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Sorting out Recurring Front Seal (?) Leak

Sorry for the long story.

I have an old '95 Dodge Gr Caravan, 215K, 3.8L w/ whatever 4 speed tranny these had (A604?)

Months ago was leaking lots of trans fluid. I figured out that the solenoid pack was leaking like a sieve but also worried about the front seal as the bell housing seemed to have its own regular drip.

I brought it to what is supposed to be our top notch local independent transmission shop (long standing, widespread good reputation). They replaced the solenoid pack, front seal, and axle seals ($850 or so).

Not long after that I found it leaking again (same drip off the bell housing). Leak got worse and also started from the driver’s side axle seal.

So I brought it back. It was somewhat reluctantly “fixed” again. I kept checking and it all stayed dry for a couple of weeks, but now about three weeks later I find myself with the same old drip off of the bell housing.

I have verified that the leak is not from the pan or another cover - though presumably the tranny shop would also have looked carefully for this as they would want something else they could charge me for rather than pulling my trans again for nothing.

So here’s the question: is the most likely possibility that I am looking at poor work on the part of this shop? Or, is there some strange thing that a transmission specialty shop might overlook - e.g. something that can wreck the front seal, or some other leak source.

I have though about various things like a cracked torque converter or problem with the pump or something - but it seems to me that pulling the trans a second time the shop would have wanted to pin the leak on some problem other than the work they did the first time. All they said is they couldn’t tell why it was leaking.

In any case, I obviously need to go back and I hate being unprepared for a conversation like this. Any ideas are welcome.

You have a '95 Dodge Grand Caravan with 215K miles on it.

Think about that.

You’re lucky the thing still runs. It’s 14 years old, for heaven’s sake. What do you expect?

Give it up. Stop sending money on a vehicle that’s worn out.

Don’t spend any more money on this heap. It’s not worth it. You’re just wasting your money. Go find yourself a newer, better vehicle.

Thanks for that. I’ve been there, and done that. It is in fact now a back up vehicle for our primary van. But it happens to be an absolutely fan-f*!@#-tastic van and has been for a really long time. It runs and drives great.

What do I expect? You act like I’m surprised that the seals started leaking. I’m not surprised about that at all. I simply asked someone to fix it. At 21.5K or 215K a trans seal is a trans seal. One should be able to fix it. Or maybe there are reasons that one can’t. That’s what I’m asking.

If the question was so absurd to you, then why not ignore it and spend your time on those you deem more worthy of consideration?


you have hard parts worn,and the ,A slip 0 4,will never seal,tolerances are out of whack.rebuild and start fresh.

TOUGH GUY (to the OP)

While not being able to say what the problem is I could think of a few things that could cause a front seal leak after the seal was replaced.

One could be a grooved torque converter nose, but it’s the shop’s responsibility to check this when apart. A seal will wear a groove into the steel and if it’s bad enough the new seal will not hold. You also see this on engine crankshaft seals, etc.

Another could be the torque converter bouncing around due to worn pump bushings; also their responsibility to check.

Another could be an excessively loose engine crankshaft due to worn main bearings. This would allow the crankshaft to not only bounce up and down but would also allow it to move in a linear fashion. Since the converter is bolted to the flexplate which is bolted to the crankshaft it’s possible the movement could work the seal loose.
The worst offenders of this were the old VW Beetles that had excessive crankshaft movement due to worn main bearings and beaten out engine blocks. Front pump seals and even crankshaft seals could be jolted out of place by the crank movement. JMHO, but this is something they should inspect also.

About all I could suggest is maybe getting another transmission shop, or two, to look it over and see what they think.
If it appears to be a front pump seal leaking then I would advise taking it back and having them redo it. I realize a conversation like this could be awkward but try to keep it firmly polite. NO cursing or yelling. If push comes to shove then a small claims court could be considered. Make sure you have your paperwork in order and preferably an estimate from any other shops to go back in on this.

Hope that helps.

Thanks v. much. That helps a lot and it is exactly the kind of thing I want to know about - of course, I needed to have someone tell me before I decided to have it done the first time. But that’s why I went the local independent with the good rep in the hopes that they would help me make an informed decision about it. Apparently not.

Worse comes to worse, I know where to add the fluid when it gets low!

Thanks again.

Your question is not absurd, and I don’t pretend to know who’s questions are “worthy of consideration,” and who’s aren’t.

I’m simply asking, how long do you expect this van to last, and how much money are you willing to spend to keep it running?

Seems like a legitimate question to me.

You might think that’s what you said, but…I didn’t ask whether anyone thought my van was too old and worn out to spend money on. I asked for various reasons that a seal repair would go wrong (twice). I also never implied that I intended to spend more money on it. Your original post was not a friendly question about whether or not I’d thought out whether its worth the trouble or not. It was arrogant, dismissive, and high-horse. (Though I’m not above that on occasion either).


So, yes - if you notice the initial post date its been a good month and finally got the thing back into the shop. (It was a very busy month & the shop is 20mi away & this is now our general beater vehicle so it isn’t crucial).

Anyway, all I have managed to do so far is have a conversation with the guy. I was excessively nice, took no blaming tone instead referring to the vehicle’s age & mileage, and explained that all I wanted him to do was look things over and see if he could find some reason that the seal job wouldn’t take.

He was nice in return, and not happy that it seemed to be leaking again (but not unhappy toward me). These are the two possibilities that he came up with while I spoke with him:
- possibly a pin-hole kind of leak in the transmission case itself since these are fairly porous, but in the area of the case underneath the bell housing. A leak like this isn’t necessarily identifiable - you can’t see it w/ the trans installed but is more like a seep that would only show up with the trans installed & running. A catch-22 sort of thing I guess.
- there are 2 pan bolts where the ends protrude into the case. If one of those wasn’t sealed up properly, that could create a leak.

Unfortunately for me, the first one sounds most reasonable to me and would not be good. Does anyone have any thoughts about these two possibilities? Reasonable?

(FYI: I did not bring up any of the suggestions from ok yet, because I didn’t want my first approach to this to make me seem like I was a wise-a&# questioning his expertise. I deferred all expert knowledge to him. I will let him look things over again and start asking about those things depending on what he comes back with).

It’s impossible to say from here, but I’m not particularly sold on either one of those scenarios. While anything is possible both of those are really a grasp.

While problems can often be blamed on something obscure, and it does happen, more often than not the problem is something the mechanic simply overlooked. The groove worn into the torque converter nose for example.

You see the same thing with engine crankshaft seals. With high mileage the rubber seal will erode a groove into the crank seal surface and installing a new seal on a crank with a known problem will be a very iffy deal at best.
This is why a part called a Speedy Sleeve (also called Speedi Sleeve) is sold. It’s a stainless steel piece of tubing that will fit tightly over the worn surface and give the seal a fresh new surface to ride on.

Wished I could be more exact but without vehicle in hand it’s impossible and while this is just my opinion, I can’t say as I buy into either of those 2 things mentioned.

Thanks OK. I will wait to see what he tells me, and let you know how it goes. And if I don’t get an answer I’ll start asking questions about worn TC noses, and pump bushings and such.

Hopefully I won’t have to visit another shop since I’m not looking to pay anyone to pull that trans back out - that chunk of money I laid down on this non-repair was the last chunk I was putting into that van.