Question: I had my F-250's transmission flushed and filled at 90,000 miles. A week later, after few driven miles, it lurched as if going into passing gear and the "Tow/Haul On" light started blinking. After the dealer scanned it, he first saw codes for a bad solenoid, then a bad EGR valve. When he dropped the pan, he saw metal pieces. He road-tested it again and found it took off in third gear and went right into fifth. The dealer recommends a refurbished transmission for $3200. Prior to any preventive maintenance, the truck ran great, with no symptoms of any kind, and I don't believe in coincidences.
Answer: The dealer didn't actually flush the transmission. Flushing is a procedure that uses high-pressure air and automatic transmission fluid to clear out unwanted debris and contaminated fluids from the transmission cooler and cooler lines. Flushing is necessary only after a catastrophic transmission failure and performed prior to the installation of a new or repaired unit. Recently, auto repair shops have started selling more of a fluid exchange program. Equipment is attached in line with the transmission cooler lines, and while the engine runs, new fluid is pumped in and the old fluid is pumped out. This procedure is replacing the old standby of dropping the transmission pan, changing the filter, and adding new fluid. The advantage is replacement of almost all the fluid (10-15 quarts), as opposed to dropping the pan and replacing 4-6 quarts. A large amount of fluid remains in the torque converter. A disadvantage to the fluid exchange is the technicians typically don't drop the transmission pan to inspect for debris, nor do they replace the filter. The big reason behind the new method is profitability--they do less and you pay more. The same results could probably be achieved by servicing the transmission the old fashioned way, just more often. As far as your situation is concerned, the failure could have been induced by a number of catalysts. It may be a coincidence. Trust me, stranger things have happened. Was it the first transmission service? If so, 90,000 miles is beyond the recommended interval. If the problem was indeed instigated by the service, it'll be tough to prove. Incorrect or contaminated fluid may have been used, or small debris could have accidentally entered the system while the equipment was hooked up to the cooler lines. Either situation can damage seals necessary to apply internal clutches, possibly block hydraulic passages, or hang up a valve or solenoid (the EGR trouble code shouldn't be relevant to a transmission problem). Have a friendly discussion with the service manager and see if he's willing to make a good-faith effort on the cost. Next step would be a letter from an attorney, and the last resort a court of law. The dealership and/or manufacturer will drag it out.
How To Reach Alex
If you have a technical question regarding your pickup, SUV, or van, feel free to contact Alex, a master technician with the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence. Send a letter to him in care of Truck Trend Garage, 831 S. Douglas Street, El Segundo, CA 90245, or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include the VIN with your question. Due to the volume of questions received every month, we cannot guarantee that everyone's question will be personally answered or will appear in the magazine.
Can't wait for help with a problem you're having with your Truck or SUV? Ask the expert we trust here at Truck Trend Garage—visit Alex Steele at www.RealWorldAutomotive.com.