How to: - Ford A4LD transmission rebuild diary - How to rebuild Ford A4LD | Ford Explorer Forums - Serious Explorations

  • Register Today It's free!

How to: Ford A4LD transmission rebuild diary - How to rebuild Ford A4LD

Prefix for threads which are instructional.


EF Tranny Guru
Moderator Emeritus
February 8, 2003
Reaction score
City, State
Sacramento, CA 95827
Year, Model & Trim Level
1992 XLT
Ok, if you go back far enough you will see where I was attempting some time ago to figure out a "near bullet proof" A4LD rebuild. Time, and other things got in my way, but now with 205K on my stock 92 A4LD, I figured it was time to get serious about rebuilding it. Then I hit on an idea.... why not buy an A4LD, rebuild it to "state of the art" and then when I pull the old one to rebuild the engine in front of it, have it ready to "pop" in?

I also thought it might be helpful to others to chronicle this progess, which may take few months of stolen time.
Hence this thread.

Ok first item, buy an A4LD to rebuild. I found mine in Eureka CA, some 300 miles from me. I drove there and picked it up this weekend. Worst part, the drive, best parts, the drive and the fact it the trannie still has a transfer case attached, and I am told - it works!

So with the rebuilder here on site, I am about to begin the rebuild. My goal is to incorporate every possible upgrade into it, to help make it as "bullet-proof" as possible. I intend to list all the items that go into it, and openly solicit other ideas along the way. Should be a fun trip. Hope you can join me.

I'll post pics as I go.


Join the Elite Explorers for $20 each year.
Elite Explorer members see no advertisements, no banner ads, no double underlined links,.
Add an avatar, upload photo attachments, and more!

Looking forward to it. This thread should definately make it to the "Useful Threads Forum" when your project is complete.

Didnt the 94 basically have all the update parts?

also i think there is an aftermarket company that has a kit to install in the a4ld (superior - ithink) to make it perform a lot better, but you can only do it with a complete rebuild, you might want to look into that... also a computer chip will also modify the shift patterns and improve performance...

thanks Jim, and yes there are several valve body mod's out there. Whether I use the Superior, Transgo or another is still up in the air. But a good point. As for chips, I plan to stay stock.

I should give you all some background. I have only rebuilt a few auto transmissions, so consider myself a seasoned newbie. I was able to garner ALL the factory tools for rebuilding this transmission, so may be able to let folks know where the factory tool is "nice" and where it's a "ya gotta get ya one of THESE" kind of things. I also have the full factory manuals, so maybe can point out where the $15 aftermarket manuals are lacking.

And yes I think Jim the 94 was as far as Ford took it, I also think the 4R55E came in in 95. But there are additional mods added by others than FORD (like the Superior Valve body mod). For example my mod will have a steel sleeved governor, FORD never offered that. This should be fun, stay tuned.
Film at 11. Wait, it IS 11! Ok here's what the poor thing was reduced to prior to this project.


Since my last post I have cleaned up the transmission/transfer case combo, and separated the two. I took the torque converter out - don't plan to reuse it, but am told it only has about 15K on it. Might make a good door stop.

Meanwhile I have been furthering my homework on this trannie, and am nearing a final list of the things I want to do to it. Several problems present themselves... the transmission I have is from a 91 Ranger. I do not know if that was a 4.0 engine, but I guess in the final analysis it matters not, I will upgrade the case to 4.0 standards if need be. [turns out is was fro a 4.0] I am also not sure what components will fit the newer center support with torrington bearings either (mainly the direct drum etc). I have a local outlet for Aceomatic, so plan to pick their brains along the way. Anyway, that said, here is my list (an updated version of a much older one).

1. Bellhousing, etc. Will be removed and shipped off for a new converter bushing machined in place to tolerance of under a mil. In my book critical to a long lasting A4LD rebuild, and a cause of a lot of later rebuild problems.

2. New pump. Gonna bite the bullet and buy this from FORD. I will have the proper tools for alignment, and am comfortable with this bellhousing/pump aspect of this project as a result of that and the machined in place rebuild of the bellhousing. (It's only $40 for the bushing/machining - I mean WHY cut THAT corner?)

3. Overdrive. Everything I can do here I will. Beefier planetary (overdrive planet modified for heavy duty use) and any other upgrades here I can find, indluding maybe an overdrive sprag with a metal cage. I need to look into the overdrive band, but I don't think this has been a problem child. relined in any event, maybe new depending. Number 3 bearing I'll try to go with needle bearing instead of thrust washer. One way clutch possible upgrade if available.

4. Center support. Will be the bearing version used in 94. The number 5 bearing will be a select fit needle bearing (torrington). Debating adding a steel insert to a new center support mid section. It IS available aftermarket (Sonnax) for old center supports with some runout to "save them" but kinda sounds like a good idea even for new. Will see.

5. Direct Drum. Cast iron, 6 pack.

6. Forward Drum. 6 pack. for bearing to support app. (94)

7. Forward (front) planet 6 pinon.

8. Rear planet - 6 pinion

9. New double wrap bands in intermediate and low reverse applications.

10. Case mod to 4.0 specs if required (holes bored to extension housing for improved oiling and some other changes in rear one way clutch and bearing/race behind same).

11. Sleeve governor with steel insert.

12. Low sprag update.

13. New flywheel spacer.

14. New OD adapter.

15. Updated 3-4 shift solenoid. (FORD E8TZ-7M107A)
[Late note - too expensive $179]

16. new flexplate.

17. inline screw on oil filter.

18. Additional in line oil cooler added AFTER radiator on return line.

19. Temp sender and gauge.

20. Adjustable Vacuum modulator.

21. Rebuilt Torque convertor with brazed fins, some extra attention to lock up aspect too if available.

22. Home made heat shielding for solenoids.

23. Sonnax Valve Body update (sleeve and valve) for pressure boost.

24. Maybe a bigger Pan.

25. Might powder coat the trannie black. (MIGHT).

26. New Rear Crank pilot bushing [looks like the
new spacer does this by itself]

In short, anytime I can use a bearing instead of a thrust washer I will, and anytime I can add a beefier component, I will. Known failure points will receive special attention (bellhousing/pump for example and overdrive section).

That's is about it for now. If anyone can think of anything I have left out that is "bulletproof" worthy, please let me know. I have no monopoly on this area of knowledge, and in fact am sure that as I talk to more folks and get into the teardown, I'll find other little helpful hints and ideas. As I progress (going to be a number of weeks anyway), I'll keep you posted, with pics and a shopping list with prices.


Hey Chris,

I have a brand new.pump from Ford that I didnt install when I tore mine down. PM me.

I would get the new deep aluminum pan thats available- drain plug, you could tap it for a temp gauge and additional cooling.

Get both the Trans Go and the Superior kit- some overlap, but also some differences.

Dont forget to drill the drain back hole in the converter housing before you get the bushing installed- drill it to match the size of the backing plate hole 5/16" I think. The hole in the bell was around 1/4" and I stepped it up to 5/16", or 11/32" -Dont remember, but it was the same size as the pump hole and backing plate hole. Covered in the superior kit instructions, and I think the update book.

Also one of the trans guys I spoke with talked about an updated converter seal- he couldnt give me the info, but it would be worth checking on.

I would buy NEW bands - too many instances of the strut anchors pulling out (intermediate bands seem to bear the brunt in this respect)- I feel a new part would be less prone to failure here than a reline.

If you have a fax and want the instructions to the transgo and the superior kits to look over let me know.

Also a new OD sprag retainer is available- it may be current replacement, but worth checking to make sure you get the updated part.

Look into the later model grooved clutch plates - standard 5r55 and up- adds to fluid cooling and increased holding power- so Ive been told. I have some Alto numbers.

Price estimate??

I'm about ready to roll up my sleeves and do a rebuild myself. So I'm wondering what all this costs?
I was basically going to buy this kit
but now wondering whether I should or just follow your recommendations.

I was also going to get the superior kit in addition to the transgo that comes in that auction. What do you guys think?

I'm not trying to hijack your thread here, but I think price serves an importance purpose. :) If all this can be done for a reasonable price, that would be awesome.

In most cases, you get what you pay for, so if you get a nice a4ld out of it, then it's worth it. I don't want to be doing this every year or two.

Thanks for any opinions/comments.

Transmission Exchange (the Company offerring the E-Bay kit in your post) is a reputable company. And the price on that item is a fair price, considering there's a specialty torque convertor included (I'd feel better if I knew the fins were brazed). One of the biggest problems in rebuilt A4LD's IMHO is that people expect a "soft rebuilt" (e.g. clutch plates, gaskets and seals) to be a quality rebuild (as it often is in other trannies). Generally various "hard parts" (drums, bands, gears) should also be replaced - and in the history of the A4LD where a large number of "running changes" (eg. mid production) were made, it is silly not to upgrade while you are in there. The kit referred to in your post is said to be a TEC kit. IMHO the best kits out there for soft parts is a TransTec kit - wonder if that is what this is? I hope to have pricing info in the next week or so, and I'll post it. I'll guarantee it wn't be $450. I too am also curious about the need for, and use of more than one valve body upgrade kit. Still doing my homework on that one. HTH

I would call them and ask specific questions about the kit- whos it is, if it has certain seals, exactly which bushings come in the kit, Are thrust washers included? Ask about the torque converter -who makes it? brazed?, balanced?, stall? etc.

FWIW I wouldnt use the tube and fin cooler- look for a plate or "long" style cooler. B&M has a big one available for 50 from Summit racing. Earls also sells the smae type. The B&M is a great cooler, same design as the stock aux cooler- except much BIGGER :D

Glacier, it's not a Transtek kit. TEC is their own brand name (short for TransmissionExchangeCompany). The torque converters are TEC brand as well and the company has a website here

What do you mean "it won't be $450", you're thinking more or less? Probably more.

Glacier, I see that your in Sac. I'm 1.5 hrs south on I-5 if you need a hand. (For myself, it would be better going into this with little experience and not none).

I might pay a neighbor mechanic to take it off for 100 bucks, but not sure.

SteveVB, I didn't read anything about the torque converter having brazed fins on their website. All I recall is "low stall" and balanced.

I have a ?
My oil lines go from the tranny into the side of the radiator (driver side) and then come back out. The line that comes back goes under and to the front of the radiator where there is a separate cooler (about 15"x18" or so) then the line goes back to the tranny.

My questions: Is this stock? For some reason I thought that the lines went into the radiator and back to the tranny.

I guess I should tell you guys what my problem is. I have no OD. I'm getting all gears but no OD or it's slipping in/out as the tranny tech advised. He was going to do a valve body job and discovered metal shavings that he's almost sure they are from my Torque convertor, so said no no. You're tranny's contaminated and said "Rebuild".

BTW, when I bought the truck it came with a new aluminum radiator and no signs of oil leaks in the lines.

Eli - I'm afraid I see the cost as substantially more than $450. If I do the entire list I'd be surprised if I get out for under $700 in parts cost. But then that's going to be a much IMPROVED trannie.

Your no OD could be as simple as a failed or badly leaking OD servo, but if you have metal in the pan that is NOT good news.

The early Ex's with the "towing package" had a front mounted cooler a you describe. I'm betting most high mileage A4LD's are the ones that had that cooler on them. Mine has 205K and has one.

Thanks Glacier, like I said before, if you need any help researching anything (specific parts,etc) just let me know. I'd be willing to pay that much for a better tranny. I know I'd have to do some labor, but that doesn't scare me.

My Explorer has 240k miles on it. New motor (from FORD) only has 80k on it now. I don't think it has a tow package because it had no hitchball or one of those thingamajigs (forgot what they're called) the weldment to attach hitches that's bolted to the frame. I'm wondering if the old owner added it later.

What I liked about my truck is that it was the original owner, his wife drove it, and he had all his parts/work done at the local ford dealer (don't know if that's good or bad :D )

Here's what I'm wondering if I should try.

1. Do a valve body job.
2. Flush the oil system
3. Place inline filters for any more shavings on the incoming and outgoing lines.

All I'm trying to do is buy me time and not create more contamination inside.

So from your list, it sounds like your changing some hard parts?
Why wouldn't you change your TCC selenoid? I heard there was an upgrade to it?
Here's what I did last weekend in my Ex:

I will assume your diagnosis of no OD application is a correct one.

Well if you are trying to milk out some miles, I'd flush the fluid, replace the filter, for sure. OperaHouse (or others) on here may have better ideas but I am wondering if the placement of the overdrive solenoid on the case side is so close to other exhaust parts so as to make replacement on-vehicle impossible.

Possible problem areas: Either the OD clutch band is bad (not a huge problem area on A4LD's I don't think), the OD valve bore is stuck (Bore 200) or contaminated, or the OD servo is bad. Given you have contamination, your problem may be more likely in Bore 200. Cleaning THAT you can do "In Vehicle" as part of your valve body work.

So, let's say you want to get as may more mile as as possible and to heck with everything else. For my $ I'd flush it well, drop the valve body, clean and check it out, esp bore 200, replace the filter and valve body, maybe add a Ford inline filter, or better yer a Summit spin on to use after the rebuild. And hope you get lucky that you solved the prob. My 2 cents.

As for the plan,yes MOST hard parts get replaced, hence the $$. The TCC solenoid - I think here may have been a TSB, I'll check, but so far stock seems fine, but a good idea maybe to replace it.

So far I a having zero luck finding a good brazed fin, balanced, low stall speed torque converter - that would be the holy grail in this project methinks. Keep your eyes peeled.


TerryY posted the link where I found this article in another part of this website. Although this particular article was not written for or about the A4LD, the trannie referenced is a kissing cousin of a transmission (in a way) and was written by a FORD engineer. There are some wonderful nuggets in this article in general and I HIGHLY recommend it to everyone thinking of a "bulletproof" A4LD. Thank You TerryY!! This is a keeper I will refer to a lot ! Why you ask ? Well: (Example - 1) the Direct Drum is NOT as critical a I thought, I won't fret over it as much like I might have otherwise. (Example - 2) Higher number of clutch plates in low horsepower applications not only rob you of the heat sink cooling ability of thicker steels, but may not be needed. (Example - 3) Nongrooved clutch plates required higher control pressure to prevent "hydroplaning and excessive heat" - and so it goes - this article is chock full of great transmission engineering know how. GREAT STUFF !)

Here's the link:

Most of the rebuilder torque converters are brazed

Top of the line Brazed-balanced etc for a price try Pro Torque

Thanks for the info Steve !

My time is almost up!!

There's no point in trying to buy time. I had to drive it today and now a new problem has arised. I was driving down the highway until I came to a stop.
Well, I stepped on the gas (normally) and noticed that it did not want to go. It felt like if it was starting in 3rd gear, but then it started going and kicked in to 1st then 2nd. Ok the shifts were slippery. What I mean is that they wern't firm. If any one has felt a clutch slip on a manual tranny, that's what it felt like.

I can honestly say that I heard "noise" coming from the tranny. Like something kinda grinding, then a small pop.

Also, once I'm driving, it don't downshift into 2 or 1 UNLESS I put it on 2 and give it some gas, then it POPS into gear.

The end is near for my tranny and won't drive it further to prevent any major damage.

Anyone have any clues as to what might be happening?

Eli - sorry to hear. Yep it's toast. Your best use of time now is to get it out of the vehicle so you can rebuild it. I'll try and have parts numbers and costs next week. Is this your daily driver? (in other words is time critical to you on this rebuild?)

Glacier, it's not our daily driver. It's actually a 'spare' vehicle but it's the vehicle my wife & kids enjoy traveling in the most.

Our daily drivers are a '97 Mazda sedan and I drive an older Nissan pickup (which didn't pass smog today, another big bummer).

After work, I drove from work to my parents house (5 miles). I started out like I explained then it cleared up out of the blue and starting shifting normally :eek: Regardless, something is not right inside and I'm hoping to get it out within the week. You know what would be cool, to get a list of good tools to have for the rebuild. I have no clue as to whether I'm gonna need special tools or maybe just some tools that will make life easier. Thanks again.

Edited: SteveVB or anyone, I saw the B&M coolers you mentioned and that's what the one I have sort of looks like. My question is: Is there any benefit in installing 2 aux. coolers inline? Or would one aux. cooler and a bigger alum. pan be enough to keep temps down?

Join the Elite Explorers for $20 each year.
Elite Explorer members see no advertisements, no banner ads, no double underlined links,.
Add an avatar, upload photo attachments, and more!

A 2nd cooler is far cheaper than an aluminum pan and will provide oodles more cooling.

As for tools, I'll be posting a list of tools shortly, but the only specialty ones that you really need to have (that I can think of at the moment anyway) are the pump alignment tool (only needed if you if you remove the pump) and a clutch spring compressor. The rest of the list can be improvised by using other tools, and in fact you can improvise a clutch spring compressor if you are handy. We'll hopefully have some folks chime in on how they improvised theirs.