Drained Tranny fluid by mistake and drove... error codes and slipping now refilled

ford

#1

04 Explorer
6 cyl
non-dipstick tranny
150k miles

Like the title says. Changed oil, and drained trans pan by mistake. Filled with oil, and it took all of it. Drove for a month before I realized mistake and refilled fluid. In that time, started slipping, now od light, engine light on… half a dozen error codes from failed solenoid to improper setting for shift point 1-2, 5th, etc. Seems to drive fine except that shift point is all screewy from 1-2. Not sure about 5th as I haven’t taken it on highway.

Trying to figure out if tranny is cooked, or if replacing solenoid pack or similar could inexpensively fix.

Question boils down to this: How can I determine if there is physical damage beyond what a relatively simple fix could cure? Also, now that fluid is back, is it damaging further by driving so long as I ease it gently through 1-2 gear shift?

Already took it into trans guy who barely looked at it, and said it needed a new transmission. When I asked him why, he just said because there are error codes. Not putting too much stock in his read, so like to dig deeper. The vehicle is simply not worth the expense of replacing fully transmission.

Also, high oil seems to have caused leaks. What should I be mindfull of right now about any damage from high oil for that month?


#2

This type of mistake often happens to Subaru owners where the drain plugs for the engine and transmission are close together and look the same. And the culprit is usually a quick lube shop employing teenagers.

Your engine oil leaks are due to seals blowing because of the excessive oil. Since you cannot drain all the transmission fuild, you don’t destroy the unit immediately, but month’s driving usually wrecks it. Have a reputable transmission shop give you an opinion; maybe you did not do enough damage to toast it.

Good luck!


#3

Transmission shops don’t want to waste time when you don’t want to spend any money @jacob. If you have the transmission properly filled with the correct fluid with the codes cleared you might drive many more miles before something fails.


#4

You are in need of a transmission specialist to at least run a set of diagnostics. If you don’t like the first transmission mechanic, find one you like better. Ask your regular mechanic who’s the best transmission shop in the area and go there. It is possible the transmission just needs a solenoid or two replaced. But I doubt that is the only damage here; you will probably need a complete rebuild, maybe very soon. If you don’t want to incur any transmission costs at all, even diagnostic costs, use the fluid recommended, keep the fluid clean and properly filled and cross your fingers.

If I had this problem, hmmm … being a frugalite, I’d be tempted to see if I could find a cheap manual transmission from a junkyard, manual transmissions are much more robust and it is likely it will be practically good as new even well used, and install that to replace the automatic.


#5

@GeorgeSanJose, going to a manual transmission is a major fabrication job. It would be cheaper to rebuild the one he’s got.


#6

I’ve never done anything close to a switch like that. But I’m surprised by your comment. There must be something about it I don’t understand. I thought the cars were pretty much the same on the ass’y line up to the time the transmission is installed. Wouldn’t the swap job conceptually at least be to unbolt the old automatic, bolt on the new manual, and bolt in the clutch pedal, clutch hydraulics, gear shift and run the cables?


#7

George - Even I know changing to a manual from automatic difficult and expensive.


#8

It may have been back in the day, but Ford did not offer Explorers in the States with manual shift. The engine options did have manual shift in other models, so parts are available. But the firewall has no provision or holes for the clutch master cylinder and the floor has no hole for the shifter. The 4x4 versions have a dial on the dash for shift-on-the-fly. Also, you’ll need to fit a new, custom driveshaft. By the time fitting and fab work is done, if you can source the parts, you could have had the transmission rebuilt.


#9

"Wouldn’t the swap job conceptually at least be to unbolt the old automatic, bolt on the new manual, and bolt in the clutch pedal, clutch hydraulics, gear shift and run the cables?"

Bolt the clutch pedal to…what?
Additionally, the shifter for the automatic model is on the steering column, and the manual has a floor shift, so this would likely also necessitate cutting a hole–in the exact, precise location–in the floor, and then finding the appropriate console, which may or may not fit with the current seating.

If I am not mistaken, there would be a whole lot of fabricating necessary for this swap.
And then we have the ECM, which would also have to be changed.

Yes, it is possible, but it’s not a quick or easy job, and the vehicle would likely be out of service for an extended period of time in order to do all of the necessary alterations.


#10

The transmission switch is a 45 minute job on Reality TV when you allow for commercials and bickering. But isn’t that a rear wheel drive SUV? And if so the transmission pan is at least 2 feet behind the engine oil pan. I had assumed that the vehicle was a FWD crossover where draining the wrong pan is a common mistake. Mistaking the transmission pan for the engine pan requires some stretching on front to rear drive trains…


#11

Thanks to all for interesting comments about replacing an automatic w/a manual transmission. It sounds like this particular vehicle was only offered w/an automatic in the USA, so I agree, swapping it out for a manual would be problematic getting parts, let alone the various fab mods required. Not practical. Still curious about how easy it would be on older cars that could be purchased in either config. I’m going to look at my 40 year old Ford truck – it’s an automatic, but was offered as a manual too – and see if there’s a place already drilled to bolt in a clutch pedal.


#12

Well my BIL did it on his 62 or 64 Fairlane. Came from AZ without an engine or trans but used to have an automatic in it. Dropped an engine he had and a manual in it. Added the clutch. Said he got a “clutch kit”. He’s pretty capable and retired plus has a lift in his garage. Not something I’d want to do.


#13

At 150k miles and slipping the transmission is more than likely history. The pan could be dropped and if the bottom is coated with sludge then that would pretty much verify it.

As to mixing plugs up one would think that a Subaru engine plug and a transaxle plug would not get mixed up but it’s quite common.
A drain plug directly underneath where the halfshafts exit the differential should be indication enough as to what’s what.


#14

I never knew a Ford with a drain plug on the tranny., auto that is, Also changing to a manual tranny is out of the question for reasons already mentioned, including the ECM, which isn’t cheap. You would have to change the bell housing, flywheel, add a clutch, transmission, drive shaft, or two, cut a hole in the floor, mount a clutch master cylinder, add a manual shifter to the tranny, add hydro lines to clutch Slave cylinder, and maybe other things. After all that, you would have a manual and I won’t drive anything except an automatic.
By the way, I changed a '73 manual to an automatic one time, but I had a whole wrecked car for parts. Worked out nicely and no one could tell what I had done.


#15

It’s definitely possible even for even someone familiar w/cars to make this mistake. My brother did it (draining the transmission instead of the crankcase) when he was a teenager. On my dad’s almost new Ford. Noticed in time, so no damage, but a good deal of yelling involved. … lol … Can’t remember if that car was a manual or automatic.


#16

I did a lot of work on cars from 1950 to 2010 and I never ran across an automatic with a drain plug. I guess there must be some. Now GeorgeSanJose it would take a stretch of the mind to drain a manual tranny on a vintage Ford.


#17
"I did a lot of work on cars from 1950 to 2010 and I never ran across an automatic with a drain plug."

All my Toyota’s with automatics past and present have drain-plugs for the trans.


#18

Whew, really getting persnickety here. Yes almost all fwd trans axles have drain plugs. So yes, most toyotas have drain plugs. Don’t see many Toyota rear wheel drive cars these days. Unless ur in Cali and have a 2wd pathfinder. But that’s not a car.