drtidmore

440T4 tranny 2nd clutch MIA.....

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drtidmore    223

Well, my '89 seems to want to become a garage queen!  Since changing the tranny fluid, filter, gasket (7 qts new Dextron VI), it has been shifting perfectly.  This morning I get out to run a local errand and I thought it felt odd as it ran the gears.  At the next stop light, I put it in diagnostics so I could watch to see if the transmission was at least indicating the gear shifts properly.  It ran the gears just fine, so I dismissed it as just me being a tad paranoid.  After it sat for maybe all of 5 minutes, while I was running my errand, I came back out, and now there was most definitely something not correct. The 1st to 2nd shift is smooth, with no sign of slipping, then the 2nd to 3rd is where things go wrong.  First off, I can feel it attempting to shift OUT of 2nd, but it seems to not be engaging 3rd gear and the engine RPMs continue to rise.  I did well to get it to 25 MPH by gently coaxing it along.  I have since run a few short test runs and the problem is now persistent.    On a test run of about 1 mile round trip, the engine temp rose to 185 where 170 would have been the norm, so it is clearly slipping.  One more observation,  when I went to back out (i.e. reverse gear) of the drive on one of my test runs, the drive train shuttered badly, but it was not the engine.  The fluid level is right on the money, no odor, no discoloration.  This is the factory tranny and it has a tad over 153K on it. 

 

Thoughts on things I should investigate before accepting that it may time for a rebuild or finding a lower milage salvage tranny.

 

UPDATE!  After more testing, I came to realize that the tranny was NOT engaging the 2nd clutch, which is required for 2nd, 3rd and 4th gears.  The tranny is basically going into neutral after 1st gear.  Could be the 2nd clutch piston seal, the clutch itself (unlikely), the valve body sticking, the governor or the accumulators.  A teardown and rebuild is in order.  See posts later in this thread for the direction I will take.  I will start a new thread on the actual rebuild process. 

 

Thanks 

Edited by drtidmore (see edit history)

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2seater    125

Is there any possibility the filter is loose and perhaps sucking air? Sort of a long shot and not meant as a disparagement. After the backfire episode, was the modulator changed, perhaps to an adjustable model? Others that have had more experience with transaxle issues will likely have more insight.

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89RedDarkGrey    271

The diagnostic indicators are activated by the 3 pressure switches on the charge pump. "Slipping" is a direct result of one of the forward accumulators not engaging the servo (gripping) the drive assembly. The bands (1 for forward gears, 1 for reverse) are actuated by the accumulators, operating the servos. It is highly possible- that the action of changing of the rubber pressure return hose warped the accumulator cover, or dislodged 1 of the feed pipes, allowing a pressure loss. There is actually a part "upgrade" called a Parrot Plate that covers the accumulator cover, to evenly distribute the clamping force- because it is so prone to warping over time.

 

If it were just this- a replacement gasket and the proper torque specs are easily had. Because of the nature of many components- proper torque is super critical; "going around tightening things" will cause more harm than good.

 

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drtidmore    223

I guess I can pull the fluid out and drop the pan.  I had not thought about the filter coming loose.  Given how it sits, it appears to be wedge into place between the fitting and the pan, but again, I can pull out the fluid and check.  As for the vacuum modulator, which was replaced after the backfire episode, it is the non-adjustable type and I checked that it was able to hold a vacuum without a leak down properly after this started this morning.  

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89RedDarkGrey    271

Did you also change the filter seal? Also- a cracked filter (elbow, case) would cause pump starvation and cavitation of fluid.This is easily checked by pulling the dipstick while running- and see if the fluid is foamy.

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drtidmore    223
26 minutes ago, 89RedDarkGrey said:

The diagnostic indicators are activated by the 3 pressure switches on the charge pump. "Slipping" is a direct result of one of the forward accumulators not engaging the servo (gripping) the drive assembly. The bands (1 for forward gears, 1 for reverse) are actuated by the accumulators, operating the servos. It is highly possible- that the action of changing of the rubber pressure return hose warped the accumulator cover, or dislodged 1 of the feed pipes, allowing a pressure loss. There is actually a part "upgrade" called a Parrot Plate that covers the accumulator cover, to evenly distribute the clamping force- because it is so prone to warping over time.

 

If it were just this- a replacement gasket and the proper torque specs are easily had. Because of the nature of many components- proper torque is super critical; "going around tightening things" will cause more harm than good.

I was able to remove the old pressure return hose by releasing the pinch clamps and sliding the hose further down the hose (no real force applied) until I could slip it off the other metal line and then I slid it off the remaining tube.  I did NOT loosen the accumulator plate or apply any force to the adjoining metal tubes.  Given that this situation came on with absolutely NO warning, makes me question the odds of this being a general tranny failure, but it does have 152K miles on it (it has been serviced routinely throughout its life).  

 

I just went out and started the engine, let it run a few minutes and then checked the dipstick and there is NO foam or even a bubble on the tranny dipstick.  The fluid level is exactly where it should be.  At the same time, I do question if there is a fluid starvation at issue here due to the way it is behaving. As I mentioned, it seems to be okay in 1st gear and moves away from a standing stop with NO hesitation or abnormal engine RPMs but by the time I get to about 15 MPH or so, the slippage is readily apparent (i.e. engine RPMs and the drop off of ongoing power to the drive line).   It has been two weeks since I did the tranny service and until today everything was completely normal.  

Edited by drtidmore (see edit history)
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drtidmore    223

I might add that I tried the trick of putting the tranny selector into 2nd and running the vehicle up to over 35 MPH and then shifting into "d" (i.e. not "D"), but this did not change anything.  In fact, even though I had it locked into 2nd I was detecting slippage.  The slippage seems to be more related to forward velocity than anything.  With the vehicle stationary, in "D", I can throttle up and the engine will not go above 1500RPMS and there is NO slippage apparent, but get the car to about 15 or so MPH and the engine RPMs begin to climb and the power to the wheels begins to noticeably fall off.  Even pulling a gently uphill grade on a city street was a bit of nail bitter when I tried a short test run in the area.  

 

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Ronnie    374

Just out of curiosity could you try this.

 

Put the shifter in Low gear. Run up to moderate speed (for low gear) and then back off the throttle. Did the car's speed back down with the engine like it should or did is start freewheeling (coasting)?

 

Do the same thing again- starting out in low gear and then manually shift into second - get up to a moderate speed and then back off the throttle. Did it start slipping when you shifted to second or before you got out of low gear? When you backed off the throttle in second did the engine hold the car back as it should or did it freewheel?

 

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drtidmore    223

Ok, first a bit of NEW information.  When I did the stationary, brake on, stall test previously, I only tried 1st gear.  Just now I decided to try reverse and at between 1275 and 1300 RPMs the entire power train started to shutter badly.  I dumped the power and the shuttering stopped.  Tried it again and same results.  Also, I am noticing that the tranny is VERY slow to engage reverse but once it does, it seems pretty normal.  I will reiterate that yesterday NONE of the behavior was present and I drove it enough that I would have noticed what is happening today.  

 

Now to the other tests Ronnie suggested.

I started in low gear and ran it up to well beyond where 2nd would have normally engaged.  The instant I dumped the power on the engine, there was a noticeable deceleration and the speed fell back and the engine RPMs trended with the speed slow down. So pretty much normal and consistent with the lack of slippage on the stationary stall test in 1st.

 

Then I did the same test, starting with the selector in 1st and then at a moderate speed I bumped it into 2nd but kept the power flowing from the engine.  The slippage started up almost instantly as indicated by increasingly high RPMs with NO increase in forward velocity and once I dumped the power on the engine, the car showed NO signs of engine braking and the whole thing was pretty much freewheeling. (i.e. NO 2nd gear deceleration).  

 

I REALLY do appreciate the suggestions and I still intend to pulled the pan on the tranny and visually check things.  Any and all additional suggestions including ones pointing to the worst case are still welcome. 

Edited by drtidmore (see edit history)

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DAVES89    347

I replaced two trannys in the last 3 years. Both gave warnings. I took the Black into a lube shop to do a complete flush and fill with a filter change. There was a small piece of fiber matierial in the pan. I asked a friend of mine [who owns a trannsmission rebuild shop] what that could be and he said it was related to shifts between 2-3 gear. He advised me to drive it like I stole it as i was now on borrowed time. I got about 3 years and 25,000 miles and then it went fast with shuddering between 2-3 shifts [First and reverse worked fine]. I swapped it with a tranny I found with about 5,000 miles on it. It has now served me for about 20,000 miles and works great.

 The one in the Red would not shift into second gear on first start cold start with ambient temperature below 50 degrees. After it was warmed up it would shift great the rest of the day. It also would not shift from 1-2 with a WOT situation. This was a condition I had from when I bought the car used. I got 150,000 miles out of it and I just got tired of it acting this way so when I swapped out the engine I did the tranny at the same time. The one I installed was a recent rebuild with a 6 month warranty and it works great.

 Once again it is not likely that your tranny would fail without warning, however I figure both of my tranny failures were at about 160-170,000.

 I think when you drop the pan you will see something, excessive shavings, fiborous matierals, or if you are lucky a dropped filter or something else easy.

 Used trannys for our cars are cheap. Each used one I bought were $250.00. I got a quote from a "moonlighting" Buick tranny tech to rebuilld one for $800-$1000 installed. He has a lift at his house. 

 If it was just low tranny fluid it would be in a "cripple" mode and only work in first gear and reverse. Something else is going on...

Edited by DAVES89 (see edit history)
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Ronnie    374

I've been thinking about your response to what I wrote earlier. You said the problem started by it slipping between 2-3 shifts. Then you did I suggested and found that 1-2 shifts slipped too. I don't think two clutch packs would go out at the same time. I think the transmission is losing pressure when it tries to shift. According to the FSM lots of things could cause that.  I always like to go back to the last thing that was done and inspect that before moving on. I would check the rubber hose you replaced inside the transmission closely. I doubt the hose has came loose or ruptured but - perhaps when you replaced the hose the retainer that holds the metal pipe in place got disturbed and has came loose. I feel your pain. I hope you find the problem and it doesn't cost you a lot of money.

 

BTW, don't keep slipping the transmission or you will be rebuilding the transmission for sure.

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89RedDarkGrey    271

 

 

6 hours ago, drtidmore said:

 Any and all additional suggestions including ones pointing to the worst case are still welcome

 

I emailed my Friend Dave- who has many transmission rebuild videos on YouTube. He does all of his own work to his Fleet. He has a 3 part video of an '89 TH440-4T60 full teardown and rebuild. I asked him to read your thread, and this is his reply:

 

The original complaint of 3rd gear slipping is a known common failure in the piston seal for the 3rd clutch. There is a relatively small-diameter seal used on the inside diameter of the 3rd clutch piston. It shrinks over time and becomes less able to seal the piston around the input housing shaft. When this is leaking, there is reduced pressure available to hold it in 3rd gear.

 

When we rebuild these units, we always use an updated design inner piston seal that is a different rubber compound, and has a steel coil expander spring inside it to keep it in contact with the piston.

 

A TransGo kit SK-440-JR has this seal along with other durability upgrades.

 

After reading his further posts, it seems the transmission is continuing to deteriorate. There is another, far more sinister common failure in the transmission charge pump. The shaft which dives the pump rotor will get worn by rolling contact stress fatigue. This happens where the shaft goes through the bearing located in the valve body casting. This will liberate metal debris that bypass the filter and go directly to the valvebody. This will cause it to do many random things but it seems to harm the valves that are not off/on and which are regulating variably. This would be the line pressure control parts, modulator circuit, and TCC valves.

I would definitely tear it down and inspect everything. Continued running it will become expensive quite quickly.

 

Hope this helps explain some possible causes of this problem!

Sincerely,

David

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drtidmore    223

It will be Sunday before I have time to pull the pan and see what I can find.  As it happened so suddenly with no warning signs, not even when cold, even a day before all hell broke loose, I am really hoping that it IS something simple like the filter or hose I replaced.   I have a RFQ to a well known and respected remanufacturing company that does ONLY transmissions.  If I could find a low milage tranny like Daves89 found (5000 miles) I would be content to go that route, but installing a salvaged high milage tranny just does not seem logical. I did a quick search of the local salvage yards and come up with nothing!  Salvage yards around here seem to scrap out most everything but the later model years.

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DAVES89    347

That low mileage tranny I found came from nothern Wisconsin. I thought it was a misprint and ignored it until I had to address my Black's tranny. When I called them they told me the story of how it only had the 5,000 actual miles. They also had a 5,000 mile 1988 engine that I just bought. It was really a low mileage engine however they did a poor job of sealing it up prior to storage and was all rusted inside a frozen up. They gave me a full refund and threw in a Delco coil/ignition module to boot.

 I bought a different engine and used parts from this engine.

 There are trannys out there however we only have a 4 year window [1988-1990 and some GM 1991 cars].

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drtidmore    223

UneedaPart comes up with a total of 12 and the lowest milage one (some don't list the mileage) is 118K.  Prices are cheap enough, but then there is the shipping as the closest one is 800 miles away and the most distant is 1600 miles away.  

 

Car-Part shows quite a few more and a few relatively low mileage.  Guess I need to call and get details on the lower milage ones.  

Edited by drtidmore (see edit history)

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drtidmore    223
17 hours ago, Ronnie said:

 perhaps when you replaced the hose the retainer that holds the metal pipe in place got disturbed and has came loose.

BTW, don't keep slipping the transmission or you will be rebuilding the transmission for sure.

Ronnie,

You may be on to a potential cause.  That section of pipe ( the section NOT part of the accumulator plate) was VERY loose and swiveled easily once I removed the old hose.  I did tug on it gently to see if it would come out but it did not, still that does not mean that in installing the new hose that something did not happen to it.  I had already replayed that area in my mind and was one of the places I intended to verify.  As for driving it, all total, it was driven maybe 5 miles after the problem started up and most of that was simply getting it home, which I did gingerly trying to not allow the engine RPMs to race.  The test drives were short and the tranny fluid shows no signs of off color, off odor.  I agree that when things like this happen out of the blue, go back to the last things that were done.  I am hoping for the best and preparing for the worst.

Edited by drtidmore (see edit history)

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89RedDarkGrey    271

I would tear down the unit, inspect it for "broken" parts, get a full rebuild kit, with the Trans-go upgrade kit for it- and rebuild it. You would then essentially have a "better-than-new" transmission. Rebuilding is way cheaper than a crap shoot of "used" when all is said and done.

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drtidmore    223
56 minutes ago, 89RedDarkGrey said:

I would tear down the unit, inspect it for "broken" parts, get a full rebuild kit, with the Trans-go upgrade kit for it- and rebuild it. You would then essentially have a "better-than-new" transmission. Rebuilding is way cheaper than a crap shoot of "used" when all is said and done.

There are many things that I feel confident tackling, but a total rebuild on an automatic transmission is outside that comfort zone for me.  With my tranny at 153K, the entire thing really should be mic'ed and I also lack all the speciality tools associated with an automatic tranny rebuild.  Installing a shift kit and even a rebuild of the valve body is not totally outside my comfort zone, but I really think if there are issues with the tranny, it is more than I would tackle as a DIY project.  

Edited by drtidmore (see edit history)

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avgwarhawk    1,360

Sometimes simply changing the fluid and filter in a high mileage transmissions is their undoing.   I have witnessed it a few times.    

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89RedDarkGrey    271

"I would do it" can also mean "I would have it done". Rebuilding a TH440/4T60-ME9 usually involves only replacing the "soft" parts that wear- the "hard" parts don't usually wear out, and damage to them is obvious. No micrometer necessary. I'm sorry I don't have a video of myself rebuilding a transmission, but I have rebuilt 3 TH350 (1 in my '77 Cutlass, 2 others for Customers) 1 TH250 Powerglide (my '71 Nova) and 1 TH440/4T60 (Uncle). I didn't rebuild my '89 because of the damage it suffered.

 

Removing your own, bringing it to a reputable Shop, or a Friend who can help you- the concise 3-part video is available. The only "specialty" tool is to make a simple press (also in the video). A basic rebuild (including upgrade kit) is around $400 for everything. A rebuild by Shop is usually $1,400-$1,600, plus R&R labor. Most of cost is labor. Immediately slighting yourself that this is beyond your scope is merely fear of the unknown. Please give yourself more credit. I have Faith in your abilities, and you seem capable. If you would simply take the time to watch 3 videos, 1.5 hours total, you could at least familiarize yourself with what's involved.

 

I guess I was taught differently- when you say "I can't do that" it's better to say "I haven't done that yet". What's the worst thing that could happen- break it more than it already is? Very unlikely, unless you got a sledgehammer.

 

This is the 3 part video series. Credit to David Allen.   Video #1    Video #2   Video #3

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Ronnie    374

I think you are on the right path by checking your previous work first. I would save a DIY transmission rebuild as a last resort.

 

It might be easy to rebuild one but according to time stamps in a video I stumbled across on the Internet it could take up to a couple of months just to do a DIY remove and replace of the transmission.

 

I've paid to have a few transmissions rebuilt and it took about a week to get the car back from the professional doing it. It did cost me about $1700 to get it done but I would rather be driving the car and enjoying it than laying on my back and twisting bolts for half the summer. Some repairs are better left up to professionals and transmission repair is one of them... in my opinion.

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drtidmore    223
2 hours ago, 89RedDarkGrey said:

"I would do it" can also mean "I would have it done".

 

I guess I was taught differently- when you say "I can't do that" it's better to say "I haven't done that yet". What's the worst thing that could happen- break it more than it already is? Very unlikely, unless you got a sledgehammer.

Well, I am enlightened after watching those videos!  A lot of my uncertainty surrounding a rebuild is gone.  It was good to hear that the tranny he built was approaching 500K and still the "hard parts" were good to go for many more miles.  Since he was rebuilding an '89 there really should be zero surprises on my '89.  If I don't find something simple (hose or filter) once I have the pan off, then a rebuild is clearly in order as there are certainly issues with my tranny.  

With those videos acting as a guide, the FSM in hand, and the specific tranny manuals which I will purchase, I may well tackle this should such prove necessary.  I will be sure and do the Trans-Go T440 shift kit upgrade.  Thanks again for the posting the video links.

Edited by drtidmore (see edit history)
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DAVES89    347

I stood there and watched Kendall drop a tranny out of a Chrysler product minivan in less then an hour in a garage with the vehicle on stands. He knew what he needed in sockets and wrenches and lay on his back under the car and called out what he needed. Then rolled out and unsnapped the electrical connections, removed the drive shafts, went back under the car finished his removal of bolts for the motor mounts, slid under the tranny jack and out it came. After the tranny was rebuilt it took about the same to reinstall. He has done dozens of them. 

 The tranny on the Black took 10-12 hours for the R and R not including the clean up of parts prior to reinstall. He had never done a Reatta before. 

 It will take more time then you think to remove and replace especially as you will be working alone.

 BTW we used a "cherry picker" to hold the engine in place as we pulled the tranny. And a tranny jack to remove the tranny. Something you may want to consider...

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drtidmore    223
16 minutes ago, Ronnie said:

It might be easy to rebuild one but according to time stamps in a video I stumbled across on the Internet it could take up to a couple of months just to do a DIY remove and replace of the transmission.

I can't imagine the process taking a couple of months, or for that matter, even a couple of weeks, more like a few days to a week.  After watching the videos that 89RDG posted, the process is less challenging than I imagined.  No special tools needed and the "hard parts" that I feared might be approaching end of life, turn out to have not be problematic typically.    As I have the time and now have seen the rebuild of a '89 T440 end to end, I may tackle this after all. 

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Ronnie    374
2 minutes ago, DAVES89 said:

I stood there and watched Kendall drop a tranny out of a Chrysler product minivan in less then an hour in a garage with the vehicle on stands. He knew what he needed in sockets and wrenches and lay on his back under the car and called out what he needed. Then rolled out and unsnapped the electrical connections, removed the drive shafts, went back under the car finished his removal of bolts for the motor mounts, slid under the tranny jack and out it came. After the tranny was rebuilt it took about the same to reinstall. He has done dozens of them. 

 The tranny on the Black took 10-12 hours for the R and R not including the clean up of parts prior to reinstall. He had never done a Reatta before. 

 It will take more time then you think to remove and replace especially as you will be working alone.

 BTW we used a "cherry picker" to hold the engine in place as we pulled the tranny. And a tranny jack to remove the tranny. Something you may want to consider...

 

I think the key is Kendall being a professional who knows what he is doing. Would you have tackled the job without having someone to guide you and a lift to put the car on? I guess I'm just getting old. I don't think I would do it on my own without someone like Kendall.

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