1999 Ford Windstar Rebuilt Transmission

Tiny
CASEY8
  • MEMBER
  • 1999 FORD WINDSTAR
  • 6 CYL
  • FWD
  • AUTOMATIC
  • 120,000 MILES
I had my tranny rebuilt but when I got it back my cluster started going crazy. My tach is stuck down now and my other gauges go crazy every now and then. The tranny guys say its not thier problem but it happened after they did the tranny work. What did they do wrong to have this happen?
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Sunday, July 18th, 2010 AT 8:40 AM

8 Replies

Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
Hi casey8. Welcome to the forum. This is the "ever since" syndrome every mechanic dreads. It is also common with a lot of radios. "Ever since you changed my oil, my power antenna doesn't work. What you gonna do about it?" That's my favorite.

It is more likely the problem is related to loose solder connections on the cluster itself since it does work sometimes. However, being one of the most complicated computers on the vehicle, it is common for them to develop a problem in the "reset" circuit that does not show up until the battery is disconnected or run dead. That reset circuit is not a protection circuit as you would normally think of a circuit breaker. It's purpose is to set the millions of transistors in the microprocessors from some random state to their starting point so they can all talk to each other. The only time these reset circuits work is for a few milliseconds after power is restored meaning the battery is reconnected or recharged. Those circuits might not function again for years when the battery is replaced.

In your case, it is almost certain the battery was disconnected during the transmission service. The cluster, (or any other of the many computers), could have developed a problem months or years ago that would not show up until the battery was disconnected.

That's the bad news. The rest of the story is there could indeed be a problem caused indirectly by replacing the transmission. Most common would be a loose or corroded pin in an electrical connector. When moisture gets past the rubber seals, the terminals can start to corrode in all areas except where they are touching. When they are unplugged and later reconnected, their position changes a little so contact is made on a corroded spot. Intermittent operation is the result. Three days after replacing the engine in my van, two injectors stopped firing intermittently. Simply unplugging the connector and reconnecting it caused enough scratching action to produce a clean spot on the terminals. The engine has been running fine now for over 12 years. Would you call that the mechanic's FAULT or simply a result of other service? Nothing was done wrong or improperly and it ran fine for three days.

Unfortunately the easiest way to verify or disprove the problem is in the cluster itself when something is so intermittent is to replace it. There should be plenty of them in the salvage yards by now so this would be an inexpensive test. If the problem persists, look at the wiring harnesses around the engine and transmission. Besides the connector problem I mentioned, normal engine rocking can cause harnesses to slide back and forth until they wear through paint and wire insulation. Tugging on the wires or anything that causes them to change position a little can introduce an intermittent problem that was about to occur on its own very soon.

Another way to look at it, if this is a random failure, is it occurred somewhere between 0 and 120,000 miles. What were the conditions the vehicle was under when the problem first showed up? Were you driving on the highway? Was it sitting in the garage? Was the engine hot or still cold? Were you standing still at a stop light? Or did it occur while sitting on the hoist and the mechanic was on the phone ordering transmission parts? Until you know for sure what the cause is, it is extremely unfair to blame the mechanic. The people at the shop should not be so blunt as to say it is not their fault, but they've heard this so many times already including from some people who purposely try to blame a known problem on the mechanic in hopes of getting a free repair. Any reputable shop will at least inspect their work to be sure everything was done correctly but beyond that, it becomes diagnosing a different problem that you can expect to be charged for. They might also not be equipped to diagnose the new problem either. If this is a transmission specialty shop, for example, that may be all they are trained in.

If you don't feel comfortable searching for the cause of this problem yourself, and it is fairly common, have it looked at by another shop. Be sure to include the previous service history but don't be so fast to lay blame. No reputable mechanic wants to be a part cutting down his competitor, and they will assume if you do that to the previous shop, you will do it to them too. Once you find out the cause of the intermittent problem, drive it for a long enough period to be sure it is solved, THEN return to the first shop with your findings if it is related to their work. The problem with any intermittent problem is unless you can actually see the cause, you are never sure if it is fixed if it doesn't act up. You can only know if it is not fixed if it does show up again.

Caradiodoc
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Sunday, July 18th, 2010 AT 11:44 AM
Tiny
BLUELIGHTNIN6
  • EXPERT
Hello and thanks for donating

Do all the gauges (temperature, speedo etc.) Fail intermittently? What exactly do you mean by going crazy? The only thing connected to the cluster as far as the tranny goes would be the speed sensor, but that would only effect the speedo/odometer.
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Sunday, July 18th, 2010 AT 11:45 AM
Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
One final note about the tach, if there is a pin that prevents the needle from going below zero, and the pointer is on the wrong side of that pin, that happens due to a voltage spike or an intermittent connection on the cluster. The gauges are not the simple, reliable spring-loaded pointers we had in the past. These are "stepper" motors with four coils of wire that magnetically position the pointers with computer circuitry. The tach pointer is simply looking for the shortest way to get back to zero, and that's the wrong way. You should be able to get the pointer back by simply momentarily raising engine speed above half scale. Once the shortest way to the desired position is counter-clockwise, the pointer should follow the pulsing magnetic fields back down in the proper direction. This often happens to speedometers too on a lot of vehicles.

Caradiodoc

Hi bluelightnin6
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Sunday, July 18th, 2010 AT 11:57 AM
Tiny
CASEY8
  • MEMBER
I don't understand the beginning of your reply? You blatantly called me a schmuck by trying to get something for nothing. Maybe I can fill you in on some info first so you don't consider me a user. This place inspected my van 2 weeks before the tranny went dead. I got the work done at a cost well out of my price range. When I brought the van back to them with the tach stuck on the wrong side they told me the tach was broke and bent the gear shift pin so I could put it in park to get the key out. They went over thier work and could find no where that they went wrong so they told me it was'nt thier fault. Well since I own the Haynes manual on this van I went over everything myself and I even fixed the tach which really was'nt broke [like you mentioned in your second reply] and just put it back to zero. But now the tip of the tach pin is broke off because they bent the gear shift pin to put it in park. So anyway I took the cables off the battery and put them back on and the gauges seem to be working fine now. So I guess this was the wrong forum to ask about another mechanic huh? Disgruntled 2 carpro user now.
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Wednesday, July 21st, 2010 AT 4:26 PM
Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
"You blatantly called me a schmuck" is YOUR way of misinterpreting what you read. You don't get to make up things so you can justify being angry. You need to sit down and quietly reread my replies. I never said, implied, or even thought you were trying to get something for nothing. I mentioned this "ever since" syndrome because it is so common and most of the time the car owners are right but there are always a few people who try to cheat. That's why shop owners dread those words. My reply was a copy / paste version that I've used at least a dozen times so I don't have to retype it over and over. You are the first person to read things that weren't there. You don't have to thank me for spending the time to explain the many things that COULD have happened, but I fail to see how a rational person would interpret my comments the way you did. Most of us are on these miserable computers up to 16 hours per day to try to help people such as yourself. Most people say "thank you" even when we don't get it right the first time.

To add to the confusion is your comment, "Maybe I can fill you in on some info first..." I'm trying to understand what the gearshift pin has to do with the tach, but don't you think you should have included that information in the original post? How on earth do you expect us to know these things if you don't provide the details? All you talked about was the tach, and I told you how that COULD be a result of the transmission work, and I told you that problem and the gauges doing intermittent things are both common problems that COULD be unrelated to the transmission work, and I told you why. I've been doing and teaching automotive electrical for over 30 years, and I see these types of things happen all the time. Speedometers get stuck behind the stop pin all the time. Tachs do too but not as often. I don't know how you solved that problem but I'll bet you found out it was a simple fix.

I use every opportunity to educate people on why some things fail after the battery has been disconnected so they might understand that it wasn't really the mechanic's fault. I will never defend a mechanic or shop when they appear to have done something dishonest or they try to avoid taking responsibility for shoddy work, but they don't deserve unfair blame either. Sometimes things happen that they have no control over. That's why I mentioned radios because I see a lot of those too.

If you still insist on reading things in my reply that aren't there, I'll be happy to delete all of what I typed on your behalf and let you find help somewhere else. I know from experience that when you choose to find fault rather than the help and advice that was intended, there is absolutely nothing I can possibly say that will make you understand that I'm trying to help. I get dozens of "thank you"s every week from people with problems just like yours. I don't know what kind of answer you were looking for, but mine was appropriate for the tiny little bit of information you provided. Please reread it and keep in mind the helpful spirit that was intended. The comment about the power antenna was a sad attempt at humor that I use with a friend who used to have as shop. I guess the humor is lost when it gets put on paper.

Sorry that you misinterpreted my comments, but your last reply took a lot of us by surprise.

Caradiodoc
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Thursday, July 22nd, 2010 AT 2:57 AM
Tiny
CASEY8
  • MEMBER
Wow!You seem to be upset at my reply, sorry for the misunderstanding. Heres one for you though, fifty thousand comedians are out of work, WHY TRY TO BE ONE? My problem is electrical and maybe not my mechanics fault but damn I just spent 500 dollars on inspection and another 2500 on the Tranny. I'm mad and serious about this, and by the way the gear shift pin is the little gauge that tells you what gear your in on the dash. Yeah, they bent that pin to almost to reverse to put the van in park so I could get my key out of the ignition. Anyway if you want a thank you, cool thanx, but I'm still at square one again. By the way 2 carpros is an awesome website and when I have more money I will donate more.
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Friday, July 23rd, 2010 AT 8:52 PM
Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
Ohhh. Now I get it. I was thinking of the pivot pin that holds the gear shift lever to the steering column. Sorry.

I agree humor is wasted on an angry person, but please remember we don't get to communicate with hand gestures, voice inflection, and facial expressions. It's why teaching over the internet or interactive tv is never as good as face-to-face. I lived for humor and sarcasm in the classroom and auto shop, but it was also apparent when to step back when a student was frustrated.

I'm heading to a salvage yard tomorrow to try to find a similar van to look at. I've been all through my Ford DVDs and can only find a tiny reference to the indicator. It is moved with a spring-loaded cable. I'm very familiar with a similar setup on Chrysler minivans so for now, I'll use that from memory. Two things can happen on those indicators. Most commonly the cable snaps and the pointer disappears off to one side. As I recall, I don't think you can even see it then. On the older vans from the '80s, that cable was basically a piece if fishing line clipped to the shifter lever. If you forgot to unhook it when dropping the steering column for other service, the cable just slid out of the clip. On newer vans from the '90s, that cable runs inside a plastic tube connected to the assembly. Dropping the column could break that tube resulting in the need to replace the entire assembly. That style had the cable hooked to a peg on the shift lever. It appears from the line drawings that is how yours is connected too.

If you can see that the pointer is physically bent or snapped off, I would assume it is from being stressed when they forced the shifter lever to get the key out. That would likely be due to the gear shift cable between the shifter lever and transmission being misadjusted. I can't imagine how forcing the shifter to go to a position it is designed to go to would damage the indicator, but there's no arguing with the fact it's broken.

Another possibility, if the pointer isn't actually broken off, but just off to one side, is it may have just gotten out of adjustment. Again referring to the Chrysler indicators, the newer ones have an adjustment screw under the steering column. On the older ones, the pointer was on a slide that the cable moved. Friction held it in place on that slide. To adjust it, you just ran the shifter lever all the way to "L" and back to "park". One of those ways the pointer would hit a stop and wait for the slide to continue moving with the shifter lever. That placed it in the proper position. I think it was possible for the pointer to become detached from the slide and stop moving.

Again, that's Chrysler, but Ford and Chrysler do a lot of things the same way. On my Ford DVD, they just say to "put the cable aside" when removing the instrument cluster. There is no mention of reconnecting it later and nothing about adjusting it.

The guys who did the transmission work should be familiar with adjusting the pointer if that's all it needs. If the pointer is broken, the assembly will have to be replaced. If the cable is snapped, that too will require replacement of the assembly unless you can figure out a way to tie the broken ends together.

Thank you for not being too angry with me and my warped sense of humor. I'll post another reply if I find better information specific to your van. No service manual is as good as seeing the real thing.

Caradiodoc
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Friday, July 23rd, 2010 AT 11:27 PM
Tiny
CASEY8
  • MEMBER
I thank you once again for the help and I did what you suggested and Got a cluster from the salvage yard. Dropped the ball by trying to put it in myself without having the info uplifted from the old one first but good things happen because I found out where the short is coming from which is fuse # 9 which controls the instrument cluster. Every time the ford dealer tried to upload the info the fuse would blow so now I know I dont need a cluster but I need to know where the bad wire is to fix it.
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Saturday, August 7th, 2010 AT 9:05 PM

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