Shifting issue only when cold | Ford Explorer Forums - Serious Explorations

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Shifting issue only when cold


Well-Known Member
January 29, 2010
Reaction score
City, State
Ottawa, Ontario
Year, Model & Trim Level
2006 Explorer XLT 4.0 4x4
Hey guys, I have been having some shifting issues lately first thing in the morning when the truck is cold. Now it has been around -20 Celcius (-4 F) in the morning for the past 2 days and the truck refuses to shift properly.

When I go from "P" to "D", it for some reason doesn't engage into drive it seems like its in neutral until I give it a little gas and then it engages. Also, when coming up to the first stop sign in the morning the trans doesn't want to downshift. It seems to get stuck in 3rd gear and when accelerating its very sluggish (cause of being stuck in 3rd gear), and after about 3-4 seconds it decides to rapidly downshift to 2nd then first kinda violently.

Now I do not let the truck sit and warm up for a couple minutes its kinda like a jump in and drive (I know its bad). But after about 1-2 minutes of driving the trans shifts perfectly again and you would never of thought that anything was wrong. Could this be a simple case of low fluid or is it more serious then that?

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check the tranny fluid?

I have not checked anything since it is so damn cold right now. But I am rolling up on 50K miles and have no idea if the trans was ever flushed or anything from the previous owner. It goes in for its regular oil change in 2 weeks so I am going to get them to do a complete transmission flush while its in there (For my peace of mind).

I wish these 5R55S transmissions had a dipstick so I can easily check the level and condition of the fluid.

Ford did drop the ball with the no dipstick thing. If the fluid level is low and you are experiencing slippage that is causing damage. New fluid (a good quality synthetic) new filter, an inline filter (in the cooler line) is cheap insurance.

You trans is totally computer controlled/shifted so there could be codes if you are having a problem. You can adjust the bands (there is a thread in the trans section) and if after all that you are still having problems a rebuilt valve body. Central Valve Bodies is a well known and trusted rebuilder by forum members.

Lately its been only around -12 in the mornings and the transmissions has no issues what-so-ever. The shifts are perfect and I have had no issues, so it seems that this issues is only caused by extreme cold temperatures.

I live in northern ontario and if it is colder than -20c and i jump in and go the truck will shut off when i put it in gear. Best tranny fluid i have ever used is Royal Purple Max ATF and i swear by this stuff.Its better than a trans replacement. :)

I have never had mine stall out on me. but early this week it was -23c in the morning and what it felt like was putting the gear selector in "3" but was actually in "D". But it has only happened on really cold mornings < -20C.

I am not sure what is going on in there but it was fine this morning and yesterday morning. Only in the extreme cold it does it. I am getting a transmission flush in 2 weeks so maybe that will fix some issues. From now on I will let it idle for a couple minutes before I take off, and/or get a remote starter.

Well, she is in the shop as we speak for an engine oil change as well as a tranny flush. It currently has 50K miles on it. We will see if it makes any difference in shifting, if anything just piece of mind knowing that it has been changed is good enough for me.

my mom's 04 mountaineer had the same problem recently, turns out if the trans fluid is low or improperly filled, it starts to froth up and cause friction, especially when it's cold.

I noticed a difference as I was driving off the dealer lot. The shifts are smoother as well as less slipping. The trnsmission not longe whines when cold and not longer has shifting issues in really cold mornings.

My guess is that I was low on fluid, most likely from when they replaced the rad. They probably never filled the tranny after disconnecting the grand cooler lines. I'm just glad the truck is acting normally once again.

It did cost me $260 but seeing the results it was well worth it.

Glad to see it works better. Trans problems are no fun as it leads to very expensive repairs. Mine was changed twice in the last 50k and is still cranky in the cold. Its slow to shift from D to R or R to D and it likes to hang onto gears too long when its cold out and the trans is still cold.