Transmission/Transfer Case: Death Scream or Good to Go? | Ford Explorer Forums - Serious Explorations

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Transmission/Transfer Case: Death Scream or Good to Go?


Active Member
July 25, 2001
Reaction score
City, State
Englewood, CO
Year, Model & Trim Level
'95 XLT 4.0L 4WD
'95 Explorer XLT, 4.0L, AT, 4R55E, 4WD BW 44-05,118,000 trouble free miles. Excellent maintenance (do it myself); last transmission flush at 90,000.

At aproximately mile 1000 of an 1100 mile trip to visit mom in Florida. At 70mph steady cruise, the 4WD and 4WD LOW lights both came on steady. Hmmmm... not good. Checked switch firmly in 2WD, no abnormal sounds or change in power. Just as I was beginning to pull over, the lights went out. Since I was close and it was working, I kept going until a convenience store that was within walking distance. (When your mom is 81, a six pack helps.) I couldn't resist engaging the 4WD in the parking lot to check engagement and the lights. Everything seemed normal. After returning to 2WD, I put it in reverse. Reverse didn't engage and the sound could only be described as metal in pain. (Somewhere between a screech and a howl with no engagement or movement. Uh-Oh. I couldn't pinpoint the location - had to stop the pain. Good possibility that is was the transfer case area.)

I went back to neutral and let it roll back out of the parking space. Engaged DRIVE and went the last mile with no problem.

This morning I checked all fluid levels - including the transfer case - and all were normal. Everything looked good underneath and under the hood. I drove it three times today and it worked fine. Tomorrow I'll disconnect the battery to reset the computers.

My plan is to drive it locally the next three days and if it works, chance the 1100 miles back to Texas on Saturday. If it acts up here, I'll rent a U-Haul trailer and take it home for some TLC. (Opera House: I'm watching your progress. You're my hero. I want to do a rebuild too. I just wanted it to die closer to home.) That's also the plan if it dumps on the road. Unfortunately, all my diagnostic equipment and most tools are in Texas - after all it was an incredibly reliable vehicle.

Questions for any takers:

Should I electrically disable the the shift motor and/or the speed sensors in case it is attempting to engage 4WD Low with the switch in 2WD or will this just confuse the PCM/GEM computers? (I just want to get it home and make it right later.)

Has anyone had this before? (Thread search didn't come up with anything.)

What would you do? (Sorry, no points for "take it to the Ford dealer".)

Anyone want to set up a pool on how far I make it? I'll supply progress reports from my overnight stop or the "Bates Motel" nearest my breakdown site.

Thanks in advance,


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Fairly similar to my experience with my Control Trac transfer case right after I put my shift solenoid back on. I just got done spending about 30 miles in 4x4 Low while 4-wheeling. When I got back to the graded dirt road, I put it back into 4x4 Auto. A short time later I got the loud "metal-metal grinding sound". It changed pitch with my speed. I pulled over and put it into neutral. I reved it up and the noise was gone. When I put it into reverse I didn't have reverse and the metal noise was very loud. I shut off my Explorer and restarted it. Everything worked fine since. I believe that I didn't get the worm gear homed correctly when I put the solenoid back on. When I restarted it, it allowed it to re-home itself. I suspect your problem is related to your shift solenoid. It isn't difficult to replace yourself if the problems come back. I think they run about $180 through Ford Parts Network. Ford would charge you an hour or two of labor to diagnose it and put the solenoid on if you went that route.


Thanks for the reply. The symtoms sound very similar and your experience gives me more confidence that the basic transmission is OK and it will make it home.

I was considering removing the shift motor here to make sure that it didn't shift out of 2WD.

Thanks again,


You could always

Pull off the 4WD shift assembly and manually move it into 2WD position. I have to rebuild my motor and swith assembly in my 92. I'll pull it out tonight when I go up there to work on the 92. Not sure if it locks into position for a long ride home. That would only take a $7 tool kit to take it off, four little bolts. Mine has the two wire magnetic speed sensor above the fill plug and it pulls right out. Just looking at mine and it had metal stuck to the strong magnet. Enough metal and I guess it screws up the computer. Mine used to dimly glow sometimes. With all the trouble these have I guess we should document a procedure of how to get home after a failure.

I read somewhere that the single brown wire going to the clutch just pulls out of the case. It doesn't look that obvious and I've never been inclined to give it a big tug. Anyone done this?

Opera House,

Thanks for the reply.

I do plan to remove the shift motor and wire it out of the way after checking the shift shaft in the 2WD position. (Luckily, I brought enough tools for that.) I just wanted to make sure the motor mounting was a "dry" mounting on the BW 44-05 with a seal on the shaft. The Ford manual doesn't mention it on disassembly and talks about removing RTV sealant on the motor mount. It does indicate a shaft seal on the reassembly procedure.

I would cover the shaft and motor against dust and water. With it removed I assume it could shift to 4WD/4WD LOW all it wants with no bad effects.

Do you think this indicates a bad GEM module, speed sensors, or transfer case?

I have the ATSG manual at home and plan to troubleshoot thoroughly when I get back.

I've enjoyed your posts on A4LD rebuilding.

Thanks again,


On my 92

You can remove the motor and the shaft is sealed to the transfer case. The 2WD position is stamped on the transfer case and it seems to lock somewhat (wouldn't trust it) in that position. The other two positions are not indented. If I were to remove it, I would use a 3/8 inch hose clamp with a piece of coat hanger wire to lock it into position. If you remove the motor and it is in the correct position, you could just put it back and keep the plug disconnected.

I just tested my shift motor and it drew over 4A tripping the circuit protector on my bench power supply. Took it apart, cleaned the brushes, commutator, and lubed it a little. With the encoder gear removed, it now drew 1 1/2 amp. It seemed to strain and after several times of my reversing polarity/direction, current climbed up to about 3A. After filling the worm gear area with oil, working it further, and polishing the shaft, current is now about 0.6 amps. This is now the third time I've worked on this. The other times lasting about 2-3 years. Other times I just slapped it back together. I definitely think you need to work some light oil into these bearings by running it a while off the car. The gear must be removed because it has a stop on it and won't do a full rotation. So many of these may stop working because they exceed an electronic current limit.

I highly recommend that you "run the motor in", operating it in both directions with the gear/switch plate removed. I used to small courtesy lamps in parallel and those were in series with the motor. This gives about 1/2 amp at 6 volts to the motor. The motor is probably driven by a PWM in a "H" bridge so it never sees a full 12V. At 12V, the motor just turns too fast and would never be able to stop at the right gear. When I removed my motor, it was electrically connected (brushes good) but too stiff. If the motor starts easily with the lamp in series, it is sure to operate fine in the car. An easy test that doesn't require any equipment.

Nice to know some one out there is reading my posts.