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Rebuilding my 32RH transmission

hear

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Well my transmission spit the bit. One day 100% fine, the next morning it decided it was not going to shift out of first until it got to around 5k RPM, at which point it shifted into 3rd. There's whole 'nother thread on the topic. This about how we fix a transmission, because it seems to be something most people are scared of. I'm pretty scared too but since another guy here recently did it and also I'm a cheapskate who isn't going to pay $2k+ for a rebuilt unit when I can attempt to rebuild it myself for under $400...I'm a cheapskate but I also like to gamble. The plan is to document the process, but that will happen elsewhere. This is more about the progress and challenges that arise along the way.

Parts:


Rebuild kit from Oregon Performance Transmission. They make an HP version which includes some performance clutches & fancy steels, but costs $129 vs $231 for the HP kit. The "basic" steels were only $12 more so I felt like the non-HP kit was a better choice for me.
A904 Rebuild Kit A998 A999 Automatic Transmission Master Overhaul Banner Box Set Torqueflite 6

Rebuild Accessories
I added a number of accessories I ended up not needing (or not using, anyway). Things like the billet accumulator piston, low reverse servo, new steels, thrust washers, overrun sprag. I didn't know what I needed, which is probably why you'll find recommendations to tear it down first, then order what you need. OPT lets you return anything you don't open up, so I shot for the moon. I didn't even end up using the new steels, since the ones I had were flawless.

I also bought a new low/reverse band (the 2" double wrap version), which was the only additional part purchased that I actually used. So the rebuild kit ended up costing me $153.17, plus $35 for the ATSG manual. Honestly, I'm not sure the FSM isn't sufficient here especially knowing that at least one torque spec was wrong.

Torque Converter
on the advice from several here, I got a new torque converter to go with my rebuild. I went with a Pro King CR-90 from Advance Auto, and was able to use a 15% off coupon to get the cost down to $182 (net of the $50 core charge). I was really hesitant to do this change, but ultimately you can't tell how contaminated yours is so you could re-introduce nasty fluid into your clean new transmission.

All told, I'm into this for $370 plus the cost of fluid, net of the items I'll be returning to OPT. I don't know how the OPT parts compare to what I would get from a shop rebuild, but I'm confident OPT's stuff is at least as good as OEM, and likely better than a shop where the job is to maximize margin by saving money on parts. But I could be wrong. I also used 6 cans of brake clean & 3 rolls of shop paper towels & a significant portion of a box of 5mil gloves from Harbor Freight.

Tools:
Slide hammer & some bolts of TBD size (to remove the pump)
2 flat head screwdrivers, not super big (to work out the lock rings that hold the clutches & servos)
Large C-clamp & 2-3 1" wide washers
T-25 torx bit & driver (for the valve body disassembly)
11mm socket (to remove valve body)
1/4" socket extension (to remove the kickdown servo pivot screw)
Lock ring pliers (not to be confused with snap ring pliers)
Snap Ring pliers (harbor freight model will be fine)


Effort
It's hard to gauge the time required because I intentionally went slow.
  • It took me 12 minutes to tear down the rotating assemblies (timed)
  • probably another 10 minutes to remove the servos.
  • There are other odds & ends but teardown should take less than an hour all told.
  • Replacing clutches seals etc requires more time, allow several hours
  • Valve body teardown, cleaning, and re-assembly, 2 hours
  • Case cleaning: as many hours as you want to spend.
  • Transmission re-assembly, 2 hours.
Most of these tasks took me less time than I'm quoting here, and the things I had to do twice I was able to do very very quickly the 2nd time around. I could do the entire overhaul (excluding dropping the trans & reinstalling the trans) in probably 6 hours, with no tasks being actually hard in any way.


The above was primarily written in hindsight, the rest of this thread is a real time event stream. Have fun & learn as I learn.

==============================================================================================

First things first, the no 2nd gear problem is because all the friction material came off the kick down band. In large chunks. I only drove it maybe 10 miles since the first symptoms, so that might be why the trash wasn't more spit up.

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And then the band is about 90% bare except for one spot. I found enough large strips of that friction material that I could probably just about completely rebuild that band. Elmers glue will work, right?

image4.jpeg


The front drum that this band is supposed to grab got a little chewed up in the process as bare metal and rivets attempted to clamp down on the spinning drum. I don't know how bad bad is, but this feels like it could be problematic. I don't have a way to measure the depth of those grooves, but they weren't super deep. You couldn't catch a fingernail on them or anything, but probably needed to be addressed.

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So I took it to a machine shop this morning and had them polish it. He said he used a bastard file? on it, and then used 120 and finished up with 400, I believe. He did a fantastic job on it. For payment he asked for $20, and of course I didn't have cash. He then said I could buy him lunch, and invited me to go with him. I had a work call so I couldn't take him up on that, but based on how much he just wanted to shoot the breeze about machine work & cars, I feel like this could be a fun friendship. Since I couldn't pay him in either of those ways he told me the work was on the house. I couldn't accept that, and eventually we landed on beer as the universal currency. Two packs of Budweiser 16 oz bottles (from QT, so $28) and I'm now paid in full. He invited me over this afternoon to help him drink it.

image1.jpeg


image0.jpeg



I've ordered a rebuild kit from Oregon Performance Transmission which should get here this week. In the meanwhile I've got this thing torn down to the sub-assemblies. I do have the clutches out of both drums and I have the valve body halves separated and cleaned. The case got sprayed down with brake clean but I need to hit it again and then shoot air into all the openings & let the Texas sun dry it out. I probably ought to just have the whole thing dipped in some sort of industrial cleaner. I would really like to clean it & paint it, but it's just gonna get dirty again and I don't know if I have the heart do that much useless work.

My group is headed to Barnwell Mountain ORV on Saturday, so the *goal* is to have this reassembled & re-installed Thursday evening, so I can spend Friday test driving it around town before taking it on a 2 hr trip & then putting it through the paces on the rocks.

image3.jpeg



Overall, this transmission seems to be REALLY clean on the inside. So much so that I'm not convinced it hasn't already been rebuilt recently. More on that in a bit.
 
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OP
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I've had a continued fight against the P0741 torque converter lockup solenoid code. The plug on the outside of the transmission can go either way, but if I plug it in with one polarity it will blow a fuse (fuse #11 in the glove box iirc). If I plug it in the opposite polarity, the fuse doesn't blow and the torque converter lockup is observed to function correctly. And now we know why.

The solenoid itself is on the back side of the valve body (that is, not the side you see when you drop the pan, but rather the side that is up inside the transmission. Directly above that is all the rotating drums. My theory is that the wire was touching a drum and wore the insulation away. Then the exposed wire was in contact with the drum (or close enough that it was able to conduct through the ATF??), which meant that the exposed wire was grounded through the transmission components. This isn't a problem when that wire is the ground wire in the circuit. But if I reverse the plug, this wire becomes the +12V wire, which shorts out and blows the fuse. That's my theory anyway.

I can't believe that the design of this includes a wire in very close proximity to a rotating assembly, which makes me wonder if somebody didn't put this together right on a prior overhaul.

image1.jpeg



I would love to just tape those up but I'm not sure what ATF would do to the adhesive and loose tape swimming in the trans pan sounds like a formula for how to do this whole project again, so I may just have to replace it the whole thing. That will be frustrating because it will be the 2nd time I've had to drop $40 on that part. Let me explain, and hopefully I'll do a good enough job, because there are some confusing threads out there on this specific topic.

So there is a section of harness under the jeep that plugs into the exterior of the transmission for the TCC solenoid. On my transmission, that plug looks like this. Yes, it's attached to a solenoid, but you can't buy it w/o the solenoid, at least not as far as I can tell. This caused me unending confusion until I actually looked inside the trans. My pigtail was thrashed and was unable to de-pin the connector to fix the wiring, so I bought the whole dang solenoid, cut off the connector, and spliced that into my external harness.

image3.jpeg


Turns out the inside of the transmission has the exact same connector.

IMG_4468.jpg


Rock Auto & others actually sell a different flavor of solenoid which has the potential to confuse simple minds like mine. It comes with what appears to be a version of the piece that goes through the trans case, allowing the inside to be plugged in, and also the outside to be plugged in. It's not exactly the same, and the solenoid it's attached to (not pictured) doesn't have the same mounting piece to secure it to the valve body. But it does raise the question "what do you do if that 'in between' piece goes bad? I'm not here to answer that question.

image2.jpeg


The "through-case" connector piece, from either side. It's not exactly the same but enough to leave me with more questions than answers.

image0.jpeg

image1.jpeg


Regardless another $40 later and I will have solved this problem once and for all. If anybody knows the proper routing of the solenoid wire, do chime in.
 
OP
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More evidence in support of this transmission having been recently rebuilt. The odometer says 194k, but these clutches tell a different story. I've seen a handful of rebuild videos where the clutches are absolute toast. These look pretty stinking new to me. The front clutches do have a little black on them, but the rear clutches look nice and reddish brown. It feels like a waste to replace them, but what's the point of tearing down a transmission to this point and then putting the same clutches back in?

image0.jpeg


image1.jpeg
 
OP
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Did the valve body disassembly tonight. I actually did the disassembly, then a dirty reassembly, and then filmed the disassembly a second time. I was able to get it all apart in 20 minutes, including narration. It is not even remotely hard. I did have one valve that I couldn't get out, but I think a little compressed air should do the trick. Also, I was unable to find a single video of this process, or even a walkthrough of the steps outside of the FSM. Given that this can be done w/o dropping the transmission, this seems like the sort of thing that might be part of some quasi-regular maintenance. Or maybe not, I have no idea.

I will add that the FSM, at least for the 1997, has some steps in the wrong order. Not because the sequence ultimately matters, but rather because it wants you to remove several valves before it tells you to remove the endplate that secures them. It's pretty obvious what needs to happen, but some QC would have been nice. One of the other year's FSM (it's the one linked to in the other 32RH rebuild thread from a few months back) has some significantly improved diagrams for some of these sub-sub assemblies. If you're struggling with one area, it might be worthwhile to look at some of the adjacent years. The parts might not be identical but a good picture can be helpful in other contexts sometimes.

Next step: clean all the parts. The valves themselves seemed to be perfectly clean, and the valve bores also didn't have any debris in them. Really, this whole thing is way cleaner than I would have expected for a tranny with this many miles on it. I've probably introduced more dirt by continuing to touch it in quiet wonder.

If I said you had a valve body, would you hold it against me?

image4.jpeg
 
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I'm normally really lazy about being organized. I tend to have something of a photographic memory and can just remember where stuff goes. But in this case there are literally a floppily-jillion parts many of which are very similar, and I'm also getting older. I've been very diligent about bagging up & labeling the parts for various sub-sub assemblies, bolts, etc. Sometimes it's not obvious (to me) what the names of the parts are, like in the case of all the different valves in the valve body. So for those I also include a reference to the figure # in the FSM. Hopefully this helps me avoid trouble when I go to re-assemble everything.

image0-8.jpeg
 
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A word on the economics of the 32RH used/rebuilt market.

When mine started acting up I started trolling FB marketplace & Craigslist for ones that had been pulled or TJ's being parted out. To my amazement, I couldn't find a single 3 speed auto for sale. Tons of XJ transmissions, but I didn't want to do the work to make that swap and seems like the guidance here is to stick with the 32RH if at all possible. I also searched car-part.com but there was nothing local and what they did have was in the $2k & up range.

So I called a chain transmission shop near the house, they gave me a ballpark quote of $2500-$3000 to rebuild mine, which comes with a lifetime warranty provided you jump through whatever sort of periodic checkup hoop they require.

Back to FB Marketplace. There is no shortage of ads from companies who advertise that they have tons of rebuilt engines & transmissions. I responded to about 5 of these, and they all work the same way more or less. You tell them what you want, and they'll find one in their network (one place actually had their own warehouse in Cincinnati). They have used units which have some degree of verification that they work, and they come with a 90-100 day warranty. The used ones had between 85k & $115k miles and were priced between $1050 and $1500, plus $250 shipping to my door. $150 to ship it to a mechanic. They also carry re-man units which have a 3 year/100k mile warranty. The one I was quoted was $2000 + a $1500 core charge, plus shipping both ways (new trans to me, core back to them). So the initial outlay is $4k, net is $2500.

The last option is to rebuild it myself. The basic rebuild kit from Oregon Performance Transmission is $130, and in hindsight, that would've been enough to fix me up. I did buy a few other pieces that I probably didn't need which brought the total up to just under $400. The downside here is that (a) I don't have any idea what I'm doing and I could ruin it, and (b) there is time and effort involved. However, the biggest pain in the rear is dropping/re-installing the transmission and the only way I avoid those steps are with a local shop rebuild. And if I grenade the thing a local rebuild could get more expensive if new drums & such are needed. I'm sure their rebuild only includes clutches & soft parts. But if I did blow it up it likely wouldn't affect the value of my core.

So it basically comes down to:
  • a local rebuild for $2500 with a great warranty (likely with strings attached)
  • a shipped rebuild for $2500 with a good warranty (plus a hassle of shipping a transmission!?)
  • a used unit with ~100k miles and a virtually useless warranty for around $1300-$1750
  • a DIY rebuild in my garage for $400 and zero warranty
For me, this is a no-brainer. I'll gamble the $400 and attempt the rebuild myself. It's a $1k delta between the DIY rebuild and a used trans with lots of miles and a junk warranty, so that doesn't make sense to me. And it's another $1k delta between the used and the effectively new, which seems to be the better "investment" if I have to go down that road. I'm either gonna spend $400 or $3000. Anything in between seems like a recipe for spending more money down the road.



P.S. the only thing that is actually wrong with this trans is the kick down band & the lockup solenoid, which I could've replaced for $65 total. I almost stopped the teardown at that point to lower the risk of screwing something up. Given the condition of everything else, that's probably what I should have done.
 

NashvilleTJ

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Awesome project, dude. Great to see someone tackling a tranny rebuild themselves. I’m enjoying the write-up. Kudos.

I’m also a big fan of the ziplock organizer approach.
 
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Thanks for the feedback, I'm glad to know I have at least one interested follower. I was inspired by @U8MYDZT who recently tackled the same project. When he posted his thread I immediately got on the bandwagon because I really wanted to see it done. I did not anticipate needing to do it myself just a few months later. Been picking his brain most of the steps along the way.

My goal of getting to wheel this thing on Saturday has gone up in smoke, however. OPT should have shipped my stuff out on Friday, but instead I just finally got a tracking number late last night as as of 1pm CDT on Tuesday, it is still in "label printed" status so I'm not expecting my stuff until the back half of the week now. And Amazon sent me the wrong TCC solenoid (they sent me this massive one for a Ford), so I've got do deal with that now too. It's probably all for the best, now I can take my time and not have the threat of a looming deadline. And my best wrenching buddy had to travel for work and won't be back till Thursday, and he really wanted to participate in all this fun. Looks like he'll get to help after all.

I'm continued to be struck by just how simply this thing comes apart and goes together. Even reading the FSM makes it sound absolutely overwhelming, but the truth is its far from it. The valve body unbolts from the case. Everything else just slides apart, many times without even removing c-clips & lock rings. I'm sure there are instances where stuff is jacked beyond reason, but to simply replace a band or clutches, or fix a sticky valve, this is literally just about the easiest thing I've ever done on a vehicle.
 

HDRider

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Mine is in the shop right now getting rebuilt. I do admire you. Days past I did stuff, but never anything approaching a trans rebuild. Good luck. We will be rooting for you.
 
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Mine is in the shop right now getting rebuilt. I do admire you. Days past I did stuff, but never anything approaching a trans rebuild. Good luck. We will be rooting for you.

Dare I ask what the rebuild rate is in your neck of the woods, and what all is included? And where at in Arkansas? We spend a lot of time around Hot Springs.
 

Bigmac

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I had to pull the adapter assembly off the back of my 32rh to fix a leak a few months ago, while I had it drained I dropped it and pulled the pump and input shaft out of it to relocate the breather. The adapter assembly leak is fixed but now its leaking out the front pump seal... (facepalm)

It's not leaking bad enough to stop driving or wheeling it but i am getting tired of cleaning up atf.

Following this closely to see your outcome. Maybe next time I pull it out I'll do a full rebuild...

Great work, keep it up.
 
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I built a 241OR from a bucket of parts ( and a few new ones), and rebuilt my last ax15, but you're right there is something intimidating about the auto. probably the valve body moreso than anything.
 

HDRider

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Dare I ask what the rebuild rate is in your neck of the woods, and what all is included? And where at in Arkansas? We spend a lot of time around Hot Springs.

I will let you know when I get it back. I think he said almost $2k with a 12 month warranty.

The guy rebuilds them himself. He has a full service garage. He has guys that take them off and puts them on. His son runs all other mechanic stuff.

I am in NE Arkansas about 230 miles from Hot Springs
 

hardtailpan

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I was inspired by @U8MYDZT who recently tackled the same project.

Yup, I watched that thread as well. As I said in that thread, I've got a 32rh in my Apex which is gushing fluid and has 200k on it, plus it needs a motor swap. I was planning on pulling it and having it rebuilt, primarily to save time. While screwing around on FB marketplace, I found a used one for $150 (I think that's what I paid, I forgot) with torque converter. The guy bought a rollover from one of the auctions. He said it yard drove but that's all he knew about it.

I've changed my mind a 100 times but I'm currently thinking I may rebuild the used one I bought instead of just re-sealing it and throwing it in with the used motor I got. I have experience with the Chrysler 904 family which the 32RH is part of, and I've rebuilt GM turbo 350/400s before so I'm not concerned with complexity.

What are you thinking about the torque converter? Since you're going through the whole transmission, it might make sense to replace that as well. Also, don't forget to at least blow out the coolant lines and radiator tranny cooler.

So, you actually have at least 2 watchers! Good luck, I'm rooting for a successful 1st time rebuild!

Edit: I found the thread, I got that used 32RH for $100. That was a nice find, those suckers are hard to find used.
 
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What are you thinking about the torque converter? Since you're going through the whole transmission, it might make sense to replace that as well. Also, don't forget to at least blow out the coolant lines and radiator tranny cooler.

Blowing out the coolant lines for sure, less sure on the torque converter. I don't know why I'm so hesitant to replace the TC. But I'm sure it has the same clutchy residue on/in it that everything else has. Also it changes my economics thread by whatever the cost of a TC is. Also, I'm cheap. But I'm slowly changing my mind as my rebuild is delayed by other parts anyway. Recommendations on brands, stall speeds, etc?
 
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