Transmission cooler leak - does it really require $1000 repair?



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Thread: Transmission cooler leak - does it really require $1000 repair?

  1. #1
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    Transmission cooler leak - does it really require $1000 repair?

    Hi all - I've posted on only a couple of threads before but have gotten really great advice on repairs that I was able to do myself. Thanks again for all that advice.

    Here's a new problem. My 2005 T&C with 81,000 miles has been running fine but for the past several weeks, the transmission won't shift from reverse into drive when first started in the morning. The shift lever does not appear to have a linkage problem - it goes into reverse just fine; but when I back out of my 30-foot driveway and shift into drive, the transmission seems to slip into neutral. A reliable way to overcome this seems to be to rev the accelerator gently a few times, and the transmission will shift when the revs get high enough - at least that's the way it seems to me. It's happened only about 7 times in the past 4 weeks, but I've been concerned. I'm not sure, but there may also be a little rough shifting at speeds of about 30 to 35 or 40 mph. There has been no check engine light. There has been no obvious stain of transmission leakage on our driveway (although we do have a gravel driveway and it's hard to tell). The fluid has been a little low in the transmission, but not a huge amount low.

    We are leaving on a driving vacation in just a matter of days, so I had no choice but to take the van to the dealer for repairs, even though I'm not excited about that prospect. After looking at it for several hours, they called and said the problem was caused by a leak in the transmission cooler, and that because of the way the cooler is intermingled with the AC, there was "contamination of the AC coolant" as well. They said there was no apparent damage to the transmission itself, but that it was serious and needed to be dealt with soon or it would start causing damage. The dealer said they were going to have to take off the front end of the van, remove the radiator to get to the cooler, and disconnect the AC as well. They will need to replace the transmission cooler, flush and refill the transmission, flush and refill the AC, and then reassemble the radiator and front end of the van. Total cost - $1080.00.

    As I said, we're scheduled to leave in just a few days on vacation, so we had to say OK to the repair. But it sounds fishy to me. Does anyone have advice on what might be going on here? Does this sound reasonable? Was there an alternate if we'd had more time to investigate it or get a second opinion? Obviously, it won't help us, but maybe someone else is having this same problem and the answer might save them the amount of money we're having to pay.

    Thanks in advance for your advice!
    2005 Town and Country Limited, 3.8 Engine, no towing package; 81,500 miles; CD changer, fold-down DVD screen; replaced original battery in 2009 with Sears Die-Hard Platinum battery since original kept running down when doors were left open even for 10 minutes (new battery solved this). Bought minivan used Dec. 2007 with 40,000 miles on it. Replaced sway bar bushings fall 2008; repaired cracked wiring in driver's side power sliding door spring 2009; replaced rear window wiper motor summer 2009.

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  3. #2
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    Gosh that's a lot of $$ for a tranny service, rad flush and AC redo!

    I'm no expert but it sounds like alot
    04 GC SXT 3.8L 95kL (mine)
    99 GC Sport 3.8L 190kL (sold summer 2012)
    02 Pontiac Aztek 3.4L 180kL (hers)
    02 Mazda Protege 2.0L 220kL (kids /acquired summer 2012)

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    That sounds awful expensive to me!
    The A/C "intermingled" with the tranny?????

    Here's the fix I would have done.

    Find the leak in the cooler.
    Clean the spot with electrical contact cleaner.
    Fix the leak with JB Weld
    Pressure test the repair with soap bubbles.
    Put everything back together.
    Add fluid until the tranny's full.

    The cost would have been less than $20.

    Although the JB Weld fix might sound kinda' shaky to some,I've used it on quite a few repairs.Unless it's subjected to very high temperatures you can consider it permanent.

    I know it's of little use to you now but post here before you take things to a shop.They are there to make money and we aren't.
    Last edited by chopper; 07-24-2009 at 09:05 AM.
    04 Mustang GT,92 GC SE 3.3,07 T&C 3.8,three Harleys and an airplane.

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    BTW, it's not AC intermingled with the transmission fluid - rather the *engine* cooling system (antifreeze) intermingling with the transmission fluid.

    They are correct that getting antifreeze in your transmission fluid can cause a lot of damage. This is definitely a repair you want to have done *right*.

    The price they quoted you is a bit high (maybe you have the heavy duty cooling option?), but it can take a lot of flushing to get the antifreeze totally out of the transmission. There have been other reports here of this particular problem happening.

    - G
    1998 Grand Voyager @282,000mi, 3.3L FFV V6

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    Get an external cooler and bypass the rad cooler altogether. Problem solved.

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    I went out and looked at my 07 and it does seem that the cooler lines dissappear into a space between the evaporator and the radiator,so the cooler just might be inside the radiator.If that's the case then a new radiator is the only way to fix the leak unless you can find a radiator repair shop that can press the old ends back onto the repaired core.
    I still think someone is taking the long way around the repair though.

    Changing over to an external cooler is the best way to fix the problem BUT be sure to plug the fittings going into the radiator or they will leak engine coolant if there's a leak.An external cooler is also the very best thing you can do for an automatic transmission.Heat kills more tranny's than anything but winding the engine and dumping it into drive.

    http://www.allpar.com/
    04 Mustang GT,92 GC SE 3.3,07 T&C 3.8,three Harleys and an airplane.

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    As I reread this post, it occurred to me, I have an 05 TC w/ 3.8 and there is no way that the coolant and the transmission fluid can mix, as far as I can tell. The Front cooler has the tranny, the top couple of tubes, and the AC condenser, the bottom tubes, on the same unit, but since both are pressurized and go in through different inlets and have no common tubing, I can't imagine a scenario where AC and Tranny fluid or Tranny and Coolant could mix. These coolers are not in the radiator, unless you have some kind of different system. Follow the pipes out of the tranny and up the right side (facing the engine) of the Radiator/cooler assembly. Does it go into a separate cooler on the front of the coolant radiator? (two radiators) Or does it go into the ONE coolant radiator. That will tell you if this kind of cross contamination is possible.
    The kind of slipping you are describing is very typical of worn out transmission fluid. That is always the first and cheapest thing to check. Change the fluid and filter (see posts) and replace the form a gasket with a rubber gasket from Napa. Then drop and change the fluid again and a third time after a hundred miles or so between. You will effectively get the same results as most flushes without the risks. Use the ATF4. See if that doesn't fix it if you have never had the fluid changed. You may be operating under extreme conditions (doesn't take much) and that is suggested to change at 60k.
    Good luck
    2005 T&C Ltd 3.8 69k
    2000 Caravan 2.4l
    1990 Grand Caravan 3.3 149,000 owned 15yrs 4 trannies
    1990 Dynasty 3.0 120k 1 tranny 4yrs
    1981 Dodge Aries 2.6 only new car I ever bought 225k orig 11yrs
    1966 Dodge Coronet 440 Wagon, way old 1 yr. 135$ (Had to borrow it at the bank!)
    1964 Simca 1000 (bought for $10 rebored) 50k 4yrs
    1965 Ply Valiant V8 85k
    1964 Ply Valiant Wagon slant 6 200k 1 qt/200 miles
    1969 Corvair convertible 4 carb

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    Quote Originally Posted by dmtstudio View Post
    Hi all - I've posted on only a couple of threads before but have gotten really great advice on repairs that I was able to do myself. Thanks again for all that advice.

    Here's a new problem. My 2005 T&C with 81,000 miles has been running fine but for the past several weeks, the transmission won't shift from reverse into drive when first started in the morning. The shift lever does not appear to have a linkage problem - it goes into reverse just fine; but when I back out of my 30-foot driveway and shift into drive, the transmission seems to slip into neutral. A reliable way to overcome this seems to be to rev the accelerator gently a few times, and the transmission will shift when the revs get high enough - at least that's the way it seems to me. It's happened only about 7 times in the past 4 weeks, but I've been concerned. I'm not sure, but there may also be a little rough shifting at speeds of about 30 to 35 or 40 mph. There has been no check engine light. There has been no obvious stain of transmission leakage on our driveway (although we do have a gravel driveway and it's hard to tell). The fluid has been a little low in the transmission, but not a huge amount low.

    We are leaving on a driving vacation in just a matter of days, so I had no choice but to take the van to the dealer for repairs, even though I'm not excited about that prospect. After looking at it for several hours, they called and said the problem was caused by a leak in the transmission cooler, and that because of the way the cooler is intermingled with the AC, there was "contamination of the AC coolant" as well. They said there was no apparent damage to the transmission itself, but that it was serious and needed to be dealt with soon or it would start causing damage. The dealer said they were going to have to take off the front end of the van, remove the radiator to get to the cooler, and disconnect the AC as well. They will need to replace the transmission cooler, flush and refill the transmission, flush and refill the AC, and then reassemble the radiator and front end of the van. Total cost - $1080.00.

    As I said, we're scheduled to leave in just a few days on vacation, so we had to say OK to the repair. But it sounds fishy to me. Does anyone have advice on what might be going on here? Does this sound reasonable? Was there an alternate if we'd had more time to investigate it or get a second opinion? Obviously, it won't help us, but maybe someone else is having this same problem and the answer might save them the amount of money we're having to pay.

    Thanks in advance for your advice!
    first your ac has nothing to do with your trans in any way shape or form.

    There has been many cases of the trans cooler in the radiator failing. it's easy to tell. remove radiator cap and if you see transmission fluid in the coolant. since oil floats on water, it will show up at the radiator cap. if this is not apparent then skip all this discussion.

    It is very common for a seal failure to occur on causing your problem. I've rebuilt a lot of transmissions with this exact symptom (always start with verifying fluid level, correct and clean filter). if these are ok, then it's internal trans time.

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    Question

    Say dmtstudio, How do you check your tranny fluid? Do you do it with the engine running or shut off? Where on the dipstick is it showing, in reference to the markings?
    1990 Plymouth Grand Voyager LE 3.3L LWB-- 207,000 miles and counting ......
    333,134.21 kilometers, for you metric buffs ......
    For Sale - Make Offer


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    The transmission cooler is in the lower part of the AC condensor. Unusual but true on 2005 and newer Gen 4 vans.
    Hank
    07 Dodge Caravan SXT 3.3L Gold 125,000 kms
    05 Dodge Caravan SE 3.3L Silver 185,000 kms
    84, 89, 93, 94, 95 Chrysler minivans in my past, all served me well and are long gone.
    90 Shadow long gone

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