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Intermittent hard shift


Gormy

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Arena, WI
Year, Model & Trim Level
1998 Ford Explorer
Hi everyone,

There have been hundreds, if not thousands of posts similar to my issues. I have not found one with the same issue I am having after hours and hours of searching, so I am starting this thread.

I have come across people having issues with the O/D light flashing, check engine light on, etc. Some have lost 3rd and 5th gear, others have a hard shift from 2nd to 3rd. These don't match my problem, but I am curious if how mine is behaving is the beginning of this. I have worked for a Chevy dealer for nearly 7 years now (but hopefully for only two more weeks). So I want to get this fixed while I can still get a discount or put it in the air myself.

My 2003 Explorer Limited, 4.6L AWD intermittently shifts hard. Some days it shifts perfect all day, others it doesn't want to shift well at all. Sometimes it shifts at too low of an rpm if I'm not on the gas very much, sometimes it hits into gear pretty hard (at any gear shift going up, and down from 3rd to 2nd has been noticable as well). Coming out of neutral and park it shifts hard most days, rarely is this shift smooth. The other day it clunked pretty well when reverse engaged and 10 feet down the driveway it clunked even harder.

I bought it used from the dealer where I work (which I sometimes regret because my '98 Explorer had a bulletproof drivetrain) knowing the rear end needs to be rebuilt because it is howling ($1,000 my price, not bad). But the transmission was not an issue 5k miles ago.

Any advice on this would be greatly appreciated. I don't want to start making random repairs, hoping it will fix the problem. I'm hoping for a more educated explanation on what is going on. I am working on a limited timeframe so hopefully some of you experts know where this issue is heading and I can fix it before it gets out of hand.

Thanks!
 




JoshMcMadMac

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Thank you for searching. It sounds like a failing solenoid block.
 




Gormy

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Thank you Josh. Can you explain why you think this is the problem? I ask because I have heard solenoid block, sticking valve, bands, reflash, etc, can all cause issues. I'm wondering what leads you to solenoid and none of the other issues. I'm putting over two grand into this in the next week, so I don't want to start making repairs to the tranny in the hopes it will fix the issue. Thanks again!
 




JoshMcMadMac

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Thank you Josh. Can you explain why you think this is the problem? I ask because I have heard solenoid block, sticking valve, bands, reflash, etc, can all cause issues. I'm wondering what leads you to solenoid and none of the other issues. I'm putting over two grand into this in the next week, so I don't want to start making repairs to the tranny in the hopes it will fix the issue. Thanks again!
If it were "sticking valves" (or more specifically sticking within the valvebody) it would most likely not manifest at random as you experience. If you only experience issues when the transmission is still cold, and it goes away as it warms up, then it would make more sense.

There are no bands, so that is out...and again, would not be intermittent. Reflashing I suppose would not hurt, but also should not be an issue and especially not one that manifested this late in the game.

The solenoid block is a big issue on these transmissions, and very fickle. They are quite sensitive to having clean fluid and a healthy transmission, and since most of the transmissions at this point are old and on original fluid it is a prime culprit. I have also experienced them do random things at random times, which is what you are describing.

If you are throwing that much money into it, you might want to weigh your options honestly. The transmission could be and probably will be a few hundred dollar problem. I would get a new solenoid block (~$300 new from Ford or less if you shop around) and swap it in with a new filter and fresh fluid to replace the old stuff that comes out of the pan. I would highly recommend making sure you get one of the newest revision blocks, part number 9L2Z7G391A which has superseded the 4L2Z7G391A and 1L2Z7G391A versions. If you are paying to have it done, that adds substantially to the cost. That is not a guarantee that the problem will be resolved, but if you are committed to fixing it the block should be swapped regardless.
 




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