As a new member to this board, I have been reviewing all the old postings to get caught up on all the good information contained here. I would like to add some wisdom I recently gained at a considerable monetary cost.
My wife drives an 89 Aerostar with a 3L engine, A4LD auto transmission. About 14 months ago, the tranny started shifting very roughly and we took it to a reputable trany shop. I realize this may seem a contradiction in terms to some of you but bear with me. According to the shop, the accelerator cable was out of adjustment (I believe this is the kick down cable) which caused the trany to slip and burn the clutches up. (Hey, that's what they said.) $1400 later, my wife was back on the road. I would like to add, that the van had 85K miles on it and was very gentlely driven.
Fast forward to last month. My wife is driving down the street and BANG, no forward or reverse gears at all. Luckily for her she wasn't in the middle of a busy intersection when it happened. The teardown inspection showed the OD sprag locked up and when it shifted into OD (it slips then) it tore the forward clutch spring pack out of the OD drum. The verdict: another $1300 to repair, plus some lip service from the management at the trany shop that the torque converter failed and the fluid was burnt because there was no aux oil cooler installed. I will address these last two items later.
Having been burnt, I decided it was time to get educated on my transmission. What I found out frosted my buns. There was a TSB issued in April 93 that in essense says if the transmission has over 50k miles on it and it is apart, change the sprags. Also to measure the inner raceway and change the part if out of tolerance. The allowable wear is less than 0.001". It is a warning that if the sprag fails, it takes out the forward clutch spring pack. In another location I found a posting by someone who seemed very knowlegeable on the trany who stated that a software repair only will result in another rebuild shortly after the 12 month warranty expires. I also found out that this trany, with a few beefed up parts, is used for racing.
To make a long story short, here is what I have concluded from my experience and research.
1. The trany is stout as built and will give long service if maintained. I also have a BII with 230K miles on the origional A4LD transmission, changed the fluid religiously every 25-30k miles, no trany cooler.
2. The transmission is touchy to rebuild. Special care must be taken and key parts must be changed each time, like the sprags ~ 30 bucks for the part.
3. 6 month and 12 month warranties aren't worth a flip.
My recommendations for those poor souls facing an A4LD rebuild.
1. When choosing a shop, get references from the shop of people who they have rebuilt this transmission for in the past and check them out. The shop must have someone with the expertise to successfully rebuild this transmission.
2. Do not leave with less than a 2 year warranty, preferably a lifetime warranty. My experience was that after battling with the shop, they threw in a lifetime warranty, and replaced many more parts in the transmission because of it, parts that did not add up to that much additional expense when you consider the shops 100% markup on parts, but parts they felt needed to be changed to prevent a future repair. Funny, but that is what I thought I paid for the first time.
3. Insist the sprags be replaced and the races measured per the TSB. If the shop doesn't know what you are talking about, LEAVE. They don't know what they are doing on this trany. This measurement is not trivial. To accurately make this measure, care must be taken to ensure the mic and part are at the same temperature and the mic is in good working order. Remember, out of spec is in less than a 0.001" band.
4. There are beefier parts available for the fwd planetary set. If you are giving your vehicle tough service, insist on the upgraded parts.
5. Question whether you need the additional cooler, especially at what they want for it. The vehicle didn't come with one and it made it this far. A cooler may do nothing more than mask the heat being generated from a poor rebuild until it is out of warranty. Of course if you are towing, you need the additional cooling.
I would be interested in hearing from any one with similar experiences.
Thanks for the post, lots of good info. I haven't had the experience yet, but I am girding my loins for when the day comes. The 4.0 engines do have a cooler as standard equipment. I've looked into pricing for rebuilt units and noticed the A4LD runs a good 30-40% more than other comparable units.
Bill, excellent post, I have printed it out and have put it in my Aerostar "file", receipts, parts warranties, insurance policy, etc. for my '87 Aerostar XLT. Just wanted to add, it is worth it to add an aftermarket drain plug to the trans pan. I found one through the "Help!" company that markets several types off odd-ball parts for most all Ford, GM and MOPAR applications. The drain plug makes draining and flushing the ATF fluid a snap, instead of a messy chore, even if you are just running new fluid through without actually pulling the pan to change the filter. O have heard and read that Chevron's ATF fluid is one of the best non-synthetic ATF's for use in the Ford A4LD transmission, in comparison tests both on the van, and tests performed in the lab. I have used the Chevron ATF in my past two trans fluid changes. I have noticed my Aerostar's 1-2 shift is especially crisp and noticeable, while the rest of the shift changes (including OD) are more normal/softer. Anyone elses Aerostar like this? The downshift pattern (as when braking to a stop at a redlight) is also quiet/soft. Just my 2 cents, thanks again Bill for your expertise and experience on this matter...
Oh, one more thing, visit Chevron's website at www.chevron.com It talks about their different types of ATF, click on the "motor oils" section and the ATF info is located there. It is an quality lubricant at a resonable price IMHO
Good advice, expensive learning experience. I too have been down the road on the rebuilt A4LD and have some experiences to add. I replaced the motor in my wife’s 88 Aerostar with at that time 128K miles. The motor expired due to bad luck, but the transmission was working fine prior. It had regular service with new filters and fluid every 20-25K. Well, I am somewhat **** and decided to get the tranny rebuilt before the new motor was installed. So I checked with several shops, bought a service manual (in the old days I rebuilt transmissions before I got a real job...) talked to friends that still do work in the field and finally chose a shop. We discussed the upgrades and improvements and was promised tougher, better shifting, strong box. Of course as the motor for my van was on the stand still, I delivered and picked up the box from the rebuilder. And I self installed it. My Aerostar had an external cooler in front of the radiator as well as the in radiator cooler. I replaced the engine radiator with a new one, flushed the cooler out with solvent (clean, filtered) and flushed out the steel cooling lines. I put it all together, serviced up everything (I did also add the drain plug kit finally, after living with spilled oil for the last five years). Well the engine was great. The transmission had some weird shifting from the git-go. And within 20 miles I found that the transmission was hanging up with the converter locked up at idle. (Try and keep it running). I took it to the shop, they told me they would be happy to look at it IF I TOOK IT OUT AND RETURNED IT TO THEM THE WAY IT WAS DELIVERED. So I took it home, pulled the pan, found there was solid particles in the pan... Bad sign... I called the shop that did the work, they said - oh, you damaged it because you neglected to flush the lines and cooler (I did not!) and we aren't going to cover it. Did some research, found that the problem I had (lockup torque converter staying locked) was probably due to debris... Imagine that. So I ordered a Transdapt shift kit, pulled the valve body and disassembled and cleaned it up totally using solvent, found that they had actually done the modifications that I had asked. Then I flushed the system three or four times (changed fluid that is), pulled the pan and checked the filter (pretty clean this time) replaced it, and buttoned it up. Worked fine. It's been 30K miles and worked fine.
The shop? Well I finally got to the owner. The high recommendations that made me select it from a friend who farmed out his transmission work were the owners work recommendation. They had expanded; the owner had become a remote operator, hiring a manager. Who did still use the correct parts and modifications - but just didn't have the same ethics and wasn't as interested in quality as in quantity. The owner apologized me to; the "manager" has since been replaced...
The moral? Even shops carefully researched coming with high recommendations can still bite you in the *ss. The right parts and the right modifications mean nothing if the shop doesn't worry about cleanliness as much as quantity.
Good luck all.
Oh, and I will rebuild my own boxes from now on. I did it in the past (ok, then they were all chevrolets and I had the correct tools - then) But I feel that I can never own too many tools... Or service manuals...
Great post fordguywa. This kind of wisdom (knowledge+experience) is something that will benefit many others. Could you give all of us potential DIY tranny rebuilders an idea of what kinds of specialized tools it would require to attempt a rebuild? I gather from the tone of your post that even with your background experience you still felt it necessary to farm out your transmission rebuild- or what is it more of a time consideration? I enjoy working/learning on my vehicles and would rather spend the dough on more tools than have a similar experience as yours. Could a first timer rebuild a A4LD or would it quickly devolve into an exquiste form of self-flagellation?
[font size="1" color="#FF0000"]LAST EDITED ON 09-Oct-01 AT 09:36 AM (EST)[/font][p]While we're on the subject of transmissions, I have a unique problem. I have a 1992 Aerostar with about 110,000 miles, 3.0 liter engine. Now that it's gotten cold (north of Philadelphia), when I put the transmission into reverse first thing in the morning, it spins for a few seconds and clunks into gear. It doesn't do it for any other gear, nor does it do it in the warmer months and after the engine and transmission fluid warms up. It did it last year, and then went away once it warmed up. It is also a little worse when I park in my driveway facing uphill. When I back into the driveway, facing down hill, it clunks into reverse, but not quite as hard. I've taken to either backing out of my driveway in neutral or parking down hill so I can put it into drive in the morning.
My question is, is this just a bad seal somewhere that can be fixed relatively cheaply or does it require a rebuild. I had the transmission fluid and filter changed in the spring, so that is relatively new and clean. I'm only planning to keep the van until about the middle of next year so I'm trying to avoid a total rebuild.
First, make sure the trans fluid level is correct. My 88 Aerostar 3.0 automatic would not engage reverse or drive for several seconds and then with a clunk. It turned out that the fluid level was only slightly low (a fluid pan gasket leak). This transmission seems to be very sensitive to low AT fluid level.
The following possibilites were taken verbatim from the Ford Shop Manual, A4LD Transmission section, Diagnosis, "no/delayed reverse engagement(forward OK)"
1. Improper fluid level
2. Manual linkage misadjusted/damaged
3. Low main control pressure in reverse
4. Reverse clutch assembly burnt/worn/leaking check ball in piston/leaking piston seal rings.
5. Valve body bolts loose/too tight
6. Valve body dirty/sticking valves.
7. Transmission filter plugged.
8. Pump damaged
9. Low/reverse servo piston seal cut/leaking
With your recent servicing and making sure your fluid level is correct, you can probably eliminate #'s 1,7 and if no work was done on the transmission, #5 could be discarded. The remaining causes likely point to an internal problem requiring a tear down. Especially since the problem is compounded by positioning and temperature flucuations. Hope this helps.
Sorry for seeming to ignore your question, but I just now returned to this thread, too much work to do... Which had a lot to do with my not doing this one by myself... Besides, I am at a point in life where I CAN and do choose to farm out work. But I so rarely do. Some of my friends just don't understand my obsession with doing it right, and only once. They are willing to take it in endless times for the same basic repair...
As far as attempting to diy, well that depends... If you are willing to read the manual completely, can understand the terminology used, have a really, truly clean place to take it apart, have a place to organize the parts, and have lots of patience and can admit to yourself that when something just doesn't seem right, and you will stop and back up until you figure our if it really is right, then you can do the work yourself.
As far as special tools, mostly they aren't that special. Since I didn't have to disassemble the entire transmission when I experienced the problem, I didn't have to buy anything new. But then I do have tons of tools, more than most people I know so that really won't help you decide. The manual from ATSG did mention (as I recall) the special tools needed to do the work if you are testing and rebuilding the box... But some (such as a leak detector for the torque converter) are just not needed - since you will be putting a new one into the box.
As far as the tools you do have, a GOOD torque wrench for inch pounds is essential. Most people don't have one (we almost all have one for foot-pounds) and spending a bit to get one that can be recalibrated is essential. If you decide to do it yourself, and don't wish to buy the few really expensive tools, find a shop that rents tools and find out if they have what you need. You might be surprised what some tool rental places do have.
FYI: The manual I purchased is from the Automatic Transmission Service Group, and they can be reached at (305) 670-4161 or (800) 245-7722 in Miami Florida. Unlike some books I remember from the "old" days, this one seemed to be very accurate and well laid out. And when I needed a manual for my antique BMW that is out of print, the person I talked to there went out of their way to help me and found an incomplete copy in their office and sent a copy of it to me. Free.
Their mailing address:
9200 S. Dadeland Blvd.
Miami, FL 33156
Thanks fordguywa, I appreciate the information and feel I can tackle this when the time comes. I've noticed many posts concerning transmission problems with the A4LD and with 200K on mine, I thought I must be really lucky considering the various uses this poor beast has been put through. After some digging, I found there are different versions (grades) of the A4LD. The most robust version is for the 4.0l/AWD van. (mine, luckily). This one contains upgraded internal components. The cost of the upgraded kit for rebuilds is only about $50 more than the standard kit price. For anyone considering doing a rebuild this may be an appropriate option.
Well, have fun when doing yours. There is a place in Portland, OR that sells kits, individual parts and upgrades and the manuals - and they had among the lowest prices around me (Washington) and they would answer questions - without trying to stick it to you... If you know what I mean.
They are at: http://www.txchange.com or phone:
Keep us informed as to your progress (and you can give first hand information on your results!)
> Well, have fun when doing yours. There is a place
> in Portland, OR that sells kits, individual parts
> and upgrades and the manuals - and they had among
> the lowest prices around me (Washington) and they
> would answer questions - without trying to stick
> it to you... If you know what I mean.
> They are at: http://www.txchange.com or phone:
I had Transmission exchange do my rebuild ('89, 3.0l) in Sep-99 (141k) and I've now got about 19k miles on it. Here are my impressions:
I bought the "Utility" upgrade TC and asked for a generic heavy-duty rebuild for mine. As I'd bought my rig with the AT literally in a box in the cargo area, it was all in pretty poor shape, and I had to pay the core charge. Out-the-door ran within $20 of $1600 carry-out price for the rebuilt unit + Utility TC and their extra cooler kit.
First, it was a pretty ugly *looking* rebuild. Rattle-can black spray painted, with a lot of the paint over oily areas, so it just wiped off with a rag.
I flushed my existing lines and the old cooler and ran the new cooler in series with the old -- no problem with that setup in the two years I've run it.
The trans shifts a bit hard most of the time from 1-2. Other shifts are almost always perfect, but that 1-2 can really boot me. Shift points are good, downshifts really good.
The driveshaft slip-yoke fits very loosely in the tailshaft housing, and the rear seal leaks. It leaked from the first week, and I bought an OEM Ford rear seal and replaced it at 4k, and it still leaks. I suspect that they didn't even check for bushing wear.
The low gear whines. Fairly loudly. Get under 10 mph, as in coming to a stop, and it's very noticeable.
1st gear overrun clutch does not always engage. In fact, most of the time it doesn't work. I notice this because I drive a stretch or steep downhill where the speed limit is 10 mph, and I use "1" to keep the speed down. About 50% of the time, I get no engine braking. Yes, the manual linkage is correctly adjusted.
Note that I run AMSOil ATF, so factor that in. Expensive, but I run synthetic lubes and brake fluid in everything I own -- not usually AMSOil, but at the time I did that rebuild, other synthetic ATF suppliers were scarce -- that situation has changed now.
Manual upshifts from 1-2 are *very* hard, especially if you have some revs on in 1st and are not at full throttle when you manually shift to 2nd. I am not at all pleased with this. I'm getting around it by upshifting from 1-3, then back down to 2. It's not all that common of a driving situation, but it can make your passengers look at you funny when it occurs :/
Overall, I don't think that it was a rebuild that I would repeat. Because they were local to me and have been in business for a great number of years, I went with them, but I doubt that I'd go back.
Good information on the Transmission exchange. Thank you. But since I haven't actually had THEM rebuild it, just supply parts, that was the limit of my experiences with them. And they were very free with thier information which turned out to be accurate and complete, and the parts were exactly as I requested. So perhaps you were stuck with a poor example of their work.
Any one else out there have any experience with the Transmission Exchange of Portland, OR?
I have a 93 4.0 Aerostar transmission code (T) Is it also a A4LD?
After replacing the heads recently(long story) I was chasing down some sweep up bugs and found tranny fluid in the plenium. Obviously a bad modulator. Here is where the adventure starts! I went out and got a replacment Modulator. FRAM 2366 adjustable,$12. Really funky shifting. Went to my local Parts guy next, He had one from Pioneer $22, also funky shifting. Next was the dealer..... $144 for a vacuum Modulator?? My parts guy is going to get me a jobber price on the dealer part, but is still around $80. What is so special about this modulator/ transmission? By the way, the part number is 90DT-7A377-A2A.