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I was about to purchase a 2006 e350 With 71k miles, when the owner says it threw a shifting solenoid on the way to showing me the van. I will know little more till a machinist looks at it. What should I be looking for in terms of a one-time failure of a part versus a systemic problem with the transmission? What would keep me from purchasing the van after inspection?
 

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The shifting solenoids replace the old vacuum modulators and allow for more more gear options in a transmission. A singular failure on a 1 ton 14 year old van is nothing to be alarmed at, providing proper maintenance has been done. The problems we had were on the lighter duty half tons after some serious mileage and we were pretty rough on them (service vans).
 
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