Troubleshooting Dodge Transmission Problems
Have troubles with your Dodge transmission? Know the common problems that affect Dodge transmissions and learn how to diagnose Dodge transmission issues yourself with a diagnostic scanner.
Low transmission fluid levels often cause the majority of Dodge transmission problems. Other problems include inadequate transmission fluid cooling, worn gear clutches, transmission software issues, excessive towing, failed torque converter, and neglecting to perform transmission service on time.
Dodge cars, SUVs, and trucks can go over 100,000 on the original transmission. Having said that, we had seen a few rare cases where a Dodge transmission was replaced twice before the car reached 100,000 miles.
Remember that certain car problems can be misdiagnosed as transmission issues, including bad engine mounts, faulty mass airflow (MAF) sensors, or low voltage, which can put the vehicle in limp mode. Check if Dodge has issued any Transmission Recalls for your model.
These symptoms may affect Dodge models such as Durango, Dakota, Charger, Grand Caravan, etc. Common symptoms:
- Dodge won’t shift into overdrive.
- Erratic shifting when the car warms up
- The vehicle won’t go in gear or engage.
- Noise when transmission shifts gears
- Check engine light comes on.
- Transmission slips
- Delayed gear engagement
- Transmission slips in reverse
- Clunking noise from the transmission
- Burning fluid smell
- Metal shavings in transmission fluid
- Gears change late or at high RPMs
- The transmission gets stuck in gear (limp mode)
- Delayed or harsh 3-4 or 4-5 shifts
- The transmission won’t shift into 3rd gear.
Identifying the transmission model in your Dodge and researching problems for that particular model is crucial. These problems don’t affect all Dodge vehicles. The Dodge brand makes reliable vehicles, but some models, such as the pre-2000 Dodge Ram 1500 truck and Dodge Grand Caravan van, had higher transmission failure rates than normal.
Common issues that cause Dodge transmission problems:
- Low transmission fluid levels – Can cause delayed shifting or hard shifts.
- Faulty speed sensor – Vehicle won’t change gears, stuck in gear.
- Faulty valve body/solenoids – The faulty valve body can cause shift delays or bumps when downshifting from 2nd to 1st gear.
- Leaking transmission cooler lines – Same symptoms as low transmission fluid level.
- Low battery voltage or bad alternator – The vehicle gets stuck in limp mode.
- Premature gear clutch failure – Won’t go in 2nd, 3rd, or reverse gears.
- Torque converter clutch – The vehicle won’t move at any gear, including reverse.
- Shift motor actuator – Won’t be able to put the car in any gear.
- TCM software issue – Erratic shifting may require an ECU reflash to address this issue.
- Governor pressure solenoid or sensor (transducer).
- Output speed sensor – May get stuck in gear, won’t shift gears.
- Accumulator spring – Issues shifting from 3-4.
- Boost valve spring retainer – can break, leading to the boost valve and spring coming out of position. This causes a leak of the 4th gear and problems with TCC oil pressure. A common issue with these transmissions: 42RE, 42RH, 44RE, 44RH, 46RE, 46RH, 47RE, 47RH, 48RE, A727, A904
Troubleshooting Dodge Transmission Problems
Troubleshooting Dodge transmission problems requires tools and expertise, but that doesn’t mean you can’t check the basics yourself. This section will go over steps you can perform yourself, such as checking transmission fluid level and reading Diagnostic Trouble Codes (DTC) from the transmission module.
The YOUCANIC Full System Scanner can read and clear fault codes through every vehicle’s control module.
Check For Fluid Leaks
If your Dodge transmission has started to slip or bang in gear, you first need to check for fluid leaks. Place the vehicle outside and let it idle in the park for fifteen minutes. Check for any oil puddles under the car.
If you notice any significant oil spots, there is a high chance you may have a damaged transmission cooler line or seal, leading to the transmission leaking all the fluid.
Check the Transmission Fluid Level
The next step is to check the transmission fluid level. You should complete this step even if you don’t notice oil leaks. Suppose the transmission fluid level is slightly below the minimum. In that case, it can cause erratic shifting, transmission slipping, or banging in gear, especially during hard accelerations or when you take off from a stoplight or stop sign.
Here are the steps to check the transmission fluid level on a Dodge vehicle.
- Park the vehicle on level ground.
- Set the parking brakes.
- Start up the engine, and while you keep the brake pedal pressed, move the shifter between all gears, including P R N D (1,2,3).
- Move the shift in the Park position but leave the engine running.
- Pull the hood release under the dashboard on the driver’s side until you hear the hood pop open.
- Lift the hood and secure it with the rod prop or ensure the hood supports are strong enough to keep it open.
- Locate the transmission dipstick and pull it out.
- Wipe the transmission dipstick with a lint-free clean cloth.
- Fully reinsert the dipstick and remove it again.
- Determine the transmission fluid level. Make sure to look at the cold range unless you warmed up the vehicle by driving it for at least twenty minutes.
- If the level is below the minimum mark, add transmission fluid level to bring the level between MIN and MAX marks.
These procedures may vary between models. Some Dodge vehicles do not have a transmission dipstick. See the owner’s manual for further instructions.
The newer Dodge transmissions are electronically controlled, which means that the shifting is monitored and adjusted by the Engine Control Unit (ECU). Shift values can get out of range over time, leading to erratic shifting.
In these situations, you will need to perform a transmission relearn or quickly learn to fix the hard shifting issue. This procedure needs to be carried out with a scan tool that can access the transmission module and perform bi-directional communication, such as the YOUCANIC Full System Scanner.
In theory, the ECU should automatically learn and adjust the shift patterns as you drive, but this doesn’t always work as expected.
Read Transmission Fault Codes
If no transmission leaks are present and the transmission fluid level is correct, the next step is to read the Transmission Control Module’s fault codes. For this procedure, you will need a Dodge Transmission OBD-II scanner.
How to diagnose Dodge transmissions:
- Locate the diagnostic port under the dashboard and plugin your Dodge scanner.
- Turn on the ignition but do not start the engine.
- Please turn on the scanner and allow it to the community with the vehicle.
- Depending on the vehicle, you may have to select your Dodge model. Otherwise, jump to Transmission Module.
- Select Read Diagnostic Trouble Codes (DTC) from the transmission sub-menu.
Scroll throw the list of all the fault codes. Pay attention to the codes that have a PRESENT (CURRENT ) status.
Once you get the codes, you can further research the fault code and even call a couple of transmission shops near you to discuss the fault code over the phone.
You may be tempted to read the fault codes with a basic code reader, but those units can only retrieve generic fault codes from the engine control unit and may not show any fault codes for the transmission.
Dodge Transmission Problems by Symptoms
Slow or improper gear shifts
The most common issue with the 46RE four-speed automatic transmission is incorrect or delayed gearshifts. In most cases, this will happen either when going through 1st to 3rd gear or when shifting from 3th to 4th gear.
- If the issue affects gears 1-3, the likely reason is the governor pressure solenoid or the corresponding sensor. The solenoid wears out or gets stuck, which prevents proper operation. A faulty sensor or wiring issue will cause incorrect readings on the solenoid position.
- If the issue only affects the 4th (overdrive) gear, the problem is within the overdrive solenoid, which serves as a pressure accumulator that engages the overdrive. With time, it wears out and cannot create adequate oil pressure.
- Other possible causes include low transmission fluid levels or dirty transmission filters.
Whining or buzzing in reverse only
Some older Dodge trucks with 46RE four-speed automatic transmissions can produce a buzzing or whining sound when going into reverse. In most cases, this will be more noticeable when the vehicle is cold. Although no other symptoms are usually present, there can be issues with selecting the reverse in rare cases.
- A well-known problem covered by several corresponding Technical Service Bulletins. In some cases, a regulator valve may be faulty, and replacing it with an uprated one solves the problem.
- There is a ‘reverse buzz package,’ which includes all parts needed. The procedure involves removing the overdrive unit to replace the rear-band adjustment lever, reaction lever, and strut with upgraded components. It also consists of replacing the regulator valve pressure plug and sleeve.
- Other possible causes include cracked pump housings, a torn pump gasket, a low transmission fluid level, a dirty transmission filter, and restricted transmission cooler flow.
Torque converter clutch or overdrive performance issues
Dodge trucks with 46RE four-speed automatic transmission after 2000 can suffer from intermittent torque converter clutch or overdrive engagement problems. In most cases, this will be coupled with an illuminated ‘check engine’ warning light and P1740 code stored in DTC memory.
- The most common cause is the poorly designed cover plate holding the pressure boost valve on the bottom of the valve body. Because the relief orifice is too small, the retaining bracket that holds the lockup pump spring breaks. Installing a special upgrade kit from Superior Solution solves the issue.
- Faulty input or output sensor, or even the throttle position sensor that gives incorrect speed reading, can affect torque converter clutch performance. Look for other speed sensor-related codes and check the reading values using a scan tool.
- In some cases, the problem can be with the governor pressure solenoid or the corresponding sensor, as already described.
Delayed gear engagement
Dodge vehicles with 545RFE five-speed automatic transmissions made up to 2006 can have trouble shifting into drive or reverse. There is a noticeable delay with gear engagement when the vehicle is cold or turned off for a longer time. The problem will be more apparent when outside temperatures are very low. The check engine light may also come on.
- The OEM transmission cooler filter is loose, or, in some cases, it can even fall out of the thread. This allows the transmission fluid to drain from the torque converter and causes initial delays. Installing a modified filter solves the issue.
- Other possible causes include a dirty transmission filter, low level, or improper transmission fluid.
Difficulties while engaging or disengaging drive and reverse
Newer Dodge vehicles that use a 65RFE six-speed automatic transmission can suffer issues when shifting in or out of gears. These problems manifest as clunks or knocks when shifting to neutral or the inability to drive or reverse. In most cases, there will be no ‘check engine light or other symptoms.
- An incorrect underdrive clutch position can cause clunk issues. This known issue can be solved by installing a revised spacer plate into the valve body.
- Difficult shifting into drive or reverse is a tell-tale sign of worn low-reverse solenoid assembly, which has a well-documented tendency to fail prematurely. Replacing it with an upgraded item solves the problem.
Grinding or rattling noise while driving
When the car is in drive, it produces a grinding noise. This may happen when it starts from cold and goes away as it warms up or can always be present. The frequency of the noise follows the engine speed.
- A torque converter has several needle bearings inside, which can wear out or be damaged due to poor maintenance. In addition to noise, this can create noticeable vibrations during accelerations.
- Check the transmission fluid level and top it off if needed. If you don’t know when it was changed last time, consider replacing it with a filter.
68RFE is a 6-speed automatic transmission
The 68RFE is a 6-speed automatic transmission found in some Dodge Ram 2500 and 3500 trucks. Common problems with the 68RFE include the following:
- Solenoid failures: The 68RFE is known for having solenoid failures that can cause harsh shifting, slipping, or no forward or reverse gears.
- Overheating: The 68RFE is known for running hot, especially under heavy loads or towing. Overheating can cause damage to the transmission and lead to slipping or failure.
- Valve body problems: The valve body is responsible for directing hydraulic fluid to the clutches and bands that control the gears. Defective valve bodies can cause shifting issues, slipping, and even transmission failure.
- Clutch and band wear: The 68RFE uses multiple clutches and bands to control the gears. Wear on these components can cause slipping or shifting issues.
- Input shaft breakage: Some 68RFE transmissions are prone to breaking input shafts, especially under heavy loads or towing.
If you are experiencing transmission problems with your 68RFE, it is recommended to have it inspected by a professional transmission specialist. Addressing these issues early can prevent more costly repairs and extend the life of the transmission.
While it is not unusual to see Dodge cars, trucks, SUVs, and VANS clock over 200,000 miles on the original transmission, there are a few cases where the transmission may start having issues as early as 50,000 miles.
The life of the Dodge transmission can be affected by driving habits and service history. Changing the transmission fluid and filter every 60,000 miles or more frequently is regularly towing can help your Dodge transmission last longer. While most Dodges can go over 100,000 on the original transmission without any issue if you put highway miles, those who haul with their Dodge truck or VAN may consider buying an extended Dodge powertrain warranty.
Transmission problems will still develop no matter how well you maintain your Dodge. Using the recommended Dodge transmission fluid listed in your owner’s manual is crucial when servicing a Dodge transmission. Using the wrong transmission fluid can wear the transmission prematurely.
Fixing a Dodge transmission can be as easy as correcting the transmission fluid level or clearing voltage-related fault codes that have put the car in limp mode. In other cases, the problem can be an internal clutch pack or torque converter failure, which can end up costing thousands of dollars to repair. Over the years, Dodge has had many transmissions, including:
- 4-speed (45RFE ) automatic transmission from 1999–2003,
- 5-speed (545RFE ) automatic transmission from 2001–2011,
- 6-speed (65RFE) automatic transmission from 2012–2017,
- 6-speed heavy-duty (66RFE) automatic, 2012–present
- 8-Speed (845RE / 8R70) ZF Automatic Transmission was installed in many 2014 and newer models.
The early Dodge models had issues generally when cold. The most common issue is where the transmission will shift hard between 1st to 2nd or bump when downshifting. In recent years, the 8-speed Dodge transmission made by ZF has improved to the point that it has become one of the most reliable transmissions on Dodge vehicles.
Thanks for explaining that solenoid failures can also cause transmission problems later down the line. I’d like to find a good transmission clutch repair service soon because I’m interested in looking using my car for a long trip next month. I will need to start addressing its problems that I’ve been neglecting these past few months.