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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I'm having trouble finding, in my area, an economical, fully synthetic ATF that meets Mercon/Dexron III specs for my 1994 Taurus with an AX4S, with 147,000 miles on it. I want to do a full drain and refill due to some slipping, thunking, etc. problems, and since I'm not the original owner (my deceased Dad was), it seems best to replace all the ATF since I don't know when that was last done--I've owned the car since Aug 2006, putting 13,000 miles on it since then, and I replaced only three or four quarts in Nov 2009 after a gasket leak.

My local stores are Autozone, O'Reilly, and NAPA. None carry what I wanted, Mobil 1, because since spring of 2010, it hasn't been sellable in California due to supposedly not meeting California air standards (though it's ATF), and/or doesn't actually meet Mercon V spec as the label says it does. Or something. That leaves these as the only fully synthetic ATF sold locally:

- a type F, which isn't the right type for 1994 Ford transmissions

- Valvoline Dexron VI

- Eneos ECO-ATF (http://www.eneos.us/product/6), whose label says it's spec'd for Mercon/Dexron III use.

I wasn't able to find any synthetic Mercon V locally.

The Eneos sounds right, but it's $8.99 a quart, and no gallon jugs for a lower price. The Valvoline Dexron VI is about $6 a quart, but I don't know if I can use it in my transmission, especially since the labels on some bottles of Mercon/Dexron III spec'd fluid say they're not for use in transmissions that use Dexron VI, and I'm concerned that the reverse may be true.

Also, the counter guy at NAPA said I should check whether my transmission, with 147,000 miles on it, can even take a full synthetic, since he wondered if a synthetic is so "thin" that it might "squirt past the valves and seals in an older transmission" (something I haven't heard before), or have some negative effect on the composition of the seals, gaskets, etc. However, the specs on the Eneos ECO-ATF say it's OK for any type of ATF seal or gasket material.

So:
- is Dexron VI OK to use in my transmission?
- should I just bite the dollar bullet and buy the Eneos?
- should I forgo the use of a synthetic, and stick with a conventional ATF, due to the number of miles on my transmission, and the type and/or age of the seals it contains?

Any help is appreciated. I've read many of the existing ATF threads here, but I'd like some current thinking on these questions.
 

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John, i would use mercon v (synthetic blend) which is back-specd for your car and tranny. Ford suggests using it in any applications which once required mercon/dexron lll. You can get the supertech mercon v at wallyworld for less than $4/qt.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks, Sheila. My local Walmart's Mercon V is conventional only--not even a blend. I didn't even see an empty spot and price sticker on the shelves for a Mercon V synthetic blend or full synthetic. I don't know why my local Walmart is stocked differently from some others, though maybe here in California, ALL synthetic Mercon V has been "banned", not just Mobil 1??

Because I can't find any synthetic Mercon V here, that leaves just synthetic Mercon/Dexron III, so I bit the bullet and just got back from buying 12 quarts of the Eneos at my local NAPA. I bought all they had, but I need three more quarts, so they'll get more from another local town's NAPA dealer by tomorrow morning (later in the day, I'll be driving the first half of a >200 mile round trip to San Francisco, so I'm cutting it close). The Eneos is the only fully synthetic Mercon/Dexron III I've found so far, and NAPA got it in stock for the first time only ten days ago, so it looks like I lucked out.

I did a preliminary mini-drain and refill earlier today, using two and a half quarts of conventional Mercon/Dexron III I had in the garage, because I needed to drive the car a little before doing the full drain/refill (mostly to go to the store to buy the new fluid), and I didn't want trouble to develop from the slight increase in symptoms I saw yesterday as I was driving around looking for new ATF--a little more slipping, odd noises, and louder thunks shifting from Neutral to Overdrive. Instead of disconnecting at the transmission's return line hose, I disconnected the rubber hose coming from the transmission's outlet, at the point where it connects to the metal line that runs under the driver's side of the radiator and then to the coolers, because someone (maybe my Dad) had already replaced its original hose-to-metal-line crimp with a regular hose clamp, making it easy to disconnect here--for some reason, he didn't do this anywhere along the return line from the coolers, which I understand from the writeups here on the site, is a better location since it lets you purge the coolers too. When I do the full drain, I'll disconnect somewhere along the return line. I may replace the crimp on the return line, before it enters the transmission, with a hose clamp, as pawpaw has described.

When I ran the engine to pump out 2.5 quarts of the old fluid, I was surprised with how much force it came out--I thought it was going to pump out more slowly than it did, so at first I had the drain pan just below the opening of the transmission's output hose, so about a quart overshot the drain pan and wound up on the driveway. I caught the rest in the drain pan. Maybe the flow is stronger right out of the transmission, than it is after it goes through the coolers?

The old fluid is dark, and smells pretty unpleasant--not just the wrong smell compared to new transmission fluid, but actually unpleasant no matter what else you compare it to. I guess this is because the mechanic I asked to change the fluid in Dec 2007, did just a pan drop and emptied the pan, and then poured in only about five quarts of new, conventional Dexron III. At the time, I didn't know this amount might not be sufficient to protect the transmission for long, but he was probably doing it the way he felt was best for an older transmission. But between then and now, I've put only another 9,000 miles on the transmission, and I replaced about three or four quarts of ATF that leaked past the transmission and side cover gaskets in Nov 2009, so it seems that either my transmission is chewing up ATF fast, or the old ATF left in when my former mechanic changed only part of the fluid (much of which is still in there), might have been some really nasty old stuff.

I should also mention that my dipstick/paper towel check of the appearance of the old fluid today, before I changed the 2.5 quarts, made me think the old fluid might still be sort of OK, because it spread out and didn't look entirely dark--there was still some reddishness to it--but this teaches me that the old fluid on the paper towel should have been much redder.

The transmission is working much better with just the 2.5 quarts I replaced today--the thunks when I shift from Neutral to Overdrive are now just faint instead of sounding like someone hit the engine with a sledgehammer, and the thunks when pulling away from a stop are pretty minor now, and the funny sounds and apparent slipping aren't happening now either.

Tomorrow I'll do the full drain and refill, and maybe things will be like buttah after that. But because I have to expedite this, tonight I'll be dropping the pan and inspecting the underside of the transmission and the inside of the pan. I'll finger-tighten the pan back to the transmission overnight to keep things clean, and use another car tomorrow morning to get the other three quarts I'll need.
 

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If you consider your car above "beater" status, you might want to consider Amsoil synthetic ATF. It is pricey, but you have more possibilities for extended intervals.

With a service life of 50,000 miles to 100,000 miles, you might never have to give it a second thought.
 

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I would service it with whatever mercon V I can get and rock on, being fully aware it's a 1994 AX4S, with 147,000 miles on it. "some slipping, thunking, etc. problems" may be the beginning of the end, synthetic won't fix mechanical failure.
I service my Taurus and Windstar with NAPA Mercon V (rumored to be Valvoline?) and my '07 F-150 with Walmart ST mercon V. IMO regular servicing in more important than full synthetic.
It takes me 30 min to do a full fluid exchange and around 1 hour to do it with filter so 30,000 intervals work for me.
Best of luck and I hope it stays on the road for you.
 

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My AX4S lasted 195,000 miles before I let an incompetent mechanic touch it. I should have done the work myself and then I wouldn't have had to rebuild it.
 

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Dexron VI is actually a GM spec fluid. Why not call a dealer and see if they'll sell you a few gallons of Mercon V?

BTW it must suck living in the PRC. :(
 
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