Ford Transmission Problems | Common Causes

Troubleshooting Ford Transmission Problems

DIY Cost: $80-$250
Est. Time: 30 min - 2 hr
Difficulty: Difficult
This guide will discuss some of the most common problems that affect Ford automatic transmissions. 

Most Ford automatic transmission problems are caused due to low transmission fluid.  Certain Ford models equipped with the PowerShift dual-clutch automatic transmission, such as Ford Fiesta and Ford Focus, have issues such as erratic shifting, transmission drops in neutral, or lack of acceleration.

Troubleshooting Ford Transmission Problems

How to diagnose Ford transmission problems

The good news is that most Ford transmission problems are detected by the Transmission Control Module (TCM), where fault codes are stored, retrieved with the right scanner. 

To diagnose Ford's automatic transmission problems, read the fault codes with a Ford Transmsison Scanner. Note that generic OBD-II scanners can only read codes related to the check engine light and not transmission codes. For more help, see our guide on choosing the best scanner for Ford. 

You will also learn how to read Ford transmission fault codes using a Ford OBD-II Scanner.

  1. Park the vehicle and turn off the ignition. Set parking brakes. 
  2. Locate diagnostic port under the dashboard, driver's side. 
  3. Plugin your OBD-II scanner, then turn on the ignition without starting the engine. 
  4. The scanner will turn on. Allow it to communicate with the vehicle. Select Ford and your model. 
  5. Select Control Units, then Transmission or PCM Module. 
  6. Select Read Fault Codes from the main menu.  

Troubleshooting by Symptoms

Low Power Stalling and Quick Shifting

Valve Body

Ford trucks with a 4R70E or 4R75E 4-speed automatic transmission can develop several different gear shift issues. Sometimes it will show up as a lack of acceleration only in second gear or unusually fast gear shifts.

Another common symptom is stalling when coming to a stop. 

Possible causes 

  • Valve body check balls, which ensure transmission fluid flows into right chambers, wear out prematurely. This happens because this transmission was the first one to use rubber check balls instead of steel ones. Replacing them with upgraded ones solves the problem.   

Sticking or leaking Variable Camshaft Timing (VCT) solenoid can cause similar issues, so make sure to rule that out. 

Sudden downshift to 1st gear.

Ford Engine Transmission problems

All Ford vehicles with a 6R80 6-speed automatic transmission can develop an issue with sudden and unintended downshifts to 1st gear.

This happens in any gear, and in most cases, there will be no apparent pattern. Sometimes, this will trigger a check engine light, which means there will be a code stored in Powertrain Module memory.    

Possible causes

  • Many of these transmissions have an issue with a faulty Output Speed Sensor (OSS), which occasionally sends an incorrect signal to the TCU. In most cases, this is covered by a safety recall 19V-075. Contact your authorized Ford dealer to see if your vehicle is affected. 
  • Check the Output speed sensor wiring and connector for damage or loose play. 

Harsh Shifting

All vehicles with any variant of six-speed automatic transmission can suffer from harsh shifting.

In most cases, this will be most noticeable during upshifts or downshifts between 3th and 4th gear. This will be an occasional issue for most drivers, and there will be no other apparent symptoms.

Possible causes

  • All six-speed transmissions have highly adaptable shift calibrations, which ‘learn’ and adapt their shift patterns based on the driving style. The harsh shifting happens in scenarios where several persons with different driving habits use the same vehicle. Adjusting your driving style to match others can solve the issue. 
  • Sometimes installing the latest TCM calibration update and resetting adaptive learning parameters can make shifts smooth. If this is the case, no further repairs are needed. 
  • Check transmission fluid level and top-up or replace it if needed.   

Incorrect shifting and slipping during acceleration or deceleration 

Transmission Clutch

When accelerating fast in cars with Powershift dual-clutch automated transmissions, there can be a slipping sensation or shaking followed by audible noise. This can also be accompanied by downshifting issues, meaning the vehicle will remain in a higher gear. Both of this can be a safety issue, as it affects acceleration and overall vehicle performance. 

Possible causes

  • This is a well-known problem that affects many cars made from 2010-2017. As it led to various class-action lawsuits, Ford extended its warranties on this issue in many countries. Contact your Ford authorized dealer. 
  • The root of this problem is within the clutch material, which sometimes overheats under load. As a result, TCU cannot handle rapid gear changes. 
  •  In some cases, the problem is within TCU itself. One of the microprocessors inside it can develop a solder crack, which causes intermittent gear shift issues.   

Loss of 4th overdrive gear 

Ford trucks with a 4R70E or 4R75E 4-speed automatic transmission can suffer an intermittent or constant loss of 4th overdrive gear.

The problem will usually start as an occasional issue that occurs only when cold but might become a constant problem. Instead of engaging overdrive gear, the transmission will shift to neutral. There will be no other issues with the gearshift or any warning lights on the dashboard. 

Possible causes

  • In most cases, this will be caused by faults related to an overdrive servo. Sometimes, a sealing ring wears out, and the servo cannot produce sufficient pressure. This will usually show up as a gradual process, and the shifting issue will become more frequent with time. 
  • The retaining clip (part no. F2VY7384B) can break, causing a sudden and constant overdrive loss. In most cases, you can identify this by looking for metal parts within the valve body. 
  • In some cases, the problem is with the servo's pin, which has too much clearance within the bore. This can be solved by using an upgraded pin.

Juddering and shaking on idle or during gear shifts

Ford Transmission Problems

Cars with Powershift dual-clutch automated transmissions can suffer from various types of juddering. It may happen immediately after startup or while idling and is usually accompanied by a loud clattering noise. Another possible scenario is juddering during gearshifts, most noticeable in low gears. 

Possible causes

  • Worn dual-mass flywheel, which has too much play in it. This causes a metallic rattle while idling. Check the flywheel condition and replace it if there is any movement between the two plates. 
  • A worn dual-clutch assembly as a result of normal wear-and-tear. Although repair kits allow partial repair, replacing the whole clutch assembly is usually the best solution. 
  • Worn engine or gearbox mounts. This allows excessive movement, causing the engine and gearbox to jump when pulling off from a stand-still. 

Ford transmission problems can range from being stuck in gear, not shifting into 3rd, no reverse, harsh shifting. Low transmission fluid levels cause a lot of Ford transmission problems. Still, similar symptoms can also indicate a serious problem such as a faulty valve body and torque converter.

If you are experiencing problems with your Ford transmission, the first thing that you need to do is to check the transmission fluid level. If the level is correct, the next step is to read the Transmission Control Unit (TCU) fault codes with a Ford OBD-II Scanner.

Check Ford Transmission Fluid Level

If your Ford transmission is not shifting smoothly, shifting late, or slips, the first thing you need to do is check the transmission fluid level. Checking the transmission fluid level is very easy if your Foord has a transmission dipstick.

  1. Park vehicle on level ground when possible. 
  2. Set the parking brakes and shifter in Park. 
  3. Pull the hood release and open the hood. 
  4. Locate the transmission dipstick. 
  5. Remove the dipstick and clean it with a clean cloth. 
  6. Reinsert the dipstick in the transmission. Ensure the transmission is fully inserted, then remove it. 
  7. Look carefully at the dipstick to determine the current transmission fluid level. The level should be between MIN and MAX marks for the COLD (lower) markings. 
  8. If the level is low, add transmission fluid level. 
  9. Drive vehicle for fifteen minutes making sure to select all the gears manually. 
  10. Repeat the procedure once the transmission warm-up, but this time, the level must be between the MIN and MAX marks for the HOD (higher) markings. 

Not all Ford vehicles have a transmission dipstick. If the dipstick is not present, the vehicle will need to be raised on a lift, and the level can be checked via the drain plug. 

Check Recalls

Check if any open recalls or Technical Service Bulletin (TSB) exist for your Ford that affects the transmission.

Recalls if they exist are performed free of charge by any Ford dealer. To check if a recall exists on your vehicle, visit our Check Recalls page. Ford Technical Service Bulletins for the transmission typically update the Engine or Transmsimon control unit software.

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