1992 Ford F-150 - Project Fiery Redhead: Part 3Posted in Project Vehicles on July 20, 2004
The first sign of trouble manifested itself while driving on an uphill grade. Our F-150's E4OD transmission downshifted from 4th to 3rd gear and then promptly let loose with a series of scary vibrations from deep within its bowels. As soon as we lifted the throttle these vibrations ended, but it was clear that our E4OD's days of operation were drawing to a close.
At this point we were forced to make a decision. We could rebuild and beef the stock trans, install an aftermarket-modified trans or get rid of the E4OD altogether and replace it with a reliable, non-overdrive C6 unit. Since the F-150 is our daily driver, one of our goals was to retain as much fuel mileage as possible, so we dismissed the C6 option. That left either a rebuild or a ready-to-go aftermarket unit. Ultimately, we succumbed to our own curiosity--we knew if we took it somewhere to have it rebuilt, we could actually see what components had worn in our transmission, and we could see how these components are upgraded to prevent future failure.
The transmission was removed from the truck at Fiery Redhead's official buildup shop, Attitude Performance in Arlington Heights, Illinois, by owner Matt Dinelli. Dinelli recommended we contact Steve Jans at Valley Transmission & Brake in Skokie, Illinois. Jans has 30 years of experience completing transmission rebuilds and upgrades, and more importantly, he knows the E40D unit inside and out. Jans has learned what components tend to fail in these units, why they fail and how they can be upgraded to avoid a recurrence.
The following photos show the basics of the transmission removal and a few of the notable internal upgrades that Valley Transmission & Brake completed on our trans. Hopefully, this will give you an idea of what can be done to this popular tranny to ensure that you'll enjoy years of trouble-free performance both on- and off-highway.
We're thrilled with the performance of our rebuilt E40D transmission. After several hundred miles of driving, we're compelled to say that the performance of the unit is very pleasing. And, as a bonus, we're enjoying cooler overall operating temperatures and the peace of mind that comes with knowing that many of the weak factory parts have been replaced with beefier components.
Great debate has raged over the E4OD transmission and its potential for providing an adequate service life in a four-wheel-drive vehicle. To get the lowdown, we asked the pros. They told us that the unit is in fact quite reliable when rebuilt and beefed. The E4OD transmission was introduced in 1989, and at that time it was Ford's first fully electronic transmission. Most transmission pros will agree that the early units were weak and unreliable, but the E4OD has seen many updates and changes since then, and these have increased its reliability. The E4OD transmission is a very large and heavy transmission, and these factors keep it relegated to mostly light truck applications. Don't confuse the E4OD with the AOD transmission that was phased out of production in 1993 after a 13-year run.
Beefy Torque Converter
A torque converter is a fluid coupling between the engine and transmission. It undergoes intense stress and generates most of the heat in your transmission. Thus, it's important to select a well-built, durable unit when you rebuild your trans. Steve Jans, owner of Valley Transmission & Brake, recommended that we use a Midwest Converter torque converter in our E4OD transmission. Midwest has more than 30 years of experience in transmission and torque-converter manufacturing. Its products are designed for those who want a long-lasting, premium high-performance torque converter.
We installed one of its FOHD4 four-stud off-road converters, designed to improve power and torque at low rpm as well as lower operating temperatures and increase the life of the transmission. The unit's build quality is impressive. The list includes many components made on Midwest's own CNC machines from heat-treated 4140 chromoly steel (stock converters use powdered metal), a turbine and impeller that are furnace-brazed for superior reinforcement (most stock units don't feature any brazing), multiple-disc clutch assemblies (most stock units use a single-disc clutch), steel billet front clutch cover (most stock units are stamped steel) and clutch linings made of Kevlar and high-performance carbon (stock units use celluloid). Further, all Midwest Converters feature oversized roller bearings and a micro blue finish enhancement on the impeller hub that increases the life of the pump seal.
Finally, each converter is aligned and welded on a computer-controlled machine and balanced on a computer balancer. Midwest Converters manufactures converters for most transmissions, so the company probably has one for your rig. They come with a 2-year warranty.
Re-install the transmission mount and crossmembers (shown) as well as the front and rear driveshafts. Dinelli added 8 quarts of fluid to our trans before engine startup. He notes that before starting the vehicle, it's very important to make sure the neutral safety switch is properly installed and the vehicle is securely in park. If the vehicle should happen to be in gear as fluid is added with a running engine, the vehicle could literally drive away.