ATF Recommendation 2001 Ford Windstar

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May 28, 2002
Northern New Hampshire
My brother just bought a 2001 Windstar with 42,000 miles on it. Given my parent's experience with these vans (transaxle failures on both their '98 and '99) I am concerned about transaxle longevity. I've never owned an automatic, but imagine that a flush and filter change are probably in order as the van has no maintenance history to look at. What would you folks recommend for ATF to run in this van? Will a synthetic ATF help ward off premature transaxle failure or should my brother be looking into an ATF cooler as well? Anybody who knows what causes the failures in the Windstar transaxles please speak up as well. Thanks!
Originally posted by 2533a: What would you folks recommend for ATF to run in this van? Will a synthetic ATF help ward off premature transaxle failure
Just by switching to a synthetic you should see a reduction in temperautes during extreme use, I have seen a drop as much as 20-50 in trucks that were pulling trailers. Save your money on an oil cooler and use a top quality synthetic fluid. Amsoil makes a good one that is compatible with both Mercon and Mercon V, so it doesn't matter which type of fluid your van takes. [ August 15, 2002, 08:23 AM: Message edited by: msparks ]
I have the exact opposite approach and it has worked for me. I stick with OEM fluid (Motorcraft in your case) and change the fluid at 50k intervals. I also put the highest capacity cooler that will physically fit. I use B&M coolers because they have lower restriction and higher capacity in a smaller cooler than traditional fin and tube cooler.
I'd second Mikes recommendation to run a synthetic ATF ...We changed the Amsoil in mine after 50k miles and the transmission and pan looked like new. Mobil, Amsoil and Redline all make Mercon and/or Mercon V synthetic transmissions. The van will also shift better in cold weather with the synthetic ATF. TooSlick
Thanks for the responses. I'm thinking that maybe synthetic ATF and a cooler might be prudent. Kind of like wearing a belt and suspenders to keep your pants from falling down. VaderSS or Ken: Are the B&M coolers what are referred to as a stacked plate cooler? I ran across this term elsewhere on the web. [ August 16, 2002, 07:37 AM: Message edited by: 2533a ]
I don't know if the transaxle in the Windstar is anything like the 4R70W transmissio in the Panther platform (Crown Vic, Grand Marquis and Towncar). I know they are very different designs but the transmission fluid in the 4R70W is good for about 15K max. I've tried OEM spec. and Mobil 1 ATF. At about 15K the torque converter starts to chatter and all is cured by a fluid change. I use Chevron Mercon V in my Crown Vic and Mobil 1 ATF in my Towncar. Since the Mobil 1 hasn't really lasted any longer I'm getting ready to change the fluid in the Towncar again and I'm switching back to Chevron Mercon V (about 1/2 the cost of the Mobil 1 ATF). I would probably go with the OEM recommended fluid and change it every 15 or 20K -- cheap insurance.
My $.02: I personally don't think that an oil cooler is warrranted as long as you go with the syn. You already have an oil cooler in the radiator which also helps to keep the fluid at a warmer even temperature in winter. I have used the Mobil 1 ATF and have found that my engine temperature dropped. I have had good maintenance experience also with the Mobil. I suppose though you can't discount ssmokn's advice.
I didn't mean to imply that Mobil 1 ATF was bad (if I came across that way I didn't mean to). I also use Mobil 1 in my F350 E40D transmission. I think it is good stuff, I just don't see it outliving Mercon V in my 4R70W based on the torque converter chatter (which is very common in this trans). Either OEM or Mobil 1 is a fine solution, the OEM is about 1/2 the price when purchased OTC at a discount chain (Walmart or similar).
Yes, the B&M is a stacked plate cooler. The reaon I say to use an aftermarket cooler, in line with the built-in cooler, is that the ideal temp for ANY transmission fluid is 160F. There is not a single radiator tank cooler that will do that. At 160F, your fluid & transmission internals will last much longer and your transmission will shift better at all times. The in tank coolers will typically keep the fluid at 210F or higher during stop and go, and with a large cooler and in tank cooler in series, you will typically run 175F for the same conditions. I had a 1993 Olds Ciera with the 3T40 transaxle. This transaxle is notorious for failing, when backed with a 6 cylinder engine. It is so bad, that GM only puts them behind 2.2L 4s now. But with a 24000 GVW B&M in series with the OEM cooler, the trans still shifts like new, with 160k behind a 3.3L V6. By the way, I drive my cars like I stole 'em, so it was "severe" service. [Smile]  - [ August 16, 2002, 10:16 AM: Message edited by: VaderSS ]
Originally posted by ssmokn: I've tried OEM spec. and Mobil 1 ATF. At about 15K the torque converter starts to chatter and all is cured by a fluid change.
ssmokn, I'm guessing that you do a drain and refill at 15K rather than a complete flush. Any recommendation on when a complete flush would be in order? I imagine that the transmission on your full size sedans is more robust than the Windstar transaxle given that they have to handle the torque of a V8. The transaxle failures that my parents had with their '98 and '99 Windstars are definitely not due to abuse at their hands as they are conservative drivers. Both, however, were purchased used and neither had maintenance records available so who knows how they were treated.
Here is what I always do... The first time I service the transmission (new vehicle at the appropriate mileage or immediately if I bought used).... 1) Drop the pan, inspect, clean the magnet 2) Drain the converter (if possible) if not I would consider having the trans flushed on a flusing machine (T-tech like machine) 3) Clean out the cooler lines and cooler with compressed air and or a can of trans cooler flush 4) replace the filter with an OEM filter 5) replace the pan with an OEM pan with drain plug (if there is no equivalent OEM pan with a plug I will add a plug using a kit). I do this every 15K. The drain plug just makes it a must less messy job. Some say it's overkill but I figure it beats $2K or so for a new tranny.
Oh ya, I'll second the motion for either an additional cooler in series or a larger cooler (by itself). Transmissions don't like heat. If you can keep the temps close to 160 like mentioned above you will do well. I have an E40D Ford F350 and with the additional cooler and Mobil 1 the trans rarely goes over 180 degrees (even while plowing wet heavy snow). If you work the vehicle (tow, plow etc.) a tranny temp gauge is another invaluable tool.
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