How to Troubleshoot a Ford Automatic Transmission

Updated March 23, 2017

The automatic transmission in your Ford uses special transmission fluid that lubricates the planetary gears inside the transmission housing. These gears, if they are not properly lubricated, will grind and eventually fail. If you are having problems with the automatic transmission in your Ford, you need to have it serviced by a professional. However, there are a few troubleshooting steps you can take that will help you figure out what the problem could be.

Park your Ford vehicle on a level surface. Start your Ford and allow it to idle for two to three minutes.

Open the bonnet of your Ford and pull on the looped handle that sits behind the engine. The handle ends at a long neck that stretches down to the transmission. This is the transmission dipstick.

Remove the dipstick completely, wipe it off then reinsert it all the way into the filler neck until it bottoms out. Then remove it again. Note the colour. It should be reddish. If it's not, the transmission fluid could be burnt. Confirm this by smelling the fluid. If it smells burnt, it is. You will need to change your transmission fluid immediately to prevent further damage to your transmission. The fluid level should also be between the upper and lower fill marks on the end of the dipstick. If it is low, you need to fill the transmission with Ford-approved automatic transmission fluid.

Check for problems staying in gear while driving. If the vehicle slips out of gear while driving, this indicates a problem with the transmission. You may also hear grinding or crunching noises. This indicates that your transmission is seriously damaged and needs an overhaul.

Check for transmission problems using an on-board diagnostic scan tool. This tool can be plugged into the OBD access port located to the left of the fuse panel under the dash in the driver's side footwell. Press "Start" on the scan tool or wait for the tool to automatically retrieve the error codes. You can then have these codes translated using your Ford's service manual or by most auto parts stores.

Things You'll Need

  • Shop rag
  • On-board diagnostic scan tool
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About the Author

I am a Registered Financial Consultant with 6 years experience in the financial services industry. I am trained in the financial planning process, with an emphasis in life insurance and annuity contracts. I have written for Demand Studios since 2009.