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 of 1 people found this 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 of 4 people found this 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 of 1 people found this 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.

6 of 6 people found this 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.

Your Answer

Add photo

Related Questions

  • whining in the manual transmission 1 answer

    whining in the transmission only in 1st 2nd 3rd gears

    1992 Ford Explorer


    Maintenance & Repair

  • Transmission Whining 5 answers

    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. ...

    1996 Ford Explorer 4 Dr XLT 4WD SUV


    Maintenance & Repair

  • Transmission 4 answers

    Im having transmission problems on my 05 explorer.i had a mechanic scan it and he said it came up with 2 electrical codes for the tranny.the od light is blinking and it says "check transmission." ...

    2005 Ford Explorer


    Maintenance & Repair

  • 1999 transmission whining & wont go into gear 1 answer

    Car whining and will start but not go into gear

    1999 Ford Taurus SE


    Maintenance & Repair

  • Should i replace the tranmission pump or the whole transmission in my 1999 Ford Explorer Eddie Bauer Edition? 2 answers

    My Transmission pump went out on my truck. It was making a whining noise and now the truck won't go in drive.

    1999 Ford Explorer 4 Dr Eddie Bauer 4WD SUV


    Maintenance & Repair


Looking for a Used Explorer in your area?

CarGurus has 65,347 nationwide Explorer listings starting at $799.


Search Ford Explorer Questions

Ford Explorer Experts

#1 OJ
Reputation 10,500
#2 Tom Demyan
Tom Demyan
Reputation 4,210
#3 tennisshoes
Reputation 2,420
View All

Related Models For Sale

Used Jeep Grand Cherokee
1,097 Great Deals out of 73,390 listings starting at $1,200
Used Ford Expedition
415 Great Deals out of 24,055 listings starting at $1,500
Used Chevrolet Tahoe
583 Great Deals out of 32,601 listings starting at $1,500
Used Ford F-150
2,139 Great Deals out of 195,105 listings starting at $290
Used Toyota 4Runner
235 Great Deals out of 18,856 listings starting at $2,195
Used Nissan Pathfinder
322 Great Deals out of 22,054 listings starting at $1,500
Used GMC Yukon
412 Great Deals out of 20,211 listings starting at $1,495

Used Cars For Sale

2017 Ford Explorer For Sale
52 Great Deals out of 39,577 listings starting at $22,712
2016 Ford Explorer For Sale
128 Great Deals out of 3,916 listings starting at $16,700
2015 Ford Explorer For Sale
166 Great Deals out of 4,736 listings starting at $12,997
2014 Ford Explorer For Sale
262 Great Deals out of 5,632 listings starting at $9,850
2013 Ford Explorer For Sale
81 Great Deals out of 2,710 listings starting at $8,586

Content submitted by Users is not endorsed by CarGurus, does not express the opinions of CarGurus, and should not be considered reviewed, screened, or approved by CarGurus. Please refer to CarGurus Terms of Use.