Hard Second to First Gear Downshift

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Hard Second to First Gear Downshift

Postby ITSANSS » Mon Feb 23, 2009 10:22 pm

2003 Dodge Neon SXT
2.0 liter engine
Automatic transmission
7,600 miles

Just bought this car and decided to start with all new fluids, transmission fluid being one of them.

Changed the filter and fluid. Bolted everything back up using the gasket included with the filter kit plus a little RTV to be 'safe' (said could use either gasket or bead of RTV; why not both?), poured fresh fluid in, leaked around the pan real bad.

Pulled pan, salvaged as much brand new fluid as possible. Put triple the amount of RTV on it, included the gasket once again, torqued the bolts to specification this time (8 - 10 foot pounds), and poured in new fluid, no leaks. Started car, no leaks. Drove car around, shifted fine up and down, parked car. Good size puddle under the car the following day. (Half a quart, estimated.)

Pulled pan for the third time, again salvaging as much fluid as possible (nearly $5/quart). This time we threw the gasket away and just used a TON of RTV. Also, we decided to let the RTV sit a few minutes before bolting it back to the transmission. Bolted her back up, didn't have a torque wrench so we carefully and somewhat evenly tightened the bolts. Let it sit about an hour before pouring in fluid. Poured it in, and around a couple bolts it looked wet. NO! Screw it. I decided to take it to a professional the following morning and also decided to do a garage clean-up so I could channel my anger towards the mess rather than the car or a person.

This is where I think I may have screwed up, causing the hard second to first gear downshift.

Started the car up after third pan removal so I could clean the floor and before letting the transmission fluid circulate, I put it in reverse. The car did not go anywhere. It took a good twenty seconds for the pressure to be great enough to move the car. Figured the fluid was about a half quart low and that it had not been circulated properly, no big deal.

Next day taking it to professional for the leak, pulling up to first stop sign it shifted hard. Figured it was because it was a little low on fluid. Automatic transmissions rely on fluid to work properly, if I remember correctly from automotive service class. Too little or too much ain’t good. Down shifted hard no matter how hard I was braking or if I was turning a corner. Nearly exactly 25 MPH it hit hard to first gear while slowing down. But, get this, it no longer leaks. Somehow or another overnight the RTV must have sealed itself up. Took to it to a shop and the guy said he saw no leaks…so.

Does putting the car in gear before the fluid (that was about ¾ of a quart low) circulates sound like it could be the cause of my hard downshift? Please tell me I did not screw up a 7,600 mile transmission.

Sorry for the book I wrote, but I figure ya’ll’ll need as much detail as possible. Gotta’ hate those posts by people that want help, but do as little as possible to make it easy or even remotely possible to give them help.

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Re: Hard Second to First Gear Downshift

Postby UptownSport » Mon Feb 23, 2009 11:14 pm

Slow engagement into first is a sign of low pressure. You've likely got so much silicon
floating around in you trans that it's anyone's guess, tho.
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Re: Hard Second to First Gear Downshift

Postby Mat » Tue Feb 24, 2009 7:35 am

What kind of trans fluid did you use?

Also, years ago, I replaced my wife's ATX filter and gasket in the dead of winter (drain, wrench, and refill right away) and didn't run into this problem...but I also only sprayed the gasket with Mopar Gasket Sealer.
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Re: Hard Second to First Gear Downshift

Postby ITSANSS » Tue Feb 24, 2009 7:36 am

Slow engagement into first? Talking about the hard downshift from second gear to first? I would think that would be considered a fast engagement rather than slow...

The bead of silicon I put around the rim of the pan may have been extreme, but I feel pretty confident that none slipped into the pan. However, even if some or even a lot did, wouldn't the filter keep it out of the transmission? Everything still works flawlessly except that one shift. Although I am no expert by far, I really have to think that my putting the car in gear before the fluid, that was a little low, got circulated screwed something up somehow.

Is there some sort of reset for the transmission?

I was working on a 1995 Cadillac El Dorado not too long ago and it had a hard shift in all gears, even putting the car into gear jerked real hard. This happened after replacing the input speed sensors in the transmission. Wait, there is a trend of me working on a transmission and it then screwing up. lol I talked to a guy that's worked on Cadillacs for a lot of years and he said that replacing input speed sensors and other various transmission parts (shift solenoids, etc.) requires a computer reset of the transmission. It goes into some sort of trouble code/something's wrong, fix me/something's different, tell me what it is - mode.

Maybe the Neon fluid being 3/4 of a quart low tripped something (although no dash light indicators are on) and wants attention...?

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Re: Hard Second to First Gear Downshift

Postby ITSANSS » Tue Feb 24, 2009 7:38 am

Mat wrote:What kind of trans fluid did you use?


Advance Auto Parts ATF+4. That is what their computer told 'em.

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Re: Hard Second to First Gear Downshift

Postby Mat » Tue Feb 24, 2009 7:45 am

Okay, that's the right stuff.
These are electronic transmissions, it's possible that you could reset the ECU with a DRB scanner or something, but that's about the extent of my electronic trans knowledge. I like the old, mechanical 3-speed units so much better!
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Re: Hard Second to First Gear Downshift

Postby UptownSport » Tue Feb 24, 2009 8:42 am

ITSANSS wrote:Slow engagement into first? Talking about the hard downshift from second gear to first? I would think that would be considered a fast engagement rather than slow...

ITSANSS wrote:I put it in reverse. The car did not go anywhere. It took a good twenty seconds for the pressure to be great enough to move the car. Figured the fluid was about a half quart low and that it had not been circulated properly, no big deal.

Ooops! No, reverse. There was a lot to read there. That's even more of a sign of low pressure
than the forward ranges, at least from when I used to work on ATX in the 80's.
I don't know why you are experiencing a banging aor harsh downshift. My guess is the same,
you either got silicone or something into the valve body, or governor somehow, or smoked
a set of clutches running it low.

Did you say it only had 7500 miles on it? Why would you be changing the fluid?
Although I'm sure trans have changed since the 60' and 70's, I don't know that there's
any 'reset.'

ATX were pretty EZ to work on, but I have concerns about what happened trying to change
the gasket.

How about this; is/was the fluid burnt? You can smell it.
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Re: Hard Second to First Gear Downshift

Postby ITSANSS » Tue Feb 24, 2009 7:03 pm

UptownSport wrote:Ooops! No, reverse. There was a lot to read there. That's even more of a sign of low pressure
than the forward ranges, at least from when I used to work on ATX in the 80's.
I don't know why you are experiencing a banging aor harsh downshift. My guess is the same,
you either got silicone or something into the valve body, or governor somehow, or smoked
a set of clutches running it low.

Did you say it only had 7500 miles on it? Why would you be changing the fluid?
Although I'm sure trans have changed since the 60' and 70's, I don't know that there's
any 'reset.'

ATX were pretty EZ to work on, but I have concerns about what happened trying to change
the gasket.

How about this; is/was the fluid burnt? You can smell it.


I think I may give a local transmission place a call tomorrow. See if I can describe to them what is happening and if they know right away what it is/might be.

Car has 7,637 miles on it. It was wrecked in 2003 and went through auto. auction where my friend's uncle bought it. He was going to restore it for his daughter, but she did not want it because it was four door. He was disappointed and let it sit for two years in his pasture. His nephew, my buddy, told him that I did some body work and that he would drive it down here and I would work on it for 'em. He limped it down (all four spindles were bent, body torn to all heck, etc.) and it sat in his pasture for two years. Finally, we decided to start working on it in his shop. Took us a little over a year of working on it here and there to get it looking half respectable. Once it was decent, told his uncle to come and pick it up, but he is too busy with his car wash to mess with it. Six months goes by and during that time I decided to buy it. lol

Out of everything else, the transmission NEVER had a problem. Although it has such few miles, I wanted to start fresh with all new fluids since it had been sitting. The fluid that came out looked and smelled as great as transmission fluid can look/smell. Also, the fluid that came out those three times trying to get it to stop leaking also looked/smelled as good as transmission can look/smell.

I really appreciate all the help, guys.
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