08 Focus Hard Downshift

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#1
2008 Ford Focus SE AUTOMATIC, A/C, 4DR, 2L ENGINE. Total miles 107,000 since purchased new. Transmission fluid (total in transmission) and screen changed 50,000 and 100,00 miles. Fluid is clean and smells normal.

1000 miles ago when accelerating from 70 mph, trans downshifted out of top gear but did not shift into next lower gear. Car accelerated sluggishly. I immediately took foot off throttle and transmission upshifted immediately. I applied throttle again and trans would not downshift. I applied throttle hard and transmission downshifted with a noticable "bang" and "jerk" felt in the vehicle. As engine RPM increased trans upshifted smoothly and normally.

This condition has persisted and the vehicle will only occassionally downshift normally and at certain low speeds with minimum throttle application. Any downshift from highway speed will result in hard bang and jerk.

Acceleration from a stop, regardless of throttle application, from very mild to wide open, produces uniform, smooth and accurate upshifts all the way to the top. Upshifts are also perfect from a stop to top end as above, with the converter manually unlocked with button on stick.

There is NO slippage in the transmission. The only problem is the harsh and semi-violent downshifts which happen when downshift occurs above about 40 mph.

I took the car to local Ford dealership where I purchased it and spoke with "service advisor" who first told me "Cars out of warranty" and after listening to my full explanation said, "It's probably gonna need a new transmission". "Could cost several hundred dollars to find out what's wrong and if you decide not to fix it we charge you for the diagnosis. " That's when I gave them a vote of "no confidence" and left, for good.

I cannot afford a "new transmission" and further, perhaps irrationally, I do not believe that it needs one. However I am not educated enough to know what it needs. Could it be minor? Could it be some "fixable" solenoid or computer problem?

Can anyone give me some advice, i. e. junk the car, trade the car, or "Here's what it might be!"

Thanks in advance to anyone who can help. This car is beautiful and drives perfectly. Just put the first set of brakes on it (all 107,000 miles are highway at 75 mph or 80 mph). Year after year at these speeds it has turned in 28-32 miles per gallon (Mobil 1 oil every 9K). It's been a winner, but it needs help now before I destroy the trans driving it like it is.
 

billr

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#2
Well, first off, congratulations in providing fairly complete info on the car and its symptoms, right at the beginning! One thing I must ask, though, is if the CEL (check engine light) is on, and if it is known to be operational; i.e. does it, at least, come on for a few seconds at "key-on" then go out after engine is running? Regardless of whether the CEL is on, you should get a scan with a high-level scanner than can get hidden/pending, and transmission codes.

You say up-shifts are OK with the TCC (torque converter clutch) manually unlocked, have you tried downshifts from highway speeds that way (clutch unlocked)? I am a bit confused when you describe the "downshifted out of top gear but did not shift into lower gear"; I think you mean the TCC unlocked and re-locked, not that it shifted at all. Right? There are lots of possibilities here for fairly inexpensive problems, the key is going to be a thorough scan for trans codes, even if you have to pay a nominal fee for the scan. Try for a freebie first, at a parts store or a specialty trans-repair shop. You are right to fear damaging it more severely (expensively) as it is, avoid those highway downshifts and just "go with the traffic" until you get this resolved... Oh, yeah, what happens if you manually down-shift just before or as you apply throttle, does it bang then?
 
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#3
The CEL is not on. It is functional and comes on and then goes out on engine startup.
I have tried downshifts with the TCC locked and unlocked.

You asked: "Oh, yeah, what happens if you manually down-shift just before or as you apply throttle, does it bang then?"

Answer:
I have not done it often, but in searching for answers I have tried it 4-5 times. The answer is "NO" There is no "bang" "Jolt". Naturally if you don't synchronise the throttle and the shift you get some drag if the rpms are to low and a lurch if they are to high.

I also tried increasing the throttle and just prior to when I felt the transmission/torque converter were going to downshift I downshifted manually. In the 3-4 times I tried it, all downshifts seemed normal without any banging or jerking.

TCC locked @ 40-50 mph, a moderate throttle increase will initiate a downshift. On occasion the Trans will not downshift with a "bang". It seems something in the trans/converter "hangs" and you wind up with a pretty severe vibration (it will shake the whole car) like running over strips in the road or a manual clutch that "shudders" prior to full engagement. When this happens I immediately close the throttle and the noise and vibration stop immediately and the Trans upshifts. I then GRADUALLY increase the throttle to prevent the downshift, until in the 60 mph range where the Trans upshifts and then the converter locks.

TCC unlocked. Downshifts, initiated by throttle increase at 60 mph are USUALLY smooth. However on occasion it seems as if the transmission has "hung" between gears. It's difficult to describe perfectly but the sensation is the Trans starts to downshift and after disengaging from the present gear and prior to engaging the next gear the shift stops. The symptom is a slight increase in RPM with no additional throttle application and then no acceleration. As you increase the throttle to increase vehicle speed, you will come to a point where the violent downshift will occur and the vehicle will accelerate smartly after the initial "Bang" and "Jolt". The following upshift will be normal and crisp.

You replied:
"I am a bit confused when you describe the "downshifted out of top gear but did not shift into lower gear. I think you mean the TCC unlocked and re-locked, not that it shifted (at all). Right?"

Answer: With the increased throttle application the TCC unlocked but the Trans did not downshift. Then with minimal throttle increase, the TCC re-locked. Repeat the exact scenario and when the TCC unlocks (feels like a smooth downshift) but the trans does not downshift (no lower gear is selected unless you manually pull the shift lever from Drive to Low) you are stuck in a mid-range world of increased RPM but no increase in MPH (and it feels strange as if something were pulling power from the drive train). To exit this "mode" you must either increase throttle sharply (at which time a "Bang" "Jerk" loud downshift occurs and the vehicle accelerates normally or back off the throttle and the vehicle will upshift and you can gently accelerate without any drama.

The only thing I have not mentioned are these two points and I'm not sure of their relevancy. #1 When you are driving at highway speeds 70-80 mph and close the throttle, the TCC seems to unlock and engine RPM increases slightly. When you re-apply the throttle, while still in a speed range over 65 mph, the engine RPM's increase noticeably for a brief time (1-2 seconds) and then the trans/TCC upshift/Lock and there is a noticeable drop in RPM and a corresponding increase in vehicle speed. Sort of like being at 70 mph with a manual clutch and disengaging the clutch, without throttle reduction the engine rpm increase and when you re-engage the clutch, the car accelerates and the engine rpm's drop. I hope that makes sense! #2 I had a complete transmission fluid change and the trans was working well before the change. The old fluid looked and smelled good (virtually indistinguishable from the new fluid). I know (think) they put an additive in the fluid (I am assuming that if you don't use a Ford fluid, you must add the addative to other types to make it compatible with the Trans). Could the lack of that additive produce symptoms like these? I'm not looking to go after the people who changed the fluid. They have been in the past very competent and they are conciencious, so if it happend it would be a simple mistake (a serious simple mistake). If this could have created the problem, I'll have the fluid changed again tomorrow!

I sincerely appreciate that it can be very difficult to even attempt a diagnosis an automotive malfunction, unless it's a problem that you are personally familiar with, or a problem that has been significantly documented. Thank you for your attempt to make sense out of my very verbose descriptions. I appreciate the fact that you took the time to think about it. Thanks again.
 

billr

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#4
I am not a trans expert, in fact you may know more about this one than I do! And, alas, the few trans experts here do not "check in" all that often; so you will have to keep "bumping" this thread up to snare one of them.

Having said that, I have to ask (suggest) again that you get a thorough scan for trans trouble codes, even if the CEL doesn't indicate a problem. A really capable scan-tool (and operator) can probably display "live data" from the trans and help pin-point the problem that way; but that might require driving a bit while watching the data. It may be worthwhile to take it to a trans shop and pay them for a diagnosis. You have 7K miles on it now since the fluid and filter change, did the problem start right after that, or just recently? It seems that some trans types are more fussy than others regarding the fluid. Use of "universal" fluids, even with additives, is often suspicious. Replacing that fluid with the specified type may also be a wise move.
 
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#5
Thanks for your time and wisdom. In another life I turned wrenches for about 11 years. Motor vehicles were the love of my life. I was one of the very 1st N. I. A. S. E. (Now I think it's ASE) Certified General Automotive Mechanics in Florida (1973 I think?). I later got a credential (I don't know whether it's offered any more) from Hemmings as a Certified Restorer of Classic, Antique and Special Interest Cars, so I've had a lot of experience. Powerglide and Turboglide were what I cut my teeth on, then later to Turbo 350s to 727s, Cluth-Flights and I just can't remember the rest. I've even had some experience with dual-coupling hydramatics, but they would have been long before your time (think J-2 Oldsmobile and Cadillac). Anyway I have little experience with computer controlled cars which is why I turned to this forum. I've had that Focus to 2 transmission shops and I am unable to find anyone who is even willing to take a guess. It's all "we'll tear it down and see what's wrong". I'm not current but I'm also not completely uneducated, so the end result is I simply don't trust these people.

I may have the fluid replaced. Its a hundred bucks, but it's a lot cheaper than $1698. 00 which was the estimate that I got from my "local" "national chain" transmission technician. I should call him a Magician instead of a Technician. After all he diagnosed the problem and gave me an estimate from memory without ever driving the car! I'd rather let it rot in my driveway and buy a new car than to settle for that kind of "service". I'm obviously letting my 3 weeks of abject frustration get the better of me. I wonder if I could shoehorn an old aluminum Ford C-6 in there. . . . . hmmmm. . . . I'd have to turn it sideways. . . . . . . . :)

If you know anyone you think might be trustworthy AND competent, in the Ft. Lauderdale, Pompano Beach, Boca Raton area please let me know. I'd be more than willing to pay whatever the going rate is for a decent diagnostic result or even a best diagnostic guess. I just don't want to see the transmission all over the floor and have the technician/magician tell me, "Well, looks like we'll have to have a whole new one".

Thanks again
 

billr

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#6
Oh, no, I do have experience with the old 4-speed Hydra-matics! A few of my memorable moments as a young pup relate to them. Have you checked all the electrical connectors to the trans for looseness, pushed-pins, corrosion, etc? More and more now, trans problems are related to those connectors. Be sure and check all chassis and engine ground straps, too. I understand the CEL isn't on, but am unclear as to whether you have had it scanned for codes. Parts stores will do that for free; try several, maybe one will be able to scan for extended codes where another will not. Similarly, keep talking to trans shops. My understanding is that most modern transmissions can report (to the right scanner) shaft speeds, hydraulic pressures, and valve actuation; as well as allowing manual setting of electric shift and modulation valves. You are right, though, if they won't do such an inspection for a nominal fee then walk away from there!
 
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Thanks again. I'm headed for a parts store to see if I can get it done.

I've also been shopping new Fords and there's about a 2000. 00 difference between my 08 and a comparable 2012 and about 2400. 00 for a 2013. I am amazed at how all prices are going up. . . . . everythings going up except my salary! Who in their right mind is going to pay 17,000. 00 for a Focus SE with just adequate equipment? Oh well. . . . . that 5K for a new trans is starting to sound better and better!
 

billr

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#8
If you have the time... it sounds like you have the skills and experience to overhaul this one for a whole lot less than $5K. I'm guessing parts will be more in the $500-1K range, depending on what has gone wrong. You will just have to be patient enough for the trans experts to check in here when you come up with questions.
 
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Thanks again. I took the car to a reputable transmission shop in our home town. While the mechanics and facility were just about everything you could expect on the good side, to say nothing of well equipped, I still don't have an answer.

They checked the car, fluid leve, etc. and then test drove it. The mechanic said that it was most pronounced when the converter unlocked during downshift with moderate throttle application. BUT HE DID FEEL IT and was able to reproduce the faulty shifting and harsh engagement.

As I said the CEL was and is still off.

They then hooked up a scanner to the car and after about 15 minutes said there were no transmission trouble codes or any codes for that matter. They then hooked up a portable version of the scanner and drove the car. The same mechanic drove it so I was confident he could make the transmission manifest the harsh downshift.

After about 30 minutes of driving and downshifting (a couple of the downshifts were BIG bangs,) no trouble code.

So, the mechanic said they need to start removal and disassembly of the trans.

I'm in a better place than I was, because I THINK that if they take it apart they DO HAVE the knowledge and experience to fix it. However I am facing the "could be between $2500 and $4000". If that I THINK was an I KNOW I'd have the car there tomorrow morning and say, "Go ahead boys, whatever she needs!" But life is never that simple.

Thanks for everyone's help. If anybody had a good idea I'd love to hear it! Please let me know.

Thanks again.
 

billr

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#10
Have you tried it with the TCC solenoid dis-connected, electrically? The TCC seems to have been suspicious all along. If disabling that eliminates the "bang", then likely it is in that system. I'm not quite what to try if it is in the TCC system, as that could be the wiring, or PCM, or TCC solenoid, or TC clutch, or any of a number of sensors (like VSS) that feed data to the PCM. But it might help if we at least confirm it is related to the TCC; maybe that will trigger a bright idea from someone else. I would pull the pan, inspect in there, and change the filter and fluid to the specified type before having a shop go into a big-buck trans dis-assembly look-see. Yeah, I remember the trans fluid was changed just 7K miles ago, but maybe something has changed now, or wasn't done correctly then. The filter, gasket, and fluid will probably be less than $100, worth wasting that to maybe avoid an expensive tear-down. If you drop the pan and find something disturbing in there, then use the $100 to tow the car to the shop and know the overhaul is appropriate. I'm still surprised a trans shop can't get better diagnostics off of an '08, but without a trans expert joining in here I can't harp on it any more.
 
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#11
Here's one reply that seems to make some sense in as much as it describes "Harsh" downshift as one of the symptoms. That's as close as I've been so far. Unfortunately I went to the site to look for the "Figure 3" in some manuel or book but I am unable to find it.

Here's the quote:

"Using the second-gear TCC-off hydraulic provided in Figure 3, carefully look at the TCC control valve. Notice that forward-clutch oil runs through the valve from the PWM SSC to the forward clutch. Also notice that line pressure is routed to and blocked by the TCC control valves land next to the spring. When this TCC control valve is stroked by SSB for lockup, TCC-release oil becomes connected to the PWM SSC solenoid for a controlled TCC apply. At the same time, the forward clutch applies oil switched from being fed by the PWM SSC solenoid to the line pressure that was being blocked by the land next to the spring (see Figure 4). Now that is a different way of doing things! So the PWM SSC controls not only forward-clutch apply but also converter-clutch-apply feel. Should this solenoid malfunction mechanically, we could have a harsh apply or delayed apply into forward and no TCC, or a slip- ping-TCC concern. It is obvious that if SSB malfunctioned, we would experience TCC-apply is- sues as well. And looking at the TCC control valve, in theory should the valve or the valve bore develop excessive wear, combined with a lazy stroke of the valve, a forward-clutch slip could occur at the time TCC is being applied in second or third gear.

"So basically, Solenoid B and its application to Solenoid C are most likely the issue on 90% of the 4F27e's with this problem. I would change those two solenoids. If your trans jumps up to 4000 or 5000 rpm before shifting to third or fourth (2-3 or 3-4), this information will be very helpful to you. "
************************************************************************************
So, I'm looking for a book to see exactly what he's talking about. In the meantime, the car is still motivating. I have discovered one new thing. I carry about 400 lbs of business hardware and books when I am working (which is 95% of the cars mileage). This weekend for the first time in a long time I took the stuff out of the car to clean everything. While driving it around without the load the harshness downshift is much more predictable.

At 40 mph slight throttle increase produces acceleration without downshift. If during that acceleration you open the throttle more to increase the acceleration, "BANG" IT DOWNSHIFTS. Same exact thing at 60 mph, give or take a mile or two per hour.

The second thing I've noticed is that when the trans is "cold" (first 5 minutes of operation or so) no downshift problem. When it warms up, say after 10 minutes the problem starts.

This may be the most throughly documented transmission problem in the world!
 

billr

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#12
Gotta ask... did the symptoms go back to original when you put the 400 lbs. back in the trunk, or was that just a coincidence?
 
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#13
The exact symptoms came back when I loaded the car back up. I had to drive to a place across the state. 64 miles of uninterrupted highway @ 80 mph and 29 miles per gallon without a single downshift! (may have been a slight tailwind) I always slow down for a few miles to see what difference the speed really makes and I drove 10 miles @ 70 mph with the a/c on, as always, and it was registering a solid 35 miles to the gallon. So, I don't think there's any slip or heat problem. Fluid is still like new (I need to get it changed to make sure right fluid was replaced, now, 8300 miles ago) and mileage is where it's always been. I'm thinking solenoid. . . . . . . . . . but then, the last time I thought about something I got married! :)
 
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#14
Strangest thing happened. Getting ready for long driving day, fuel all the way on E with the light. Pulled in to station, and as I sometimes do, decided since the tank was so dry I'd fill it up with premium fuel. Did so. About 10 minutes down the road, I went to pass a guy, very cautiously because I was in the deadly 40-45 mph zone, and the car did not immediately downshift but accelerated pretty well. Encouraged I opened the throttle wider and got the smoothest downshift I've had in over a 1000 miles. That continued all day with only one "Bang" "Jump" shift in the later part of the day when accelerating from 35 mph. When I opened the throttle the trans did not immediately downshift and the engine "lugged" along for about 2 seconds (seemed like an hour) and then "BANG" and the trans downshifted and the vehicle lurched forward.

No way the knock sensor could be screwing up the Trans without a trouble code. . . . . . . . . . is there?
 

billr

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#15
Oh, I'm sure there is a way! That's the joy of having the PCM control both the engine and trans, you can't easily "divorce" the actions of one from the other for diagnosing. I have seen many reminders here that engine problems have been mis-diagnosed as an auto trans issue.