CarTalk.com Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

A curiosity about my transmission

Hey there, I have a 1991 DODGE Dakota V6 3.9L FI with a TorqueFlite TF-6 A-500 4 speed RWD Automatic Transmission. Now, this truck is amazing and so is this transmission. It’s been going for 22 years and about 400,000 miles and the bands in the tranny have never been replaced…EVER. The fluid filter has been replaced, once. Anyway…it’s amazing, I mean the thing is still going strong after all this time and such low maintenance.

Anyway, I noticed a slight lack of acceleration, so as usual for an old automatic, I figured the bands might be slipping a bit. So I dug up the torque specs for it and performed the adjustments. Now, this is the funny part and I was not at all surprised to discover this. In fact, I’d had the hunch the entire time. I discovered that the bands are so old that they no longer respond properly to the recommended torque specs, so I had to guess work them. I did a bit of careful fiddling as I know just about everything there is to know about automatics and I understand perfectly the damage that can be caused when under/overtightening bands.

Anyway, I did some fiddling and got some interesting results that actually made me laugh to be honest, but I knew at first I wasn’t quite doing it right. First gear was all right, but second kicked in a little late, and I felt a slip when third came around. So, I decided it was time for a moment of truth. What I ultimately ended up doing was tightening the bands to the recommended torque (in this case 72 inch lbs) and then slowly backing them off until I felt them let go, Then I put the proper torque on the locknuts (in this case 30 ft lbs).

Now, this tranny has two bands and a clutch pack, it has the low-reverse (rear) band, and the Kickdown(forward) band, and I believe the clutch pack is used to engage 3rd gear, because the rear band gives you 1st and rev, and the kickdown band gives you 2nd. After my ultimate adjustments, the kickdown band DID drag just a little for about a minute, but she quickly worked herself into a state where she’s shifting better and accelerating better than she ever has before.

I’m amazed by this thing, but anyhow, I do have a question. Not sure if anyone knows these old trannys here, but this is the one thing I was unable to figure out myself. I’m wondering if the kickdown band lets off when you hit 3rd gear? Does anyone know? I know that when I feel the first kick, it’s the KD band grabbing the front drum, which gives me second, but I’m wondering if it pulls simultaneously as third gear kicks in, or whether it stays tight against the drum?

Could you edit your message and this time include paragraphs? It is rather difficult to read that large monolith of text without using paragraphs and commas.

You don’t need to be an english expert, or produce a work of literary art, but a little effort on your part would likely result in more answers to your car questions.

I’ve never had a problem typing like that before. I think “a little effort on my part” is an understatement as I went THROUGH the effort to PUT COMMAS, APOSTROPHES and whatever else was necessary in there. Please, don’t bother responding. I’ve got better things to put up with and I can accept that you’re not the person to answer my question. It was merely a curiosity as there are no problems with my tranny at the current time.

i was expecting a little more positivity to be honest. All I can say is, if it’s too much for yer brain, don’t waste yer time straining yerself over it…

And, I’m no English expert, you made that clear right before calling me one, which doesn’t make a lot of sense. But hey, I don’t mind, I don’t always make sense

Very few automatic transmissions reach the 400K mile mark without being rebuilt. Even fewer Dodge trucks reach that milestone period…Most DIY mechanics would use a service manual to make adjustments on their transmissions…But you seem to be having a lot of fun with yours so why stop now??

Hmm…well I don’t want to screw it up, and I have no job and no real money at the moment, but I love your enthusiasm about it, you have got good spirit. I’d like to rebuild it, but as i said, she’s doing grand, she’s got no problems to speak of.

I mean the band adjustments are done, no need to screw with it more. Hmm…if you wanna see it, I did forget to upload my vehicle pic. I’d have to go outside and take a pic of it with my phone. I’ll do it shortly.

Anyway, though, I did dig up a complete tear down manual for the transmission, and whenever she does make it clear that she won’t go any further without service, I’m gonna rebuild that baby! :slight_smile:

I was actually surprised that I succeeded with the band adjustments. I mean, you’re not supposed to do it that way, but when your bands are that old…ya gotta use your instincts, aim as accurately as you can, and hope for the best. As I said, I did get a little drag off the KD band at first after my final adjustment, so obviously it wasn’t perfect. But this thing is like the undying transmission, it don’t wanna give up. The Dakota has carried me and my father around since I was a little boy. It’s always been around, life wouldn’t be right without that thing. It has never given up on me, so I ain’t giving up on it!

and to think, the a-500 transmission is known for the whine that it has when it accelerates, i remember hearing that beautiful sound every morning when my dad took me to school in that truck, and that whine hasn’t changed a bit, that tranny still sounds the same as it did 22 years ago…i’m astonished by this truck, it looks like a junker but i’m happy to have ended up with it

@Talon ; Torqueflite transmissions on rear drive Chrysler products are well made. I’m not surprised they still run well at 400,000 miles. Many taxis with this transmission reached close to 900,000 miles with only minor repairs.

They are also cheap and easy to rebuild. A local shop here will do the job for $800 or so and you’re set for another 200,000 miles. I would go to a good independent shop and have them do a thorough job for a carefree future.

With respect to paragraphing and punctuation, I can read 5 languages, but run-on paragraphs, even in English, are tedious.

Well, you said it with respect, so there’s no problem. Anyhow, I prefer to do my own work. I always have. I’ll rebuild it myself when the time comes. I can’t afford to have someone else accidentally screw it up and then try to claim that their work had nothing to do with it. That truck is my caretaker, and I am its caretaker.

I am actually pretty irritated to hear nothing but, “you should have a mechanic do it”. I can’t afford that kind of service anyhow. I’m not rich. I’m not even middle class, hence the fact that I don’t drive a beemer like everyone else around here. I’m a good mechanic and I can do it myself. There is no reason to spend unnecessary money. If more people had this kind of will power they’d save more I’m thinkin. As for run on sentences, I apologize, but I don’t write or type often. I’ve long since forgotten how to properly segment a block of text, or…stopped caring, whichever. I guess it’s a facebook thing, everybody I know does it. Please…if ya don’t like it, don’t read it.

The way the torqueflite shifts from second to high is that the oil pressure that pushes the clutch piston to engage the high clutch is also fed to the front side of the kickdown servo. As a result as the high clutch engages the kickdown band releases. The reverse happens on forced kickdown. The high clutch pressure is released which allows the kickdown band to grab and stop its drum stopping the common sun giving second ratio.

Pretty neat transmission in all its forms.

I rebuilt my trans last year–it runs beautifully, with that characteristic whine! Totally understand trying to save money–if it is running well, go for it. Now–my Dakota (1992) chirps as though there is an entrapped cardinal buried in the motor–but it has done this for many years running, without causing trouble. No one can seem to find a cause…

'Course my truck LOOKS like hell–but it certainly is reliable. :-))

Impressed! Never messed with transmissions.

the chirping noise could be a piston bearing, keep that in mind, or it could be a rocker arm bearing, either one they both work together in the same part of the engine so…yeah, but it sounds like yer truck is alright, it should be fine for a time to come

Oh and Researcher, thank you for the words on the torqueflite transmission, this explains the behavioral results i’ve seen from the transmission during band adjustments, if the kickdown band is too tight, it won’t let go and thus, you don’t get high gear and you’re stuck in second, if it’s too loose, it will let go BEFORE fluid pressure is great enough to engage high gear and it will slip when going to third, if it’s loose enough it won’t go into third at all