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Trial By Fire: 5R55E, Shade Tree Style

drdoom

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The vehicle: 1997 Explorer XLT 4WD 4.0 SOHC w/ towing package, 174,000 miles.

What happened: O/D OFF light was flashing intermittently, and before I could get it in to have the codes read, the transmission overheated due to a problem with the Torque Converter Clutch System. As I later discovered, the vent tube was plugged on the atmosphere side, and so when the transmission overheated, ATF was forced out through the two tiny holes in the apex of the vent tube, sending a shower of ATF onto the hot exhaust, causing a serious vehicle fire. Upon getting the vehicle into the shop, it was found to be storing a P0741 code: Torque Converter Clutch System stuck off. Tricky thing is, this vehicle performed fine during two separate 20 mile test drives, AFTER the fire!

Due to the high mileage & age of the vehicle, I was keeping this project on a very tight budget.

Now, I don't know squat about automatic transmissions, so I spent several long nights researching here on Explorer Forum, as well as many other pages I found with Google. After an extensive amount of research & study, I had a "plan".
My plan was to remove the transmission for a thorough inspection, and order whatever parts I deemed necessary. My research was telling me that code P0741 is a cryptic & devious devil, with several possible causes. I knew that there was no torque converter lock-up, but that could be due to a solenoid problem, the internal thermostat, a hydraulic problem, or even worn bores, seals, or some combination thereof. It could even be the torque converter alone, as the F57 Torque Converter is prone to wear in the piston hub.

What I found:
Fluid was badly burnt, with metallic fines present.
Valve body gaskets were original, and in good shape.
Valve body was original, with no upgrades.
All six solenoids passed resistance tests, for what that's worth...
Transmission pan had some sludge, and some minute metal shavings.
Transmission internals were in great shape, even the friction packs & bands looked good.

Here are some photos, and a bit of an explanation about my repairs.

Here is the transmission, after removing the metal vent tube.
0024-1.jpg


Here is a close-up of the Digital Transmission Range sensor.
Also visible to the left is the 16-pin connector.
0029.jpg


Pump & input shaft shown below:
0035.jpg


Front Brake & Coast Clutch Drum shown below:
0036.jpg


And retaining ring pulled, to access friction pack:
0055.jpg


Clutches & Steels:
0070.jpg


And the Forward Gear Train Assembly, shown assembled:
0068.jpg


The Center Support, showing the Turbine Shaft Speed sensor at the five-o-clock position:
3386.jpg


And here is a shot down deep, showing the reverse drum, output shaft ring gear, thrust washer, & plastic cone:
0075.jpg


Reverse band:
0073.jpg


Output shaft:
0081.jpg


Intermediate servo being removed...
0079.jpg


And a shot showing my homemade servo cover tool:
3391.jpg


Here is the original valve body, with the separator plate visible in the foreground. After reading so many threads about blown gaskets, I was hoping, early on, that this was the extent of my problem. It was not, as the gaskets here were in good shape:
4651.jpg


Here is a shot of the case, with the linkage coming out:
0050.jpg


OK, next a few shots of the valve bodies, updated on the left, original on the right. Please note the notches in the lower left corner of the separator plates...they are notched differently, which is some type of ID system. Also, the updated valve body came with a used bonded separator plate, and I had paper gaskets on hand. So I scraped the bonded gaskets off, then wet sanded the plate to 220 grit, as to accept the paper gaskets provided in my overhaul kit. NOTE: The plates are not interchangeable, as the updated plate has a hole deleted (where the spring loaded relief valve was deleted).
3354.jpg


Next you can see the blow-off valve (left unit):
3356.jpg


And on the pan side you can see some obvious differences in the casting, as well as the reinforced solenoid retaining brackets:
3358.jpg


And here is the updated valve body with the separator plate removed, where you can see it is devoid of the EPC screen and the other spring loaded relief valve. Also visible are a few of the parts out of the Superior Shift Kit, which I installed as the Heavy Duty version. The kit installation involves changing out a few spools & springs, enlarging a couple of holes in the separator plate, a thermal bypass, a pressure riser that splices into the internal wiring harness (tricky, as the space is VERY limited!), a new servo spring, a new "D" ring for the reverse servo, and some new springs for one of the clutch packs:
3348.jpg


And here is my Shade Tree Clutch Spring Compressor, comprised of three 1/2" drive sockets, and three Quick-Grip clamps. This is simple, and very effective, as it is necessary when overhauling the clutch pistons:
3377.jpg


Here is a shot of the new red springs from the Superior Shift Kit going in:
3380.jpg


Here is a shot of the pump & stator, with the old style "scarf-cut" seal visible on the end of the stator. The stator seal is a problem area on the 5R55E, and TransTec provides an updated seal, a new material called QUANTUM. It appears to be a type of TEFLON seal, and are a little tricky to work with. TEFLON seals have to stretch a bit as they are pushed onto the shaft, but they don't spring right back like an O-ring does. So they have to be re-sized once they are in position. All that info is in the manual, tool numbers, etc. I improvised using cable ties, pieces cut out of an empty windshield washer jug. The pieces from the jug are useful as both a seal protector sleeve covering the splines on the turbine shaft, and also wrapped with cable ties around the seals to re-size them (the LipWizard tool that comes with TransTec kits, although not intended for this purpose, can also be used in this role). You have to be very careful not to nick or cut those seals. If they are not re-sized fully, they are very prone to being damaged during the installation of subsequent components, as the tolerances are very tight. Shade Tree Tip: Not having a pump alignment tool set, I devised the following method: Invert a 5 gallon drywall bucket, and set the new torque converter on top of it, flex-plate side down. And with the pump loosely attached to the converter housing, lower the stator into the new torque converter to align it, and then torque the six pump to housing bolts. Remove pump & housing.
3370.jpg


Here is a shot of some of the seals that come in the TransTec Overhaul Kit, the old style metal on the top, and the new updated material on the bottom:
3384.jpg


Here is a view of the cleaned case, with the TSS wiring visible, and the reverse servo temporarily installed:
3390.jpg


And here is a shot of the housing being installed, with one of the homemade alignment pins (bolts with heads cut off, and I made more of the same for valve body alignment) still in place:
3394.jpg


And one of my favorite things, a drain plug I added, carefully positioned for maximum drainage, and to not interfere with the filter. I picked this one up at Advance for less than $3.00, and a metric nut from Tractor Supply Company, and drilled the pan, then tacked it in with a MIG:
3398.jpg


Here are the lines to and from the towing cooler...I opened the system here, and ran a can of Pro-King Transmission Cooler Flush through BOTH coolers. This is VERY IMPORTANT!!! I was appalled at the amount of metal shavings that came out of both coolers! I cannot stress this enough, that what I saw in the pan was nothing...the bulk of the shavings from my chewed up torque converter were IN THE COOLERS!! It looked bad enough that I went and bought another can of cooler flush, but it may not have been needed since the flush fluid came through clean right away. This rubber line on the right is the return and this is where I installed an inline magnetic filter, a very simple and serviceable installation:
0019.jpg


SUMMARY:

Parts:
Re-manufactured torque converter $160.00 (I had $20.00 coupon)
Superior Shift Kit $45.00
Transmission Overhaul Kit $55.00
Updated valve body $163.00
Drain plug $3.50
Transmission Cooler Flush Kits w/ in-line magnetic filters (2) @ $16.00
New in-pan filter $5.00
Exhaust flange gasket $4.00
New bolts for exhaust, both ends $4.00
Mercron V (11) @ $5.00
Dex/Merc for the 4405 (2) @ $4.00
BraKleen (5) @ $3.00
Dielectric grease $3.00
Flame retardant wire Conduits $5.00

EXPENSES: $542.50 (roughly)

Basically, what I did:
Tore everything down, inspected, and cleaned.
Flushed coolers
Added drain plug
Replaced valve body & solenoids
Replaced pan filter
Added in line auxiliary transmission filter
Installed overhaul kit
Installed Superior shift kit
Replaced torque converter
Replaced flame retardant wire conduits
Fresh fluid in transfer case

ADD: Hood release cable needed replacing, as it was damaged in the fire. So add another $50.00 to the total.
O
The truck was ready to go as soon as I got the fluid topped off, and I have since put over 60,000 hard miles on it, including some light towing, with no problems so far. Fluid looks clean and level is holding, no leaks, shifts great (albeit somewhat firm), and no codes.

I have since replaced the auxiliary filter, and after back-draining it, I saw that a little more debris from the coolers had been trapped in there. So that seems to be doing it's job. I have changed the fluid via drain plug also, and visually it was nice and clean.



Thank You for reading.
 



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AtlantaViking

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Great thread. My 5R55E is stone cold stock in a 99 2wd and has 180K on the clock. I opened the pan for the first time to change the filter and get some fresh fluid in there about 6 months ago. I'm starting to tow more and, while I don't have any really notable issues with the tranny, I know its time to refresh it a bit. So I'm looking at a rebuilt Valve Body, and Reverse Servo and maybe D-Rings (still reading up on that as I don't have a clue what the D-Rings are).

Thanks a bunch for the walk through - thats a BIG Helper right there.
 






drdoom

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Thank you, AtlantaViking. Let us know if we can help.
 












drdoom

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Thanks Dale. You know, when I have to resuscitate my SOHC, I will be looking to you for your expertise.
 






AtlantaViking

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I can't stop coming back to this thread...

Back again...hey drdoom, who did you go through for the reman valve body? It looks like its all up to date and I'm wondering if you had to request it or if the reman company only sells the current model, my fear is order a reman VB and it not having any of the TSB fixes...

Why did you go with the superior shift kit as opposed to the transgo? Was it easy to install (I've tried to chew on the valve body rebuild diary in pieces but there is so much info in there...).

One last question (we'll see about that:D ) - did the reman VB have a new EPC? I always wonder when they reman one if they just check the resistance against tolerances and if they pass re-use them.

Anyway - thanks again for all of the info in here.
 






drdoom

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I got that VB from an eBay guy in FL. It is OE UPDATED, not re-manufactured. I do not believe the EPC is new, but as you stated it is tested. It does come with the EPC blow-off update, and the bonded separator plate. The plate has I know one deleted hole, same hole that is addressed with a plug in other kits. So it is up to date in those respects. It also obviously has the updated solenoid brackets as well, and some different springs here & there. If I was doing it again I would also consider using Central Valve Body. They have an excellent reputation on this board.

As a side note, resistance only is not a full test protocol for an EPC. It is done on a special machine, something to do with PWM or pulse wave modulation. Which is why you shouldn't juice the EPC or TCC with straight DC.

I chose the Superior Shift Kit because I was doing an overhaul and there are a couple of internals included in their kit, and a D-ring also. And also I was curious about their EPC Pressure Riser. For the most part that kit is very easy to install, but step #4 is notoriously difficult. It involves swapping out the coast clutch valve retaining plug. It tells you how to do it in the instructions. The pressure riser can be tricky also, due to the limited amount of space available. There is essentially no slack in the internal wiring harness, so you must plan very carefully where you place the tap connectors, and then tuck the pressure riser out of the way, very limited space here also. I suggest tapping in slightly back from the EPC connector, and not to close to the actual connector.
 






drdoom

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36,000 mile UPDATE

Passing the 36,000 mile mark on this overhaul, I dropped the pan to replace the filter, and to reverse the HEAVY DUTY option of the Superior Shift Kit. As I stated in my original post, shifting was great, just a little firm for the way I drive.

Let me describe it this way: if you were flooring the accelerator, WOW! BAM, BAM, BAM, just like that, I mean great high performance shifts. I mean the harder you hit it, the smoother it shifted, just like an HD shift should be. No harshness if you stayed in it, but if you drive like me or The Little Old Lady From Pasadena, it was a bit harsh.

Couple of problems I had with the HD option...first, I don't generally drive aggressively, and second, this truck is getting too old to be thrashed like that.

So, to finish this update, I was pleasantly surprised to see how clean the pan was, and the fluid was too, but I had drained the pan via the drain plug at 20,000. Then I went into the VB, reversed the HD step of the kit, and installed a new EPC while I was at it, just because I've read here that they do wear kind of quickly.

Honestly, if I would have had any idea this overhaul would have made it this far, I would have put some new frictions in there.

As a sidenote, I have always used AAP Mercon V, and since the overhaul I also use LubeGard for Merc V applications.

Anyway, it turned out well, still shifts fast & slick, but without the harshness.
 






drdoom

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UPDATE: I'm at 70,000 miles since the overhaul, still doing great. If I'd of had any idea it would have made it this far I would have at least sprung for new frictions!
 






steve1969

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Hi!
So glad I read this thread, I just had a new bonded separator plate delivered and it is the updated one without the hole that you mentioned above but my old plate (blown gaskets) has the hole. Should I just drill a hole in the new bonded plate because I don't have any paper gaskets and cant get them for weeks where I am to use the old plate. Or can I do something with the valve body to use the updated plate?

Also the STATOR seal you show above I got one from Ford but it looks so different from yours or my old one, did I get the right seal? My old one is not metal like yours its yellow Teflon but the split type like yours.

Many thanks for any help anyone can provide!

20160825_140557[16816].jpg


f07eeccab1ff84aed8409f0cd3c3e5b3e.png
 






drdoom

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Steve the plate you have should be fine just like it is. That is a good seal for the pump there, the latest design (Quantum) I believe.
 






steve1969

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Thanks for your reply. I am confused because your post said "NOTE: The plates are not interchangeable, as the updated plate has a hole deleted (where the spring loaded relief valve was deleted)."
I have the old valve body with the spring loaded relief valve, I can still put this new updated plate on my old valve body?
Many thanks
 






drdoom

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Yes Steve sorry it has a been a while, but as I recall eliminating the relief valve was part of the 5R55E updates. I believe I used the bonded plate because it has the hole delete. One kit came with a plug to cover the hole. Are you doing all the updates or just the plate?
 






steve1969

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I'm just changing the plate, no updates. My transmission was working ok (except reverse) just I had to strip it down to change the reverse band as the tab broke off the band and then I saw blown gasket on the plate so ordered the new type bonded plate because I thought it would be better
 






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