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Discussion Starter #1
It's an E4OD, behind a 7.3, w/transfer gear case in an E350 camper van. 191k on the clock.

Symptom #1: When cold, it seems as though the torque converter locks up, typically in reverse, enough to stall the engine. It goes away after a few minutes of warming up/fluid circulation. It's an intermittent problem, happening off and on for the last 5k miles.

New Symptom #2: Loud ratcheting sounds, as though it's partially popping out of gear, trying to find it's way back in, only on deceleration. Zzzzzzzzzzzzz! The clicking period gets further apart as speed goes to zero. AT highway speeds it'a loud buzzing. I did my best to diagnose it, before the transmission completely gave up the ghost. This just started, my van is now parked at home until I fix it.

It happens in every gear, both w/overdrive on and off. Overdrive is functioning properly, no flashing light, as is up and down shifting. It happened once on an offramp three days ago, then happened 2-3 more times in Death Valley while descending the South Pass (alluvial fan dirt road w/rocks, bumps, etc) into Saline Valley.

On our way out of the valley, it got reeeeeal bad, it did it on every deceleration headed toward Hwy 190, even on pavement. I had to abort our holiday trip and head home.

Luckily, I was able nurse it 350 miles back home to the Bay Area, having to brake with a little accelerator at the same time, to keep a load on the gear train on even the slightest grade. So long as the gear train was loaded by the engine, and NOT being backdriven by the wheels, it propelled my E350 van down the road at highway speeds. I'm just glad we didn't need to have it towed, as I was fully loaded, and flat towing my Samurai behind.

I've been doing some internet searches, and don't see anything associated with deceleration. I really want to diagnose this thing before taking it out (myself).

Any ideas?
 

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Its more than likely coming from the transfer case, if the transmission were making that kind of noise it would be showing other symptoms, like not shifting correctly, or whining in the lower gears but not in the highers ones, or missing a gear altogether, not saying its impossible, just not likely.

Try putting the transfer case in 4 hi and driving it and see if it changes the noise at all, also check your fluid in the transfer case. At any rate I would suspect the transfer case first, not that hard to pull, and really not that hard to work on either. We used to see the smaller transfer cases with a shift fork worn out and it would cause an issue like that, the larger ones are made the same way.

As far as the killing the engine in reverse, that is usually a problem with the transmission pump or converter, but it could be the transmission cooler is clogging or not flowing correctly when its cold, I'd check the condition color of the fluid, and unless it looks nasty and burnt I would suggest replacing the cooler if it has the one in front of the radiator, or if it only goes through the radiator then I would add an auxiliary cooler and bypass the radiator. If that doesn't solve it then the trans does have an issue.
By the way what year model is this thing ?
 

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BTW, I wasn't shifted into 4wd while this was happening, if that makes a difference.
Power still transfers through the transfer case, there is a fork that enables either 2wd or 4wd, and another than enables low or hi range, those forks were known to wear out from time to time, causing noises and falling out of gear sometimes.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Power still transfers through the transfer case, there is a fork that enables either 2wd or 4wd, and another than enables low or hi range, those forks were known to wear out from time to time, causing noises and falling out of gear sometimes.
That makes sense. Trans shifts normal, no slippage, the skipping still happens coasting in neutral and reving the engine.

In fact, the linkage has never been right since I got it (I've been meaning to sort it out, never got to it yet)I've not seen the factory Ford parts, but these look to be a mix-n-match of shifter and gate plate, arms and rod, I could never the travel it needs to get it into 4wd low without crawling under and detaching the arm at the pivot (at the case), and manually moving the lever to go all the way to the end to pick up 4wd low.

I'll disconnect the arm and manually put it in 4wd high and try it, like you suggested, after work today. Thanks!!
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Try putting the transfer case in 4 hi and driving it and see if it changes the noise at all, also check your fluid in the transfer case.
I drove it in 4wd high, no change, then 4wd low, which made the popping out of gear go away. I'm going to drain and check the T-case fluid next. (scratch that, drained the T-case oil)

Only a half cup of oil in the T-case. No metal chunks, no particles.

Transmission fluid looks pink, smells as it should.

I'll refill the T-case and see what happens
 

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Power still transfers through the transfer case, there is a fork that enables either 2wd or 4wd, and another than enables low or hi range, those forks were known to wear out from time to time, causing noises and falling out of gear sometimes.
Yep, I would put money on the high/low shift fork pads. I'm on my 3rd tcase because of those suckers.


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Yep ! That's what I remember seeing when we'd have one come in with that problem, running low on fluid is usually the cause of it. If you don't see any obvious signs of a leak, and normally you don't , you might want to refill it with a lightweight motor oil instead of transmission fluid, something like 10w-30w, it will lubricate better and stay in the transfer case better also, over the years the consensus has been that the transmission fluid aerates because its getting churned around inside the tc and ends up evaporating or escaping out the vent . I know it sounds crazy, but I've seen too many transfer cases come in the shop low on fluid with no leaks anywhere to be able to dispute it, especially the GM246 t-cases which have a set of clutches inside.

These big fords have no clutches, and need all the extra lube help they can get.
 

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Yeah, actually I'll admit, the last tcase had a very slow leak and I got lazy. Lol
The replacement (current one) was leaking between the case halves also. Finally pulled it apart and resealed it with "the right stuff." Been leak free since.

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Yeah, actually I'll admit, the last tcase had a very slow leak and I got lazy. Lol
The replacement (current one) was leaking between the case halves also. Finally pulled it apart and resealed it with "the right stuff." Been leak free since.

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The fluid mysteriously disappearing happens more to the GM transfer cases, especially the early 2000 models, probably because the way they're designed the front driveshaft spins all the time , even though you're in 2wd, the chain inside is constantly turning, whipping up the fluid.

I hate to admit it, considering I'm a transmission tech, but my personal work truck, a 2000 Silverado Z71 transfer case ran low on fluid about 18months after I rebuilt it, and I used the "special" GM blue fluid, there were no leaks anywhere, dry as a bone outside, about a cup of fluid inside, by the time I heard the tc whining, it was already ruined, I rebuilt a core and swapped it out, now I run Mobil 1 synthetic in it, its been 2 1/2 yrs and its still full .

The Ford / IH grey silicone sealer used on our powerstrokes is great for sealing t-cases also.
 

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I confirmed it is in fact a Borg Warner 1356 (internet pictures)

Looks like a small weep at the rear driveshaft yoke. Real small leak a the seal.

I measured only 6oz of oil that drained out of it, spec calls for 2qts :| I used a clean drain pan, and I sifted through the oil at the bottom of the drain pan with my fingers and wiped with a clean cloth, no metal fines, no glitter, no plastic.

I pumped in 2qts of fresh Mercon V spec ATF, then manually shifted it back into 2wd high and took it for a drive. Still buzzing/popping out of gear on deceleration, and now in reverse. Wait, I was flat towing and can't back up, so I never tried reverse. That's probably not new. Makes sense because the gear pressure direction the T-case gears see on decel, would be the same direction when using reverse, right?

I was just watching a few youtube videos on rebuilding this T-case, and I saw the little plastic rub pads too. No surprise they'd get warm and wear real fast with a low oil condition.

With the wear pads melted or gone, and now excessive play in the shift fork, I could see the slider now popping out of engagement.

Is that the kind of thing/customer complaint you guys remember happening? Popping out of gear?

So now what, pull it out, disassemble and inspect, see if it's salvageable, if so put in a $250 ebay master rebuild kit?

like this one:

https://www.ebay.com/i/171996202141?chn=ps
 

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The fluid mysteriously disappearing happens more to the GM transfer cases, especially the early 2000 models, probably because the way they're designed the front driveshaft spins all the time , even though you're in 2wd, the chain inside is constantly turning, whipping up the fluid.

I hate to admit it, considering I'm a transmission tech, but my personal work truck, a 2000 Silverado Z71 transfer case ran low on fluid about 18months after I rebuilt it, and I used the "special" GM blue fluid, there were no leaks anywhere, dry as a bone outside, about a cup of fluid inside, by the time I heard the tc whining, it was already ruined, I rebuilt a core and swapped it out, now I run Mobil 1 synthetic in it, its been 2 1/2 yrs and its still full .

The Ford / IH grey silicone sealer used on our powerstrokes is great for sealing t-cases also.
Auto track 2 is what the blue fluid is. Starting to see more and more of it.

As for the motor oil in the gear box, generally that's a no no simply because of the way motor oils hold particles in suspension, that's really the only reason. That's really the only difference between say an sae 5w30 motor oil and a 75w90 gear lube or whatever. The engine oil will keep all the little metal particles in suspension so they'll keep circulating back through the gears and bearings and whatnot. A non detergent oil or hydraulic oil will let them sink to the bottom and stay there.

A non detergent oil would be a much better choice for any kind of gear box, as long as it doesn't require extreme pressure additives, or friction modifiers. Say 30 weight non detergent motor oil or whatever.
 

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As for the motor oil in the gear box, generally that's a no no simply because of the way motor oils hold particles in suspension, that's really the only reason. That's really the only difference between say an sae 5w30 motor oil and a 75w90 gear lube or whatever. The engine oil will keep all the little metal particles in suspension so they'll keep circulating back through the gears and bearings and whatnot. A non detergent oil or hydraulic oil will let them sink to the bottom and stay there.

A non detergent oil would be a much better choice for any kind of gear box, as long as it doesn't require extreme pressure additives, or friction modifiers. Say 30 weight non detergent motor oil or whatever.
That's probably true, but the biggest reason the manufacturers started using automatic transmission fluid in most transfer cases and manual transmissions was to cut down on friction or drag because of transmission fluid being thinner, with manuals the trans would be hard to shift also during cold weather until the unit warmed up, and thinner fluid helped them meet their mileage requirements the Fed's made them achieve.

Many OE manufacturers such as Honda and Nissan used engine oil in their manuals however, especially through the nineties, and we never saw any ill effects from it. The specs never called for non-detergent oil ?

You have to remember a big reason the manufacturers choose the engineering and specifications they do is to comply with Federal requirements of mileage, aluminum everything now ,,, plastic where metal used to be ,, thinner fluids,,, etc, most of the time it doesn't equate to a longer lasting product.

I've rebuilt many a Ford M5OD manual transmission that had automatic transmission fluid in it, after rebuilding we've always put engine oil in them, and a couple of reman companies recommend doing that, I've never had to go back into one that was using engine oil ? Basically if the unit is well lubricated, whether its a transfer case or manual trans, it won't generate much in the way or metal particles.
 

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That's probably true, but the biggest reason the manufacturers started using automatic transmission fluid in most transfer cases and manual transmissions was to cut down on friction or drag because of transmission fluid being thinner, with manuals the trans would be hard to shift also during cold weather until the unit warmed up, and thinner fluid helped them meet their mileage requirements the Fed's made them achieve.

Many OE manufacturers such as Honda and Nissan used engine oil in their manuals however, especially through the nineties, and we never saw any ill effects from it. The specs never called for non-detergent oil ?

You have to remember a big reason the manufacturers choose the engineering and specifications they do is to comply with Federal requirements of mileage, aluminum everything now ,,, plastic where metal used to be ,, thinner fluids,,, etc, most of the time it doesn't equate to a longer lasting product.

I've rebuilt many a Ford M5OD manual transmission that had automatic transmission fluid in it, after rebuilding we've always put engine oil in them, and a couple of reman companies recommend doing that, I've never had to go back into one that was using engine oil ? Basically if the unit is well lubricated, whether its a transfer case or manual trans, it won't generate much in the way or metal particles.
Umm, yeah. I guess could buy that.

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Umm, yeah. I guess could buy that.

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I'm not saying you're wrong, you're probably right about it keeping particles in suspension, what I'm saying is I've seen no ill effects from using motor oil in place of auto trans fluid in manuals, and transfer cases, now this is the first time I've ever used motor oil in a transfer case that has a clutch pack inside, but so far it works perfectly, I've had it in enough mud to put it through its paces, and we recently had 9 inches of snow here where I live and I drove it around for a couple of days in 4wd all the time.
 

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I confirmed it is in fact a Borg Warner 1356 (internet pictures)

Looks like a small weep at the rear driveshaft yoke. Real small leak a the seal.



I was just watching a few youtube videos on rebuilding this T-case, and I saw the little plastic rub pads too. No surprise they'd get warm and wear real fast with a low oil condition.

With the wear pads melted or gone, and now excessive play in the shift fork, I could see the slider now popping out of engagement.

Is that the kind of thing/customer complaint you guys remember happening? Popping out of gear?

So now what, pull it out, disassemble and inspect, see if it's salvageable, if so put in a $250 ebay master rebuild kit?

like this one:

https://www.ebay.com/i/171996202141?chn=ps

I'm sure that's going to be your problem, I would take it apart before ordering anything, I don't remember having to replace bearings in those, they're pretty durable, the chain is too, all depends on how many miles is on the unit, and how long its been driven low? I've seen many of them that all I did was replace the fork and hub and put a seal kit in it, with no problems whatsoever.

That being said, that's not a bad price for that kit, pretty close to what it would cost me jobber price.
 

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I'm not saying you're wrong.
I know you weren't, didn't cross my mind. It's simply a discussion, this is how we learn. Which never stops by the way, as you well know.

Now, look what I just found. This first sentence is really all that's relevant here. Turns out some cars call for engine oil in gear boxes. Didn't say what type though. Can't say I've ever seen that, but that doesn't mean anything other than it's not common. But they do exist apparently.


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Now, look what I just found. This first sentence is really all that's relevant here. Turns out some cars call for engine oil in gear boxes. Didn't say what type though. Can't say I've ever seen that, but that doesn't mean anything other than it's not common. But they do exist apparently.


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I wish I still had some of the tech material I had years ago, its gotten lost in a job change or two, Rockland Standard Gear has a tech section on their website, where there is a lot of good info about different transfer cases, manuals and differentials, as well as other stuff, that's where I first heard of the " disappearing transmission fluid theory"

I finally found the article, it starts talking about it on the second page,

http://tcase.rsgear.com/articles/2002_01.pdf

Note that article says not to use engine oil in a BW1356 transfer case, but I did in my previous truck a 96 F250 4x4 with 7.3, I put close to 200k miles on that truck after putting synthetic motor oil in the Tcase, and never had an issue.
 
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