Drivetrain Tech General discussion of drivetrain for the Ford Ranger.

The infamous P0733 code...but only when cold

Old 12-18-2005
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Join Date: Dec 2005
Location: Sioux Falls, SD
Posts: 3
The infamous P0733 code...but only when cold

I have been plagued with the harsh/delayed shift problem from 2nd to 3rd gear in my Ranger for about 3 years now. I've found countless Ranger/Explorer/F-150 owners on various message boards with the same or similar symptoms. Mine seems to have a interesting pattern, and hopefully someone who knows more can give me a guess as to what it means.

I have a 2001 Ford Ranger XLT 4x4 with the off road package, its a 3.0 L V6, with the 5R44E (or maybe the 5R55E - I have to check) transmission. I only have 25,000 miles on it (I don't drive that many miles). In late 2002/early 2003 (that winter) the problems started. I only have the problems when its cold (I have lived in Minnesota and South Dakota with cold winters in recent years). I only have the problem during the winter, particularly on cold days (below freezing). The problem only occurs when I first start driving on a cold morning after the truck has been in the garage all night or after I've had it parked outside somewhere for a while in the cold. If the truck is warmed up (very warmed up) or I've been driving a while the problem has never happened.

What I experience - I back out of my driveway and make the first attempted acceleration. If the problem happens, I can feel it once I get to about 25-30 mph. It just feels like it can't go any faster and I'm accelerating the engine in neutral. If I back off and then try again it might get past 30, or it might not. If I don't back off or the backing off and retrying doesn't work, it revs up to about 35 and clunks in with some violence to 3rd gear (sometimes it doesn't even clunk to bad, it just shifts really late and I see the tach jump around a bit). In these situations, I get the O/D off light on and flashing for the rest of the trip. Turning the truck off and restarting always clears the light, it doesn't come back until I have another episode. The code stored is always P0733 (invalid 3rd gear ratio). So, the symptom is a lot like with others, but again, only on cold days when the truck isn't warmed up yet.
Hopefully that might be a clue to someone.

What I've had done (I've had some things done already to try to fix this)...I have a relative who is an auto mechanic so I know I wasn't getting hosed and I was able to watch it being done.

First thing he did was address the TSB on this issue. The TSB is this one I believe:
A/T - Slipping Shifts/Delayed Engagements/DTC's Set
Article No.

When he dropped the pan, he removed the valve body and the valve body gasket did have a big tear in it forming. He replaced the valve body gasket with a new one (the modified one) and put in the new parts, put in this new screen thing, removed a few deleted parts, and followed the Ford tech bulletin. So, he put in this new separator plate, and put in the new parts on the main assembly and removed the DELETED stuff per the TSB.

He has a Ranger much like mine in fact so he had done this whole deal before and was very familiar with the tech bulletin. So, the TSB has been addressed, the new valve body repair kit is in there, he replaced the tranny filter while he was there, we replaced all the fluids (with the exception of whats in the torque converter, etc). The solenoids were in place, none were coming out, and that bracket thing that has been mentioned wasn't broken or anything. No metal chips, fluid looked really good, all was fine except that blowing valve body gasket, which we luckily caught kinda early.

So we've addressed the TSB and all looks well in there.
When we addressed this it was getting warmer and therefore it was hard to know for sure if it would do it but with the tearing gasket and new kit we were hoping that would do it. Alas, its now cold again and I've got the same problem again. He had mentioned that maybe we'd have to look into a solenoid issue or some other issue, but we'd wait and see if it reoccured.

Note that I was also having issues where the tranny was really acting funny and I was shifting at really odd points, I was clunking and having some odd behavior, and after that new kit and valve body gasket replaced that all went away. Except for this O/D off light blinking after a delayed 3rd gear shift in the cold its acting fine.

I have seen different things that could be tried that we haven't including:
1. New solenoid
2. Have Ford dealership reflash PCM with a newer software revision.
3. Possibly bad torque converter, replace?
4. The extreme measure - rebuild or replace tranny

My questions:
1. Does the fact that it only occurs in cold weather when I first get going give you any hints - does a solenoid possibly act up only when its cold or something? When its warm it drives wonderfully, no issues.
2. If I just let it warm up for quite a while before driving it a while and that avoids the problem, should I worry? On the one hand, I can avoid the problem it seems by doing this, but that really doesn't address it. I'd hate to think that I'd avoid the issue and then it catastrophically fails later (whatever "it" is) and I'm really hosed.
3. When the O/D off light starts blinking, I understand the truck has stored a code and has entered "limp" mode defeating O/D mode and driving without the extra gear. What if I just turn O/D off on the gear shift with the button each time, can I avoid this whole issue that way too, and just drive like I have 4 gears? That might be again avoiding the problem and not addressing the real problem.

I'm kind of afraid I (along with many others) got unlucky enough to be the guinea pig on this new transmission and I'm paying for it. I have various issues on occasion with getting 4x4 to disengage after engaging it with the on-dash button, but thats another issue, but it just adds to my suspicion and leeriness of this transmission.

Ideas on my questions, what cold weather/cold tranny has to do with it, and if this might be serious? I appreciate any advice.

Last edited by GregN31; 12-18-2005 at 03:47 PM.
Old 12-18-2005
04edge's Avatar
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Beecher,IL
Posts: 512
mine does the exact same thing but never started blinking OD off today. unfortunately i have had 2 rebuilds done and the problems always comes back when it gets cold out.
Old 12-18-2005
NicksterSVT's Avatar
Join Date: Apr 2005
Location: NC
Posts: 1,955
I fixed mine (the second time) with an upgraded valve body and a trans-go shift kit... I had problems with the first valve body i replaced, so i got another one and a shift kit, installed larger servos and servo housings, and fixed all my problems...
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