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post #1 of 5 (permalink) Old 01-03-13, 09:07 AM Thread Starter
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Transmission issue

Some background first.
This is a 97 Taurus wagon gls. I believe it's the 3L 6 cylinder

In the summer while going uphill against a strong wind, the cruise caused it to shift down and it almost redlined until I disengaged the cruise. The engine light came on at this point but there were no drivability issues so I chocked it up to a sensor issue.

Just before Christmas, my wife got stuck. The guy helping her out said to put it in low gear and she said she spun the wheels while they pushed her out. She said she could notice a burnt smell, but it could have just been the tires spinning. She drove down the road and the transmission suddenly cut out on her. The engine still revs but the car will not engage in any gear.

My question is could this be a bad transmission range sensor (we have had previous issues with it) or possibly a bad speed sensor? I have no way to pull the code on the engine light to see why it's on, but if it could be one of the 2 sensors I would invest in having it towed so it could be checked before completely giving up on it.

The tranny fluid is still full, and although dirty, doesn't look like its burnt and doesn't smell burnt.

Thanks in advance for any help.

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post #2 of 5 (permalink) Old 01-03-13, 02:26 PM
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Re: Transmission issue

What transmission do you have ? If it is a CD4E that is what they do as they downshift.
Known problem. Pull the transmission code. Range sensor or speed sensor has nothing to do with your problem. I don't think we have all of the story. you have more than one
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post #3 of 5 (permalink) Old 01-03-13, 08:19 PM Thread Starter
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I'm not sure which transmission it is and not sure how to find out. If it does sound like it could be multiple issues and not a simple fix we'll probably just get rid of it.

Thanks for your help.

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post #4 of 5 (permalink) Old 01-05-13, 09:02 PM
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Re: Transmission issue

To find the transmission model it's stamped into the bottom of the pan if you can crawl under the vehicle. It might be coated with road grime just to warn you.

If the transmission fluid is anything but a nice red colour - change it. If the trans is starting to burn (knowingly from heat), then the fluid should be changed at a minimum. Burnt fluid smell generally means you need a rebuild. There's not much you can do to try to save a transmission.

Some Taurus models had a rather short final drive. say 70mph is 2500rpm in top gear. If you perpetually drive with several passengers at 75+mph the transmission should be serviced every 40K miles. EPA mileage estimates, and manufacturer basic schedule services peg the vehicle at a top speed of 60mph as per federal regulations. Any faster and mileage suffers, along with added heat in the transmission, bearings, etc that need to be serviced sooner.

The TPS (throttle position sensor) is also known for causing transmission problems, and is often misdiagnosed by even the best transmission shops. A bad TPS (about ~$50) can cause sudden downshifts, upshifts while staying at a steady speed. The wind isn't necessarily the problem on the downshifting to redline.

As mentioned, you'll need to pull the codes. Places like Autozone will check codes for free but you'll have to drive the vehicle there. Good luck!

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post #5 of 5 (permalink) Old 01-07-13, 09:12 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the replies. It's most likely the transmission needs to be replaced. It sounds like bad sensors will only cause shifting problems while in gear. Since it will no longer go into gear it would have to be the transmission is shot. Since it happened while driving, I don't think it could be a broken shift cable either.

I think it's just time for a new car.

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