The Ford 5R55W Transmission: Common Problems And a Few Great Accessory Suggestions

Posted by on Friday, February 15th, 2013

The Ford 5R55W transmission is an automatic transmission used primarily in some 2002 and up Ford Explorers and Ranger pickup trucks. It is a 5 speed transmission designed for rear wheel drive vehicles. While very similar in appearance to the Ford 5R55N, they share very few parts.

If you work on transmissions for a living or own a car that is equipped with a  5R55W transmission, there are a couple things you should probably know. Let’s go over a few details and potential problems with this transmission.


cut away of the Ford 5R55W transmission


Potential problems to look out for:

Solenoid failure – Because this is an electronic transmission it use electrical solenoids to control many of the functions of the transmission, including the shifting between gears and the lock up torque converter. There is an easy and inexpensive way to check your solenoids to see if they are bad. Get out your ohm meter and check the resistance of the solenoid, hooking the black and red wires from your ohm meter to the two leads coming off the solenoid.  If you get no reading that means the solenoid has failed due to a break in the internal coil wiring.  If you get a very low reading that means there is short in the internal coil. Most properly functioning solenoids will return a reading of somewhere between 20 – 30 ohms.  Solenoids are fairly inexpensive as far as replacement parts go and are also fairly easy to replace.

Overheating – Like just about any other automatic transmission, the 5R55W is subject to overheating, especially if you abuse it, like towing over the maximum recommend max load or staying into the throttle hard going up a steep hill on a hot day.  If you suspect your transmission is overheating (it will give off a burnt smell or emit fluid from the vent and the top of the transmission) pull over immediately and give the transmission some time to cool down. Overheating a transmission is the number one cause of transmission failure.


Internal parts for the 5R55W transmission



Recommended accessories to invest in:

Transmission cooler and temperature gauge – Buying a transmission cooler and temperature gauge is like buying life insurance for your transmission. Coolers come in all shapes and sizes and most are of a universal design, making them relatively easy to install, even for you DIY types. Some even come with built in fans allowing you to install them where ever you want.  Here is an important fact to keep in mind; for every 20 degrees you go over 200 degrees, you cut the life of the transmission by a factor of two.


cooler with fan

Source: Google


Shift Kit – Believe it or not, a shift kit can actually help extend the life of your transmission. How you ask? By increasing the line pressure and using stronger shift valve springs. The higher line pressure provides more holding pressure for the bands and clutches, helping prevent them from slipping and creating excessive heat.  The stiffer shift springs do the same thing by reducing the time it takes for the bands and clutches to apply, thereby reducing wear and excessive heat.

Automatic transmissions are not designed to last forever. In the event that your transmission has made its last shift, I highly recommend you look at replacing it with a re-manufactured transmission over one that has simply been rebuilt. Re-manufactured transmissions are the same or better than a new transmission at a fraction of the cost. As a bonus, they come with upgrades to prevent or cure common problems that the factory should have fixed in the first place! A re-manufactured transmission also comes with a much better warranty: three years compared to 90 days for a rebuilt transmission.

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