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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Auto tran drops out of 3rd gear

Two and a half months ago I found that the automatic transaxle was beginning to briefly slip out of 3rd gear. There were bursts of a couple seconds where the tranny dropped down to a lower gear for a split second, then jumped back up, perhaps repeating this several times, resulting in a sort of shuddering performance.

I thought I would start into the problem slowly and just added Auto RX to the fluid. I've been waiting to hit 1,000 miles before doing a fluid and filter change.

But I've got 250-300 miles to go before I hit 1,000, and now the problem has gotten worse. After just a couple miles of warmup, the car consistently drops out of 3rd before slamming back into gear after a number of seconds. Because of the slamming, I decided it would be better not to press it to see how long it might delay in every case, and my very short-term workaround for city driving is to put the car in 2nd gear, once it has automatically shifted into 2nd or 3rd.

It doesn't seem to matter much whether I am accelerating or at steady city speeds. But it doesn't happen until it's in 3rd gear. Before the problem got worse, I didn't notice the problem cruising at highway speeds, so I didn't think it was dropping out of overdrive. But I just now got back from a 15-mile test drive, with 10-12 miles cruising at 65, and I think there were two split-second episodes of the shuddering behavior that I describe at the top.

I don't think the car is dropping out of gear altogether, but that's a little hard for me to tell. I think I'd have to do a little testing on level road where I manually put it in neutral to see how fast speed dropped compared to what it does during the bad behavior.

And as I noted above, I haven't noticed the problem before the car has warmed up at least a little -- a couple miles.

General up-shifts in all gears may be a little harder than they once were, I'm not sure. But even now, I don't notice any delayed shifting. It goes into 2nd between 10-15 mph, and into 3rd somewhere around 25 mph. I don't know exactly when it goes into O/D or when it's supposed to under non-aggressive conditions. (All of the above shift points on level roads without aggressive acceleration.)

The Check Engine light has not lit during any of these episodes or anytime at all. (I mention that because in many of the posts where a solenoid is bad, there will be an OBD trouble code involved.)

There are another couple problems that may well be related. [It turns out that the following two problems are not related to the tranny problem. Both were caused by a damaged rubber elbow in the PCV hose where it connects to the intake manifold.]

Around the same time as the tranny behavior got worse, the car started showing an uneven idle, up-and-down like a sine wave. But like the tranny behavior, this doesn't appear until the car has warmed up at least a little.

Going back some months I think, I have noticed what I thought sounded like a belt or pulley bearing noise. I put it on the to-do list and kept going. But today when I popped the hood with the engine running, I noticed that the noise is coming from the tranny side of the engine compartment, not the fan side. The noise might possibly be a whooshing air or liquid noise rather than a mechanical noise.

I'm giving a lot of detail here because I'm aware that this can be a complex diagnosis. A bad shift solenoid seems to be a common diagnosis, even when there is no Check Engine light, but Danskool has a post where he replaced all the solenoids and it still didn't fix his problem. Turned out to be a bad clutch seal and something else.

This is for a 2002 LX with about 80,000 miles.
 

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I'd go ahead and clean the pan/change the filter and flush in an extra 3 qts synth ATF and add some Lubegard additive. Then see where you're at.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Auto tran drops out of 3rd gear

I'd appreciate it if everyone took a fresh look at this thread now that I have discovered that the tranny problem stands by itself -- it is not related to the idle problem and the engine compartment noise.
 

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I can say that my trans goes into 4th (OD) above 40 mph.

A guess is that the problem is either electrical or hydraulic in nature. A full fluid flush and added Lubegard MIGHT make it go away (free up a valve, etc?)...and might not. Even at +$100 or so for filter, synth ATF...Lubegard you are better off than letting the trans guys get started on it?

If there is a particular solenoid that controls 3rd...change it out if the flush doesn't do it?
 

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Discussion Starter #5 (Edited)
Thanks, frednumber15, for the O/D-at-around 40 mph shift point info.

The problem now seems to be a little broader. A week or two ago it was slipping primarily out of 3rd, with only an occasional shudder (slips and reengages of a split second) in O/D. But now it is "reliably" slipping out of O/D as well.

Also, simply as a matter of closer observation, I find that after the car has warmed up a little and the problem begins (a couple miles), the 1-2 and 2-3 shifts are both clearly harder than in the first few minutes.

There is still no Check Engine light and no Transaxle light, though there may be a problem with the reporting mechanism (maybe as simple as a bad bulb): When I turn the key to On/Run, neither the Check Engine nor Brake lights come on, even briefly. But I ran the HEC Dealer Test Diagnostic Mode, and it reports no stored DTC codes.

So I'm aiming at doing the fluid/filter change, maybe today yet, but I'm still thinking about the solenoids. The people who have had simple solenoid problems usually report a CEL or tranny light, though some of them don't get a light until they've had the problem for a while. And in my case, if it really is a solenoid problem, it would seem that I now have two bad solenoids: A and E, according to Illinipo's post at http://www.focusfanatics.com/forum/showthread.php?t=167581. According to the same post, both solenoids are the same P/N: XS4Z-7H148-AA. That P/N seems to run about $45 at FordPartsOnline.com. It's been reported multiple times that these shift solenoids are not available at local parts stores.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
OK, now I'm getting somewhere. I thought I would look into the little problem I mentioned in the previous post about no CEL/MIL light (no Brake light either, but that is not of interest here).

I pulled the instrument cluster - an easy job - and found that there was no bulb in the CEL/MIL socket (aka bulb base)! As a matter of fact, there was no base or bulb in the Brake light opening.

So it begins to look like someone had a problem or two they didn't want to fix and simply removed the lights!

When I installed a bulb (#74), the MIL (Malfunction Indicator Light, as Ford calls it) was lit up all the time. A trip to Advance Auto for a free scan showed codes:

P0750
Description: SSA solenoid circuit failure
Condition: SSA circuit failed to provide voltage drop across solenoid. Circuit open or shorted or PCM driver failure during on-board diagnostic
Symptom: No reverse gear (short) or no fourth gear (open).
Action: Refer to Pinpoint Test A.

P0755
Description: SSB solenoid circuit failure
Condition: SSB circuit failed to provide voltage drop across solenoid. Circuit open or shorted or PCM driver failure during on-board diagnostic
Symptom: Not all gears present. No converter clutch apply in third and fourth gears.
Action: Refer to Pinpoint Test A.

It is interesting to note that the HEC Dealer Test Diagnostic Mode showed no DTC codes. But I wonder if that test only displays codes that are relevant to troubleshooting of the instrument cluster. In any case I have seen a post or two that regarded this test as unreliable.

But the bottom line here is that I have further evidence that I should replace a solenoid or two when I change the fluid and filter. However, the two codes seem to indicate that I should be looking at solenoids A and B, rather than A and E as I speculated in the previous post.
 

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It is interesting to note that the HEC Dealer Test Diagnostic Mode showed no DTC codes. But I wonder if that test only displays codes that are relevant to troubleshooting of the instrument cluster.
^This. You're not going to get OBDII power train codes from that test, at least not on the 00-04 early cars. The DTC codes shown would pertain to the cluster functions (ignition, gauge inputs, voltages, etc.) or the PATS system. I've tested this by inducing codes (disconnecting engine sensors) and then comparing CEL DTCs and cluster DTCs. The cluster DTC is inevitably "none" while the CEL code is PXXXX i.e the correct code.

Glad to hear you found the cause of no CEL light. I believe solenoids are sold as sets and personally, I'd be tempted to replace any indicating a hard fault while you're in there. Check the wiring too.
http://www.focusfanatics.com/forum/showthread.php?t=239722
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Thanks for confirming my speculation that the HEC dealer test/diagnostic mode only displays codes related to troubleshooting of the instrument cluster. (Though even there, the codes are not EBDII codes -- the factory service manual provides a chart that translates to the EBDII code.)

A bit of a shame though. I've done troubleshooting on other cars where the DTC codes for engine and tranny could be read from flashing lights on the dash, and this was a nice capability before I had an Advance Auto right up the street to do free scanning for me.

Thanks also for the link to the other thread. One of my prep missions today was to figure out which solenoids were where. You cover that nicely.

Any opinion on getting the Fram filter with gasket vs. the Motorcraft filter with RTV?
 

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I used an Advance filter with rubber gasket at 1st...but didn't like the way the filter was made (edges sealed poorly) and ended up replacing it with a Motorcraft filter and used the rubber gasket...no way would I mess with the silicone gasket goop though.
 

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Discussion Starter #10 (Edited)
Unfortunately, replacing the A and B solenoids did not take care of this problem. I have not gotten the codes scanned again, but the MIL/CEL light is back on and the car has not repented of its bad behavior in the least -- the same slipping and shuddering as before in 3rd and O/D.

So it's back to the drawing board on this problem.

On a minor point, I used Advance Auto's Pro-King ATF transmission filter & gasket kit -- the only offering they had for the Ford Focus. One thing I liked about this gasket is that, before reinstalling the pan, I could screw the bolts through the pan and gasket and they gripped the bolts and held the gasket flat against the pan. This meant that I could rather easily install the pan and gasket as an assembly. (You're not supposed to use RTV to tack the gasket in place. But some directions specify the use of an oil-soluble grease to accomplish the same thing.)

A less-minor point about the perpetual struggle to remove old RTV. It may be that the best current solution is the cans of spray or liquid gasket remover available at any parts store. I didn't have any on hand when I started the job and I don't remember that previous results were all that wondrous anyhow. A little online searching shows that lots of people struggle with the same problem. Some old hands say that they used to have this or that stuff that really removed RTV nicely, but it's now been banned or requires respirators, Haz-Mat full-body suits, etc. (When you're trying to get a job done, it's interesting that you suddenly don't care if the stuff might cause cancer in 20 years. Just give me something that works ...)

What I used this time was a 1/2" or 3/4" square stick of oak, which I kept sawing the ends off of to resharpen the corners and edges as I worked. (At other times I have used things like plastic ice scrapers.) Then I finished up with a green Scotch Brite pad and several applications of brake cleaner (non-chlorinated, probably less effective than the nasty old stuff).

Other people speak of the virtues of toluene (I would've tried it if I had any on hand -- several people swear by it), acetone (I used that just as a final metal cleaner), gasoline, naptha (Coleman fuel), xylene, carbon tetrachloride, and ammonia.

I saw one interesting post with research from Dow or Permatex or one of the other chemical companies on the effectiveness of a variety of "reagents" on breaking down two different kinds of silicone. Wish I still had the address of that post. But in the end it was not a definitive help because I didn't know which kind of silicone gray RTV is, and I didn't have a number of the more effective reagents on hand.

RTV removal is time-consuming enough that someone really ought to figure this out.
 

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Seeing as you only need to do it once...I think the main thing is to be sure you don't have any RTV particles left inside the pan or trans. I got maybe 95% of it off...the rest was left as a tribute to Ford.

Looks like it's synth ATF and Lubegard time? You can only hope...cause after that it's the TRANS GUYS. [pray]
 

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Discussion Starter #12
I thought I had taken two steps forward and two steps backward (replacing two solenoids but not fixing the problem), but it turns out that it was only one step backward. When Advance Auto scanned for codes today, only P0755 had reappeared (for the B solenoid message).

I took it out for a long drive then and found that I could drive with the O/D Off switch with no problems up through 45 mph, but at 50 mph the 3rd gear stability gave out and regular slipping began. If I dropped down to 45 mph it stabilized again.

I haven't had time yet to dig back into any further troubleshooting, but I'm gratified to be able to drive in 3rd now at up to 45 mph. For the last several weeks I've been doing up to 45, even 50, mph in 2nd gear around town. This was less nerve-wracking than the very frequent 3rd/4th slippage and slamming back into gear!
 
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