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Windstar Trans Story/Question

05-25-2011, 12:17 PM
I have a 2000 Windstar SEL 3.8 that has 230K miles on it. For the last year or so the trans has acted a little strange. At certain speeds (37 mph) the car bucks slightly.

The trans was rebuilt maybe 5 years ago and I put about 100K on the rebuild with no problems. After I felt the bucking I went back to the place that rebuilt it and they ran a diag and it did not show any codes. He said it might be something else.

So I went to the ford dealer and he changed the coil but nothing helped. The trans started to get worse so I figured it was time for at least an trans oil change with new filter. I was torn between going to Aamco for the power purge or just do a drain and fill.

finally a couple of weeks ago it started really feeling like something was not right so I contacted Seafoam (another story entirely but great stuff) and talked to them about their trans product and decided to use it. Well within about 100 miles the trans started shifting better and the bucking only happened occasionally so I figured it must really need a oil and filter change.

I finally decided to try AAmco inspite the negative stories. They claimed that they would pull the trans pan and change the filter and if the trans looked ok they would perform the purge. It turns out that they used the purge device to suck out the fluid and it turns out that when you just drain the pan it drains almost exactly half the fluid and leaves the other half. I found that interesting.

Anyway I stayed right next to the car when all this was performed just to keep my eye on things. They showed me the pan and it had quite a bit of metal filings around the magnet. The manager came out and told me that the trans was on its way out and that he would just put the old fluid back in and not charge me for anything.

I thought that to be very strange and I told him to please just put the new filter on and put fresh fluid in not using the power purge. So it was basically a drain and fill. He was upset that I did not want to rebuild my trans and said it probably would not last long.

Well I decided to just take it and see what happens. Well I drove it away and it was like a new car. It shifted great the bucking was gone and it was like a normal trans again.

So what do you think this means (other than I should never go to AAmco)? Do you think the trans is going to blow or should I just drive it and forget it?

Thanks for your time

05-25-2011, 12:50 PM
Personally I would drive it, I have also used seafoam in a none working tranny before and it cleaned the valvebody up and tranny still worked when I sold the vehicle. Where the filings on the magnet more like a real fine dusting of metal filings or bigger pieces???

best of luck

05-25-2011, 08:45 PM
My 96 developed a bucking/surgeing at around 60mph while I was out of state 4 or 5 years ago. I thought I was going to be stuck far away from home. I remembered reading here that the return line flush fluid change had cured problems for some.

Off to the auto store I went, I returned with a 2 1/2 gal gas can, 12 quarts of Mercon V fluid and 2 feet of rubber hose. Disconnected the return line, put it in the can and started the engine. I let it run till the fluid coming out had some air bubbles. Then added some fresh fluid and ran it again. Repeated this several times till I had almost a full can, reconnected the cooler line and topped off the trans.

I was 500 feet from the interstate, I pulled out of the Motel (I forgot to mention I did this flush in the Motel parking lot) jumped on the interstate and within 1/4 mile I knew the problem was gone.

Have you seen the ford ad where the guy in the baseball cap scoops up some gunk from a cylinder head and says "Change your Oil" I say also flush your trans. It's been at least 30,000 miles and it's still going strong at 130,000 miles.

05-25-2011, 08:48 PM
One thing is not clear.
You had the transmission rebuilt some time ago.
If the complete system was not thoroughly cleaned out, the metal that was found in the pan could have been from before it was rebuilt.
As you mentioned, removing the pan gets less than 1/2 of the fluid.
There is 12.25 quarts of transmission fluid in the system.
It is VERY common for junk to be lodged in the transmission fluid cooler, which is located in the radiator.
I have a series of pictures posted in the pictures that the link in my signature takes you to that show how to do a fluid exchange on your own.
It includes removing the pan and replacing the filter.
The fluid exchange process is actually very easy.....the hardest part is removing the pan and changing the filter, which has already been done.
I like to do the pan first, as then you are starting with NEW fluid going into the rest of the transmission.
HOWEVER, one can still do the cooler line fluid exchange and do a very good job of changing the fluid.
This is how most shops change the fluid (if they are doing it correctly).
They have a machine that they connect into the cooler line, then they start the vehicle motor and let it run at idle.
As the transmission pushes the old fluid out, the machine adds NEW fluid at the same rate as the old fluid is coming out.

When a transmission is replaced or rebuilt, it is CRITICAL that one verify that the fluid flow through the cooler in the radiator is proper.
If the in-radiator cooler is restricted or blocked with junk from the failed transmission, then the repaired/replaced transmission will overheat and fail.
FORD has issued a couple of TSB's on this very issue as they had problems with this.

Also, the fluid is supposed to be changed at least every 30K miles.
This would be a full exchange of the fluid, not just the 4 quarts or so that one gets from draining the pan.
Many "quick lube" shops will do a fluid exchange....although, being picky, I would take my own fluid in with me......perhaps Mobil 1 ATF.

In short.
It is possible that the metal that was found in the pan is simply what worked its way through the system from the previous failure (if the pan has not been removed since that time).
I would have a fluid exchange done at this point, using a quality fluid that meets the Mercon V specification.
Then I would continue to drive it and see how it goes from there.

05-26-2011, 09:53 AM
normal to have metal & sedement in pan

where else can normal wear & tear materal go?

just like brake dust in drum brakes

most trans shops say trans needs to be rebuilt

after all thats their business!!!!!!!!!!!

05-26-2011, 10:46 AM
I agree ... the tranny shops are in business to get your money. I've never heard of putting old fluid back in the tranny ... that person must have many interesting "procedures". I would stay away from that shop .... some AMCO shops may be OK, I dunno, but it probably depends totally on the local manager/operator.

It is normal for the magnets to collect a bit of metal ... not as much as the tranny gears wear-in ... that is, until there is major part failure. Yes, the transmission will eventually fail ... but its life can be extended by periodically dropping the pan, wiping out, and replacing the filter. Yes, it is normal to only be able to drain about half of the total fluid out of the tranny.

Some folks prefer to use the tranny pump for a self pump/purge. That's a good procedure, but NEVER allow anyone to hook up a purge/cleaner machine to your tranny. These machines are "cash cows" for service shops and will always do damage to the tranny.

Your tranny problem, the jumping/pulsing, is most likely an engine problem.

05-26-2011, 03:46 PM
most trans shops say trans needs to be rebuilt

Yup. Ideally, trans shop guys shouldn't be the ones diagnosing tranny issues as there is an obvious conflict of interest in such a situation. Same goes for dentists but that's a different story.

05-26-2011, 07:15 PM
Hi Everyone:

Thanks for your replys. The metal shavings were fine shavings that I assumed were just wear and tear over the years.

I have been driving it now for a few days and it is really like a new trans. The only think bothering me is that I left 6 quarts of old fluid in there. I will have to give it a flush myself over one of these weekends.

What was amazing to me was that he wanted to put that crappy fluid back into the trans. I am not sure what his thinking was but I was not going for that one.

Interestingly there was a young girl in front of me that was having her car checked. The same manager came out and told her she had a bad TCC solenoid. He then told her the entire trans had to be rebuilt. The young girl asked how long did he think the trans would last? He of course told her that it might last a week or maybe a month but it would break down soon.

I actually felt bad for her as he told her that she needed a complete rebuild for of course $2200.

Is there a particular trans fluid that I should use when I flush the rest of the old fluid?

Thanks again for your responses.

05-26-2011, 08:37 PM
Your transmission requires a fluid that meets the Mercon V specification.
If you are doing it yourself, I would look for Mobil 1 the label on the bottle of whatever fluid you choose and make sure that it states that is meets the Mercon V specification.
My personal favorite ATF is Redline D4, but it is more expensive than most people what to spend, and it is not as readily available.
I order it online......I just ordered some from OGracing.....they have free shipping on orders that are over $100, which at around $10.49 a quart, Redline D4 gets to that in a hurry.

I recommend these 2 fluids as they are fully synthetic.....also the Motorcraft branded Mercon V is good, if you prefer to go OEM.
The MAIN thing is that you are changing the fluid....staying on top of that is about the best thing that you can do for your transmission.

05-28-2011, 11:03 AM
I have a 2000 Windstar SEL, bought in 2002 with only 7,000 miles on that my wife drives. We bought the van because it came with a tow package. 3 yrs later we bought a pop-up camper after our kids were old enough to go. Our first trip was from where we live in Michigan to the Florida Keys, staying at the Bahia Honda State park. I had no problems with my transmission there an back, but later that year in the fall the trans when out with only 50,000 miles on vehicle. So I replaced the trans for $2500. The Trans shop said they never saw a trans break like that.

I also owned a '99 Ford Taurus at the time, it had 60,000 miles on it when that the trans went out too... Almost 1 month after my windstar... Another $2500. [ I do not drive my vehicles hard, and I watch the fluids, but these are the only 2 vehicles I ever had where the trans has went out.] I later found out that the Taurus trans is what is used in the Windstar.

The followng spring we went on another pop-up camping trip, going down to ohio, a much shorter trip. But yet again the trans when out with only 12,500 miles on it. It was out of warranty (1yr or 12,000miles), the the trans shop said they'd only charge me 50%, $1,250. I had to make big stink to get that though.

Two years later my Taurus trans started to go again, with only 40,000 more miles on it. I decided to replace the car. I bought a used Chrysler Town & Country for $3000 @ 100,000miles. It has never had a trans problem it now has 165,000miles on it. Works great.

Over the next few years we kept going on camping trips, but camped mostly in Michiagn. After 60,000 miles on the trans it went out again. I told my wife, I wanted to junk the van. But then my next door neighbor told me about RC Transmissions in Royal Oak Michigan that gives Lifetime warranties on the trans. I paid $1800 to fix the van. He did not replace all the parts, only the ones that needed it. I said "I'll see you in a couple of years", and they said I wouldn't because they know how to rebuild the trans correctly. Well it's been 65000 miles (the longest the trans has ever lasted), and it is still humming. But I don't worry because if it goes out, I'm still covered. Since then I've pulled my pop-up camper all the way to South Dakota to see Mount Rushmore with the family.

So what are my points....

(1) Ford Motor Company makes really bad transmissions. The Ford Taurus and Windstar have the worst ones.

(2) It depends on the trans shop you go to. That is their business, and they want and need your return business. It may not make sense to them to repair it so well that you never return.

I'm just wondering if anyone else in this forum knows of other trans shops that give out LIFETIME warranties on transmissions... I would be good for members to know where to go to have them rebuild correctly.


05-28-2011, 09:03 PM
When the tranny went out in my '96 windstar (I bought it 3 years old, off lease and it already had a trailer hitch), I did a LOT of reading.
Lots of posts about rebuilt trannys going out just outside their warranty period......12 months or 12K miles.
I bit the bullet at got a FORD remanufactured tranny, which had all the updates and came with a better waranty.
I drove the vehicle for another 9-10 years, putting over 120K miles on the replacement tranny without issue.
I understand that the current warranty on the FORD unit is 3 years or 75K miles.
In my case, I planned to keep the vehicle for a long time.
Some other things that I did, I went to doing yearly transmission fluid exchanges (cooler line fluid exchange, replacing all the fluid) and removing the pan and changing the filter every other year.
I had been having the fluid and filter changed at the dealership every 30K miles before.
I also installed a magnefine inline fluid filter in the cooler line and installed a auxillary transmission fluid cooler.

Additional things that you can do that will help your transmission.
Verify that your radiator fans are running when you have your A/C on and your vehicle is not moving.......
If they are not running (and it is not below freezing outside), then you may have a broken radiator fan low speed dropping resistor.
Then, in hot weather, when you are in stop and go traffic, which is particularly hard on transmissions, I would turn the A/C on.
This keeps the radiator fans running unless you are moving fast enough to keep air moving through the radiator......
The radiator fans keep air moving through the radiator, which keeps the transmission MUCH cooler.
Even if you don't have an auxillary transmission cooler, the in-radiator transmission fluid cooler will still be able to work much better.

05-29-2011, 06:47 AM
I have 98 windstar with 200K miles and original transmission... which could be a record?? The transmission had some bucking issue from 1st to 2nd as far as I can remember but we drove anyway. Almost a year ago, on a very hot day, I was driving ~80mph on an interstate highway and OD light came on. We were about ~200 miles from home but fortunately we made it. What we did was that we let it cool down, and the OD light did not come back on. After that incident, the pan was dropped and transmission oil was partially replaced. We have not driven the van too far in case it breaks down completely. As I said, that was a year ago.
The OD light came back on a couple of times since. Now the weather is getting warm, the OD light comes on more often. But we drive anyway. If OD light comes on, we turn off the engine and let it cool down for a few minutes. There is no burnt smell and no metal shaving on the magnet at all. But it is clear that something is wrong because you can feel the transmission is slipping in OD mode before the light comes on. I am considering a complete fluid change. But not sure if it is worth the $$. I hope it last another year.
Other that the problem, the van has served us well.

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