How Can I Tell If My Automatic
Transmission Needs an Overhaul?

This tutorial is a primer that'll help you find out if the problem with your Dodge or Jeep's 42RE, 44RE or 46RE computer controlled transmission is electrical in nature or if the problem is due to internal damage that'll require an overhaul (without having to drop it and tear it down).

To be a bit more specific, this article will explore the specific symptoms an automatic transmission displays when its shifting issue/problem is due to an electrical fault (like a bad shift solenoid) or due to an internal/mechanical failure.

Here are the contents of this article at a quick glance:

  1. 42RE, 44RE, 46RE Automatic Transmission Basics.
  2. Two of the Most Common Transmission Failures.
  3. How Can I Tell If It's Just a Solenoid Failure?
  4. How Can I Tell If It's Internal Transmission Damage Requiring an Overhaul?.
  5. Transmission with Both Solenoid Failure and Internal Damage.
  6. More Diagnostic/Troubleshooting Tutorials.

Let's get started...

42RE, 44RE, 46RE Automatic Transmission Basics

Vehicles covered by this tutorial use one of the following rear wheel drive (RWD) automatic transmissions: 42RE, 44RE, 46RE. All 3 of these are computer controlled and have an electrically operated valve body to control the upshifts and downshifts.

All three also provide a self-diagnostic feature as part of their transmission control program. So, if you have a scan tool... you're able to retrieve transmission diagnostic trouble codes stored in the PCM or TCM (when something goes wrong with the transmission) to help you troubleshoot the issue/s.

Here are some more specifics:

42RE Automatic Transmission

  1. This is an updated medium-duty A500 with overdrive and electronic control.
  2. Used mainly on the 3.9L V6 equipped RWD vehicles.
  3. Found in:
    1. 1996-2003 Dodge Dakota 3.9L V6
    2. 1998-1999 Dodge Durango 3.9L V6
    3. 1996-2001 Dodge Ram 1500 3.9L

44RE Automatic Transmission

  1. This is an updated heavy-duty A500 with overdrive and electronic control.
  2. Used mainly on the 5.2L equipped Dodge and Jeep vehicles.
  3. Found in:
    1. 1996-1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee 5.2L V8
    2. 1998-2000 Dodge Durango 5.2L V8 (4WD (98-99) or 2WD (99-00))

46RE Automatic Transmission

  1. This is an updated A518 with overdrive and electronic control.
  2. Used mainly on 5.9L V8 equipped Dodge and Jeep vehicles.
  3. Found in:
    1. 1996 Dodge Dakota V8 (Also 98-03 Dakota 5.9L R/T)
    2. 1996-2002 Dodge Ram 1500/2500/3500 V8
    3. 1998-2003 Dodge Durango 5.9L V8 (4WD or 2WD)
    4. 1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee 5.9L V8 (4WD)
    5. Introduced in the early 1990s, it was used in trucks, vans, and Jeep Grand Cherokees equipped with a 5.9 Liter V-8.

Two of the Most Common Transmission Failures

The most important thing to know, when trying to troubleshoot a transmission problem, is that the 42RE, 44RE, or 46RE automatic transmission usually fails in one of two ways:

  1. Transmission is ‘slipping’.
    1. This is the classic symptom of a transmission that's got internal mechanical damage.
    2. NOTE 1: Low transmission fluid level (usually due to a transmission fluid leak) can also cause the transmission to ‘slip’.
    3. NOTE 2: An automatic transmission that's ‘slipping‘ can be best described as having it go into ‘neutral’ all of a sudden (as you're driving down the road) or when you stick the tranny in Drive or Reverse.
  2. Transmission does not shift out of 2nd gear.
    1. This generally happens when the PCM senses an electrical problem and commands the transmission to stay in what is known as ‘Limp In Mode’.
    2. In ‘Limp In Mode’, the automatic transmission will not downshift or upshift at all.
    3. The usual cause of this condition is an electrical issue, like a bad shift solenoid... although some internal mechanical problem/damage can also cause this.

In the next couple of paragraphs, we'll explore the above symptoms more in-depth...

Dodge Vehicles:

  • Ram Pickup 3.9L, 5.2L, 5.9L
    • 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001
  • Ram Van 3.9L, 5.2L, 5.9L
    • 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003
  • Dakota
    • 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003

Jeep Vehicles:

  • Jeep Grand Cherokee 4.0L
    • 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004
  • Jeep Grand Cherokee 5.2L
    • 1996, 1997, 1998

“For instance, on the planet Earth, man had always assumed that he was more
intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much —the wheel,
New York, wars and so on —whilst all the dolphins had ever done was
muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely,
the dolphins had always believed that they were far more
intelligent than man —for precisely the same reasons!”

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

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