'01 Dakota 45RFE, stalls when trans is cold.

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May 8, 2006
Portland, Oregon
I bought this truck from a coworker with just under 200k miles on the clock. The truck was used mostly for highway commuting and probably never towed anything in it's life despite being equipped with the tow package. It was her company truck and got most all of it's service at a Dodge dealer.

As the truck had a lot of miles I figured some maintenance was due and changed both trans filters and refilled with the last two quarts of Mopar ATF+4 Walmart had on the shelf and the balance with Valvoline Synthetic ATF+4. Before changing the trans fluid it shifted fine with no apparent issues at all.

After changing the fluid and filters the truck developed a problem of not going into gear and occasional engine stalling. I found the suction filter was not seated in the trans case which allowed air to be sucked in. In fact when the trans was cold you could see bubbles on the dipstick. I believe the stalling was due to the idle speed control not keeping up with the load changes from the erratic transmission operation. After changing the suction filter again the engagement problem was completely resolved and the occasional stalling problem also appeared to be gone.

The stalling problem has since resurfaced. It's as if the torque converter clutch is partially engaging and loading the engine down to the point where it will stall. Some times the idle speed control will catch it before it stalls and I can feel the truck try to push through the brakes somewhat. Shifting into neutral at a stop keeps the engine from stalling. Once the trans is warmed up even a little the problem disappears.

One thought is that the Valvoline ATF+4 is more viscous especially when cold and is somehow affecting the torque converter clutch. My fear is that the TCC is going to fail and cause other damage when it does. TCC operation when warm appears normal. I can watch the tachometer and see that the TCC does lock up as the RPM goes down slightly during TCC engagement. The TCC also does not appear to slip either.

When I last replaced the suction filter I bought a brand new drain pan to save the nearly new fluid so the Valvoline Synthetic ATF+4 is still present. My next move is to drop the transmission pan a 3rd time and replace the fluid with Mopar ATF+4.

Has anyone else experienced such symptoms? Anyone have any other issues with Valvoline Synthetic ATF+4? I just hate to think that I would have been better off not doing preventative maintenance.
I drive an 01 Dakota too, but mine is a 5-speed manual. I don't have a lot of info on the automatics but I do know that my Dodge service manual, my Haynes and Chilton books and the Dodge forum web sites I am on all recommend Mopar transmission fluid. They say use only Mopar fluid, ATF+4. There is a very reputable transmission shop near here, probably the best and most honest transmission guy in the whole State of Florida and he also very strongly recommends only using the OEM fluids in modern transmissions.

One thing I can think of is maybe when you drained the fluid somehow it caused the TV cable to come out of adjustment. That and draining the Valvoline fluid and replacing with Mopar fluid. In this case it might be best to pay a shop to do a complete transmission flush. It will remove all the Valvoline fluid completely and refill the Mopar fluid. Shouldn't cost more than about $120.00 at most. Then see how it shifts and drives.

What was the color like on the old fluid? Was it burnt or had it been replaced some time earlier? I have heard, especially on older automatics that have never been flushed, sometimes it can do more harm than good to replace their fluid. That could be an old wives' tale though.
The licensed ATF+4 fluids should all be chemically identical. Chrysler specifies both the basestock and the additive package for approved fluids.

I'm not familiar with the other problems, but I'm sure someone on here would be more familiar.
ATF+4 is great and should not be causing problems. check the throttle position sensor, Idle air control valve, and Fast idle thermo valve, and coolant temp sensor, as these all affect idle depending on temp AND load....any one of these being out of spec could cause a problem. I had a TPS go out and it never triggered a CEL. Also do what others have recommended. I was suprised how good my durango ATF+4 looked (brand new) after 110K miles.
There's a solenoid in the trans that governs hydraulic pressure to the lockup TC. Suspect it is sticking. Just a guess.

I previously replaced the throttle position sensor (TPS) as it was causing excessive locking and unlocking of the torque converter clutch. There was a nice dead/erratic spot off idle where the resistance and therfore the output voltage would change rapidly with very little movement. My good old analog Simpson mutimeter showed the defect clearly.

The engine idle speed control acts exactly as it should. The 4.7 has two idle speeds. When the engine is warm and the AC is off it will idle right about 500 RPM. With the AC or defrost on the engine will idle around 650 RPM.

There is no throttle valve cable as this transmission has full electronic controls.

The old fluid looked and smelled fine. I was simply doing preventative maintenance. It's just aggrevating and disheartening to do what should be benificial and end up with problems.

I'm leaning towards the TCC solenoid myself. It's acting as if the solenoid is not releasing fully and the hydraulic circuit is retaining enough pressure to cause problems when the trans and fluid are cold.
Originally Posted By: The Critic
The licensed ATF+4 fluids should all be chemically identical. Chrysler specifies both the basestock and the additive package for approved fluids.


All licensed ATF+4 fluids should be very similar.

"bubbles on the dipstick" is bad.

If you are planning to put in new ATF... you can try AutoRX clean phase with the ATF you have in the trany now. Then rinse with the new ATF.
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I would check codes, not sure if the trans codes will read on the odometer, but do the on off on off on key dance and see what comes up.

You have two speed sensors on the trans, maybe one is bad. Also are you sure you have it correctly filled when fluid is up to temp.
The bubbles are back dangit. I didn't really care for how loosely the filter fit the seal so I think it's probably sucking air again. I guess this time I go to Chrysler for a filter since the CarQuest and Napa ones both fit poorly. I'll bet if I can cure this thing sucking air the trans will operate normally.
Changed the filters in the trans again. The Chrysler filter does fit tighter in the case, but still didn't require much effort to install . The first filter I put in cam from Car Quest and fell out when I loosened the retaining screw which is on the far end of the filter. The NAPA filter that I just replaced almost fell out when I removed the retaining screw, but not quite. Two days now with the Chrysler filter and everything seem to be fine. Hopefully it stays fixed this time.
Update! The trans filter from the Dodge Dealer cured the problem! Sucking air was creating all of my problems. So I have to say beware of aftermarket transmission filters on these Dodge and Jeep "multi-speed" automatics.
Sucking air, from where? Did you forget or double up on the o-ring?

Did you change the spin on filter too?
The trans was sucking air where the filter tube enters the case. It's not a simple o-ring on the filter neck. The problem was that he aftermmarket filters, or at least the seals that came with them, did not fit tightly enough. I was sure to remove the old seal and install the new seal in the transmission before installing the filter. In high school I worked at Jiffy Lube so this certainly wasn't my 1st trans service.

The spin-on filter was changed the first time I dropped the pan, yes.
Thanks for the info Joshua , I will keep this in mind when I change my durango's tranny fluid and filter. I will surely get the filter kit from the dealer now.Thanks
Thank You ever so much for your work to identify this issue..

My 2005 Dakota with the same trans had a leak on the pan from a rust? pin-hole....

Went to O'reillys and got new pan,filter kit, gasket and 6 qts at4+ synthetic. Did the job myself because tools don't scare me. I like wrenching.

2 days later and roll up to a stop sign, motor dies, starts fine and runs fine after...Spent several days looking at iac,tps, mass, sensors, no codes kicked off..

Finally this site had the answer. I stopped hard in the driveway, engine stuttered but not dying, and checked the trans fluid in N.....Air Bubbles galore

Got my new filter kit from the dealership and will put it in tomorrow. The one I put on felt tight, but something happened.
The RFE trans is somewhat notorious for dropping the suction filter out of the valve body if its sealing ring is not changed during the trans service. Dying when coming to a stop is a common symptom (TCC doesn't release). A 2001 model may or may not set a 'loss of prime' DTC, but the newer stuff almost always will.

Thanks for noticing the revival of an old thread, I always search to keep the new threads down.

It has been 2 days and no issues. So many forums had me looking at the idle, nothing else...But the way, the filter I removed was split open along the outer crimp line, that probably wasn't helping the situation.

You could feel the TCC locking up, engine shudder, and die. The harder you brake the faster the die.
unfortunately this is a common occurrence with aftermarket trans filters. I had a similar problem with a 41TE aftermarket filter.

you were right for doing prelim maintenance--- don't sweat it.
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