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Old 09-05-2008, 12:17   #1 (permalink)
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99 Windstar transmission problem - bad leak when hot

Vehicle in question is a `99 Windstar 3.8L

Transmission developed a leak when my wife was using it to deliver newspapers.
(Think "STOP-START-STOP-START" action around the various neighborhoods.)
It would only leak BAD after it was good and heated up. (But if I left it cool
down and added fluid, you could drive it back home 40+/- miles w/o another
drop.)(And this van had been used for quite a few months delivering papers on
this same route, and never had an issue. This was a new problem.)

If I drove it back and forth to the train-station (maybe ten miles one way), or
to the warehouse where she picked up her papers, going down I-70, not a
drop. On a rare occasion, it seemed to hesitate in shifting, but that was not
a 'low on fluid' thing, as I checked.

We took it to a local shop, he rebuilds it to the tune of $1800 for the rebuild and
some brake work. First Saturday night out with Mrs. Tanker delivering the
Sunday papers, massive fluid leak. She calls me all hysterical, I take the car
over, she transfers the papers, and goes on delivering. I checked the stick - no
fluid showing on the stick, and you could easily follow Mrs. Tanker's path
through the neighborhood.

I put a note on the windshield saying "It's broke, we'll pick it up around lunch"
and my buddy takes me home. I call the mechanic and say, "It's sitting in 'so
& so' neighborhood, tranny fountained. Go get it and see WTF is up."

He picks it up w/ his rollback, and two days later says, "It was five quarts low
on fluid (NO SHIT!), but I filled it back up and have been running it all over, and
done all sorts of tests, and I can't find where it's been leaking."

I asked him if somehow the bell housing may have developed a crack, and it only
leaks once it's good and hot. "No, if the housing was cracked, it'd start leaking
right away."

Transmission cooler and lines seem to have been ruled out as they're dry, and
forward of the leak. I want to tell him to go get another housing and swap it
out, but was wondering if anybody else had any ideas.

The van's worthless if I can't venture more than a few miles from home for fear
of the tranny crapping out, and he doesn't seem too energetic about fixing the
problem that he's been paid to fix.

The idea has been brought up that the problem is the fluid venting through the
overflow valve on top. The mechanic/parts-changer swears that this is the first
thing that he looked at, and that it's dry as a bone.
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Old 09-05-2008, 14:12   #2 (permalink)
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Join Date: Sep 2006
Location: Arkansas
Posts: 6,146
Re: 99 Windstar transmission problem - bad leak when hot

I had same exact problem with my 01 Taurus. It would gush fluid out at times while out driving, especially on hot days and on hilly terrain. Let car cool off, add fluid things were fine, no leaks. This on & off problem went on for several weeks. I like to have drove myself nuts trying to figure out what was wrong.

Long story short, the coolant recovery tank developed a leak which caused the coolant level to run low in the radiator. The transmission cooler tube in the radiator was only partially submerged, allowing the fluid to overheat & pour out of the transmission overflow tube.

If you have a external transmission cooler, I wonder if stop & go driving could be a problem? Not enough airflow through the coils, long enough allowing the fluid to overheat.
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