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Starter/Transmission Issue

randypmartin

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Hey guys. Was having issues with the starter on my 1990 Bronco II 2.9 4x4 automatic.

I replaced it a couple of times over the past year and eventually took it to my local mechanic. The starter was shot and the flexplate cracked in multiple places. When they went to drop the transmission to access the flexplate they noticed that the "transmission bell housing bolts" (which is what they wrote on the service order) had loosened themselves quite a bit and this seemed to be what was causing the starter to continually fail. Anyway, everything is all back together working good as new but they recommend coming in periodically to re-torque down those bell housing bolts. This seems like a straightforward thing I can check on myself from time to time but having an issue finding a diagram of the specific bolts they're talking about. How many are there? Does anyone have a diagram or good description? Thanks folks.
 


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I believe there's six of them. The two at the top are the hardest to get at. A ratcheting swivel wrench is easiest IMO. The rest from underneath with a socket and u-joint plus extensions as needed.Look for a pic of the front of the bell housing for your trans to see the bolt holes.
 

RonD

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Bell housing bolts are 35ft/lb

They, or you, could use some Loctite Blue 242 on the threads, keeps low torque bolts from loosening up, but doesn't make them hard to remove later on
 

4x4prepper

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Besides the blue loc-tite, you could try replacing the split washers with serrated lock washers. The problem is you can not tighten (stretch) the bolts enough to create real clamping force because the metal they are going into is much weaker.


Consider this one, one time only use:


I am not recommending it for anyone else, BUT, once I have cleaned the male and female threads, I have used black or red RTV on the bolt threads and under the plain flat washer, to hold the transmission or transfer case on. You do not want to over tighten, especially on the starter bolts.
 

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Anyway, everything is all back together working good as new but they recommend coming in periodically to re-torque down those bell housing bolts. This seems like a straightforward thing I can check on myself from time to time but having an issue finding a diagram of the specific bolts they're talking about. How many are there? Does anyone have a diagram or good description? Thanks folks.

6 bolts. Bolt locations without the tranny in are shown here in post #8:
https://www.therangerstation.com/forums/index.php?threads/1986-2-9-5-speed-4wd-trans-wont-come-off.198731/#post-1916505
That is a 1990 Bronco II in the picture.

I had the same problem with my '90 Bronco II. The bellhousing bolts would loosen, and the flexplate would break. After the third flexplate and then losing overdrive, the A4LD was determined to be possessed by demons, and got replaced by a manual.

If yours had the loose bolts, it would be a good idea to occasionally check that the bellhousing bolts are tight.

The lower 4 bolts can be reached with a ratchet, socket and several extensions. Without lowering the back of the transmission, it was easier for me to check the top 2 bolts from the top, using a stubby 12-point wrench. Tight, but doable.
 

lil_Blue_Ford

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I have a 24” long 1/2” extension just for reaching things like the bellhousing bolts without too much wobble. The top two I always get from the top unless I’ve really got things tore apart. They can be reached if you take the plate off the transmission tunnel in the cab where a manual shifter would come up through, but usually I just throw a pad on top the engine and lay here to reach it with a 12 point or ratcheting wrench
 

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6 bolts. Bolt locations without the tranny in are shown here in post #8:
https://www.therangerstation.com/forums/index.php?threads/1986-2-9-5-speed-4wd-trans-wont-come-off.198731/#post-1916505
That is a 1990 Bronco II in the picture.

I had the same problem with my '90 Bronco II. The bellhousing bolts would loosen, and the flexplate would break. After the third flexplate and then losing overdrive, the A4LD was determined to be possessed by demons, and got replaced by a manual.

If yours had the loose bolts, it would be a good idea to occasionally check that the bellhousing bolts are tight.

The lower 4 bolts can be reached with a ratchet, socket and several extensions. Without lowering the back of the transmission, it was easier for me to check the top 2 bolts from the top, using a stubby 12-point wrench. Tight, but doable.
What are the typical symptoms of a damaged/broken flexplate? I think I may have this issue with my 88 Bronco 2, and I swear it feels like the transmission is trying to separate itself from the vehicle, so I'm guessing the transmission bolts have come loose on mine and possibly have caused an issue with the flexplate. I have a horrible rattling noise coming from the transmission/rear engine area so I've been thinking it quite possibly is a flexplate, but don't have any way to look at it without removing the transmission, which looks to be quite a process in itself.
 

RobbieD

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What are the typical symptoms of a damaged/broken flexplate? I think I may have this issue with my 88 Bronco 2, and I swear it feels like the transmission is trying to separate itself from the vehicle, so I'm guessing the transmission bolts have come loose on mine and possibly have caused an issue with the flexplate. I have a horrible rattling noise coming from the transmission/rear engine area so I've been thinking it quite possibly is a flexplate, but don't have any way to look at it without removing the transmission, which looks to be quite a process in itself.
Having "a horrible rattling noise coming from the transmission/rear engine area" is a symptom that mine had.

I would be concerned, and suggest doing these before pulling the tranny:

1) Check the tightness of the six bellhousing bolts, as described above to the OP. If these are loose, you may even find a small gap between the engine and trans. This can also break up the separator plate, which you can see better in the next step.

2) Pull the starter and inspect the flexplate (this also lets you check that a loose starter is not an issue). There will be spacer (cast potmetal) between the crank and flexplate. I had no trouble seeing cracks in the flexplate base area around the six bolts that go through the spacer into the crank. A good flashlight and small inspection mirror helped, and I used a prybar to rotate the flexplate/TC/crankshaft so I could see all the way around it.

On my 1990 B2, I replaced the flexplate AT LEAST THREE TIMES, before the A4LD lost OD and I said "screw this" and changed the truck over to a manual trans. And my excuse for putting up with all of this abuse? I liked the idea of having one truck in the collection with the nice column shifter! (it's a '90)

You can catch a broken flexplate before they let go, as I described, or if it's not addressed the flexplate fails completely and truck will make a REALLY horrible noise and it won't have any "go". This will also eat up the spacer and possibly the trans input shaft seal.

On mine, after the first time the flexplate broke and the transmission was found loose, in repairing it I used internal teeth lock washers and Loctite on the six bell bolts and solved the issue of the tranny getting loose from the motor.
But I could not stop the damn thing from busting out the flexplate where it bolts to the crank.

I thought through this a lot, and I'm convinced that on mine when manufactured, the transmission case was machined out of spec, as in not putting the input shaft dead-on center to the crank, and/or not perfectly straight to the crankshaft. I think whatever caused the flexplate failures also caused the trans loosening.

I believe that yours was a past rebuild? You may just have loose bell housing bolts, and everything else is good.

Pardon the novel; I hope it helps, and good luck!
 

wildbill23c

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Having "a horrible rattling noise coming from the transmission/rear engine area" is a symptom that mine had.

I would be concerned, and suggest doing these before pulling the tranny:

1) Check the tightness of the six bellhousing bolts, as described above to the OP. If these are loose, you may even find a small gap between the engine and trans. This can also break up the separator plate, which you can see better in the next step.

2) Pull the starter and inspect the flexplate (this also lets you check that a loose starter is not an issue). There will be spacer (cast potmetal) between the crank and flexplate. I had no trouble seeing cracks in the flexplate base area around the six bolts that go through the spacer into the crank. A good flashlight and small inspection mirror helped, and I used a prybar to rotate the flexplate/TC/crankshaft so I could see all the way around it.

On my 1990 B2, I replaced the flexplate AT LEAST THREE TIMES, before the A4LD lost OD and I said "screw this" and changed the truck over to a manual trans. And my excuse for putting up with all of this abuse? I liked the idea of having one truck in the collection with the nice column shifter! (it's a '90)

You can catch a broken flexplate before they let go, as I described, or if it's not addressed the flexplate fails completely and truck will make a REALLY horrible noise and it won't have any "go". This will also eat up the spacer and possibly the trans input shaft seal.

On mine, after the first time the flexplate broke and the transmission was found loose, in repairing it I used internal teeth lock washers and Loctite on the six bell bolts and solved the issue of the tranny getting loose from the motor.
But I could not stop the damn thing from busting out the flexplate where it bolts to the crank.

I thought through this a lot, and I'm convinced that on mine when manufactured, the transmission case was machined out of spec, as in not putting the input shaft dead-on center to the crank, and/or not perfectly straight to the crankshaft. I think whatever caused the flexplate failures also caused the trans loosening.

I believe that yours was a past rebuild? You may just have loose bell housing bolts, and everything else is good.

Pardon the novel; I hope it helps, and good luck!
Thank you, the loud horrible rattling and knocking noise is exactly what I have, even in park, and neutral, but gets considerably worse when in gear, also my fuel economy has gone to crap. No starting issues...although occasionally it seems hard to turn over...but I'm guessing without even looking at anything that the flex plate is the issue, too bad its a very expensive repair because the flex plate itself is only like $50 from Rock Auto, but several thousand dollars in labor. Not something I have the time, space, and tools to tackle myself...and wouldn't try it, tried doing a head gasket in my 91 Ford Tempo, it never ran again.
 

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Several thousand in labor for a flex plate?!?!?!?!? Any reputable shop should be able to whip that out in less than a day. That is $800 labor at $100/hour.

Surprised to hear that people are having issues with the bellhousing bolts backing out. I have never seen that, hope I never do. Blue lock-tite + proper torque should take care of that.
 

SPUDLEYDORIGHt

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So I bought WildBill23c's B2 this last weekend with the problem he described (he gave me a great deal). I found one of the lower trans bolts completely missing on the passenger side and the middle bolt on the passenger side was backed almost all the way out. I replaced the missing bolt and tightened the backed out bolt. I inspected the flex plate and saw no signs of cracking. Unfortunately the loud knocking sound persists. Oddly, when I first start the engine it's not very loud, but as soon as I put it under load, either w/ putting the AC on, or driving it, the knocking gets very loud. My screwdriver stethocsope (sp?) seems to pinpoint the sound to something internal to the trans. I'm a pretty good shade-tree mechanic, but I'm not going to chase my tail on an automatic transmission so I will be taking it to a transmission shop to get to the bottom of it. If anybody has any suggestions I'm not thinking of, I'd love to hear it!
 

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So I bought WildBill23c's B2 this last weekend with the problem he described (he gave me a great deal). I found one of the lower trans bolts completely missing on the passenger side and the middle bolt on the passenger side was backed almost all the way out. I replaced the missing bolt and tightened the backed out bolt. I inspected the flex plate and saw no signs of cracking. Unfortunately the loud knocking sound persists. Oddly, when I first start the engine it's not very loud, but as soon as I put it under load, either w/ putting the AC on, or driving it, the knocking gets very loud. My screwdriver stethocsope (sp?) seems to pinpoint the sound to something internal to the trans. I'm a pretty good shade-tree mechanic, but I'm not going to chase my tail on an automatic transmission so I will be taking it to a transmission shop to get to the bottom of it. If anybody has any suggestions I'm not thinking of, I'd love to hear it!
Torque converters can make some really strange noises when they are about ready to take a dump.
 

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So I bought WildBill23c's B2 this last weekend with the problem he described (he gave me a great deal). I found one of the lower trans bolts completely missing on the passenger side and the middle bolt on the passenger side was backed almost all the way out. I replaced the missing bolt and tightened the backed out bolt. I inspected the flex plate and saw no signs of cracking. Unfortunately the loud knocking sound persists. Oddly, when I first start the engine it's not very loud, but as soon as I put it under load, either w/ putting the AC on, or driving it, the knocking gets very loud. My screwdriver stethocsope (sp?) seems to pinpoint the sound to something internal to the trans. I'm a pretty good shade-tree mechanic, but I'm not going to chase my tail on an automatic transmission so I will be taking it to a transmission shop to get to the bottom of it. If anybody has any suggestions I'm not thinking of, I'd love to hear it!
Welcome to TRS, and congrats on picking up wildbill23c's B2.

That was a good start on your part, on checking out the problem. Too bad it seems to be something deeper in the transmission.

I can't suggest anything else for a DIY diagnosis or repair, and honestly I'd be doing the same thing that your doing now- taking it to a good shop for a professional opinion.

I, for one, would love to know what it turns out to be.

Good luck!
 

SPUDLEYDORIGHt

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Welcome to TRS, and congrats on picking up wildbill23c's B2.

That was a good start on your part, on checking out the problem. Too bad it seems to be something deeper in the transmission.

I can't suggest anything else for a DIY diagnosis or repair, and honestly I'd be doing the same thing that your doing now- taking it to a good shop for a professional opinion.

I, for one, would love to know what it turns out to be.

Good luck!
I will keep you updated. Right now getting some things cleaned up on it before I get the DMV stuff sorted out. Hopefully get it to a trans shop this week or early next.
 

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