure washed it. I'd recommend to anyone to do that first - get rid of the worst of the grease and the crud. I also recommend removing the pan and draining the fluid that you can while it is still in the car. Put the pan back on (no need to use all the bolts) and then remove the transmission. Saves dealing with the excess fluid mess later - to a degree.

My trannie has been putside for a year and so has corrosion etc, I'll be sandblasting the outside of the case and bellhousing (blasting THAT anyway before shipping it off for machining) and tanking the main case.

I'm constantly doing homework, to figure out any possible improvement to this trannie. Some time back someone, I do not remember who, Aldive? first suggested the 4R55E went to a new spiral cut friction. I worried about it needing Mercon V and let it go at that.
Then SteveVB mentioned it again, and it's been niggling at my brain...

Since then, in various places I have read the why's (lowered hydraulic friction in non-engagement (read HEAT)) and better heat dispersion at higher speeds.... sounded like a winner to me. Did some more research and find out that they fit - some wierd issues with numbers of plates used in the later 4R's as compared to the A4LD's (fewer - even though the thicknesses seem to be the same odd... including 2 plate OD's) IF and I mean IF my thought about Mercon V is a legitimate issue, hell I'll just go with AMSOIL synthetic - covers both bases.

So my question is, does ANYONE know ANYTHING about this issue and subject? Any and all help happily accepted. Lately I think I'd buy an expensive dinner with some FORD engineer in their transmission department, I have SOOO many questions I cannot find answers to - just to pepper him or her with Q's I need to know the answers for. (WHY did FORD change this, how come this went from this to that, etc).

Chime in if you have even an inkling or a clue. Please.

ps. Since the A4LD didn't die, mechanically, in 1994, I'm now into the 4R55E for upgrade ideas - new territory with tons of Q's. (as if the A4LD alone didn't have enough - like why did FORD go to double wrap bands in the early 90's and abandon them a couple years later?) Plus trying to figure out legimate changes due to the differences in the new computer controlled trannies vs. plain old improvements that were backwards compataible. Sheesh. If you watch the progression of bearings vs washers inside the transmission it's difficult to understand. I mean is a bearing not inherently superior to a washer? Does a washer give you some added benefit (other than cost) as opposed to a bearing? If cost were not an object would you do all bearings anytime you could? Can I mix and match bearings from various years (assuming my end play numbers come out right) ?

Trannie nerdies share! (thanks) Trannie newbies, RESEARCH. We may be plowing new ground here - and then YOU share! ELI, you are front and center! I mean there are a few gazillion of the pre 95 S'Ploders out there that might benefit from some good answers!

This is starting to feel like "reverse engineering" the transmission in a way, but maybe that's what it takes.

Time for more teardown. I'm going to start bellhousing backwards to center support, then do the back end and the governor bore. Headed out of town a bit so tonight will just be the front end back to the center support....

We're on the engine support stand, and rotated to put the bellhousing UP. I'm going to remove the bellhousing bolts - FORD says to discard them in favor of new ones... we'll explore that a bit later. For now let's remove the bolts...

and then the bellhousing/pump assembly

with that removed we see a thrust washer atop the OD drum as we finally look into the guts of this beast:

The thrust washer bearing surface is down, so let's turn it over:

I am not some expert, but frankly the bearing surface looked a little scratched to me. Was going to replace it anyway, but lets mark that - thrust washer number 1- as a "bulletproof item number 1" - I wondered if FORD ever put a needle bearing here, but through the 4R55 at least, they hadn't. NEW though - for our rebuild.

Good time to go ahead and loosen the band adjustment screws... not tough to do, although you may just as likely remove the screw as the locknut when you undo it, that's ok...

I took this pic to give you an idea where the screw heads to... if you follow the line of the screw, you can see where it hits the anchor strut on the OD band..

Ok, now remove the servos.... OD and intermediate...
Snap ring plier time. Although, no where does it say this, but the snap rings are a not fun aspect of this job. Tough to get a lasting grip with your snap rings pliers, ANY size. The trick is to use a screwdriver and when you have momentarily compressed the ring, insert the screwdriver in the slot for it, and pry the right from there- the snap ring itself isn't going to be easy to get out JUST using pliers.. here a pic...

See the little notch to the left of the pliers (7 O'clock position)? that's where to put the screwdriver.
Once the ring is out the cover does not exactly jump off - even though there is a spring behind it.... first one I used screwdrivers to rocker it up and out, then I tried using large pliers, easier and faster. You CAN use air, but hey, this worked and I didn't have to look where to apply the air - if you DO use air, make sure you limit the pressure to 15 lbs or so - no rocket covers please.

Here is the OD servo cover coming off

Here's the Intermediate servo coming out

and here is it out

The reason we did this was so we can remove the first of the bands - the OD band. With the "binders" removed we can take the band out... first we take out the items which help anchor the band, and which apply the "apply" pressure. Needle nose pliers are handy, though if you drop one of these items, it's not headed far, the center support will catch it and you can retrieve it later. Here is the anchor strut

On the opposite side is a similar "Apply strut"

Now the OD band can come out. This was a '91 - with the double wrap band - and I think I answered my Q about the double wrap bands. I was told by some trannie folks that a double wrap applies more quickly for firmer shifts - but gosh in comparison to the big single wrap - it looks puny. No wonder FORD abandoned it. My advice - empirically? Use the single wrap. (93 up). Here's the band. IF you plan to reuse it, mark the anchor side somehow so it gets put back in the same way.... no reversing one once it's been used please! This one is gonna get replaced with a single wrap new band. Bulletproof tip #2


Ok, band out of the way, we are looking at the top of the OD or Coast clutch drum. This one has a one way clutch in it, try turning it either way and see. One way works, other way locks. When we remove it, we have the drum and the clutch pack inside - drum coming out:

turned over, looking in at the clutch pack - this one has 3 plates in it... (standard 4.0 complement) IF I go to spiral cut friction plates, I'd say leave this one alone, the waffle pattern is ok to my mind- for most driving this one is engaged - I do not expect to find a lot of wear.


Looking above at the OD drum - above -
(It's a crappy photo and I apologize) but do you see the copper colored bushing inside? A wear item. I have a replacement, but not sure how easy it will be to get the old one out and new one in. In my book, especially on a rebuild if metal was found in the pan, a replacement item, either the bushing or a new drum with a replacement bushing in it. Bulletproof item number 3. I'll mike this one and the replacment and show you more in the item by item rebuild.

Time for the notorious OD planetary here it comes:

While in this view, I am not sure if you can make it out, but there is a large "washerlike" disc on the end of the shaft, with outer lugs on it. This one is pristine, but Opera House reported it as a problem area... replace it on rebuild. Bullet proof tip No. 4. Here's the planetary turned over -

This appears to be a HD one. Notice all the little needle bearings in the "nose"? How'd you like to have them contaminated with metal particles? (As small as they are a teensey particle would seem like a boulder in comparison) A "metal in the pan" replacement item if you ask me (e.g if your trannie had metal in the pan on rebuild to any degree, consider this a replacement item. Bulletproof tip item number 5 - new clean OD planetary.) This one was ok and from a trannie that looks ok, so I'll clean it and put on the shelf for the "inexpensve A4LD rebuild. The NEW one only cost $45 though - keep that in mind.

Next out is the OD center shaft assembly...

And here it is out - there is more than meets the eye here -we'l discuss this on item by item rebuild. There is an aftermarket item which "bears" on this, which is interesting. We'll explore that too on the rebuild.


Finally, here we are at the center support - with a thrust washer - No 3. THIS ONE.... FORD did replace with a needle bearing type in 93 - so will we on our rebuild.
Bullet Proof tip no. (what? ) 6?

With everything else out, we can remove the pin and the OD apply lever - it comes out throught the valve body part of the case....


All right, we've completed this part of the teardown - to the case center support - which is a HUGE bullet proof upgrade item in itself... that's where this will stop for now...

Here's what we took out today

more closely...


Recognize the baggies ? (I'm nagging now, right?)
Next up - the extension housing and governor -

Extension Housing:

Looking inside at the governor assembly:

This aspect should prove interesting as a potential DIY repair item you can do with the trannie still in the car (with the tranfer case and extension housing off). We'll resleeve our govenor to steel when we do it (Bulletproof tip No. 7).

That's it for now, will pick up later next week - I'm for a bit of R&R.

By the way: Feel free to chime in with thoughts, ideas, questions we might like answered and helpful criticisms. This is a learning process for me, anyway. Like to try and make it one for as many as can use it as well.

Ok, 'm back, some new items, and ready to finish the teardown. I'll ask a moderator - I am thinking that after the teardown pics, I should start a "2nd part" thread, so the bandwidth needs for all the pics is lessened, as is the load time. Can they be linked later if the thread is worthy?

Ok a couple new items.... well one anyway, the other is being researched. I think I can use a high performance C-4 intermediate band. I'm gong to measure them both (A4LD ad C-4) on the drum. The C-4 band can be bought "TOUGH" (eg. solid band like low/reverse I think)
I'm starting to hunt across the FORD line.... esp with HP trannies. If anyone has ideas of knows of other parts that may work, let us know! By Sunday this thing will be all apart - then comes next the component rebuilds and analysis of what might be done to improve them, as we go. (And the special governor rebuild section). All help appreciated, ideas too, rumors as well.. Stay tuned.

[Late addition - well I got the C-4 band... built like a rock, solid iron band. And, it doesn't fit. Oh well. I tried!]

Glacier if i remember correctly you are going to need to remove the center support and intermediate drum to get the shaft out of the rear(govenor side).

Nice write up so far.

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Steve it's ALL coming out this case is gonna be naked... even pounding out the rear reverse drum bearing race. I'm only part way thru the disassembly. (When done the case will be tanked and cleaned thoroughly). Once full apart, then it's time to evaluate the bulletproofness of each component before reassembly. I'd like to see the info sheets on the TransGo and Superior shift kits. Still willing to fax em ? I am impressed with the Sonnax fixes - will likely incorporate all of them.