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ATF leak or mosquito abatement!

Matt Fisher

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November 26, 2005
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City, State
Visalia, CA
Year, Model & Trim Level
94 Limited
Story at the beginning, question at the end.

94 Limited 4x4, 210K, original motor/trans.

This last weekend I was pulling a 5x8 trailer with a couple dirtbikes up a series of long hills going from sea level to 4000 feet in about 10 miles (hwy 58 from Bakersfield to Theachapi). About halfway through the climb, I noticed a just bit of blue smoke behind me. After stopping I found ATF under the vehicle, and burning off the exhaust, but the dipstick read within range. With no place to go but up, I continued on. With 2 miles to go on the steepest hill it looked like the truck was on fire. Smoke filled the cabin, cars were not excited at all about being behind me, but I killed any mosquitoes that had dared to venture out in mid February. Once the ground flattened out, the smoke stopped.

Crawling under the truck didn't help much, though the amount of ATF everywhere was truly impressive- there was even fluid dripping off the axle of the trailer. I expected a leaking rear output shaft, but that was about the only place that wasn't coated in red fluid. Pulling into a Jiffy Lube, I noted that the transmission was slipping a bit. Due to the cross-members, we couldn't tell if the front driveshaft output was leaking, but there was no more fluid coming out, regardless of whether the engine was running, or what gear it was in. After adding a gallon of ATF, I pulled into the car wash and spent $5 to pressure wash the underside, the engine bay (leaky P/S pump), the exterior of the Ex, trailer, and motorcycles.

My destination was Mojave (elevation 3123 ft), so we headed that way. It was all downhill, and there was zero smoke coming off the truck, and it drove as though nothing were wrong. Upon arrival the dipstick showed just a smidge below the crosshatch, but within the two holes on the stick. On the 130 mile drive home I didn't have any smoking issues, but except for the initial uphill elevation change of about 800ft, it was all downhill (my son and I had a great time riding dirtbikes in the desert, btw :D ).


SO- I surmise that the seal between the transmission and transfer case is now dead, correct? I'm guessing that the ATF actually pushed it's way out some vent cap in the transfer case, and that's why there's no leakage when traveling on level ground- does that sound right? Lastly, I didn't find any threads on the procedures and gotchas for removing the transfer case and swapping the transmission's output shaft seal; anyone have a link handy, or suggestions?

Thanks for the help.
 
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James909

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Long Island, NY
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1994 GMC Yukon 2 Door
It sounds like the transmission overheated to me. It's quite common unfortunately for the A4LD to leak from the front seal when it gets hot. I've had it happen to mine also when pulling a small boat through the mountains. The only way to prevent it is to keep the trans as cool as possible. So if you plan on pulling trailers regularly I would at the very least add a large transmission cooler. Maybe carry a quart or 2 of ATF just in case, and don't tow in OD.
 
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Matt Fisher

Member
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November 26, 2005
Messages
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City, State
Visalia, CA
Year, Model & Trim Level
94 Limited
It sounds like the transmission overheated to me. It's quite common unfortunately for the A4LD to leak from the front seal when it gets hot. I've had it happen to mine also when pulling a small boat through the mountains. The only way to prevent it is to keep the trans as cool as possible. So if you plan on pulling trailers regularly I would at the very least add a large transmission cooler. Maybe carry a quart or 2 of ATF just in case, and don't tow in OD.

While you could be correct, I would think that overheating would be more of an issue in the summer, or when towing a trailer of some significance. This one only weighs about 1000 pounds with the bikes on it. Additionally, I've towed the trailer over these exact hills in over 100 degree temps with no trans issue in the past. The larger of the 2 factory trailer package cooler (apx 5x8) is installed, and the fluid doesn't look or smell bad.

I'm a long way away from being an A4LD expert, but does that run along the lines of an overheating transmission?
 
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