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Chrysler, Plymouth, and Dodge Four-Speed Transmission Issues:

Readers' Experiences and Testimonials

Did you come here from a search engine? If so, go to our transmission repairs page first. That will bring you to the page with the actual repairs. This page is devoted to readers' experiences and testimonials, details on the design of the Chrysler electronic automatic transmission, and other such issues.

Readers' experiences

Dave Krachenfels:

I noticed some fluid in my driveway, and on the way to the auto part store to get some tranny fluid, I noticed I had the 3-4 down shift/ 28 mph clunk that most Chrysler minivans experience. The drip turned out to be the gasket on the tranny pan, it was also leaking from the solenoid. Both were replaced but I still had the clunk.

I asked the local dealer if they could "flash the TCM" but they said "it's either physical or mechanical." So when I brought it there for diagnostics I asked them if they could just "flash the TCM." The mechanic was fine with that as running the tester would cost $280 and flashing the TCM would only cost $80.

The mechanic was surprised when the flash fixed it. He said he learned something new.

I just appreciate coming across your website and finding a great deal of useful information!
Steve W: " My sincere thanks to everyone who recommended changing the transmission fluid on Chrysler mini-vans before paying for a new tranny! After weeks of enduring horrible jerky driving, I dumped the stuff that was in my 1996 Plymouth Voyager (115K miles) and replaced it with the MOPAR ATF-4 brand from the dealer, per all the recommendations, and IT WORKED. Thank you, thank you, thank you for getting the word out on this."

David Chagnon: "Thank you so much for your website. After 2 transmissions ($3000)
and reading your must read section I changed out the fluid ($12) in
my 1992 van and the shudder and all shifting problems have disappeared. I
only wish that the guys at the transmission shops cared enough about
their customers to be informed about this simple solution to a potentially expensive problem."

A quick one from David Brager: "I had my son change the filter, clean the magnet, replace the gasket, and pour in four quarts. It's night-and-day what we had only hours ago."

Phil Bonner:

Just wanted to take a moment to thank you for your great web site. I have a '95 Dodge Caravan with the A-604 4-speed transmission. About two weeks ago my van experienced the infamous torque converter whine and extreme shifting problems. It would not go into Drive at all, only "limp home" mode. Every mechanic told me that I would need a rebuilt tranny; the average price I got was around $900 (no labor included). I was almost in tears!

In a fit of desperation I found your site and took the knowledge right to the local Dodge dealer. They agreed that I need to get rid of the Dexron III I had put in before and get the 7176. However, they said my tranny was too far gone but it was at least worth a try. It took me roughly an hour to replace my fluid and filter and have now been running it for about a week! I do experience the occasional shudder problem but have already set up a time to reprogram my computer (through the dealer).
Ted Middlestadt:

In September 2002 I bought a used 1995 Chrysler Town & Country minivan from a private party in Portland OR. The seller had recently (2000 miles ago) had the transmission, the 41TE, replaced with a rebuilt unit, and had a nice thick file of service receipts dating back to when the van was first purchased. Among these was the receipt from the shop that had done the R&R - they had contracted it to a local tranny rebuilding shop (I won't mention either shop name)

After getting the van and driving it for a week I decided to check up and make sure that the correct tranny fluid had been put in the tranny. I called the rebuilder directly and spoke to the tech that did the rebuild. Sure enough they used Dextron III + an additive, Lubeguard. I asked if he was aware that Chrysler had a TSB saying not to use Dextron and he got very defensive, claiming that there was no difference in fluids, etc. I decided not to bother pursuing the issue and just plan on doing a fluid flush asap.

Then I called the shop that the prior owner had taken the van to and who had contracted out the work to the tranny shop. Once again, they were unaware of the fluid issue. They even had one of their mechanics who owned a minivan who didn't know about the problem - although he said that he did know Chrysler had a super-duper fluid that was $6 a quart. I told him that I had just called around and priced ATF +3 and 3 local parts places for $2.50 a quart, the expensive stuff was ATF +5 which wasn't applicable to minivans older than 1999 anyway. I went ahead and gave them the Chrysler TSB number 21-006-01 which says to use ATF +3 ONLY as they seemed a bit more interested than the rebuilder.

The main reason for this story is to illustrate that even in late 2002 this fluid confusion is STILL going on, and furthermore I cannot overemphasize how hostile the tranny shop was to the idea of using the correct fluid - ATF +3 - instead of Dextron III plus Lubeguard. It is worth noting that Lubeguard themselves markets their "Dextron III-to-ATF +4 conversion fluid" as a "way to save money by not having to inventory multiple fluids" I think that this really says it all, personally I find it reprehensible that a shop would put the savings of a few bucks over doing it right, but that's just me. After all THEY aren't paying for the fluid, the customer is.
From: Henry C. Traska Jr. DPM

Dave: I changed ATF and filter 10/12/96. Used all Mopar. Torque converter clutch chatter is History. Tried to make clutch chatter by testing several times by going up hills where downshift from TC -FL to TC-PL, then 4th to 3rd gear would normally produce chatter, but this time with new Mopar ATF, there was only smooth performance and no chatter.
From: Cathy Fennelly

I just cured a 37 mph shudder in my 94 Grand Voyager with a fluid change from Dexron III to Mopar 7176. I had used the Dexron III in 2 previous servicings (with the blessing of the dealer's parts department). After reading Wayne Toy's info on your site, I discussed the problem with the service department of the same dealer. Chrysler's shop directive describes the symptom as occurring at about 35 to 40 mph. In addition, the mechanic said something in the Dexron III attacks the adhesive in the clutch facing material and will eventually cause it to flake off.
From: Gary L. Allan - three-speed transmission

I had to rebuild the 3-speed non-OD trans on my Caravan (converter clutch material was breaking down and clogging up the governor and such). All of the three shops that I consulted before settling on one for a rebuild said that the only performance difference between the two fluids (Dexron III and 7176) is the clutch chatter issue. Since I've used Mobil 1 Synthetic fluid in my GM and had superior performance, especially in the sub-zero cold, they said that an additive was available to upgrade Dexron III to 7176 specs. I also replaced the lock up converter with a non-lock up (all three shops seem to obsess on it saying that the rebuild market on these is still too "inconsistent").
Joe Ford wrote: I got a quote of $1500 to get my LeBaron running again. When I went to get a second opinion, the guy checked the transmission with some fancy computer, switched the two transmission relays...and it works now. Now, after a replacement relay was installed (about $50) it runs like new! Thanks again to all of you who helped out...and if you have a transmission like mine...CHECK THE RELAY before you replace the entire transmission. (The relay kit is often the problem, we are told).

Richard Iams wrote: Our 2000 Grand Voyager with only 70k, started acting crazy and going in to "limp" mode. Was able to get some OBD error messages pointing to a solenoid problem. As I am out of town 5 days a week this summer on a project, I consented to let my wife take it to the local "trusted" tranny shop, they of course called for a 2 k rebuild. I have always done my own mechanical stuff, but never had to deal with an automatic tranny. After reading your web page, I changed the fluid and the solenoid pack, got one on EBay for $53. Have driven it 2000 miles since, no problems, used it to pick my daughter up from college. No problems.

Scott Mickievicz wrote: My 2000 300M was going into limp mode as described in your site. It would go through the gears once, and then shift to 2nd and stay there until turned off. The speedo and tach worked, the slap-shift would not respond, but all the displays worked. By piecing together the symptoms others described, it sounded like the input speed sensor. Calling around to garages, I got several ideas of what would fix it - what the shops were interested in doing first - and none of them mentioned the speed sensors, so I tried it myself. $32 for the sensor and correct socket, and 25 minutes later, it was done.

Keith L. Wagoner

When I transferred to an army post in Seoul, Korea, I bought a 92 Town and Country with about 75,000 miles on it. The car performed great but, as the new owner, I decided to change all the fluids just to be on the safe side. I usually do my own work so I ordered the filter and proceeded to the Auto Hobby Shop that we have access to on my military base. I asked the manager for "The correct tranny fluid for my Chrysler van." You know what happened next. He gave me 4 quarts of Dexron III. I asked if he was sure it was the right fluid, "sure he was sure." Within a month of the fluid change the car started violently down shifting on deceleration. Later it would downshift on acceleration and stay stuck in the lower gear until the key was turned off at which time everything would reset. I found your web-site and changed out the fluid and filter but it was too late, the tranny was shot.

I ordered and imported a rebuilt tranny from Transmission Exchange (great folks I might add), bought the correct 7176+ fluid and' gave explicit instructions to the shop as to what had happened and why they should use the provided fluid and retrain the computer as indicated on the Transmission Exchange Web-site. When I came to pick up the car three days later I asked, "Did you use the fluid I provided?" "Yes, but there wasn't enough." (I had neglected to acount for the torque converter being empty). "What did you do?" "We added three quarts of Dexron III, it's just as good." Aargh!!

Please be careful folks, they are out to get us!
Alan Wachs wrote:

My 1990 Grand Voyager lost the ability to downshift with one full year and about 12,000 miles left on the 7/70 powertrain warranty. The dealer found out that a retainer ring had broken loose and ruined the downshift mechanism, as well as scoring up the torque converter.

The service advisor warned me that the MAP sensor (manifold absolute pressure) was bad, and so the vehicle would keep stalling and shift erraticaly until the MAP sensor was replaced. On the 1990 minivan with the 3.3 (mine), the MAP sensor is a plastic block that screws into the intake manifold on the side facing the rear of the car. You can replace it in about 5 minutes or less, by hand, unless the old one takes a little wrench yank to wind it off. So I replaced it. This did not solve the problem. I called the service manager back, and he said that the problem must be in that general sensor circuit, not necessarily the MAP sensor. I examined this sensor circuit. The MAP sensor, throttle position sensor (TPS), and automatic idle speed (AIS) sensor are key elements of this circuit that the computers use to control the engine and transmission. Well, the service advisor got the general circuit correct, but it was the TPS and the AIS that were bad, not the MAP. The next day, replacing those two sensors got the vehicle, with its free rebuilt and updated transmission, running great! I just wish that those two sensors had not cost $165 together.

And what would you guess happened a couple of hours later? That service manager calls back and says that he just talked to the technician, and asked him why a new MAP sensor did not fix the problem. Thereapon, he was asked by the technician, "Who said anything about the MAP sensor?" The whole thing boiled down the the service manager not having been able to read the service technician's handwriting!! He had indeed found the TPS to be bad. I do so hope that everyone finds this amusing.

I can relate one other truth, from experience: the Ultra-drive transmission fluid, type Chrysler 7176, is really the only fluid that will guarrante that the Ultra-drive will shift correctly. Yes, I know that the transmission dip-stick offers the use of Dextron II as a substitute, but I can almost promise that it will cause, at the very least, certain little shifting irregularities. The 7176-type fluid has an extra additive needed to minimize friction in this transmission.
From: Carl Vann (edited)

I have an 1989 Dodge Grand Caravan with a four speed "Ultradrive" (A-604) transmission that failed at 3 years, 47,025 miles. The failure was such that it made crunchy noises in overdrive. The dealer service representative mentioned that 6 technical service bulletins (at that time) had been issued on it. The transmission was replaced at no charge. A question at that time that I did not ask (but should have) was "Did the replacement transmission have all the latest changes installed? Or am I getting an unmodified transmission with the hope that it would last to the end of the warranty?"

The replacement transmission failed at an additional 53,000 miles, 3 years later. It had to be towed. The dealer said that a replacement transmission cost about $1600 but he would try to get Chrysler to split the cost. It ended up costing me $634. [Mario Muredda wrote that dealers quoted him $2500 and local transmission shops quoted $1500].

I recently became aware of and purchased two relevant books published by the Automatic Transmission Service Group. They are:

  • Chrysler A-604 Techtran(TM) Manual
  • Chrysler A-604 Update Handbook

The update handbook lists all A-604 changes (through 1994?). They include durability changes as well as normal inline improvements. Sometimes the two are hard to separate.

The handbook also contains the Diagnostic Fault Code Chart for this transmission, the first I've seen published anywhere. The fault codes appear to be able to be accessed by a scanner but since the access connector is different, the scanner will require a different adapter cable and possibly software, depending upon the type of scanner. The access connector for the scanner is located in the main fuse panel area. It also provides information about the transmission computer changes and references computer part numbers and interchangeability. This will be useful for those who might want to get a used computer. Both books are available from J.C. Whitney for a nominal charge.

Chrysler seems to have taken most of the heat over their computer controlled transmission, but I noted that four GM and two Ford transmissions also have accumulated enough changes to justify separate update handbooks. Enough said!
WOBranch added:

We bought a used 1992 Dodge Dynasty with only 50k miles on the odometer and after having the transmission serviced experienced a harsh delayed downshift to first upon stopping at red lights. Also, upon starting on cold mornings, it would slip if immediately put into gear. I found the info about the necessity of using only Chrysler 7176 transmission fluid, but the transmission shop insisted that was what they used. The dealer wanted to replace the transmission for $1300 . We elected to wait and see. I decided to try an additive (nothing to lose) and added "DuraLube Advanced Transmission Treatment" (under $11 at K-mart) and lo and behold after a few miles the problem went away and has not returned. This is not an anti-friction additive. I believe that all Chrysler product owners with the subject transmissions should know about this as well as dealers and shops.
Another testimonial, from Dave Driver (really, that's his name):

Thank you for your letter to the ALLPAR.COM web site regarding your experience with your 94 Grand Voyager. I read it 30 minutes prior to going to my appointment with the Plymouth Dealer, your letter and the ALLPAR.COM web site saved me a lot of money and time. It seems that knowledge of the transmission fluid problem is not foremost in their minds or maybe they are happily using it as an excuse to drum up business. In any case the "driveability" expert for the Plymouth dealer went for a ride with me in my 94 Gran Voyager, at which time I showed him the 37 mph shudder, he immediately diagnosed it as a transmission problem. I asked if he could be more specific, such as what inside the transmission might be the problem. He thought the torque converter should be replaced and while the transmission was open the seals should be done too. I asked the service department head guy what it would cost to replace the torque converter and he looked in his huge book detailing the hours it would take to do the job and came up with 15 hrs, which equated to $1900 plus $165 for the torque converter and $95 for the seal kit. I said no thanks, and instead bought a new filter and 5 quarts of 7176 transmission fluid. I would have liked to change the fluid in the torque converter as well, but the parts department guy said that it was sealed and that the torque converter fluid does not comingle with the fluid in the rest of the transmission.

I changed the fluid and the car now drives great. I don't know what fluid was in the car previously, since I had just recently bought the car. When the dealership opens on Monday, I intend to give Joe (the "driveability" expert) a ride in the car and show him the difference. Thank you, I would have been completely at their mercy if it had not been for your letter and the web site.

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