6th Gen PTU (power transfer unit) / transfer case leaking and procedure for drain and - Taurus Car Club of America : Ford Taurus Forum
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post #1 of 6 (permalink) Old 06-20-2018, 12:38 PM Thread Starter
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Good day Taurus Club enthusiasts,

I’ve gleaned a lot of great information from you guys and now I’m hoping to return the favor. It was a long, labor intensive process by which I pieced together this information and I thought it would be helpful to post it in a separate thread with an easily searched label.

My story starts when I bring my car in for wobbling at highway speed. I learn that I have a slipped belt on one tire in the rear which requires me to replace it. I also learn that the rear shock absorber on that wheel has blown and when I remove and replace it, it doesn’t even have enough steam to push the piston back to the top position even absent the weight of the car. But the icing on my s... poop sandwich was when I was told the PTU was leaking and shown a very thick, black sludge that was dangling from the bottom of the case. My Taurus has a little over 58,840 and occasionally I do open the throttle pretty wide.

How thick do you ask? The sludge was so thick that I was checking for drips at every stop and what I found was the same lonely bead dangling from the transfer case at each stop. I swear to you it didn’t move cuz I didn’t see any new leakage on the case.

Why is this important? The power transfer unit is basically your AWD system. It does exactly what the name says, transfers power to your rear wheels when it detects slippage. It’s an important job, and hooked directly into your transmission so a failure could easily lock your wheels, destroy your transmission, and make you consider junking your car from the fright of the experience. Keep in mind that the Ford manual calls this a lifetime fluid and says you should never have to replace it. They also detail the same process I’m about to describe.

How many people are effected? I’ve read Ford Edge forums, Ford Taurus forums, Ford Flex forums, and Ford Explorer forums. They all complain of the same issue. Black sludge, overheating, “puking” from the vent port, leaking seals, and PTU failure. None have referenced the catastrophic results that I said above, but it’s only a matter of time.

The gear oil is 75W140 and you are supposed to use .8 liters or about 28 oz to fully refill an empty transfer case. I purchased a liter of Valvoline Synpower for $12.99 at AutoZone anticipating that I will drain/fill several times over the next few months to cleanse the system because Ford didn’t install a drain plug in the units unless you buy this car in Saudi Arabia, have a police interceptor model (year unknown I think 2013+), or have a Taurus SHO (I think this is also 2013+). This explanation applies to AWD Limited and SEL models. Mine is a 2011 Limited AWD so it applies for me.

1) Drive your car up on ramps or jack it up. Harbor Freight sells 6” high ramps with a 17 degree ascent angle that allege to support up to 13,000GVWR. ( https://m.harborfreight.com/13000-lb...set-63956.html ) They cost about $40 and you can always get a 20% coupon (I tell them I forgot mine half the time and they just scan it for me). The ramps can be used on a slight decline like my driveway to achieve a near level angle to drain the PTU.

2) In a picture below I’ve shown where the PTU upper fill hole is located. I put one of the exhaust to show where to look in the exhaust and another of the side of the PTU with the drain plug removed. After letting my car cool I found a basic 3/8 drive ratchet would fit with a little finagling and I removed the plug. (I’m just going to call it a drain plug, not sure if that’s the right name it probably isn’t). Below is a picture of my drain plug with the dreaded black goo all over it, and metal shavings included. I cleaned it off 100% and sprayed some brake cleaner on it.

3) If your unit is full, a little gear oil might leak out. Mine didn’t do this. I fed about 8” of tubing from a multi use transfer pump ($4.99 at Harbor Freight tools https://m.harborfreight.com/multi-us...not%20provided ) into the open fill hole. It was slow going about 1/2-1” at a time and I had to bend it slightly but it worked.

This is where a healthy and normal PTU would be able to be pumped out to drain the old gear oil. I fashioned an old Gatorade bottle by punching a hole in the lid to receive the old fluid once it was pumped out. The lid snugly held the hose from the transfer pump. It worked great... except I got no gear oil out at all. The gear oil was all a black sludge and I don’t know how much there was left.

3A) I decided to try to fill my PTU without draining it. The old gear oil would become loosened by the new gear oil, and frankly I was afraid that there wasn’t anything left. Especially since a leak is what told me I had an issue. I pumped in a whopping 12-13oz (33.814 oz is 1 liter bottle and I had around 17 oz left in it when I was done. 3 oz was in the transfer pump and hoses, and I think another 1 oz dribbled on my driveway. To put this in perspective, .8 liter is approximately 28oz.) So I had about 15-16 oz of fluid inside the PTU and it’s all black sludge. This explains why my exhaust, cat, and engine all cooled down half an hour prior to me doing this job, and the PTU was still hot enough where I was concerned it might melt the hose from the transfer pump. I burned my hand a little each time I touched it.

4) I reversed the process and reinstalled the drain plug. Then using a rag and some brake cleaner I cleaned up my mess.

I then took my car for a short drive. I didn’t notice a huge change but I did feel like it was accelerating a bit easier and less lag when shifting. I also saw my seal was healthy where the PTU mates to the transmission.

Will drive it and repeat soon. Recommend using ramps and the transfer pump. I’m not YET confident enough to do a drill and tap.

Side note: I only noticed this after I posted, but does anyone else think my PTU has already been serviced or replaced? Check out the markings all over it...
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Part-time tinkerer. Always looking for more knowledge.
Garage:
11 Ford Taurus Limited AWD - sold at 67k for a profit
11 Hyundai Sonata GLS - wife's
07 Mercury Milan Premier - sold to dad around 166k
01 Ford CVPI - owned for 5 months, sold still running
04 Hyundai Santa Fe - "Rusty" my new beater for a while

Last edited by Limited413; 06-22-2018 at 02:48 PM. Reason: Update info
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post #2 of 6 (permalink) Old 06-29-2018, 05:46 PM
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Thanks for the great write-up!

I'm guessing your PTU is either OE or pretty old by the amount of surface oxidation. Perhaps some else could post a photo of one they know for sure is original?

I took photos of the PTU just after buying my 2013 six months ago (Dec 2017). It has a 4-30-17 date written on it from last year during a time between when the original owner sold it and when it showed up at the non-Ford dealer that I bought it from. That dealer has no record of its replacement, nor does the Ford dealer that I paid to evaluate the car during the 5-day return period after buying. Ford dealer pulled an OASIS report that shows all work on this car ever performed at a Ford dealer and there was no record there either. I found an old receipt for something else with the original owner's name on it behind the glove box when I replaced the cabin filter, but I haven't yet tried to contact him.

Here's what the PTU on my 2013 looks like that appears to have been replaced last year:
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post #3 of 6 (permalink) Old 02-21-2019, 11:52 PM Thread Starter
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I wonder if the difference in appearance between your PTU and mine is a matter of the 2 years in age difference, and also the road conditions in our respective areas. We have nasty winters up here in Massachusetts where they dump tons of salt and other synthetic garbage on the roads to make them driveable.

I still never got around to doing a drill and tap. There is a great photo that I need to look up that shows the exact measurements, as verified by an engineer, of the exact location where you drill it. I will update with that.

Allen_ms, did you have any luck contacting the previous owner?

Part-time tinkerer. Always looking for more knowledge.
Garage:
11 Ford Taurus Limited AWD - sold at 67k for a profit
11 Hyundai Sonata GLS - wife's
07 Mercury Milan Premier - sold to dad around 166k
01 Ford CVPI - owned for 5 months, sold still running
04 Hyundai Santa Fe - "Rusty" my new beater for a while
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post #4 of 6 (permalink) Old 05-01-2019, 04:33 PM Thread Starter
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Update: I sold my Taurus to Gale Toyota and they paid off my loan. I’m not going to keep up with this AWD issue.

Anyone hoping to take a similar route, visit Kelly Blue Book’s website and see if your Taurus qualifies for an Instant Cash Offer (ICO) at a local dealer who will pay you what you’re hoping for.

It’s a good program I think, based on what I’ve read on Reddit and from my own personal experience with it. Straightforward, no nonsense, as long as you enter the information correctly. It took me about 15 minutes to have them walk around the car, another 20 to draw up and sign all the paperwork, and they had an Uber to take me home show up in another 20 minutes (the driver was kind of fried, not their fault). Took an hour out of my day to dump a potentially expensive issue and probably never buy another Taurus.

Sorry if I come off as a hater. I’m not interesting in a $1500 water pump replacement or a $1800 PTU replacement. Contact me directly if anyone has any questions or needs help with the things I’ve posted about.
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Part-time tinkerer. Always looking for more knowledge.
Garage:
11 Ford Taurus Limited AWD - sold at 67k for a profit
11 Hyundai Sonata GLS - wife's
07 Mercury Milan Premier - sold to dad around 166k
01 Ford CVPI - owned for 5 months, sold still running
04 Hyundai Santa Fe - "Rusty" my new beater for a while
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post #5 of 6 (permalink) Old 05-06-2019, 12:02 PM
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This might be a better question for a completely separate thread, but did you find a flushing fluid you could use rather than just putting in the 75-140?
I didn't know if adding something like ATF or something thinner would help break down the existing fluid better?
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post #6 of 6 (permalink) Old 05-30-2019, 07:39 PM Thread Starter
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That is an interesting take on the issue. I hadn't considered that, and have not seen anybody suggest doing this either.

I've seen endless drill and tap suggestions. Buck Newby actually has a drill and tap on a Ford Edge on YouTube that he shows the process.

Other than that, most people seem to lean towards using a Mityvac to drain and fill with multiple drain and fills.

Do you own a Taurus with AWD or similar AWD Ford product? I'd really like to see someone try that out for the sole purpose of creating an easier liquid to drain and fill, with moderate risk I would assume.

Part-time tinkerer. Always looking for more knowledge.
Garage:
11 Ford Taurus Limited AWD - sold at 67k for a profit
11 Hyundai Sonata GLS - wife's
07 Mercury Milan Premier - sold to dad around 166k
01 Ford CVPI - owned for 5 months, sold still running
04 Hyundai Santa Fe - "Rusty" my new beater for a while
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