Transmission issues - what is normal? (1 Viewer)

Joined
Dec 16, 2019
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Seattle
I've read a bunch of threads but none of them seem to mention my collection of transmission "issues" - trying to determine what is normal vs what I should take it to a shop to get worked on.

I have a '91 full time 4WD which I understand is the A440F auto transmission with ~247,000 miles on it. I know that my transfer case does have a leak in it which I want to get fixed ASAP.

Symptoms:

  • I've got delayed engagement coming out of Park to Reverse and Drive in the morning, which has been going on for a while, I just wait to engage the gas and let the car naturally find the gear after a few seconds (3-5).
  • Also a "lazy" shift where the engine will rev high for a second, then upshift when accelerating.
  • Noticing these things I went and had a local shop flush the fluid and replace the filter. They said the fluid was dirty but they did NOT find any metal shavings in the pan. However the above symptoms persist.
  • Recently I've been unable to shift from P to R without pressing the manual release button, the thumb button just won't go in. This is a new development following the fluid+filter replacement.
  • The strangest thing to me with my limited knowledge is that when cold and in Drive, at a stoplight for example right after pulling out of the garage, the car seemingly can't decide what gear to be in. With my foot on the brake and in Drive the car will rev higher for a second, then seems to shift, which causes the whole vehicle to sway slightly. This ONLY happens when cold.
  • On top of all that I have the clunk from Park to Reverse, and some light clunking when driving like on the freeway as well, which I've read is accepted as normal on here and may be due to worn drive flanges or "slop" in the 4wd.

Questions:

  • Which of these are "normal"?
  • Do my shifting issues sound like a worn solenoid or faulty TCU?
  • Do people adjust the bands in this transmission unit to any success with smoother shifting?
  • Are these indicative of a necessary rebuild of the transmission?
  • If these are things I should see a shop about, is there someone in the Seattle area that people trust for cruisers?
Thanks!
 
Joined
Dec 10, 2007
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Is the transmision fluid level between the full marks on the dipstick?

Check the level with the transmission fully warmed up, say 30 minutes driving,
park on level surface, engine running, transmission in PARK.

Was the transmission flush done at a Toyota dealer or at a Quickie Lube shop?
Did they adjust the transmission kick down cable?

Are you sure the leak is from the transfer case? Front, rear, rear left side, between the transmission and transfer case, or??

Here's a couple of threads to get you started while you wait for the
91-92 Gurus to chime in:



 
Joined
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Is the transmision fluid level between the full marks on the dipstick?

Check the level with the transmission fully warmed up, say 30 minutes driving,
park on level surface, engine running, transmission in PARK.

I would hope that they put the right amount of fluid in when changing my fluid/filter. I'll check tonight after work using this method.

Was the transmission flush done at a Toyota dealer or at a Quickie Lube shop?
Did they adjust the transmission kick down cable?

It was done at a local "general" mechanic, I would say it's between quickie lube and dealer as far as quality of work performed. They did not adjust the kick down cable. I'll do this myself this week.

Are you sure the leak is from the transfer case? Front, rear, rear left side, between the transmission and transfer case, or??

Good question, that same "general" mechanic simply told me the transfer case leaks. Do you think it would make a difference where the leak is in my case?

The strangest thing to me with my limited knowledge is that when cold and in Drive, at a stoplight for example right after pulling out of the garage, the car seemingly can't decide what gear to be in. With my foot on the brake and in Drive the car will rev higher for a second, then seems to shift, which causes the whole vehicle to sway slightly. This ONLY happens when cold.

From my reading this sounds like it could be some slipping, and maybe similar to the problem in the third thread you linked, but I don't have any error codes or lights coming up. Is that normal? Surely I would want to get slipping like that looked at rather than leave it? Would adjusting the kickdown cable affect this?
 
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Definitely check the fluid level, never assume someone else did it right.

Best as I recall the kickdown cable on the A440F transmission controls line pressure, which determines how quickly the shifts occur (if they float between shifts) and how tightly the discs press together. So adjusting the kickdown cable properly may help.

The wrong type of fluid can also affect how the transmission shifts, do you
know what type was in there before, and what the mechanic added recently?
Did you or the mechanic use any ATF additives??

Wait for a couple of the 3FE gurus to chime in, they know your transmission well.
 
Joined
May 19, 2014
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Auckland, New Zealand
Hey mate just my input,
I have a 91 hdj80 with the early fully hydraulic A442, which is very similar from my understanding
When i purchased my truck the trans felt rubbish, it was slipping and didnt know what gear it wanted to be in, i ended up manually shifting it alot which ive heard mixed opinions about doing. First thing i did was put a transmission temp gauge in to get some baseline info and monitor it, It was getting HOT.

i also tow a decent trailer every day for work which didnt help. Eventually after a year of me waiting for it to give up it went clunk and grind and i lost drive.

i took it to the best transmission shop i could and $4700 NZD later, another external trans cooler ( it now has 2 externals infront of the radiator side by side and the cooler in the bottom of the radiator) it was fully rebuilt.

side note, they originally wanted to bypass the bottom radiator cooler due to debris from the broken trans but after still having some heat soak issues (towing) flushed it for ages and re connected it.

and now to answer your question and give my feedback, its not nearly as "new" feeling as i would have expected, its a pretty sloppy 4 speed transmission from the late 80's and auto trans tech has come a very very long way. it still doesn't always kickdown when i would want, , better without the trailer and when warm but when its cold it pays to be gentle and patient, still a bit clunky from D to R and very firm from first to second, i now consider this normal.
it obviously sucks alot of power our of the drivetrain, i contemplated doing a manual valve body or a manual box swap but getting one out of australia would have been difficult but i wish i had done a manual swap.

i drove mine till it broke because i was saving up for what is a big expense and i didnt see a huge difference in cost of getting a rebuild done prior to it letting go, however the downside is that it was then out of my control when it would be off the road and as soon as my truck went clunk i took it into the shop same day.
sounds like you have a generally tired trans that will need a rebuild at some point, sorry if that seems obvious.

transfer case runs gear oil like a manual transmission and the auto runs ATF, should be pretty easy to tell what fluid is leaking, they dont share an oiling system like manual boxes sometimes do with the transfer to gearbox bypass hose like i had on my old 60.

hope that helps
 
Joined
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Couple of things.
The A440F is 100% hydraulic. No shift solenoids. No TCU. No error codes to display.
It is sensitive to fluid level. At normal operating temperature with the engine running, fluid level should be just at the hot mark on the stick.
If your mechanic dropped the pan, did he clean the fluid filter? It is a fine metal mesh filter that is removable and can be cleaned and reused.
Regular old ATF (analog or synthetic) can be used.
 
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Joined
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Dug out the receipt from the work these guys did - It looks like the shop I went to used Big K-660 to flush the transmission, hooked it up to a flushing machine, and it looks like they did add a conditioner, the type is not specified.

The ATF they used is listed as full synthetic. I don't know the type of fluid that was in there before as this is the first flush since getting the car. It is listed that they replaced the filter, which seems unnecessary since you can clean it off, but fine.

Would whatever conditioner they added mess anything up?

Does anyone know about the Big K-6600 kit? Would that damage anything?

I guess what I'd want to know is if it would be worth to take to another shop AGAIN to redo the same work if it sounds like a tired trans in general and may some day need a rebuild.

Would a conditioner, possibly a slightly different fluid level (will check soon), and this Big K-6600 kit they used amount to the slipping at stop in Drive, delayed engagement, over revving a bit to upshift (will adjust kickdown cable myself), and shifter thumb button not going in? I can live with the clunk.
 
Joined
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Sounds like a BG flush machine and additive kit: BG Transmission Flush Kit #6600 Kit Includes: ATC Plus #106 Quick Clean #310


Katos: could you describe again how the transmission (shifting) changed
before to after the transmission flush: better, worse, or exactly the same as before the transmission service??

Could you clarify the statement below??

Recently I've been unable to shift from P to R without pressing the manual release button, the thumb button just won't go in. This is a new development following the fluid+filter replacement.

Check the fluid level yet?
 
Joined
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Olathe, KS, USA
Do your brake lights work? If not, that could be that cause of your shifter button not releasing. Supposed to step on brake to release the button. If brake switch on pedal is loose or misadjusted, it could cause this. A bad harness issue with brake lights could cause this issue.

Nothing to do with flush or slipping.
 
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@Kernal

could you describe again how the transmission (shifting) changed before to after the transmission flush: better, worse, or exactly the same as before the transmission service??

I would say that after the service the delayed engagement when cold possibly got a little worse. Shifting at normal operating temperature is probably about the same, possibly even a little better. That's the frustrating thing that makes me feel crazy is that when the transmission is hot it's like almost all the issues go away. Clunking while stopped and in Drive, delayed engagement, and over revving between say 2 and 3, or 3 and 4th gear all minimize when hot. This is consistent with how it was before the fluid change.

Could you clarify the statement below??
Recently I've been unable to shift from P to R without pressing the manual release button, the thumb button just won't go in. This is a new development following the fluid+filter replacement.

Thumb button won't go in unless I press the button circled in red in image below.

InkedIMG_1638_LI.jpg


@jonheld

Went for a 30 min freeway drive, came back, parked level and pulled/wiped/pulled transmission dipstick a few times and it seems VERY low for where you say it should be when hot. It's pretty far below Hot. Does this mean there is too little fluid? Picture below. This may be a stupid question but would I be able to add more fluid by pouring down the dipstick? I imagine if I did that I would want the same ATF the shop used which I could find out. How much to add in this case if so?
IMG_1639.jpg


Best as I recall the kickdown cable on the A440F transmission controls line pressure, which determines how quickly the shifts occur (if they float between shifts) and how tightly the discs press together. So adjusting the kickdown cable properly may help.

This sounds like something I could do myself easily, I'll search for a write up on here for what everything looks like and try it out along with a pedal cable adjustment.

I'm just nervous about needing a rebuild. Maybe cable adjustment, proper fluid volume, and fixing the shift lock solenoid issue will make it feel better enough that I feel comfortable on a longer trip.
 
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For a A343F transmission that level would not cause shifting problems IME, but I have no experience with low fluid in the A440F (it is a bit low), wait for those guys to chime in.
 
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That level caused shifting issues in my A343F. I’d dump a quart or whatever to get it up to full. Couldn’t hurt any thing, unless you want to take up a case with your mechanic.
 
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A440f trans are very fluid level sensitive.

Only add a pint at a time. It's easier to add multiple times than to try and suck or drain some out.

Trans should only be checked when running, in park, and having been driven for at LEAST 15 miles, and on level surface.

Add a pint, drive it and check it. Do not overfill. Really try to get it right on the top of the hot mark, even if you have to add fluid 4 times.
 

xlx

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I have a 92 3FE/A440F with 225,000 on the clock and had a similar problem. These transmissions are basically bullet proof with normal maintenance.
I was having problems with the shift pattern changing when cold and finally shifting at around 3000-3200 rpm and not wanting to shift into 4th gear until
I hit around 70 mph. Transmission fluid was nice and red and at the proper level. The problem ended up being the kick down cable was worn and out of adjustment.
The transmission shop could not find a replacement cable but was able to get it back into adjustment and it works fine now. I would check this out before doing any major repairs. It's usually the weak link that fails and not the transmission itself. Good luck. Keep us posted with the outcome.
 
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Went for a 30 min freeway drive, came back, parked level and pulled/wiped/pulled transmission dipstick a few times and it seems VERY low for where you say it should be when hot. It's pretty far below Hot. Does this mean there is too little fluid? Picture below. This may be a stupid question but would I be able to add more fluid by pouring down the dipstick? I imagine if I did that I would want the same ATF the shop used which I could find out. How much to add in this case if so?
This sounds like something I could do myself easily, I'll search for a write up on here for what everything looks like and try it out along with a pedal cable adjustment.
I'm just nervous about needing a rebuild. Maybe cable adjustment, proper fluid volume, and fixing the shift lock solenoid issue will make it feel better enough that I feel comfortable on a longer trip.
I assume that you checked the transmission fluid level with the ENGINE RUNNING.
Yes, the level is low.
Yes, you add ATF through the dipstick tube. You will need a funnel with a smaller than normal tip to fit the dipstick tube.
Add the fluid VERY slowly, just letting it dribble in from the container or you will make a mess.

It is difficult to get an accurate reading on the stick after filling, as the AFT clings to the tube. I typically wait a day or so and continue normal driving and check periodically until it's correct. Do not overfill. It won't cause damage, but it won't shift properly when hot and you will have to drain some out, which will make a mess again.

The kickdown (throttle) cable is what controls fluid pressure in the system. Make sure it is not broken or misadjusted. This cable is NLA from Toyota.
 
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These transmissions are basically bullet proof with normal maintenance.

This is what has me nervous, I know that the PO was not into normal maintenance and I've done a lot of other work on the car to know first hand.

Messed around with the kickdown and gas pedal cable last night, that was a nice suprise getting too aggressive with the pedal cable adjustment- turned the car on and the engine went full blast. I did get the pedal cable in a nice spot to where the car feels WAY more responsive, highly recommend.

Moved the kickdown cable a few times, driving in between, to where it's maybe a bit smoother when shifting. I'm certain it was misadjusted and possibly still is. Looks like according to this post 80-series Throttle Adjustment - Land Cruiser Tech from IH8MUD.com the red cap should be 1-2mm from the "stopper", in this case does the "stopper" mean the nut on the same side of the bracket as the red cap?

I will add a pint at a time of ATF to the transmission through the dipstick and check the measurement when hot. Will any full synthetic ATF do in this case or should I really try to match what the shop put in?

The kickdown (throttle) cable is what controls fluid pressure in the system. Make sure it is not broken or misadjusted. This cable is NLA from Toyota.
I really want to understand this - since there are no solenoids or TCU for the A440F it makes sense that fluid level in the transmission would be the major factor in performance. But how does the cable adjustment affect line pressure and how tightly the discs fit together? Are all the discs strung onto the cable?

And to confirm, adjusting the cable should change both when AND how smoothly gears change?

As far as stuck in Park goes, my brake lights do work, but my cruise control doesn't. From looking around on here it sounds like that could be the brake switch adjacent to the brake pedal needs to be adjusted or replaced. Also read that under the center console is the shift lock ECU, could that also be damaged?

Thanks so much for all the replies.
 
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If you want to understand the A440F and everything else about the truck then I suggest reading through the Toyota FSM. It describes every single system on the vehicle and gives you diagnostic procedures. The combination of the FSM and EWD is absolutely indispensable for proper maintenance of the vehicle.

The transmission kickdown cable regulates the fluid pressure to the valve body which in turn controls the clutches and brakes which drive the planetary gears. That is the Reader's Digest version.

If your brake lamps work, then the brake switch is fine. Here is the shift lock control schematic from the EWD. Again, you should have this as it has every system in the vehicle.

ShiftLock.JPG
 
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Also, the proper method to adjust the engine throttle cable is to have someone in the driver's seat with the engine off.
Depress the throttle pedal fully and adjust the throttle cable until the throttle valve is just touching the WOT endstop. That's it. The amount of slack at the idle position is irrelevant as the idle speed is controlled by the ECU.
 

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