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Old 08-13-2010, 03:55 PM
carnivore69us carnivore69us is offline
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Default 1996 XLT 2WD AT - ATF in coolant system

Hi all...

1996 Ranger XLT
2.3L, 2WD, AT
192,000 miles

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?

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Old 08-14-2010, 03:26 PM
Areyouforcereal? Areyouforcereal? is offline
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Default Re: 1996 XLT 2WD AT - ATF in coolant system

Answer 1: NO you will burn up your trans. in no time.

Answer 2: Atf will enter your cooling system while the engine is running, since the trans. has more pressure than the cooling system. As soon as you turn the engine off, the roles are reversed. The cooling system still has some pressure on it, but the trans. does not, coolant will enter the trans.

Answer 3: If only water has entered the trans. you might be ok. I have had a lot of water in my trans. before and once i got it all out everything was fine. (knock on wood.) If any anti-freeze has gotten into the trans. (which is most likely.) Your trans. will need a rebuild with at the very least new clutches and bearings. The glycol in the anti-freeze will eat the clutch material right off the plates, and ruin the bearings. I used to rebuild Allison transmissions, and saw this all the time. the clutch material turns to goo. Standard procedure is a complete rebuild.
2003 Ranger FX4 level II. 3" BL, 33x12.50 GT Radial Mud Claws, Custom front and rear bumpers with winch hookups, custom flatbed, with hi-lift, and full size spare mount, 12,000 lb winch mounted under bed, Electric fan, and of course a flowmaster.
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Old 08-15-2010, 10:43 AM
carnivore69us carnivore69us is offline
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Default Re: 1996 XLT 2WD AT - ATF in coolant system

Thanks. I am surprised, but glad to know water won't do immediate damage to the trans. I'll keep an eye out for signs of antifreeze damage after I fix this cooler issue, but I may have lucked out, because I noted a few weeks ago the radiator overflow reservoir had what appeared to be only water in it. I had it on my to-do list to add some antifreeze (at least before winter), so my procrastination (or lack of urgency) may have saved me in this situation.

Thanks again.
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