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Not the transmission... Then what?

96 Ford Explorer, 78,000 miles

After about an hour on the highway (60 mph), the vehicle slows and cannot increase in speed. It does this until it slows to less that 20 mph. Pushing on the accelerator increases the rpm, but does not result in an increase in speed. It only does this after an hour or more on the highway (city driving does not cause the problem). No one can diagnose the problem; already took the vehicle to the dealership and a transmission specialist (both said nothing was wrong). Hoping very much to keep this vehicle. Please help!

Many Thanks.

It sounds like your transmission is dying. First, check the fluid, it should be bright pink, like raspberry juice. If you put a drop on a paper towel, it should expand to the size of a silver dollar, and stay bright pink with no sediment of any sort showing. If it’s a dirty brown the transmission is likely kaput, as they say in German.

If the level of the fluid is not up where it should be (substantially below), you might have a serious problem. That year Explorers and other Fords, had many transmission problems, so be prepared for the worst.

Take it to a good independent transmission shop and have them assess the damage. In any case, stop driving it any distance until it’s fixed.

Good Luck!

Automatic or manual? How many miles since the last time you changed the transmission fluid.

If it is a manual, then I suspect the clutch is sipping.

Automatic and I just had it examined by a good independent transmission shop. They could find nothing wrong with the transmission. Thanks so much.

How much do you want to spend? Since the transmission doesn’t become a problem until after an hour at highway speeds, it is unlikely that the transmission shop drove it for an hour at 60 mph before evaluating. If they did, you would be expected to pay for that time.

When this happens, have you tried to put the transmission into a lower gear? If you have a D4 for normal driving and a D3 for towing, try the D3. That should override the lockout feature of the torque converter.

As pointed out by Docnick, check your transmission fluid. If you haven’t had the transmission serviced every 30k miles, then have the fluid and filter changes. Normally I don’t recommend a transmission flush, certainly not for transmissions that are not having problems and the fluid drain and refills are done on schedule, but in your case, it might help.

Be sure that if a flush is done, the filter is replaced first. I say it might help because often it is done too late and then the customer blames the flush for the problem. Accept the fact that if it doesn’t help, it is not the fault of the flush, if it does help. you got lucky.

Check the fluid level when the problem is occurring. The transmission may be overfilled. And look for froth on the dipstick.