NV3550 transmission tough to shift when cold

TJScott

TJ Enthusiast
Original poster
Joined
Feb 4, 2017
Messages
522
Location
Waterloo, ON Canada
So, I have a 2003 4.0 manual transmission 5 speed. To my knowledge that is the NV3550. Now that it’s colder (like 30’s and 40’s) at home, it’s really quite stiff getting into gear and of course hitting second is quite the task. I switched to Red Line 50205 MTL 75W80 GL-4 recently to see if that would help. It really didn’t make any noticeable difference in the feel. We are moving to Ontario Canada in the next 4 or 5 months. Which of course is colder in the winters. What have you folks done to be able to use your manual Jeeps in the winter? I’m in Kitchener now, and it’s quite a bit colder than home which got me to thinking how will act when I get it here?
 
Repeated flushes with Redline MTL have made my NV3550 much better in the cold. It shifts smoothly into all gears in 30 degree temps, though I need to shift slowly into 2nd for the first few miles. It used to be worse, but I'm on my 3rd fill of MTL in the past 20,000 miles and it's improved drastically.
 
  • Like
Reactions: motomick76
If you run or plan to run a block heater, you can also wire in a 120 volt pad heater for the transmission and any other components you want to heat.

You can also get 12 volt pad heaters, but they draw enough power that you would need to idle the engine. They could be used to shorten the transmission warm-up time.
 
I may try the changing of the oil a few times before next winter idea. See if that works. I’m not sure where we will be living by then. So, not sure what power options I’ll have yet. But, it’s a good idea.
 
The infamous too hard to shift into 2nd ...


#1 this is not a racing tranny. This is not a car tranny. I understand the TJ is a mighty quick handling little machine...but it begins and ends there.

#2 the best remedy? Shift when your rpm drops. Yes from a cold start. If you insist pulling out onto the road whilst cold...don't even touch your shifter to go into 2nd until your rpm has dropped.
Accelerate in 1st, gas out, clutch in, wait for rpm drop (about a second or a tad longer), easily shift into second.

#3 love thine Jeep...in other words see #1


#4 once warm your Jeep won't have any issues with the 1-2 shift.

#5 Either warm it up before you drive off

or...

RELAX and take it easy. Wait for the rpm drop!!!! Far better than any magical fluid change. I promise.

#6 ....
see #1, 3 and 5


P.s.
We see this all the time. Jeep gets some miles on it and oh my dear lord I can't drive it like Mario Andretti when it gets cold.
 
  • Like
Reactions: motomick76
The infamous too hard to shift into 2nd ...


#1 this is not a racing tranny. This is not a car tranny. I understand the TJ is a mighty quick handling little machine...but it begins and ends there.

#2 the best remedy? Shift when your rpm drops. Yes from a cold start. If you insist pulling out onto the road whilst cold...don't even touch your shifter to go into 2nd until your rpm has dropped.
Accelerate in 1st, gas out, clutch in, wait for rpm drop (about a second or a tad longer), easily shift into second.

#3 love thine Jeep...in other words see #1


#4 once warm your Jeep won't have any issues with the 1-2 shift.

#5 Either warm it up before you drive off

or...

RELAX and take it easy. Wait for the rpm drop!!!! Far better than any magical fluid change. I promise.

#6 ....
see #1, 3 and 5


P.s.
We see this all the time. Jeep gets some miles on it and oh my dear lord I can't drive it like Mario Andretti when it gets cold.
I totally get the waiting for it to drop in rpm, I've been doing that for years. However, you still get the mis shift and grind if you're not crazy careful. Also, getting into first is quite stiff. There's no other easy way to describe it. I've had the Jeep for 5 years now and have always dealt with the cold weather shift issues. But, as we plan to move where it's much colder for much longer, it brings the issue more to light. Believe me, I know this is no sports car. You'll never race with these things. I get my power needs from my motorcycle, I don't even try in the Jeep. I was just looking for another path that perhaps others in similar climates have found over the years.
 
I totally get the waiting for it to drop in rpm, I've been doing that for years. However, you still get the mis shift and grind if you're not crazy careful. Also, getting into first is quite stiff. There's no other easy way to describe it. I've had the Jeep for 5 years now and have always dealt with the cold weather shift issues. But, as we plan to move where it's much colder for much longer, it brings the issue more to light. Believe me, I know this is no sports car. You'll never race with these things. I get my power needs from my motorcycle, I don't even try in the Jeep. I was just looking for another path that perhaps others in similar climates have found over the years.
Mis shift and grind? Getting into first is stiff?

Explain...

BTW...the high today is 33 degrees here.
 
Mis shift and grind? Getting into first is stiff?

Explain...

BTW...the high today is 33 degrees here.
When you try to put it into 1st when it's cold out, it takes a fair amount of force to get it there. It doesn't grind but it has resistance pushing it in like someone was trying to hold it back. 2nd, when you shift, you think you have it in gear and start to let out the clutch and you get the grind. It hasn't fully seated into gear.
 
Old school trick...
When it's cold you need to let the Jeep warm up a bit. This won't help the trans much, but if you put the transfer into neutral while the engine is warming you can then put the tranny into gear and let that fluid warm also. If 2nd is the worst then shift into 2nd while warming up. Just remember to shift to neutral, then put transfer back engaged before you try to drive off.

Old school trick #2
Try and replace some of your trans fluid with a really light oil. They have 0W20 out now. That might work. Not too much. 1/4 the total fluid max. Learned this from the motor pool years ago. They used either diesel (if it didn't get cold enough to jell) or ATF (tho this didn't add much lubrication) to thin the trans oil in our 2 1/2 and 5 ton trucks while I was stationed in Korea back in the early 80's.
 
  • Like
Reactions: motomick76
Old school trick...
When it's cold you need to let the Jeep warm up a bit. This won't help the trans much, but if you put the transfer into neutral while the engine is warming you can then put the tranny into gear and let that fluid warm also. If 2nd is the worst then shift into 2nd while warming up. Just remember to shift to neutral, then put transfer back engaged before you try to drive off.

Old school trick #2
Try and replace some of your trans fluid with a really light oil. They have 0W20 out now. That might work. Not too much. 1/4 the total fluid max. Learned this from the motor pool years ago. They used either diesel (if it didn't get cold enough to jell) or ATF (tho this didn't add much lubrication) to thin the trans oil in our 2 1/2 and 5 ton trucks while I was stationed in Korea back in the early 80's.
That worked great on 80w-90w gear lube which of course got like molasses when cold...and also held a bit more fluid.
 
I'm apprehensive about thinning the oil. However, trick number one seems more viable. As long as I'm not in a rush of course. I had never thought of trying that. I will give it a try when I return home next month. We have the two week quarantine right now since we just arrived in Ontario.
 
When you try to put it into 1st when it's cold out, it takes a fair amount of force to get it there. It doesn't grind but it has resistance pushing it in like someone was trying to hold it back. 2nd, when you shift, you think you have it in gear and start to let out the clutch and you get the grind. It hasn't fully seated into gear.
Not questioning your stick shifting prowess but...this almost sounds like you're not getting the clutch pedal in all the way.

Many o' driver don't get the pedal all the way to the floor. They think they are but not. Could this be the case with your first gear and then you're thinking it's in 2nd only to leave it out and it's a grind.

Almost seems like your clutch isn't getting fully engaged.
 
I thought the same thing. I really do make sure I'm seated in such a way that I can comfortably get my foot to hit the floor with the clutch. In the warm weather this is never an issue. I'm fine being corrected, especially if it points me to the path of a resolution.
 
same problem (though less so down in TX) first few shifts are stiff. just take it easy until you get some heat in the system, hold gears for longer, take slow shifts oh and redline MTL helps ALOT.
 
  • Like
Reactions: motomick76
I thought the same thing. I really do make sure I'm seated in such a way that I can comfortably get my foot to hit the floor with the clutch. In the warm weather this is never an issue. I'm fine being corrected, especially if it points me to the path of a resolution.
Then I'd say this...

You've acknowledged it drives better when cold when you allow the rpm to drop.

So I'd just suggest if you must drive it cold...pull out and wait for the rpm drop before even touching the shifter to go into 2nd.

It will only be like that for a few miles.

That's your best remedy not some magical fluid.

P.s.
I've ridden with drivers so they can show me very similar behavior to what you describe. Every single one says yeah I take it easy starting out.
After riding with them I'm like uuuhhh...if thats your easy I'm not sure how you have a tranny that lived when you're getting racy.

I can't emphasize this enough.
1st gear pull out...rev to about 2k...clutch in...rpm finally drops to 8-900 rpm..go into 2nd.

It's really that simple and your Jeep will thank you with Fiesta zeal.

Good luck