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Discussion Starter #1
I have a 1998 Caravan with a 3.3V6 and the 41TE transaxle and about 178k miles on the van, but the transmission was replaced about 5 years ago by AAMCO. 2 years ago I made a trip from Missouri to southern Texas and towed a small U-Haul trailer home. A few months later I started noticing it wouldn’t shift properly. I’d have to stop on the side of the road, turn it off, wait a minute or two, start it up and it would function properly again for several weeks or a month or more. I began to notice that it happened more regularly when the van had been sitting and idling for a while. After I pick my wife up from work, we drive 10 miles or so on one highway, then have to slow down to get on a second highway. It is usually after slowing down and making the 270 degree turn that it fails to up shift. Other times it would fail as we entered a highway if we had to stop before hand.
There was a fault code displayed, although I do not remember exactly what it was. I went by a transmission shop and was told that if it was this code, I needed a new transmission, that probably the torque converter had begun to come apart and the particles were blocking the solenoids. Thus the assumption that turning the van off allowed the pressure to dissipate and the particles to fall back down.
So I finally decided to change the fluid and filter. The filter looked pretty good, but the magnet had the common “Afro” on it. Drove it for several months before it began acting up again. We took it to the lake, and on the way home, it went into what I now know is the Limp Mode, only this time it began lurching and acting like the engine was not connected to anything. I guess that would be slippage. So I parked it and began doing my research. How I got to this site.
That was almost 2 months ago. I have started the van several times since then, and moved it twice to a different spot in the yard, and it seemed to operate fine. But that is not driving at speed. So now I am looking for options. Tomorrow if I can stand the heat, I’ll go out and check the electrical connections, and make sure they are clean and clear. I do not have a code reader, and to date have not been successful in getting it to display codes for me. Auto Zone has a reader they use for free, but they are 30 miles away, and I’m a little reluctant to drive that far right now. And not sure they will display ALL the codes. Any ideas on that, or what reader is best to purchase?
I’m thinking that I should start by changing the fluid and filter again, making sure I use ATF+4. I also think I need to either rebuild or replace the solenoid pack. I’m wondering if I should also try to have the transmission flushed. One place I read said yes, it’s a good idea, another place said, never do it, so I’m not sure. Is there a way to get additional fluid out of the casing while it is still in the vehicle, beyond what just flows out when you pull the pan?
I’m pretty good with cars, and I’ve owned Caravans since 1987, but I’ve never done anything with the transmission beyond changing a CV boot or a transaxle. I’d rather not have to deal with it, but am determined to do what ever it takes. And with the proper preparation, I can do this.
My other vehicle is a 1997 Grand Voyager, also with a 3.3 and it has 210k on it. We put right at 100 miles a day on one or the other.
Thanks for any advice you might have, and sorry it’s so long, but hope I included everything you need.
 

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Welcome to Allpar. ATF+4 must be used on these transaxles. Anything else can damage them. A cooler flush may help if heavy debris was present in the pan or cooler flow is restricted. The tube/fin auxillary cooler rarely restricts, but the radiator cooler can require up to radiator replacement if it plugs up.
By cycling the ign key resets the TCM, I don't believe the 'particles falling back down' story.
You will need a special code reader to get the TCM fault codes. A generic Autozone engine code reader won't do it. You don't want to buy one, if you have access to one - great. Otherwise I'd pay a diagnostic fee to get the codes and the CVI's (clutch volume indexes). Write them down. Really this is where you need to start. Don't replace any parts yet.
 

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If the transmission is slipping that rules out it just being a sensor issue. Without knowing what error codes it returns, anything is just a guess but I think there's a good chance there is an internal issue possibly related to low fluid pressure. AAMCO is famous for using the wrong fluid in these and that greatly shortens the life of the friction surfaces.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Just went out and looked at my documentation. The receipt for the work shows right on it that they put Dexron/Mercon transmission fluid in it. This was in 9/07.
Anyone know if I stand a chance of going back to them and claiming they used the wrong fluid? Do I have a leg to stand on?
Checking into getting diagnostics done.
Also noticed a whining coming from the transmission when the rpms go over about 2grand. Probably not good.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Took van to shop for scan diagnostics, cost $32.50. Found following codes:
ECM
P1682 Charging system Voltage low
P0700 Transmission Fault
TCM
22 2-4 Pressure Switch Circuit
35 Loss of prime
36 Fault immediately after a shift
41 solenoid switch valve stuck
51 Gear ratio error – 1[sup]st[/sup] gear
53 Gear ratio error – 3[sup]rd[/sup] gear
54 Gear ratio error – 4[sup]th[/sup] gear

Additionally, transmission gears were slipping and planetary gears were noisy. So........
Looks like I'm done with diagnostics and ready to move on to investigating repair/replace options. Question is what is best alternative?

Do I just get a used one from slavage yard and hope for the best?
Buy a kit or parts and try my hand at rebuilding this one?

Do both, get a used one, then take this one apart to see what is in it and what I can learn, and if I can put it back together again, I have 2 vehicles it would fit.
Buy an already rebuild one

And obviously I need the entire thing, TC and transaxle.
Thanks again.
 

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You really only have two feasable choices:

1) Go to a dealer or Jasper and have a remanufactured transmission installed. I believe the warranty is now 3 years/100K miles on the reman. Probably will run $2500-$3000 P&L.

2) Get a used 41TE from a boneyard. I'd try to get one out of van that has been in an accident. At least you'd have a reasonable chance it was sitll working.

There's two lessons in this:

1) Use ATF+4 only - no Dexron/Mercon in any Chrysler electronically controlled transmission - only ATF+4!

2) NEVER, EVER GO TO AAMCO!

A - All
A - Automatics
M - Must
C - Come
O- Out

Good luck trying to get AAMCO admitting to anything. They have a reasonably good arguement since the transmiission did work for several years after the serviced it. IMHO - you're extremely lucky it lasted as long as it did. Most AAMCO replacements seem to last just long enough to get past the 1 year warranty.

Good Luck!
 

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Discussion Starter #7
The other option is to try to rebuild it myself. Looked up parts, can get a good kit for $400, includes a new solenoid pack and most of the innards. Then I’d have to see which of the hard parts are re-usable. I think I am mechanically competent enough to do it, and being out of school all summer, I’ll have the time. I can make the space. Just this is more than I’ve ever bitten off before.
Of course, the other option is to do nothing, and let it sit in the yard and hope my “second” vehicle continues to run well. Good news is they are enough alike that I can take almost all parts from one and put on the other. But we don't like that option.


Speaking of which, does any one know the answer to this? If I take a transmission from a year other than 98, my van’s year, what problems am I going to have connecting it to my van, with special emphasis on the electrical connections? And the next logical question is if I buy an upgraded solenoid pack, is it going to give me problems connecting to my existing wiring harness? It could open the door to more options for transmissions, because I was unable to locate any used ones for the 98 Caravan.
 

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Gear ratio error (any) plus fault after shift in the Chrysler service manual means internal issues. Many shops are experts at rebuilding transmissions to get past their warranty and not much else.
You can't go earlier than mid-year 1996. Then you've got to compare the TRS connector on yours to the replacement. There were two styles. Only another 1998 is listed as a direct replacement.
The rebuild seems to require some special tools, that will raise your cost some.
 

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Definitely internal. The factory service manual will give overhaul pictures, instructions, specs and show pictures of the special tools. You might find presses, arbors and sockets that will work. With the special tool numbers given in the manual, you may find them for sale on ebay, etc. Buying special tools for a single use will add a lot to the cost.
Does the condition of the rest of the 14 year old vehicle warrant spending the money?
1998 had a running change of the TRS (transaxle range switch) from a pin-style terminal connector to a blade-style terminal connector. If you get a transaxle from a salvage yard, snip out the connector end that goes with the transaxle.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
OK, so latest update. First to answer the question about the rest of the vehicle, yes it is in great shape and the engine is good and strong.
Had all but given up on things when I found a used transmission on Craig’s List. 98, with a 3.3 and a 41TE transmission. They had a tornado in Branson, MO a few months ago and a tree fell on the van, so it was going to salvage. A neighbor took out the engine and the transmission, and I got the transmission for $350. Good deal for me. I’m told the van had about 130k miles on it, and the transmission looks like it has been rebuilt, so not sure exactly how many miles it has on it. The torque converter looks really clean and I don’t see any obvious oil leaks around it. So I’m considering forgoing changing the oil seal there. Here are the questions I have that I’m hoping to get some input on.
On first inspection, I can tell a difference in the solenoid cover. The new one came with short sections of all the pigtail connectors, but I haven’t checked to see if they fit yet. I’ve read about updated solenoids. Is it worth purchasing a new one? Do they come with or need a software upgrade?
The manual says when you take out the transaxle, to mark the position of the drive plate and the torque converter so you can re-attach them in the same position. Since I’m putting a different one on, is there a way to line them up, or does it really matter?
The other general question is about what should I replace and what should I just leave as is? I am tempted to just wipe off the used one, bolt it up and see how many miles I can get out of it. I’m trying to balance that with the knowledge that I can easily replace anything right now with it out, but may have to remove it again in order to replace other things, like the TC oil seal. And I don’t really want to replace more than I need to. I plan to look at the drive axle seals and see if the one I can replace looks good. I also plan to change the filter and replace all the fluid with ATF+4. What is that old saying? An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Thanks in advance for any responses.
 

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I see no need to replace the sol pack on the used tranny at this point. Service it with atf-4 as you said, and see what you've got. Sounds like the kind of vehicle you want one from, involved in an accident.

On match-marking the torque converter and flexplate, hold the torque converter itself up to the flexplate and try different positions until all 4 holes match up. then, use a paint marker to match the torque converter to the flexplate. Bolt the bellhousing up, then bolt the converter to the flexplate, using the paint mark.
 

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After 5 years, AAMCO will tell you to pound sand.

As mentioned above, one bolt is offset, if you line it up wrong you won't get all four bolts in and then you'd have to remove the bolts, rotate and try again and try again. And I do agree, it would be good to replace the flexplate while it is apart.
 

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The torque converter has a ~10mm 'circle' punched next to the indexing bolt lug.
The flexplate has a t/conv bolt hole with 'flats' at 3 and 9 o'clock.
These are what you want to line up in order to have all the converter mounting holes line up.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
I want to thank everyone who has provided information. Means a lot. Just a few more questions.
I’ve checked all the electrical connections and it looks like they both have pins and look identical, so hoping I can just bolt it on and plug in the connectors.
I have a question about changing the fluid. I want to change all the fluid in the TC and the transaxle, is there a good way to do this with out separating them? The entire thing holds right at 9 quarts, but only about 4 is in the transaxle, so I’m guessing 4-5 quarts are in the TC. With out going to a shop and getting it flushed, how do I get the old stuff out in order to replace it with new fluid? The other question I have is putting fluid back in it. How do I refill the TC with fluid? Fill up the transaxle, and slowly turn the engine and transaxle, stopping every so often to refill the transaxle? I’m certain it’s not good for the TC to operate for long with little fluid in it. But thinking that a start/stop action will allow the pump to fill the TC from the transaxle reservoir.
The new transaxle is out of the vehicle, so if I tilted it up and drained as much as I could out the drive shaft hole. It looked red and clean. Can I get any fluid from the TC this way? Should I rotate it by hand to help pump fluid out? I’m planning to wait until I put the new one in the van to pull the cover and replace the filter, thinking it will be easier that way. One train of thought says check it first, but unless it is trashed, and I’m thinking it isn’t, it’s going in the van.
Pulled the pan on the old one to drain it, and the pan was full of shavings. I have a pic I’ll try to attach, if you can do that here. The magnet had an afro an inch long, and there were lots of small pieces loose in the pan, including what looked like part of a 3/8 inch ring. So the old one definitely was shot.
Oh, one more question. The bolts on the exhaust are giving me fits. My two choices right now are to try and see if there is enough play to remove the old one and install the new one with out actually undoing it. Short of that, I’ll have to grind the nuts off and replace them. Thoughts?
Thanks.
 

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There is no way to change the fluid in a used torque converter other than to flush it. You can flush it yourself after installation by running the transmission in neutral and replacing fluid in the input line as it flows out the output line into a drain pan.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Decided to leave the exhaust pipes connected instead of undoing them. They obstructed the view some, but did not interfere with anything. The old transmission came out with no real issues. Getting the new one lined up and in was a challenge, but finally got that in.
Tomorrow plan to change the filter and add the new fluid to the transmission. I’ve got to get the new motor mount pressed and then install it before I can really road test the vehicle.
I also plan to blow the lines out in the oil cooler incase any debris from the original transmission is in there. The help and advice I’ve gotten from this site have really helped. Thanks again.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Got everything connected and hooked up, then dropped the pan to change the filter and fluid. Seems the transmission shop that rebuilt it used RTV instead of the rubber gasket that comes standard with filters, and there was no magnet in the pan so I installed a small one. I also had a problem with some of the bolts stripping out when they leaked, and I tried to tighten them up. At least 6 were stripped, so I went ahead and drilled them all out, used helical inserts and I also replaced the bolts while I was at it. Figured it would reduce any problems later when the next time I need to change the filter. Finished all of that up today and there were no leaks detected.
Went to road test the van and it appears to still be stuck in Limp Mode. It goes into reverse fine, and into drive, but it will not shift. Even when I manually shift to low, from a stand still, and then after I get up to about 3,000 rpms move the gear shifter to Drive. Tried it several times, tried turning the van off, no change. The only thing I haven’t tried is disconnecting the battery, again. I mean, it was disconnected the entire time I was replacing the transmission.
The other possibility I have to consider is that some of the pins in the electrical connector are not making good contact, so the computer is not able to tell the transmission when to shift, or perhaps one of the speed sensors is not working properly.
The manual says to take it to a shop after you change the transmission or the TCM and have the Quick Learn performed. Not sure if this will reset things, or if there is something else I need to be looking for. I’m also assuming the same shop that did my diagnostics will be able to reset things for me. Thanks in advance.
 

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Double-check all the electrical connectors for being securely fastened and locked on. Recheck your fluid level.
You can try a battery disconnect/reconnect, but really a key cycle should have reset any temporary fault codes.
The quicklearn is only to 'finesse' the shift quality and it shouldn't be a cause for limp-in.
Does it start out in 1st and shift to 2nd or does it default right to limp-in (2nd) from Park?
Are there any fault codes?
 
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