5R55E trans in 2011 Ranger, getting interesting advice about ATF

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Mar 23, 2003
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Ford specifies Mercon V. On a Ranger forum I'm on several members there insist I should stick with Motorcraft Mercon V, period, to preserve the trans. They say don't change to Amsoil or even other brands of Mercon V, just Motorcraft.

The truck is rear-drive (not 4WD) and had 101,000 miles after I bought it in April. The day after delivery, I had the ATF flushed and fluid and filter changed at a local shop with the BG machine. I'm sure BG's universal fluid was used. The change was a priority, "any port in a storm", because I am sure no ATF change had been done on this truck before I bought it. Ford was saying "lifetime fill". As you'd expect, members of the Ranger forum were not happy about the BG ATF being used in the trans either.

Originally I had planned to drop the trans pan eventually, install a drain plug, top off with Amsoil, then change what was in the pan every 15,000–20,000 miles with more Amsoil. But the 5R55E has some well known weaknesses, and I want what's best for longevity. The trans shifts fine, by the way.

What do you think of this advice to stick with factory fill for this transmission? I still lean toward going with Amsoil, but your thoughts about sticking with Motorcraft Mercon V, please.
 
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Buying a pan with a drain plug was among the first things I did to my '05...bought ~2 years ago.
My fluid was "dirtied" but serviceable. I used Walmart brand MerconV and will use Valvoline MerconV (bought on sale) for the next D&F.
FYI: Ford recently back specced Mercon LV for all their transfer cases. I used Valvoline brand MaxLife Dex/Merc LV for that.
No probs.
Mine came with a separate transmission cooler (FX4 Off-Road) so I'm happy.
What are the well known weaknesses? I know that the valve bodies can get worn with time and neglect but that's not a fault in my book.
 
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I had my F150 done at the dealer at 50K and they used BG additive with the Mercon fluid. Shifts p!ssah and I tow often.

I don't see a need to drain the pan every 15-20K, especially if you're not towing.
 
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On my 2002 Ford Ranger (5R44E), I use Supertech Mercon V from Walmart.
It's the least expensive around and meets Fords spec.

I bought an extra Transmission Pan and had someone weld a Hex Nut to the exterior.
I drilled a hole thru the Nut and installed a Magnetic Drain Plug.

Once a year, I drain the Pan into a 'graduated' container and refill.

Next time you have the Pan off, add several Rare Earth Magnets next to factory magnet.
 

ekrampitzjr

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Buying a pan with a drain plug was among the first things I did to my '05...bought ~2 years ago.
My fluid was "dirtied" but serviceable. I used Walmart brand MerconV and will use Valvoline MerconV (bought on sale) for the next D&F.
FYI: Ford recently back specced Mercon LV for all their transfer cases. I used Valvoline brand MaxLife Dex/Merc LV for that.
No probs.
Mine came with a separate transmission cooler (FX4 Off-Road) so I'm happy.
What are the well known weaknesses? I know that the valve bodies can get worn with time and neglect but that's not a fault in my book.
On older Rangers with this trans, several owners in various forums reported various failures at low mileage, some of them < 50,000 miles. Failures included bad 1-2 shifts, loss of 1st gear, loss of reverse, and complete inability to move. Replacing the valve body and parts in and around it were apparently common. These owners said the transmissions failed at well under 100K miles despite regular ATF and fluid changes.

Ford apparently made fixes to the later versions, but some trans shops claim the 5R55E is simply junk.
 
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if you pan drop every 20k there's not really much need for a premium fluid like amsoil. Any licensed mercon V fluid would serve you great.
 
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On my 08 Ranger it’s pretty easy to suck ATF out of the dipstick. I could see once you drop the pan once to just suck out and replace a few quarts at a time for periodic drain and fills.
 
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"...some...claim the 5R55E is simply junk." 10-4. I will look into it.

I thought this unit was of strong construction and design. It's been modernized and adopted to electronic governance.

Mine feels OK. I'll sure search for myself but I'd appreciate any additional flaws you can enumerate e___jr.
 
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On my 08 Ranger it’s pretty easy to suck ATF out of the dipstick. I could see once you drop the pan once to just suck out and replace a few quarts at a time for periodic drain and fills.
In fact, that's what we're going to do with our Ranger. We dropped the pan a couple of weekends ago, cleaned the magnet, replaced the gasket and filter, and filled up to specs on the dipstick. It only ended up taking 2.5 qts! I'd bought a 12 qt case knowing it was a 10 qt capacity. So we'll gradually over time suck out a quart or two and replace with new.

Checking level is challenging and can give widely different results if not done consistently. The fluid needs to be hot (driven 15+ miles), all gears run through slowly, and checked with engine running and tranny in Park. When we first bought the truck, after checking it the way Ford instructs, determined it was overfilled by more than a quart. I sucked fluid out slowly from the dipstick and rechecked til it was at the top of the crosshatch.
 

ekrampitzjr

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In fact, that's what we're going to do with our Ranger. We dropped the pan a couple of weekends ago, cleaned the magnet, replaced the gasket and filter, and filled up to specs on the dipstick. It only ended up taking 2.5 qts! I'd bought a 12 qt case knowing it was a 10 qt capacity. So we'll gradually over time suck out a quart or two and replace with new.

Checking level is challenging and can give widely different results if not done consistently. The fluid needs to be hot (driven 15+ miles), all gears run through slowly, and checked with engine running and tranny in Park. When we first bought the truck, after checking it the way Ford instructs, determined it was overfilled by more than a quart. I sucked fluid out slowly from the dipstick and rechecked til it was at the top of the crosshatch.
I'm starting to like the idea of sucking fluid out of the dipstick tube instead of dropping the pan right now. It appears the trans was overfilled at the shop that did the BG treatment, but as you say, getting a consistent reading isn't necessarily easy. What rig did you use to suck out the excess? Where did you get it?
 
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I'm starting to like the idea of sucking fluid out of the dipstick tube instead of dropping the pan right now. It appears the trans was overfilled at the shop that did the BG treatment, but as you say, getting a consistent reading isn't necessarily easy. What rig did you use to suck out the excess? Where did you get it?
I used the Blackstone Vacuum Pump: https://www.blackstone-labs.com/products/vacuum-pump/
The 1/4" tubing is the perfect size. I originally bought it for sampling oil, but the 1/4" is too large to fit in any of our vehicles oil dipsticks! Turns out the Ranger's transmission dipstick is the only thing it'll fit in. The Blackstone container is only 4 oz so it'll take 8 times to get a quart out.

I'm sure you can get cheaper and higher capacity than 4 oz on Amazon. Just make sure you get one that supports 1/4" tubing.
 

01rangerxl

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My Ranger has 253k on the original 5R44E transmission which has never been out of the truck, never had the valve body out, and is all original except fluid, filter, pan gasket and one output seal about 100k miles ago. Most of those miles have been with BG or Wynn's fluid. The pan has been off once in the truck's entire life at 150k to change the filter (which looked good). I did change fluid every 30k or so up until around 200k, but I think it's less important at this point in its life. I think the key to long life with these transmissions is to do the first change early (ideally before 30k) with a good synthetic fluid. As the owner of multiple high mileage A4LD/4R/5R transmissions, what you did is exactly what I would do.
 

01rangerxl

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"...some...claim the 5R55E is simply junk." 10-4. I will look into it.

I thought this unit was of strong construction and design. It's been modernized and adopted to electronic governance.

Mine feels OK. I'll sure search for myself but I'd appreciate any additional flaws you can enumerate e___jr.
I think the transmission problems in these are really overblown.

Hands down, the best shifting transmission I have ever owned was the A4LD in my 1994 Explorer, and they are supposed to be the worst.

It's like the 4L60E...some are bad early on, but there are thousands with 2-300k or more that have at most had fluid changed once.
 
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I have a 5R55E. Got a BG flush at 46,000 miles, with the BG universal synthetic fluid. No problem. Now it got the Wolfs Head Super Universal Synthetic ATF. Performs the same.
 
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I'm starting to like the idea of sucking fluid out of the dipstick tube instead of dropping the pan right now. It appears the trans was overfilled at the shop that did the BG treatment, but as you say, getting a consistent reading isn't necessarily easy. What rig did you use to suck out the excess? Where did you get it?
 

ekrampitzjr

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Some other sites really love to hate this transmission, but it seems as if Ford finally did work out the bugs. Knock on wood, there's no reason so far to suspect I'm going to have problems soon, but my goal is to prevent them as long as I can.

Saw the Harbor Freight rig at one near me. Now that you've said what size tubing works best, I'll give it a go. Got other maintenance to do on it and don't really relish dropping the trans pan right now, especially since the trans flush was just done. I put a drain plug on a 1990 Ranger I had briefly some years ago and on my '98 Taurus wagon, so I have experience; it's just a bit of a pain...
 
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I’ve heard of people using MaxLife in these with no issue. FWIW, a friend has a beater ‘98 Explorer with the 5R55. Almost 160K on it. I’m running P66/Kendall VersaTrans in it. Ford approved and licensed, ‘Nuff said.

It was in his family - it saw the local quick lube and Ford dealer in SoCal, and the unknown fluid in there was nice and red, the filter was serviced at some point. I have a Chinese filter on it now.
 

ekrampitzjr

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Got the Harbor Freight vacuum rig and a 6–foot length of 1/4" tubing from my local hardware store. The 2–foot length that came with the rig wasn't long enough. Like the Blackstone version, this one comes with a 4–ounce cup for sampling. I just placed an oil drain container beside the truck and poured each full cup into the container as I went.

The vacuum pump with the long tubing worked perfectly for sucking about 40 oz (just over a quart) from the trans through the dipstick tube. The ease of using the pump impressed me. After adding 10 ounces of LubeGard Red, test-driving the truck, and checking the fluid while idling in Park, the level was right in the middle of the crosshatched area on the dipstick, where it should have been. So the trans had been overfilled by about a quart/liter. The job took no more than about 10 minutes, despite frequently emptying the 4–ounce cup.

If you want to pump out ATF with a vacuum rig, be aware of this: I had inserted the tubing as far into the dipstick tube as it would go, but it ran against some hard stop and I couldn't persuade it to go in any further. After pumping 40 oz, only air was coming out, so that was as much as I could get out. You will probably find some similar limits on inserting the tubing and removing fluid.

Shifting improved after I drove the Ranger around town a bit. The truck did just fine on a long trip the next day. Eventually I'll drop the trans pan to install a drain plug, as the ATF still looks a little dirty despite the previous flush and refill, but all seems good for now.
 
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