4R44E, No forward gears - Ranger-Forums - The Ultimate Ford Ranger Resource


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Old 09-29-2011
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4R44E, No forward gears

Hi all,

Huge problem as my primary vehicle isn't moving. I'm pretty handy with the tools, and I'm a quick study, so any advice will be helpful. I'm hoping there might be something in what I describe that will help somebody identify the primary (possible) causes of what's described below. Here are the basics:

1996 XLT
191,000 miles
2.3L 2WD
4R44E Tranny
...2-3 flare for the last 3-4 months
...harsh in reverse (slow, jerky engagement, some shudders, undulating RPMs, runs fine "at speed")
...all other gears operate(d) as expected, including OD

About 2 weeks ago I started to notice some differences in my tranny.
...Very very sporadically, 1st wouldn't engage immediately from an idle stop
...noticed a small drip-leak from the tail housing near/at the driveshaft
...2-3 flare seemed to be "slippery" compared to before (seemed to want to flare more easily)

Today I was driving down the road, and before it was at WOT, I noticed it wanted to flare a little earlier than usual, and seemed to want to flare again (slip?) after it had shifted, but aside from that, it handled a fairly aggressive acceleration as I got up to speed. About 5 minutes later, without any additional symptoms, and without notice, it instantaneously lost all forward gears shortly after I shifted into 3rd or possibly 4th gear. So far as I can tell, no amount of time or RPMs will cause any forward gear to engage, nor does manually selection of gears. Also, there was no occurence of limp mode or the OD light flashing. No physical signs of damage underneath, fluid level is fine (slightly over-filled actually), color is clear and red. Reverse operates exactly as it did previously.

Again, any suggestions would be greatly appreciated as this is going to quickly cramp my days.

Thanks.

Dave

Day 2 Update: I started my truck this morning, and immediately put it into drive. Initially it started inching forward, but stopped after about 6", and didn't move thereafter in D, 2, or 1. I turned off the OD as was suggested below, but it affected no change. The tranny seems to be holding the truck in place (i.e. it's on a slight slope, and it won't coast backwards), but it won't move it forward. Hope this proves somewhat helpful.

Last edited by fletcher969; 09-29-2011 at 10:15 AM.
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  #2  
Old 09-29-2011
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Quote:
If line rise is poor because of a dirty EPC solenoid or leakage within
that circuit, then feed to the TCC regulator valve will be poor.
(The solenoid can be replaced with 56842B-01.) The EPC circuit
wears and leaks at multiple locations, but it also has an EPC and
engagement control valve that sticks (and can be replaced with
(37947-11K). This valve acts somewhat like a boost valve. As
EPC solenoid output increases, the valve opens to line pressure,
further boosting EPC.
From the same circuit the complaint can be delayed reverse, flare
1-2 or 2-3, and harsh shifts following a forced downshift. The
harsh shifts occur because the EPC “booster” valve gets stuck at
maximum flow. EPC circuit problems
also cause broken bands and servo
piston seal blowout.
http://www.sonnax.com/system/pdfs/11...pdf?1289926275

If your EPC solenoid went bad it could have broken the the band. I doubt that would cause a code.

At 191k your looking at a rebuild or replacement.
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Old 09-29-2011
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If od is off does it drive
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Old 09-29-2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Blhde View Post
http://www.sonnax.com/system/pdfs/11...pdf?1289926275

If your EPC solenoid went bad it could have broken the the band. I doubt that would cause a code.

At 191k your looking at a rebuild or replacement.
Thanks for explaining that. If there is a rebuild in my future, I'll likely pull the thing myself, and learn how to do that the way I've learned so many other things...hands on with a manual by my side. Ultimately though, I'm hoping to avoid that, so...

Once I drop the pan, is there any way to determine if my EPC solenoid and/or circuit is bad? I do know I have the "green" EPC. Also, is there any relatively quick and dirty way to determine if the band is broken once the pan is off?

Thanks.
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Old 09-29-2011
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If od is off does it drive
I actually thought about that last night, but everybody was in bed, and I was getting tired myself. Now that you've asked, I'll definitely give that a try, and let you know what the results are, if any.

Thanks.
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Old 09-29-2011
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because i just dropped mine off for the same symptoms and i had to use OD off to get here and there.
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Old 09-29-2011
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Originally Posted by 04RangerDave View Post
because i just dropped mine off for the same symptoms and i had to use OD off to get here and there.
I finally had a chance to try the OD off, but before I did that, I put it in drive, 100% cold, and it "inched" forward about 6 inches, then stopped moving (I'm going to put this in my OP so others can see this "symptom" initially). Subsequent attempts indicate it's holding itself in place, but won't move forward...some pulling, but not enough to move. I turned OD off afterwards, but it affected no change. Thanks for the suggestion though. I'm looking for anything to work with at this point.
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Old 09-29-2011
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Not sure if this will cure your problem but may be worth a shot.

https://www.ranger-forums.com/showth...ighlight=flare
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Old 09-29-2011
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Alright...for the sake of completeness, I'm going to provide a quick historical rundown of my truck just in case there is some perspective lurking therein. Skip this if you've already read enough. :)

1 year ago: Cooler/radiator breach 1 year ago. Bypassed the stock cooler with an external, and flushed the tranny. No additional problems specific to that episode.

5 months ago: Timing belt broke. Installed new belt, but had a slight (split-second) off-idle hesitation thereafter, and since. Belt was properly installed, and all "marks" were properly aligned.

4 months ago: Over the course of a week or so, my tranny started hard shifting into 2nd and 3rd, and reverse, and it slipped between 1-2, and 2-3, eventually worsening until it continually kicked out of 3rd, and would sometimes go into limp mode. There was a whining noise also. OBD pulled a P0761 (Solenoid C stuck off) and P1701 (Reverse engagement error). Dropped the pan, discovered my EPC was loose (rotated +-10 degrees, tightened), and checked my wiring harness and cleaned my C-solenoid. Cleared the codes, and they never returned. Flushed it twice, and it ran fine except for a 2-3 flare, and a delayed but otherwise soft shift into reverse.

1 month ago: Started noticing that reverse was taking slightly longer to engage (4-5 seconds versus 1-2 seconds), was a bit more hard, and on a rare occasion shuddered for a few seconds, but otherwise ran fine once my speed was up. Continued without change until my tranny failed.

2 weeks ago: Engine started running rough (wanted to die after putting it in gear, stumbled, and loped), and my hesitation went from slight to a stumble. Replaced the MAF and cleaned the IAC, and the engine ran perfectly until immediately before I replaced the fuel filter the following day, whereupon the hestiation returned, and I had sporadic and slight stumling and loping until WOT was reached, though there were a few occasions where it stumbled after WOT was reached. That continued as I didn't have time to address the issue due to work.

1 week ago: Replaced the thermostat to get rid of an ongoing P0125 code. It was also around this time (within a day or two that I noticed my tranny was beginning to act up slightly worse ("seemed" to flare a little earlier), and seemed "softer" but nothing alarming.

1 day ago: Tranny lost all forward gears instantaneously, and without any immediately preceding indications whatsoever while operating at around 40 MPH.
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Old 09-29-2011
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So use 1 and 2 to move then turn OD off and shift into drive does it flare or pull you down the road?
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Old 09-29-2011
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Originally Posted by 04RangerDave View Post
So use 1 and 2 to move then turn OD off and shift into drive does it flare or pull you down the road?
Perhaps I wrote something wrong, but I don't have ANY forward gears (i.e. D, 2, 1), irrespective of the OD setting. I did manage to inch forward 6" this morning when I first started it up, but then the it stopped moving forward, and wouldn't thereafter; however, it didn't also roll backwards on the slope as it would if it were free wheeling...
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Old 09-29-2011
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Is this the same model trans that many have reported a problem with the valve body gasket?
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Old 09-29-2011
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5R55E has the VB ISSUES
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Old 09-29-2011
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Originally Posted by OTRtech View Post
Is this the same model trans that many have reported a problem with the valve body gasket?
I've been told there are some issue regarding the 4r/5r having valve body issues, and honestly, I'm hoping that's where I ultimately find the problem to be. The 5r issue I read about earlier dealt with a 2-3 flare, and something to do with the backplate or something like that...
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Old 09-30-2011
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The separator plate gasket can fail causing delayed engagement, among other issues. A service bulletin exists with an updated plate. Also the brackets that hold the servos is known to crack allowing them to fall out of the bores.

At 191k with oem shifting your clutches have to about worn out. Just trying to be realistic in saying that you need a rebuild or a used trans until you can rebuild it.

The manual is about 35 bucks and at the bottom of this page. http://www.bulkpart.com/Merchant2/me...ory_Code=4R44E

It is nearly the same as the ford version if you have that.
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Old 09-30-2011
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Again, I'm a tranny layman, but my thinking coming into this was that my clutches were fine...or at least not my primary worry (yes, I worried what I might be doing to them when I had the slipping episode some months back), but none of them have given me any signs before or since that they're worn or wearing out. At any given time, I could gun the throttle, and always expect my tranny to grab and respond with no slippage whatsoever...except that I have had that 2-3 flare (but my understanding of it is it's not a clutch related issue at all).

The other part of this equation in my head is this...do clutches just suddenly quit if they're wearing or worn out? I mean my tranny worked perfectly one second, then not at all the next? I'd just gunned my truck slightly not 5 miles prior to the tranny failing, and it grabbed like it always had before. An instantaneous failure seems like something just gave out all of a sudden versus something wearing out over a period of time.

I know I seem contentious, but I'm just trying to be doubly sure in dispelling my own logic in this process, because what's being proposed leaves me without a vehicle as I cannot afford to replace the tranny or the truck at this juncture, and rebuilding a clutch or replacing bands might be a task that's beyond my limited shop resources and tools. I can handle whatever might be necessary up to and including the valve body, but anything which requires it be dropped is too much for me at this point.
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Old 10-01-2011
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Alright...finally got enough time to drop the pan a little while ago. Here's what I observed:

1) There were small specks roughly the size of course pepper on the bottom of the pan though sporadically populated versus absolute coverage, and which had also collected in a couple of spots. Most of what I sampled felt like sand or grit between my fingers, but almost every bit I sampled in my mouth (used my teeth to "feel" them) proved to be a rubbery material...or at least it was pliable or crumbled between my teeth. Most definitely reminds me of a gasket-like material, or something very similar. I did NOT find this in my pan 2000 miles ago when I dropped the pan and serviced my tranny. I did find 4 or 5 course-pepper-sized metal pieces...slightly more than I found during the previous pan drop.

2) There was a very thin blackish "sludge" (for lack of a better term) on the bottom of the pan, but neither it nor my fluid have a burnt smell. Perhaps it's related to the blackish gasket-like material observed above.

3) My fluid is reddish in color, but it has an automotive metal flake paint look to it (there is a baby-powder-sized material floating around in it)...something I observed during the last pan drop. I also found this "baby powder" (obviously metal) material stuck to my magnet just as I did during the last pan drop.

So...I'm grasping at what little hope I can for a relatively easy and less costly fix versus something that requires a total rebuild, which I don't have the financial or garage resources to pull off very easily, if at all. Question though...any chance the gasket-like material can be related to the type of failure that could cause a sudden/instantaneous failure of all forward gears, leaving only reverse operable, and if so...where might that be if not otherwise obvious when I pull the valve body tomorrow?

Thanks.

Last edited by fletcher969; 10-01-2011 at 07:21 PM.
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Old 10-01-2011
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well the black specs might be remnants of the clutches...
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Old 10-01-2011
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well the black specs might be remnants of the clutches...
Interesting. I would not have thought clutch material would be rubbery or soft. Well...my hopes are waning slightly again. I was hoping it was gasket related...still am for that matter! :)
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Old 10-02-2011
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Here's what I found when I dropped the valve body today:

1) The "top" gasket on the top side of the backplate (the one attached to the main housing) was blown out where "Top Side" is indicated in the attached image (the boomerang shape approximates its shape, size, and location) . Looking at the actual gasket, it is obvious there are at least 2 channels that have unintentionally "merged" as a result of this breach, and possibly a third channel. Most definitely, the stirrup-shaped port merges with the smaller round port at which it's pointing (i.e. fluid would easily flow from one to the other).

2) The lower gasket below the backplate (the one attached to the valve body) appeared to be be breached (not totally sure) where "Bottom Side" is indicated in the image, which would flow back to the pan. I only say it "appeared" to be breached, because everywhere else the gasket had a consistent coloring, but here it had a distinct darkness to it (I noticed it quite easily), as if fluids had been flowing or "leaking" past it.

Note: Only one gasket is depicted in the attached image, but the "top" and "bottom" indications are on two different gaskets (i.e. top and bottom gaskets...pretty obvious, but hey). My camera isn't available to take pictures of the actual gaskets, so I borrowed an image from online.

Anyway, I suppose the material I found in the bottom of the pan might approximate the amount of valve body gasket material I saw missing (there wasn't a lot, really), but who knows? At this point I'm about to junk my truck if this is a dead end, but I can't do so without at least asking if there is any possibility if the gasket breaches indicated could result in a loss of my forward gears only, or at all, or in combination with something else valve body related? I'm pretty sure what the answer will be, but "nothing ventured, nothing gained," and I just have to ask before I write this truck off. Still hoping I can fix this thing with a rebuilt valve body...

Thanks.
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4R44E, No forward gears-vb-gaskets.jpg  
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Old 10-02-2011
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Interesting, but on another forum, I was reading about another's tranny problems, and somebody asked him if his ABS light was on. I wouldn't have thought that would have any correlation whatsoever to a tranny issue, but perhaps it's worth mentioning, because my ABS light came on about the same time I started to notice a slight change in my tranny's behavior. Is there something significant in that? It's worth noting that I scanned for DTCs using a Actron CP9580L, and it didn't detect any ABS codes when I read for them.
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Old 10-04-2011
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The abs light relates to VSS, yours in the trans. In later years it was deleted and shared with the abs sender.

The sludge in the pan is clutch material, the metal flakes can be either from the gears wearing or from the steels that provide friction between clutches.
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Old 10-06-2011
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Originally Posted by Blhde View Post
The abs light relates to VSS, yours in the trans. In later years it was deleted and shared with the abs sender.

The sludge in the pan is clutch material, the metal flakes can be either from the gears wearing or from the steels that provide friction between clutches.
Ok...I was just curious what the connection was. The clutch....yeah, I've pretty much accepted there were no magical straws to pull out of my a$$ on this one, and while it took me awhile, I've come to accept what everybody's saying...it's the forward clutch...or at least something internal that requires a rebuild. I've decided to get rid of the truck. I simply don't have the shop environment to fix it myself. Thanks for your input.
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Old 10-06-2011
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I have a 97 2.3 auto as well. It has no power, and pukes trans fluid once you shut it down.

I am doing the same. I was hoping to address the power issue, but I am just sick of it taking up space.
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Old 10-06-2011
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I have a 97 2.3 auto as well. It has no power, and pukes trans fluid once you shut it down.

I am doing the same. I was hoping to address the power issue, but I am just sick of it taking up space.
Well, I'm going back to manuals, and that's what I'm restricting myself to in my search for a replacement Ranger. I'm done with automatics. Never thought they belonged in trucks anyway, and I hate the idea of not being able to get a push start when a starter goes out...and everybody knows they will at some point. :) Besides, I can read a manual better when it's feeling a little under the weather. I'd rebuild this one and sell it regardless if I had a shop, but I don't, so I'll sell this one cheap, and let somebody else rebuild the tranny.

Good luck on your end.
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