I thought it about time we updated this post with some actual useful information! A big thanks goes out to a number of people that have been good enough to share their knowledge with everyone. These include Sandy, Tinntter (Paul), Ralph, nrivers2, Tony, John S, transmission builder, Jay, Mark and Kim – thanks!
In this post we are looking at some of the more common problems that seem to dog the 4-speed automatic transmissions fitted to EA-onwards Falcons.
Where’s The Dipstick??
The first issue we will look at is the dipstick (and no Mark, I don’t mean the person behind the wheel 🙂 ), or lack thereof on some Falcons. If you own a Falcon built after February 1996 it will be fitted with a ‘sealed’ transmission and no, your eyes aren’t playing tricks on you, there is no dipstick fitted to these transmissions (which I believe is part of the reason these transmission don’t often get the servicing they need – out of sight, out of mind).
Yes, you can check the condition of the fluid and it’s level but it does require the car to be jacked up both ends and a 5/8 (18mm) filler plug being removed. You can read more about this at our Falcon 4 Speed Auto Fluid Level Check post.
My Car Won’t Change Up Or Down Gears!
If you find that your Falcon won’t change up or down gears, even when coming to a complete stop or doing highway speeds when you know it should be in fourth, there is a good chance that it is in ‘Limp Home’ mode. What’s happening is the ecu has picked up that there is a problem and basically ‘locked’ the transmission into third gear to prevent any damage (or more damage) being done to the trans.
This can be caused by a number of things, excessive fluid temperature, a faulty throttle position switch or selector switch, the list goes on. Fault codes can be retrieved from the ecu to help find the problem and/or an inspection by a transmission specialist will get the issue sorted.
How To Prolong The Life Of Your 4-Speed Auto
Regular Servicing is an absolute must if you want any auto transmission to last. I lost count of the number of sealed transmission that we saw that had never had a fluid and filter change and despite what you may have been led to believe, a sealed transmission does need to be serviced. Every 20,000km is a good yardstick to go by.
With a typical automatic service the pan is dropped, the filter is changed, the pan put back on and the trans. is refilled. While this is better than nothing at all, it does leave an amount of old fluid behind in the torque converter and places like that which is why a complete flush of the auto every 50,000km is also a good idea. I know Ford will do this for you but I’m also going to go with the suggestions made by a couple of our readers and do a post on how you can do this yourself. I will update this post when I get that done and documented.
Change To An Aftermarket Transmission Cooler – quite a number of the transmission failures we have seen over the years were due to the original in-radiator transmission cooler breaking down and sending bits of copper back into the transmission with the fluid.
The best thing you can do here is to bypass the factory cooler and fit an aftermarket cooler, or two. An external cooler is also a must if you are going to be doing any towing or otherwise giving the transmission a thorough workout and the bigger the better with transmission cooler’s. Paul (tinntter) was kind enough to send through some pics and diagrams of how he fitted two original Ford external trans. coolers to his Falcon. You can read this here – Falcon Transmission Cooler Installation.
A couple of other things worth mentioning here, the Ford 4-Speed Auto’s use TQ95 fluid, not Dexron 3 which is used in a large number of transmissions. This is very important as Dexron 3 will not do your 4-speed auto any good.
Also if you find that the filler plug on your dipstick-less Falcon trans. is rounded off and you need to refill/top-up the fluid level, a couple of readers have removed the top cooler hose/pipe to the radiator and while using a funnel have managed to fill the transmission this way. It may take a while but unless you can weld a bigger nut to the filler plug or something like that it may just get you out of trouble!
I would like to mention also that these problems aren’t necessarily limited to the Falcon auto’s – case in hand, my inlaw’s (or outlaw’s as I call them) bought a VS Commodore off the showroom floor for their big around-Australia trip. In the 80,000km that the car had travelled by the time they left (mostly thanks to us ‘kids’ borrowing it) the transmission had been serviced twice and a large external cooler had been fitted because they were taking a single axle, I guess ‘medium’ size caravan with them.
Cut a long story short, they made it as far as Rockhampton (roughly 600km’s) and the auto fried itself big time. The guy that rebuilt it said that this was quite common and he would only guarantee his work if a bigger pan was fitted – more fluid, more ‘cooling capacity’.
Bit of trivial informaton there for you but it does go to show that they don’t make ’em like they used to!
There are some really helpful comments below, I urge you to read them if you’re having trouble with your transmission.