Diagnosing Taurus Transmission Fluid Eruption

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The vehicle in question is a 1995 Ford Taurus w/ 3.0L engine and AX4S/OD transmission, and it has 79K miles on it. It has been a grocery-getter for my aunt the last couple of years until the other day when it vomited all its transmission fluid during a highway trip. She limped it into the next town with smoke billowing out from the hood and barely able to move forward under its own power.

I showed up on scene and could see a puddle of trans fluid on the ground under the car, but the car still started and idled backward and forward when put into gear, so I grabbed a tow strap and pulled it to a buddy's shop where it sits now, waiting on me to decide what will become of it (gave aunt my other Charger, so she will no longer be driving this Taurus).

My first thought was to replace the transmission with a used one from a salvage yard and try to sell the car, but the prospect of spending several hundred dollars on a used transmission and then swapping it out just to get the car to a point where I can sell it for some meager amount doesn't sound appealing. So I have pretty much ruled out that approach.

Another option would be to sell the car for scrap and be done with it. The ease of that option is certainly appealing, but the relatively small amount of return gives me pause. I'm guessing I would get $200 or so for it, which is barely enough to cover the expense of me driving down there to do all this.

The remaining option seems to be try to figure out what happened to cause the trans to upchuck its fluid, fix/repair that, fill it up with fluid and hope it drives well enough to sell off as-is.

In pursuit of that goal, and keeping in mind I'm not a Ford expert, I have some questions I hope to find answers for here:

1) is there an inherent flaw or weak part on the AX4S transmission that leads to it puking up its fluid for any reason? If so, could a used replacement be hardened to prevent a recurrence on that unit?
(The dipstick was still in place, and without blowing that thing out to expel the fluid, I am at a loss to explain how the fluid got outside the transmission in the first place.)

2) what kind of ATF do those transmissions need to work properly?
(I've seen Type III/H and Mercon listed as the spec'd fluids, as well as multi-vehicle types like Maxlife and others. Any clarification is welcome.)

3) How difficult of a job would replacing the transmission be for someone who knows their way around a car fairly well but will be limited to hand tools and jack stands for such a task?
(if it comes down to it, I guess I can replace the trans with another one, but I really do not want to if I can avoid it at all costs.)
 
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I lost transmission fluid with my 2003 Taurus once because the vent tube was clogged. But it cam right out the dipstick tube so that might not be the source of your problem.
 
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Those transmissions were very troublesome.. I am assuming nobody overfilled it. Probably the front pump has failed.

One possibility worth checking is for a rusted out cooler line. That would spew fluid all over and would not be expensive or difficult to fix.

The correct fluid now would be Mercon V.

As far as difficulty, it would be very labor intensive if you have to replace the transmission. Whether it is worth it on a 1995 Taurus to replace the transmission, I don't think so. It's not worth much even in working condition.
 
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When the transmission in my 2001 Taurus went, the cheapest I could have had it fixed was almost $1000, that was about $100 for the torque converter and a tad over $700 for a shop to pull and replace the transmission plus transmission fluid etc. Don't think the car would still be worth 1k after all that work. But the vent tube getting clogged is something to look into.
 
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When you rescued your Aunt did you check the ATF fluid level?
If it has a vent, (I do not know), that would be the most plausible escape route for the lost ATF if not from the fill tube.
The older Taurus' were notorious for coolant issues/loss of coolant. Low coolant would result in an overheating of both engine and trans.
I'd check the radiator, and fill if needed. If very low, fill the reservoir and radiator, run/drive for a bit and recheck coolant and and ATF levels.
There may be a bleeder on the coolant system to insure the system is full.
Once up to operating temps, recheck both levels and let us know.
Old Taurus' beat up on coolant.
 

el Nuke

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Those transmissions were very troublesome.. I am assuming nobody overfilled it. Probably the front pump has failed.

One possibility worth checking is for a rusted out cooler line. That would spew fluid all over and would not be expensive or difficult to fix.

The correct fluid now would be Mercon V.

As far as difficulty, it would be very labor intensive if you have to replace the transmission. Whether it is worth it on a 1995 Taurus to replace the transmission, I don't think so. It's not worth much even in working condition.

She had a transmission fluid/filter change done at a Kwikee-Lube earlier in the year. While it's certainly possible they overfilled it, I would think it would have shown itself by now already...but who knows. I'll see if I can inspect the cooler lines for any breaches of their integrity though.
 

el Nuke

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When the transmission in my 2001 Taurus went, the cheapest I could have had it fixed was almost $1000, that was about $100 for the torque converter and a tad over $700 for a shop to pull and replace the transmission plus transmission fluid etc. Don't think the car would still be worth 1k after all that work. But the vent tube getting clogged is something to look into.

I've found a trans for $350 and got a quote for $250 to have a guy put it in. Normally I wouldn't mind shelling out $600 to get a car running again, but for this car that is about $500 more than I can pay and still look at myself in the mirror in the mornings.
 

el Nuke

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When you rescued your Aunt did you check the ATF fluid level?
If it has a vent, (I do not know), that would be the most plausible escape route for the lost ATF if not from the fill tube.
The older Taurus' were notorious for coolant issues/loss of coolant. Low coolant would result in an overheating of both engine and trans.
I'd check the radiator, and fill if needed. If very low, fill the reservoir and radiator, run/drive for a bit and recheck coolant and and ATF levels.
There may be a bleeder on the coolant system to insure the system is full.
Once up to operating temps, recheck both levels and let us know.
Old Taurus' beat up on coolant.

I pulled the dipstick out to check it, and there was some fluid on it, but I don't remember checking to see how much below the Full line it was. I was honestly surprised at all to see any on there, given the big pool of it below the car.
 
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It’s very possible the trans overheating and it puked out the vent. Most probable cause for overheating at highway speeds is a torque converter failing to go into lockup. This is all providing you have no broken cooler lines or a physical hole in the case.
 
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Same happened to my 01 Taurus, it turns out was the stuck ATF vent and then burb out of dip stick when warm. Ford had a TSB that you replace the nipple with foil cover on top with a snorkel tube, back then it was $17 or so you can install yourself. After replacing that no more ATF puddle.
 

el Nuke

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So I grabbed a couple gallon jugs of ATF on the way in and filled her up after warming engine up to operating temp. It took 8 qts to reach full.

Trans engages just fine when selecting on gear shift (R-OD-D-1), so I took a spin around the block.

Trans acts fine, no slipping, but it won’t shift out of 1st, either on its own or with me starting in 1 and manually shifting up to D/OD. Reverse is fine, and moving forward is fine, but it has to be at slow speeds, as it’s limited to 1st only.

Im thinking that’s the impetus for the trans upchucking fluid on the Highway drive - she was cruising along at 45-50 mph in 1st gear, and the trans just couldn’t handle that many high RPM for an hour straight.

I need to get it up on some Jack stands and inspect the underside for a compromised line or something like everyone is suggesting, but holy hell it’s hot here right now, and my desire to roll around in the dirt underneath this Ford is approaching absolute zero…
 
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You should also go over to Taurusclub.com and see if you can get any help there. Too bad it's ODBI, OBDII scanner isn't going to do you any good.
 
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It was stuck in first and she was able to get it up to 45? Driving at that speed for an hour in first would certainly overheat the transmission.
 

el Nuke

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You should also go over to Taurusclub.com and see if you can get any help there. Too bad it's ODBI, OBDII scanner isn't going to do you any good.

I have considered signing up on a forum specializing in Tauruses to further delve into this quagmire, but doing so would violate a solem oath I swore to my dying grandfather.

Moments before he eclipsed this earth and sailed off into The Great Beyond, he made me swear to never do two things:
1) marry a red-headed woman, and
2) join a club that celebrates Fords

I ran afoul of 1) back when I married Mrs Nuke (sorry, grandpa!), and I’m afraid if I run afoul of 2) now, he’ll greet me at the pearly gates with his old belt in hand, ready to give me a supernatural butt-whoopin’!
 

el Nuke

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Okay, so my theory about my Aunt driving on the highway in 1st gear was invalidated after talking to her. She was positive she had been driving at least 60 mph for the first leg of the trip, and after stopping midway for some gas, it started acting up and wouldn’t behave the rest of the way until she parked it and called me.

And based on her description of the drive, my initial thought was whatever caused it lose its fluid had happened before the midway stop, and at that point it was just too low to continue operating normally.

Fast forward to today, I backed it up to throw a washing down on it, and before pulling it back in, I noticed a puddle of fluid where it had been sitting. So out come the ramps and up in the air she went (the car, not my aunt).

After a quick scan of the trans pan, I feel much more confident now in my latest hypothesis on what happened: the Jiffy-Lube tech that performed the trans fluid/filter service on it back at the beginning of the year was feeling his oats that day, and he went overboard tightening the pan bolts back down. It has been leaking ever since, and it finally leaked enough out to cause a problem the other day when it laid down on my aunt.

 
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After a quick scan of the trans pan, I feel much more confident now in my latest hypothesis on what happened: the Jiffy-Lube tech that performed the trans fluid/filter service on it back at the beginning of the year was feeling his oats that day, and he went overboard tightening the pan bolts back down. It has been leaking ever since, and it finally leaked enough out to cause a problem the other day when it laid down on my aunt.

I don't think Jiffy Lube drops pans, it likely would have been a cooler line exchange.
 

el Nuke

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I don't think Jiffy Lube drops pans, it likely would have been a cooler line exchange.

Seems like the hard way to remove a filter, to say nothing for installing a new one, but nevertheless that pan gasket is overflowing from around those bolts. If the Jiffy-Lube fellers didn’t touch those bolts, then I’m at a loss to explain the current condition of the gasket, because they would have been the only people with any reason to in the last 3-4 years.

But that’s all water through the radiator at this point. The trans was 6 qts low on fluid and driven ~ 50 miles or so, and now it won’t shift out of 1st even with a full compliment of fluid. I am going to assume it’s toast, which means I’ll be ecstatic if I can find someone who is willing to give me $500 for it now.

<sigh>

It’s days like this when I’m glad I still have beer to use as a crutch…well, not so much a crutch, more like something I’ve come to depend upon to get me through life’s difficult times…but definitely not a crutch!
 
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