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My 97 Taurus (33K miles, AT, Duratec engine) is at the Ford place right now. I am trying to figure out which direction to go to make sure it is fixed correctly.

A little history...a few weeks ago, the transmission slipped for the first time. There was no leaking but I had to drive in second gear all the way to the local Ford place. They said that the trans. fluid needed changing and they cleaned the filter as well. They commented that no metal shavings were evident so that was a good sign. They also said that I had a crack in my gas cap which also caused the "Check Engine" light to come on (which I guess was a coincidence since it all happened the same day). I even had the cooling system flushed and changed. $320 later, I thought everything was OK, and only drove my car around town for the last month, thinking all is well.

Last Friday, I was heading to Dallas and after driving about a 100 miles, I felt O/D gear slip. I disabled O/D but I noticed that I was losing power in 3rd gear too. I was forced to drive in second gear (manually shifted it to second). Fortunately, I was only 10-12 miles from a Ford place in Waco.

At first, I was told that I lost almost three quarts of fluid and may need a new transmission (approx. $2500). Later, I learned that there was no metal shavings in the pan so it is probably my torque converter (approx. $1000). Today, I received a call and was told that I might just need a new gasket and new fluid but they would pull the convertor out to check it for damage. If it's good, then the cost will only be $750.

Here's my question...should I have the torque converter replaced even if the Ford place thinks its still good? Something is causing the problem of slipping. Just replacing the fluid for the second time in a month (and a gasket for the first time) is not leaving me feeling very confident. I hate to spend $750 now (without the torque converter) and then find out a few weeks later that it should have been replaced and then spend another $1000. Any thoughts from those who may have had a similar situation?

--TexasTaurus (Eddie)
 

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You should first check to see if your transmission is throwing codes. They should be able to pull this off the car. Torque converters can go bad but that is very unlikely, and by standard practice anytime you yank out the transmission you change it for good measure. Now whether or not its the torque converter is bad that is yet to be deteremined. Just because you dont find a bunch of metal shavings in the pan doesn't mean that a problem isn't brewing. I had a few places try to tell me it was the torque coverter was my problem becuase it was failing, and even the diagnostic codes showed that it was slipping, but the real culprit was the pump and shaft behind it.
From my personal expereince is when my tranmission began to die for the second time, it started with a blown seal, which I lost fluid but I had caught it early, maybe loosing a quart. Later when they replaced the seal and the torque coverter I began having problems and hearing noises. I brought it back to the place that repaired it and they told me those noises were fine. Finally about 3 months later my tranmission started to throw codes indicating it was the torque converter that was failing. After the 2nd rebuild by a different place I later discovered it was not the torque converter at all but it was the pump assembly in the tranmission. The appearance of a failing torque converter was caused by the pump assembly.

If I were you with a tranmission with only 33K miles depending on the warranty I would have it checked for codes. If there isn't any it still doesn't mean anything at this time. If they are going to yank the tranmission have them change the torque coverter, its one of the easier things to replace. if they can have them check the pump and shaft if its not too much of a problem and doens't require a complete tear down. Both times that I have had my tranmission rebuilt these parts go to hell real quick if there is any type of problem If any place is somewhat decent try to make some stipulations with the mechanic, like hey if we go this route and it doens't work then what? Make them put it down in writing. Paying for the labor twice when someone misdiagnosis the problem should not be up to the customer to pay for the mechanics trial and error. I know everyone wants to sell you a new transmission, but there needs to be a balance of repair vs selling a new trany any time a little thing goes wrong. Oh yea changing the fluid generally brings a little life/drivability back to the transmission for the interim but only mask the symptoms by replacing burnt fluid with fresh ATF fluid.

hope you have better luck than I did.
Levi
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Levi, thanks for sharing you experience. You validated some of my concerns in your reply.

I talked to the service department this morning and they said they did not order the torque converter because there were no slippage codes showing that it might be bad. However, like you said, its hard to say if the absent of it is telling the whole story. I was disappointed that they didn't order it because my gut was that it would be better to replace it while everything is out. Now, it's too late since they are almost finished with putting it back together. I did tell them that I wish they had talked to me before changing the plan on me. Hopefully, I will not have to experience more problems later due to faulty thinking on their part.

I also learned that they suspect that a sensor module (the service rep didn't know the exact name of the part) could be causing a problem but will not know until they go test drive it later today. If they think it's part of the problem, then it will have to be ordered and I will be into Day 5 of this situation.\

Unfortunately, breaking down on the road is also costing me $239/week for a car rental that has to be returned to the same Ford place. Oh well, I guess I grin and bear it since my car is over a 100 miles from home. Too bad I no longer have warranty (ran out 12 months ago).

Thanks for the suggestions and sharing your situation. This forum has really helped me to gain some insights and has helped me to know how to deal with the Ford service department (with whom I am at their mercy).

I will post another reply once I get my car home in case there are some readers interested in the final result. Shared experience helps us all.

-- Eddie
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Well, here is the latest from the Ford dealership. After pulling the transmission, the feel that the torque converter is still good (no codes) so they replaced the front seal and put it back together. I was actually a little disappointed that they started re-installing the transmission without giving me an option to replace the torque convertor while it was easy to get to (hopefully, leaving the old will not haunt me later).

Here's my question for the day? They did decide that I should replace the MLP sensor (Main Level Position Sensor). They said that it would cost as much to test it as it would to go ahead and replace it (around $75). Does this make sense to anyone reading this? Anyway, the part has been ordered and my car should be ready tomorrow.

Bottom line: $900 is getting me a replaced seal and MLP sensor. I don't feel good about this at all since I am not confident that my problems are over. I guess I have a 100-mile home trip to find out.
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The MLP sensor wouldn't hurt to replace, but for the amount of miles that you have on your car I doubt it. The MLP's main job is to tell the PCM what gear you are in, generally if this goes you wont be able to move up and down in gears correctly.
Unless you had some electrical spike maybe or you got water inside it. Generally if the MLP is going bad people generally notice it when they manually shift into gears and the radio cuts out for a second. Im not sure why exactly but that seems to be the symptom that people describe when it starts to go out.
Mainly in reverse, or going from park to drive. The MLP can cause wierd things to happen mainly when water gets inside it, but also just as important is the VSS (vehicle speed sensor), but I question mainly to the amount of miles on the car, granted the age is there, but the technically your car is in pretty new condition. Like anything, it doesn't hurt to start the process of elimination, but it can add up.
For 75 bucks to start eliminating I guess its not too bad.
Levi
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Thanks for the reply Levi!

A quick update...I received a call today and was told that my car is fixed. The Ford place even test drove it for 90 miles (very surprising to me) and that the torque convertor didn't heat up abnormally. I will pick it up in the morning and make my 120 mile trip home. Hopefully, all is well now. The total cost was also a little cheaper than originally quoted: $625 (which I was relieved since I also had to spend almost $250 for an one-week car rental).

Hopefully, this series will help someone else dealing with similar problems. If something else changes in the near future related to the above problems, I will post it here again.
 
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