Shifting problems can sometimes occur among vehicles with automatic transmissions. This was the reason why a four-door F-150 pickup truck came into our shop the other week.
The technician who was working on it checked the basics and found that the transmission fluid was low by about three quarts.
He also looked into Technical Service Bulletins (TSBs) and common problems with these trucks. Through this process, we learned that the seal at the transfer case can go bad, causing the transmission fluid to go into the transfer case.
Searching for the transmission fluid
We put the vehicle up in the air and – just looking at it – didn’t see any visible leaks for three quarts of transmission fluid to disappear to.
The technician dug further into the issue to determine what was happening.
As he pulled off the vent hose coming off the transfer case, it started leaking fluid. So, it was probably a day or two before it would have started pushing out of the tube and leaking on the ground.
This is why you shouldn’t go based on outward appearance when performing auto repair. The problem could be hidden behind other parts.
How we solved the problem
This is where the transfer case connects to the transmission.
So, it was a pretty straightforward fix – we pulled the transfer case off the back of the transmission, replaced the seal, put it back together, and made sure the transmission fluid was topped off.
To make sure everything would be good for a while, we put some synthetic transmission fluid in the system and ensured it had the correct amount. Then we performed a flush on the transmission so that it was serviced up and this customer could be on their way again.
Whether you should go ahead and do a transmission fluid flush is based on the mileage and what’s going on with the vehicle.
Transmission fluid exchanges are recommended every 30,000 miles – depending on the vehicle and what the manufacturer suggests. This service cleans out the transmission and enables the component to continue running the way it should. To learn more about transmission fluid exchanges, check out this article we posted.
Certain vehicles may need a transfer case fluid exchange, which extends the transfer case’s lifespan.
Other causes of shifting problems
A bad transfer case seal isn’t the only reason why a vehicle may be experiencing shifting problems.
Trouble switching gears can also be the result of a bad automatic transmission. Other indicators include slipping or a whining noise.
Low fluid or fluid with contaminants in it may result in shifting problems, as well. Keep in mind that fluid doesn’t just go bad. if it has debris in it, that means that something is breaking down within the transmission.
If the problem is that your car won’t come out of park, there might be something wrong with the shift interlock solenoid (as was the case with a Nissan Altima) or the brake light switch.
There are several possible explanations for why you may be having trouble changing gears. Make sure to have the issue checked out by an automotive professional, so it doesn’t become worse or impact the safety of you and your passengers.
Steve’s Auto Repair & Tire is an authorized Goodyear tire dealer located near Dale City, Virginia. Automotive repair services are performed on all makes and models, including BMW and Mercedes. Services include oil changes, brakes, alignments, inspections, and computer engine diagnostics.