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98 Ford Explorer 5r55e Trans problems

OK everyone, I have a 98 ford Exploder (sorry, Freudian slip) that has some serious trans problems. It all started a while back when I was pulling a small 10 foot trailer and when I go to where I was going the trans puked out what looked like all of its internal fluids. It was a hot day, and these problems seem to be exacerbated by the heat but who knows. Yes the check engine light is on. I also have the occasional O/D OFF light blinking at me. As of late the vehicle has started to act like it has a stall converter on it. I have to rev to nearly 3k RPM before it will engage. I changed the fluid and filter about 2 months ago and the fluid is already grey and nasty. The vehicle has also started going FORWARD in ALL gears, Reverse, Neutral, etc. all are forward gears now. The trans occasionally overheats and pukes out a large amount of fluid but I cannot tell where it is coming from. At road speed (55 MPH) the engine surges when it is at a constant 2500 RPM. I know my outlook is grim but if I just need a new torque converter I would like to know before I go the the Salvage yard for a different transmission. BTW. The engine WAS replaced around 12,000 miles ago with a donor engine from a flipped vehicle. Thanks for any help!!!

The converter is the least of your worries and odds are the transmission is on the way out based on the useage, CEL illuminated, performance issues, and the rotten fluid.
It could be grey and nasty due to engine coolant from a leaking trans fluid cooler or due to heavy contamination from aluminum; or both.

The fluid is probably puking out of a vent and a slipping transmission can overheat the fluid and cause this problem.
At some point (not known to me for sure) there’s a special adapter plate needed to align the torque converter on these transmissions but I cannot remember if a 98 fell into that category or not. If the converter is removed or dislodged (during the engine swap?) and the adapter is not used the front pump seal may leak.

I’d get an independent transmission shop (NOT MAACO, Cottman’s, etc) and have them scan it and take a l

If you plan on keeping this vehicle, I’d start looking for a salvage yard transmission. Is the one from the ‘flipped’ vehicle available? It sounds like your current transmission has severe damage and probably isn’t going to improve. You might check your trans cooler and make sure it’s working properly, and if you do replace the transmission, consider adding an aftermarket cooler. These are cheap and do a much better job of cooling, especially if you tow with it.

Lets start from the beginning. You were towing a trailer on a hot day and the trans started venting fluid. The fluid is grey and nasty, thats most likely why the fluid is overheating and venting. It could be contaminated by engine coolant. You have a check engine light on and a flashing O/D light, has a scanner been put on it to determine why the lights are on and flashing?? What are the codes being set?? The vehicle is going forward in all gears. That is an indication that severe overheating has caused the forward clutch pack to weld itself together. Your transmission is totally destroyed. Dont bother trying to just replace the converter, that would be a waste of your time. Before replacing it, you really need to know why it went and fix that problem so your next transmission doesnt meet the same fate. Look into the cooler and also install an external cooler for extra protection.


You can beat the hell out of most any automatic at road speed and the effect on the trans is negligible…it shouldn’t really heat much. Where things heat up are when the output shaft isn’t turning at all and there is some kW (HP or whatever) being applied to the input. Idle won’t do this but once you give it some gas, it takes very little time for the converter to get hot unless the vehicle is moving. Towing a heavy boat isn’t an issue at road speed…it makes no difference insofar as heat. I used to rebuild 3 or so E4OD’s each snowstorm we had…I got very good at it…I could get the trans and Xfer case out in < 15 minutes on a creeper from a F350 4x4…before the snow really started to melt of in earnest…hated that. Plowing is what caused the trouble. If you take a cold trans at say 20F and apply 1/2 throttle of say a 7.3 PS…within 3 minutes the torque converter heats to destruction (~300F). If you consider the physics, say 100 HP being disipated (dumped) at the converter is the equivalent of ~75,000 Watts. Or 750 100 watt bulbs. Now that’s more heat rejection than largest of coolers could contend with. Once one knows what’s going on (e.g. via a temperature guage on the outlet of the converter flow (exit cooling line))). one can make decisions such as stop plowing for a few seconds or the like. BTW, guages that read the oil pan oil temperature are so far removed from what’s important that if you ever read 300F there, your transmission would have been wrecked long ago.