Three Problems With The Dodge 45RFE Transmission That Are Easy To Fix

Posted by on Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

The 45RFE transmission is a four speed automatic made by Chrysler. It is designed for rear wheel drive vehicles and is usually paired with the smaller V8 engines. In production between 1999 and 2003, it was used in many popular Chrysler vehicles, including the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Liberty, and the Dodge Dakota, Durango and Ram pickup truck. The 45RFE transmission was eventually replaced by a 5 speed transmission, the 545RFE.  Although out of production for a while now, there are still plenty of these popular vehicles on the road.  The chance is high one will end up in your shop for repairs sooner or later. Let’s take a look at a couple of problems that plague this transmission.

This is the 45RFE transmissions


Issue: The transmission jumps into neutral from a forward gear. Problem: The 45RFE has a problem with the flat filter cracking. It might also not be seated correctly. Check the filter tube and O-ring, too. Any of these small problems can cause the transmission to suck in air sporadically, at which point it loses oil pressure and feels like it is in neutral. Replace the filter and O-ring and make sure everything is seated well before re-assembling.

the filter on the 45RFE can cause problems


Issue: The transmission not shifting correctly or at all in select gears.  Problem: The “E” at the end of 45RFE stands for Electronic and this transmission is loaded with electronics, mainly electrical solenoids. A solenoid is nothing more than a fancy electrical magnet attached to a spring loaded plunger. The plunger is in turn attached to one of the shift valves in the valve body.  When a 12 volt charge is passed through the coil winding found inside the solenoid, it generates a magnetic field and cause the plunger to move the valve. It is fairly common for these solenoids to fail. The quickest way to test a solenoid is using a hand held ohm meter. Connect the two leads from the ohm meter to the two leads coming off the solenoid you want to test. A properly working solenoid should return a reading of between 20 – 30 ohms.  If you get no reading you have a break in the internal wire coil. If you get a low reading you most likely have a short in it. Either way, you’ll have to replace the solenoid.

The solenoids found in the 45RFE can be problematic


Issue: Overheating: Problem: Like just about any other automatic transmission, overheating can become a problem when the transmission is subject to abuse, such as towing over the factory load limit. The 45RFE is found mainly in trucks, and is therefore more likely to suffer from such abuse, intentional or not. If you can catch the problem before it ruins the transmission, install an aftermarket transmission cooler to help keep temperatures under control. Ideally you want the transmission to get no higher than 200 degrees.

If the 45RFE transmission in your customer’s vehicle fails, strongly consider recommending a re-manufactured transmission over one that was simply rebuilt.

Re-manufactured transmissions include modifications and upgrades designed to make them last longer while at the same time being more durable. Rebuilt transmissions do not. Re-manufactured transmissions also include a much better warranty than rebuilt transmissions; usually three years compared to 90 days for the rebuilt transmission. There is a reason for this difference in warranties. The companies that re-manufactured transmissions believe so strongly in their workmanship and quality of parts that they feel very comfortable offering such a long warranty period.

2 Responses to “Three Problems With The Dodge 45RFE Transmission That Are Easy To Fix”

  1. Trpy Zurovec says:

    I have a 2002 Jeep Liberty, 3.7 liter 4X4 with transmission issues. Took it to transx shop where they pulled the fault codes from the PCM and P0700 and P1781 popped up and he said that the transx needed to be rebuilt at a cost of $950-$1250 . I wasn’t convinced. Changed the cam and crank sensors and it ran normally for a test drive and thought I had it fixed. Next day went “limp mode” again(a term that I found out after doing some internet research). Long story short….seems that after transx warms a little it faults again and while sitting at a red light I can feel something happening and then “limp mode” happens again. Think problem is solenoid pack and wondering what your thoughts are. Thanks for your time and comments. Troy

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