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Old 02-16-2013, 11:38 PM
ElbowJoe ElbowJoe is offline
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CVT Cold weather issues. Need Help!

Hello all. I have a 2005 AWD Freestyle LTD just purchased in January (approx 93K when purchased). This is my wife's daily driver and she puts on about 6K per mo with her job. She took it on an overnight when the temp got down in the teens a couple of weeks ago. When she got in it in the morning to head to her appt, the wrench (tranny) and check engine light came on and the car was undriveable. She warmed it up for about 20 minutes and was able to get through her day and the idiot lights eventually went out. They guy we bought it from said this was a known condition and his wife (who has a similar model) had the same issue on the same day. He claimed this issue had to do something with the wiring harness in the cold weather.

Not sure if he was blowing smoke or.... Since then the car has performed fine until today when I had it in Northern Michigan and the temp got down near zero last night and sat all day in 11 degree weather. I went to take it to the store and the same exact thing happened to me. I have done extensive searches on this and thus far have found nothing.

The commonality seems to be cold weather, which could be a factor or possibly the salty slush build up on the underside of the car. I recently did an oil change and looked for sensors or wiring harnesses that may be suceptible to slush/ice build up but did not see much. There was one connector near the firewall that I took apart and slathered with di-electric grease. Obviously, that did nothing to help this condition.

During my web research I did find some references to wiring harnesses that had worn through where they came in contact with the frame that may cause CVT tranmission issues - but I could not locate any issues like that and in fact who ever had the car before had the harness re-inforced in these areas with plastic and tape.

I am at a loss. I have a 5 hour drive facing me and the temperature does not look like it is going to get any warmer. (It is currently -3 F) I am very interested in finding out what the real issue is here. Sensors? CVT tranny fluid viscosity? Low fluid level in the cold weather? Wiring harness? Electronic control module? Argh!!!

I will continue to look into this and post my findings but hopefully there is a Ford transmission engineer who monitors this sight and may have some ideas. I know this tranny costs about $5-$6K to replace!

Thanks to all in advance!
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Old 02-17-2013, 10:52 AM
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Are you sure it is a tranny issue ? Have you had codes pulled ? I have seen throttle body icing cause a similar complaint . Just a thought .
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Old 02-18-2013, 11:09 AM
ElbowJoe ElbowJoe is offline
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Thanks JWC 3. I made it home after careful and lengthy warm up process.

I would think that a throttle body issue would prevent the accelerator from allowing the engine to get fuel and therefore limit the revs. Most of what I have read about it had to do with surging and the engine going it "limp mode" meaning the RPMs were limited regardless of how much the accelerator peddle was depressed.

I have no issues with surge at all and have cleaned my throttle body a recently. If you know the throttle body issue or a frozen throttle body to also cause CVT behavior issues such as I described, please correct me as I am trying to learn as much as I can about this.

So to be clear the behavior was as if the transmission was slipping; that is - the engine would rev but the power was not being applied to the drive wheels.

On a side rant - Who ever designed the location of the tranny dip stick should be drawn and quartered. It is impossible to remove this without removing the air box. Really?! Is that the best Ford could do and why?? I am sure part of this was to make it harder for people to add the wrong type of tranny fluid - but I would think that a better placement of the dip stick with a very visible sign that states to ONLY USE CVT FLUID would have been a better choice.

Now that I am home and have the day off. I will pull it into the garage and look for any obvious issues. The check engine light and tranny light are now off. Perhaps I will take it to O'Reilly's to see if the codes are still saved so I can write them down.

Will keep all posted....
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Old 02-18-2013, 01:32 PM
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O'Reillys won't be able to read transmission codes. They can clear them, though. You need a better place. Most independent repair shops and all Ford dealers can read transmission codes. Auto parts stores cannot, they don't have the big buck tools needed for the job.
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Old 02-18-2013, 06:12 PM
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If it was reving but slipping , not throtle body issue . Sorry . As stated above , lots of codes can not be pulled with a cheep scan tool .
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Old 02-18-2013, 07:46 PM
ElbowJoe ElbowJoe is offline
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Thanks Mark and CWJ 3.

I stopped in to O'Reilly's today to return some oil and talked with the guy behind the counter. He indicated the TBS does send signals to the tranny to direct proper operation but was not sure if this was pertinent to my issue.

Mark - I am interested on your professional opinion since you were a former Ford Tranny Engineer. (Did you work in Dearborn?)

1) Could extreme cold temps cause enough component shrinkage or movement in the TPS or other electrical components to prevent the circuitry from completing and therefore the signal to the transmission is not being received to permit proper operation?

2) Could the current throttle body issues that Ford has extended coverage for be any way related to the condition I am experiencing?

3) Would the use of a cold spray (like those used to diagnose electrical heat issues) directed onto the throttle body be a good diagnostic tool to determine if this is the component causing the issue?

Any other ideas before I take this to a shop? I am not totally convinced this is a transmission issue.

Thanks in advance!!
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Old 04-04-2013, 10:12 PM
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I don't think low temps would cause the CVT to act up. I have run mine at -30f with no issues. I can see the throttle body causing issues in the cold.
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Old 04-07-2013, 08:04 PM
ElbowJoe ElbowJoe is offline
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OK - so here is my update on this issue. Hopefully this will be of some use to other Freestyle owners.

I took our Freestyle in to a Ford Dealer for the Throttle Body TSB as it was a freebie. Long story short - the tranny still had cold weather issues so I took it to Cottman transmission - who I am told are experts in these trannys.

They had the car for quite a few days as the temps were getting warmer but they finally left it out overnight when the temps dropped into the teens and hooked their computer to it in the morning while it was exhibiting the issue.

They said the computer pointed to a bad Transmission Control Module (TCM). The TCM is NOT a stand alone replaceable plug-in electronic component. It can only be ordered from Ford as a complete Mechatronics Unit which is a combination of a valve body and TCM. So, both components are replaced together as one unit. The Ford part number for the Mechatronics Unit for an 2005 AWD Ford FreeStyle is 5F9Z7A100YRM.

The retail price for this part alone is $846.77 and wholesale is $719.95. I called 3 local Ford dealerships to verify this information.

This was not a cheap fix. The temps in Michigan have been on the upswing since then and I have not had a really cold overnight to give me the warm and fuzzy - but so far no more issues.

I understand that the replacement is not that difficult. It involves dropping the tranny pan to get to the valve body, then topping off tranny fluid levels with the proper CVT tranny fluid (also not cheap).

Oh - lastly. The TCM needs to be re-flashed once replaced. Ford Dealers do this for approx $100. In my case Cottman's equipment handled the flashing.
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Old 04-07-2013, 08:04 PM
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