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2003 f150 new used purchase. Maintenance Questions

Just bought a 2003 f150 4.2 v6 auto single cab 8 foot bed with 115k.

The trans fluid seems brownish red, but doesnt really have any kind of obvious burnt smell. Truck has a tow package so Im assuming it towed stuff.
I dont know if it was ever changed.

Should i have it flushed or no? I know theres tons of varying opinions. Runs well and shifts smooth.

My other concern, looking at the coolant in the reservoir today I saw a small bit of rainbow sheen on the surface. Im guessing oil contamination. Again it runs and drives well, should I be concerned? Obviously i’ll drain and add new coolant.

Thanks for any input.

As far as I know, the 97-98 4.2 v6’s were problematic with timing chain cover gaskets and intake gaskets but they apparently fixed that by 99 so Im hoping a 2003 is safe.

Anybody have good experiences with the engine? Thanks again

On the transmission you should just drop the pan and change the filter and that is about it. Do that every 30K miles. You might shorten that interval the first couple of times since you said its brownish (basically old and dirty) and a pan drop only gets about half of it out. So if you do it now and then again in 10K or something you’ll be on mostly fresh fluid. Then go to 30K.

When the pan is done the transmission fluid should be scrutinized for any signs of coolant. If you have a little oily sheen in the coolant, you want to make sure that your radiator isn’t leaking internally allowing the coolant and trans fluid to mix. If coolant gets in the trans fluid, it will kill the transmission fast. Not trying to make you paranoid. It just happens.

Of course the dealer says the exact opposite. They said flush the trans and do not change the filter because thats what causes the problem.

Oil sheen in the coolant he said was just old age and to have that flushed as well.

Now I call a trans shop and they say the opposite. Drop pan and change filter but they dont believe in flushes. Tough call

Draining and refilling a transmission is generally safer than flushing, which can cause problems if not done correctly.

Flushing the transmission is fine IF the pan is dropped and cleaned first along with replacing the filter.

A flush alone is done for one reason; time. The amount billed for the time spent is a huge profit generator and far, far less messy.

" They said flush the trans and do not change the filter because thats what causes the problem"

“They” are nuts. As ok4450 implies, the flush is just a machine hook-up and run procedure and it’s easier and I’m sure they make more from it.

The only way that servicing a transmission pan/filter can be connected to problems is if: A) the problems are already there. It is the case that people frequently ignore the transmission until it starts behaving oddly. Then they service it because it is behaving oddly. Things go south soon after and they blame the service. B) the service isn’t done correctly (e.g. wrong transmission fluid spec, improper filter install).

Yeah thanks for the replies. I called two ford dealers and both suggested a flush over the drop pan and drain. One told me ford does not recommend changing the filter and that the detergent that flushes through cleans the filter. He also said ford doesnt call for a trans flush until 150k or 7 years whichever comes first. He said they do the flushes all the time with no problems.

Im not bashing or doubting either side. I genuinely dont know. But Im going to go ahead and have the dealer do the flush and coolant as well. Id rather have a mechanic who works on these all the time and knows of any quirks.

I will question the service writer again in person tomorrow just to make sure.

You’re being fed a total line of BS by those dealers.

Why do you insist on taking a 12 yo truck that’s way out of warranty to the dealer for maintenance? Many independent shops can do just as good a job, if not better, for much less. And many times quicker. And, IMHO, any shop that recommends a pan drop and filter change over a flush has my instant respect.

BTW, my 10 year old son knows more about cars than most dealer ‘service writers’.

Even corporate Ford Motor Company is full of it.
Some years back I emailed FOMOCO with what I thought were a couple of pretty benign questions.

Does FOMOCO think the transmission pan should be dropped, inspected, and cleaned during a transmission service?

Does FOMOCO consider a transmission flush with no pan drop to be the best service a transmission can receive?

Ford would not touch either one of those questions with a 10 foot pole. Their only response (closely paraphrased) was to “consult with any one of our fine network of Ford dealers who have the latest equipment and trained technicians to keep your Ford in top condition”.

I wouldnt expect any kind of technical advice or answers from anybody doing online customer service. I asked some to Chevy once online and they were oblivious. Ford wasnt avoiding the question, it was likely someone who was trained for usual basic questions like features on new vehicles or something. Im not saying I think this is ok, just that Im not surprised.

That being said, I dont have a go to trusted mechanic where I currently live. I usually do all maintenance and repairs myself, but I simply dont have the time or familiarity with this engine/trans. Just want peace of mind

@Fender1325, it’s your truck so I’m not going to question what you decide to do with it (ok - well, I guess I am - I’m just trying to make sure it does come off wrong).

If you started finding reputable, independent transmission specialty shops and asked them what to do I’m betting not a single one would agree with what you are being told - either about the method, the claims about the methods, or the service intervals. Every knowledgeable transmission tech I have ever talked to has said drop the pan and change the filter every 30K miles. These are guys who take these things apart and fix them everyday. Few dealerships even have actual transmission techs - as in the specialized kind.

This one is really really super-bad: “the detergent that flushes through cleans the filter.” No one who is honest AND knows anything about transmissions would ever say that. It is … insane. The fluid is constantly pumped through the transmissions hoses and passages and what not and back to the pan. The beginning of the “journey” from the pan is through the filter - the pump sucks it up out of the pan THROUGH the filter - you know, cleaning it before it goes running around through all the important bits in the transmission. So if this person says the detergent will “clean” the filter - just where is all of that gunk from the filter going to go? Detergent can’t make it disappear.

Anyway, as I said, it’s your truck so you should decide. But I agree with the others that these characters are full of it.

Cigroller is exactly right about that “detergent” business. Insanity.

A long time friend of mine is a second generation transmission guy. He’s been doing this non-stop for 40 years after starting in his dad’s shop and eventually taking over operations. He’s considered a “go to” guy for automatics.
He would consider what the dealer has told you to be downright laughable.

Good points. After watching how to do a flush and fluid/filter change i’ll definitely have them change the filter and clean the pan out, then do a flush

Would you guys recommend, following the pan drop/clean and filter change, to just have the new fluid pumped through until clean with no detergent? Just a fluid exchange rather

I got into this with a local Ford dealer service manager a few years ago. The service manager stated and quote: “we haven’t dropped a transmission pan here in 15 years”.
My response was that well, you’ve been doing it wrong for 15 years and he had no answer when I asked how any particulates were removed.

The transmission flush machine uses the transmission’s own fluid pump to swap the fluid so this means any particulates in the pan are being sucked up against the filter where they either pass through, lodge in the filter element, or stick there until the engine is shut off.

Some years ago a cousin of mine had an automatic that was shifting erratically. The problem was due to debris in the pan. When running the debris would get sucked up onto the filter and start choking the fluid off. In this case the debris was a few leaves and some dried dog food; which is another story in itself. That’s extreme but it illustrates the point about junk in the pan.

Lol. Yeah.