1996 XLT 2WD AT - ATF in coolant system
1996 Ranger XLT
2.3L, 2WD, AT
During the last 2-3 months I began to notice the transmission was 'using' ATF, and over the course of that time I've added 3-5 quarts in small increments to maintain the proper level. There were absolutely no overt signs indicating where it was going. Up until a couple of weeks ago, I religiously checked for leaks wherever I was parked, but observed none, and the transmission ran normally in every respect except for the aforementioned loss of fluid. The other day after parking, I happened to look underneath my truck, and I noticed some ATF dripping underneath. I investigated, and figured out it was coming from my radiator overflow reservoir after I opened the cap to same, and saw what appeared to be murky/rusty looking ATF (i.e. no signs of water, felt like ATF, smelled like ATF, etc.). I learned yesterday my neighbor observed the same leak underneath my truck a little over a week ago, so it's been doing it at least that long, possibly as long as 2 weeks since I last checked and saw nothing. The engine has been running at the same temperature during the entire course. Anyway, I thought the trans cooler would be separate from the radiator, but a little research revealed that's not the case, so it's obvious my trans cooler failed inside the radiator.
Question 1: Can I temporarily bypass the trans cooler for a couple of weeks using a clamp/hose setup until I can afford to purchase an external cooler, filter, and the appropriate flush/replacement fluids? My driving habits are normal stop and go, rarely over 30 miles a day, and temperatures have been in the low 90's, though they are forecast in the 80's next week. It's very unlikely I would be in a tow/hard driving situation. (Note: Obviously I'll cap the trans cooler inlet and outlet fittings, and flush the coolant system if I were to do this bypass)
Question 2: Has water likely back washed into my transmission, and if so, will it be evident if/when I drop the trans pan? There really is no sign of water in my reservoir and radiator, unless it mixes well with water, and that's why the ATF in the reservoir looks murky/rusty look (it could just as likely be rust from the radiator). The fluid on the dipstick appears to be clean (in as much as I can determine that from what little of it there is).
Question 3: If water has mixed with the ATF, is there anything I should perform aside from thoroughly flushing the trans and replacing the filter? Should I do anything special when flushing the coolant system given ATF has contaminated it?