'97 Taurus GL Tranny Problems

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I just got my hands on a '97 Taurus GL. When I first started driving it I noticed a vibration in the steering wheel that I thought to be unbalanced tires but I noticed one night on the interstate that I could slightly vary the intensity of the vibration by adding or taking away throttle.

Also the transmission stutters as it makes its last shift (overdrive?). I flushed the tranny, replaced the filter a fluid, and added some Lucas transmission additive to try and make things a little better. All that did make it noticably better but I can still feel the vibration. I called a couple shops and they all basically said the clutch-packs in the torque converter were worn and starting to slip during lock up which would cause vibration.

Is this accurate or is it maybe something simpler and easier? Also, how long can I expect to go before I have major transmission problems assuming I just drive it from this point on?

posted by  Grocery GTTR


posted by  vwhobo

Now that I have properly introduced myself, I should add to my original post that there is no leaking, slipping, or discoloration of fluid with my transmission. The tech also said that there was no debris in the old fluid when it was drained.

posted by  Grocery GTTR

Well I wish I had some good news for you, but I don't have much. You say you've called the transmission shops so that tells me they've given an over the phone diagnosis which is likely to be as accurate as an online diagnosis.

I'm sure as transmission specialty shops they see this problem more often than in my general repairs shops, but... They have no doubt had the same experiences as we have. My guess is that your car has near 100k miles on it and the pan has never been of. Based on my guess I'll go along with what the shops tell you because that's a very common scenario for this car.

Here is the only good news. If you take care of this problem soon enough you probably won't do any damage to the transaxle so the only major component that will need replacement is the torque converter. Of course you'll want to get the converter seal (or front pump seal) replaced while its apart. Not the best deal but substantially cheaper than replacing the entire unit.

Last tip. While the transaxle obviously has to be removed from the engine it doesn't have to come all the way out of the car. Don't let the shop charge you labor for a trans R&R. The difference will be around $75-$100 in your pocket.

posted by  vwhobo


Yes that problem could, in fact, be caused by worn T/C clutch. Usually though slipping will feel differently than a shudder. You mentioned unbalanced tires and while I understand your arguements on the transmission...have you balanced the front tires to 100% eliminate that as well as checked for bent rims/wheels?

Also, are you receiving any MIL's or DTC's in the PCM (Pxxxx) that would indicate anything like "transmission component slipping" or anything of such? I had a case where the TCC solenoid (torque converter clutch) was starting to go out and when the transmission would get up to operating temperature, it would start failing to go into lockup and so thereafter, I would get the check engine light. When scanned (I cannot remember the code offhand) I received a "trans. component slipping" error DTC. If it is slipping, it is very possible through the trans controller talking to the PCM to get the check engine light. My guess with your vibration though, seeing as you describe it as a shudder/vibration which is a constant and sequential motion much like tires out of balance, would be that if the clutch is infact breaking up, it is throwing the torque converter out of balance and causing the vibration at set speeds due to debris in the converter. You may or may not have debris in your fluid or discoloration, probably more prone to debris than any discoloration because the fluid is not being burned.

Drive the car out on the interstate or a good high speed and smooth road, allow the transmission to enter lock up in any gear. Then depress the throttle just ever-so-slightly such that you gain a little speed but do not kick out of lock-up. Do you feel any slippage or gain any rpm's on the tachometer but yet no direct gains in speed? This would indicate slipping at the torque converter clutch very possibly. Also, do you notice this only say, above 55mph? Can you correlate anything directly to certain speeds? When tires are out of balance, there is usually a speed at which you overcome the vibration due to the geometry and forces on that tire/wheel combo. It is hard to say for sure online, but it does sound that you quite possibly have a trans. problem if you've eliminated the tires/bent wheel, etc. Come back with some more info. on the above, thanks!

posted by  cmeseadoin

Hey guys,

Thanks for the replies so far. The vibration I am talking about is only for a short moment (a second or so) during the last shift (4th or overdrive?). The 1-2 and 2-3 are smooth as butter and then like I said the last shift has this stutter. I don't have any codes either by the way. I get absolutely no sign of slippage even if I add throttle to just before downshift in any gear. The vibration is more abundant in the steering wheel but nowhere else like the pedals. I know it's a given at this point to have the tires balanced but I'm a full-time student and a full-time employee and I just don't have the time until early next week. Vibration in the wheel is noticable on the 55-65mph range and very subtle, if it's even there at all, at the higher/lower speeds.

Thanks again guys!

posted by  Grocery GTTR

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