Transmission Whining


Asked by Sep 18, 2012 at 08:14 AM about the 1996 Ford Explorer 4 Dr XLT 4WD SUV

Question type: Maintenance & Repair

I have a 1996 Explorer XLT with 185k miles on it.  My problem started out as a sound only about three weeks ago – it sounded like a high-speed drill was turning on under my truck while I was driving.  The high-pitch sound would increase or decrease with the speed of the truck but not the engine.  A quick tap on the gas would make it go away.  Only happened above 45 mph.  

As it started to happen more often, I noticed it almost always happened when the truck was going down grade or coasting – as when the truck speed was starting to push against the engine and when normal engine breaking would start, the sound would come.  When it started to happen almost every time I took my foot off the gas last night, I played around with different speeds and found that I could induce it almost every time the truck started to go faster than the engine once above 35mph.  Towards the end of my drive home, every time I was off the gas, or going down a hill: along with the noise showing it’s ugly face, the truck engine was completely detached from the transmission as if I was in neutral and unlike other times I had to come to almost a complete stop before stepping on the gas would result in forward movement.  

Other notes: the transmission is shifting nicely during acceleration, and when I provide full throttle it downshifts nicely and the truck speeds up without any odd sounds, vibrations or hesitation.  Fluid looks new, smells good and is a bit high on level and there are no signs of leaks under the truck.

I am thinking: torque converter, what do you think?

5 Answers


How is the fluid level? Have a local mechanic go for a ride with you to determine what the actual cause of the noise is. You said the trans goes into neutral, before that comment I was thinking something was rubbing against the driveshaft.

1 out of 1 people think this is helpful.

Fluid level is slightly high. When the noise is heard, the transmission can spin faster than the engine, but when the engine is sped up (gassed), it usually catches and turns the wheels faster via the trans. Sometimes though, it will not re-connect until I have coasted to an almost complete stop. All four exposed drive shafts have been checked for anything rubbing - clear. This seems to be something between the engine and trans breaking free - torque converter?

4 out of 4 people think this is helpful.

I just had the exact same problem with my 96 Explorercome to find out it was the transfer case the gearing for the rear wheel drive in my transfer case was shot which was causing it to have neutral like symptoms at speeds of 30 to 45 miles an houras far as the whining mine is still dealing with that but everything else seems to be running fine haven't figured that part out yet but I can tell you that you are neutral like symptoms is either the transfer case or it could also possibly be the valve body gasket inside the transmission is blown

1 out of 1 people think this is helpful.

I had a problem with my 2002 ford explorer v6 I was missing with the Idle and all the sudden the transmission started to whin and didn't want to shift to second gear no unless I give me more gas, so I decided to turn the idle screw back were is was before now it shift normaly but the whinning comes everytime I come to stop sign or traffic light. Anyone knows what could it be.

5 out of 5 people think this is helpful.

cdsoliday, was your problem resolved? Mine would take time to go into drive (it had been like that for years but never failed). I was low on fluid and ended up about 1/4 over the line (maybe a bit less). I ran the truck hard with 800 for a few days and 800 lbs to the dump on the last day. When I got near the house the transmission was winning in drive. I figured this was it and tryed to make it home. It finally gave out at a light when it wouldn't go forwards anymore. With traffic behind me I went from park to reverse and turned off and on the engine. I got it to go for seconds at a time to get it onto the median. When she kicked it while reving the engine it was pretty hard hitting but gave out just as quick. I've read now that there are all sorts of solenoids that may cause this or the valvebody not being aligned if someone had opened her up. I was thinking bands or other deeper internal parts but if it's something more serviceable by droping the pan, I might have a go at checking ohms on solenoids and such. Thanks in adnvance for any advice from you or anyone else.

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