The Ford A4LD: Get To Know Its Problems And How To Prevent Them

Posted by on Wednesday, December 26th, 2012

The A4LD is a four speed overdrive transmission produced by Ford. It is based on the original C3 three speed transmission with a fourth overdrive gear added. The transmission was designed mainly to go behind four and six cylinder engines. The transmission was first introduced in the 1988 Ranger and Bronco II and stayed in production through 2002. Besides the Ranger and Bronco II, the A4LD was used in the Mustang, Thunderbird, Aerostar, Sierra, Explorer, the Mazda Navajo and B-Series vehicles, and the Merkur Scorpio. It was eventually replaced by the 4R44E and 4R55E transmissions.

Ford A4LD Transmission


The A4LD is one of the worst transmissions Ford has ever produced. There are countless stories on the internet about premature failures and a long list of problems. Here are a few problems to look for:

1)  No overdrive. This can often be caused by the OD sprag locking up. When it shifts into OD it tears the forward clutch spring pack out of the OD drum. The only cure is a complete tear down of the transmission.

A4LD Automatic transmission


2)  The transmission starts to slip.  The problem is often caused by the kick down cable being out of adjustment which caused the transmission to slip and burn up clutches. The only fix is to completely tear down the transmission.

3)  The transmission will not shift from second to third gear. Sometimes this is accompanied by slipping from first to second gear, too.  The cause is usually a defective modulator.  A sure sign of a failed modulator is fluid in the modulator vacuum line. The modulator is easy to replace and relatively inexpensive.

A4LD modulator


4)  Leaking fluid from the front of the transmission. Many times the cause is a worn or hardened front seal. Another common cause of this problem is a bad or worn front pump bushing. In order to replace the front seal or the front pump bushing, the transmission needs to be removed from the vehicle.

Here are a few things you can do to your A4LD to make is last longer and make it more durable:

1)  Add an aftermarket transmission cooler and place it in the return line after the factory cooler located in the radiator. Excessive heat buildup is a quick way to destroy this transmission. This transmission is designed to run at 200 degrees max.

2)  Add an additional inline fluid filter. You want to install the filter on the line going to the radiator, not the one coming out of the radiator. This additional filter will help prevent garbage and debris from contaminating the cooler and cooler lines.

3)  Increase the line pressure in the transmission by using the Sonnax valve body update kit. It includes a sleeve and valve. The additional pressure will help hold the clutch packs together better and help preventing the clutches and bands from buring up.

4)  Install a deep transmission pan. The extra fluid capacity the deep pan gives you will help the transmission run cooler. Choose an aluminum pan over a steel pan if given the choice. Aluminum dissipates heat better than steel and will provide additional cooling benefits.

5)  Install a Transgo or similar shift kit. The kit will increase line pressure and will reduce the time it takes for the clutch packs and bands to apply, thereby reducing excessive wear.

6)  Change the transmission fluid often. I recommend changing it every 20,000 miles or sooner. Don’t forget to have the cooler and cooler lines flushed, too.

The A4LD is a very weak transmission and I advise that you steer clear of it, if possible. If you already have one take my advice do the things it takes to make this transmission last longer.

In the event your transmission fails, I highly recommend using a re-manufactured transmission, not one that has simply been rebuilt. A re-manufactured transmission will include many modifications to help make the transmission more durable.A re-manufactured transmission will also include a much better warranty; three years compared to an average 90 days for a rebuilt transmission. As a bonus, in the rare event that a re-manufactured transmission fails within the warranty period, they will cover your R&R cost to replace your customer’s transmission. And remember, the companies that re-manufacture transmissions are very easy to contact. They are just a quick phone call or email away from helping you out.

5 Responses to “The Ford A4LD: Get To Know Its Problems And How To Prevent Them”

  1. gary says:

    what other transmission will work in a 91 ford ranger with the 2.3eng.

  2. Regis F. says:


    Please contact us using the form at the following link: Thank you!

  3. John Dermody says:

    What other transmissions will work in a 1987/1988 Ford Bronco II

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