Monday, August 17, 2009

Sunday, A day of rest


Sometimes. Sometimes you get a wild hair and take a transmission out of a car.

First we need to rewind about 6 weeks, or 15 years. I have a 1969 Ford Mustang. It has been a member of the family since 1971. I quit driving it on a regular basis in about 1983. It has the small V-8 engine and an automatic transmission, a C4 in Ford vernacular. The shift linkage on the C4 goes through the side of the transmission case, where it has a seal to keep the transmission fluid inside. Unfortunately, the seal can only be serviced from inside the transmission. The shifter rod is actually designed so that it is above the normal level of fluid in the pan. But when you quit driving the car and let it sit for some time, then the torque converter, which is the device hooking the motor to the transmission, slowly drains its fluid back into the transmission pan, raising the level of the fluid up to the shifter seal. Result? A small seepage of transmission fluid on the floor.
15 years ago, I’d drive the car on a weekend and park it. It would take about six days before the seepage would begin, and then it would only leak maybe a bathroom Dixie cup of fluid. That went on for about 14 years.
This year I started to notice that I’d drive the car on a Saturday, and by Sunday, there was already fluid leaking.
About six weeks ago I decided to do a dirty nasty task and change the transmission fluid and filters in both the old Fords. We also have a 1970 Ford Mustang Mach1. Changing transmission fluids on old Fords is about my least favorite task on them. Ford pinched penny’s for years and never installed drain plugs on the transmission, as it isn’t a regularly required task. Most people just take it in to a shop. Not me. I lie on the floor with the car jacked up and start loosening the pan bolts. That causes the fluid to start leaking out. All over your arm and floor. But that is how it is done. So I change the filter and fluid and hope that some of the leaking on the C4 is from the pan gasket. Well some of it might have been, but you couldn’t tell it from how much was still leaking all over the drip pan under the car.
I hit the internet to see if there are some write ups on replacing the shifter seal with the transmission still in the car. I found a few write ups. Unfortunately, the task requires again draining the fluid, and then removing the shifter body from inside. So a few weeks back, I go back under the car, transmission fluid running down my arm, but I get the shifter body out. Except my car has a kick down linkage that also passes through the shift rod! That is in the way of getting to the large nut which holds the shifter arm. The shift rod can’t be removed, as the main gears are in the way. In disgust, I bolt everything back together. I pull out 40 years of maintenance records on the car and start looking around to see if there was ever any work done on the transmission. I can’t find any records about the transmission, except fluid and filter changes. I crawl back under the car the next weekend and start inspecting all aspects of the transmission. I find 40 year old Ford tags and markings. I also realize that the transmission has multiple leaks. Not only the shifter shaft, but the modulator valve is leaking, and it seems that the torque converter is also leaking. I decide to remove the transmission and take it to a shop for a rebuild.
So the next weekend I climb under the car and start loosening and removing all the parts so I can remove the transmission. I also call a local shop that has been in business since the late 1950’s and they confirm they can rebuild antique automatic transmission.

So this past Sunday another car friend comes over and we work on some parts for his Mustang. We mess with that for about an hour and then he convinces me that with his help, we can have the transmission out of the car in a little while. So we head under it, him on one side and me on the other. About two hours later, the transmission is lying on the floor. No injuries were sustained, which is always a good thing. The only broken parts were the transmission coolant lines. We tried to get the one off we could reach, but after 40 years, the steel line and the nut that holds it to the transmission, had become one with each other. The steel line twisted and cracked. The other line has to be removed when the transmission is lowered a few inches. Since the coolant lines are sold in a pair, I made the executive decision to use a pipe cutter and just cut the line off. I’ll have to order new lines and plan on getting stainless steel lines.

So I need to order some parts, the fluid lines, plus a new steel vacuum line. I don’t have to replace the vacuum line, but might as well at this point. Plus a new transmission mount, which is rubber and had about dissolved from 40 years of use and leaking fluids.

So after 40 years, I have to spend $475 to get the transmission rebuilt.

Should I call up Ford and complain?

The photo is the C4 transmission and the torque converter in the back of my truck, ready to be dropped off at Hackler Transmission.

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