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Questions and Answers

Chrysler Fifth Avenue Transmission

Q. Mr. Vincent, My 1992 Chrysler Fifth Avenue, 3.8 liter V-6 has some transmission trouble. Here are the dreaded symptoms; Car starts okay, but if I don't let the engine run for at least 15 minutes (warm or cold weather). The transmission, when set on DRIVE jumps in gear, yet it doesn't jump in FIRST, it engages in SECOND gear and the car refuses to up-shift or down-shift when you come to a complete stop or continue rolling.

Chrysler Fifth Avenue transmission

This symptom continues until I shut off and re-start the car. I do the shut-off and re-start depending on how upset I am. If upset enough, I shut-off while the car is rolling and then re-start in the same rolling process, sometimes this solves the problem. If I have the patience I wait until I get a red light and shut-off and re-start, this process is repeated on occasions. Sometimes I have to wait until the cars, mind of its own, determines it is ready to shift properly.

But, the problem of the stuck in SECOND re-appears if I suddenly drive up or down a slightly steep grade, then when I approach a traffic light and get a red. I shut down and restart the car again; this solves the shifting problem most every time. Once the car is properly warmed up the car runs fine, until I again run into a small grade and I have to shut-off, re-start again.

I have changed the transmission fluid and filter twice within the last six months with no improvement. I use the proper transmission oil; it is type 3 especially for Chrysler vehicles. Running the freeway or at top speeds there are no problems with the transmission.

Last year the same car experienced some mechanical/electronic problems and I am wondering if this problem may have led to the transmission problem, let me explain. Car would shut-off anywhere, re-starting was no problem, but the shutting off persisted.

At first it seemed innocently, it would shut-off once on a blue moon. Then it started increasing shutting off regularly to the point of total engine failure. I trouble-shot the car until I finally gave in and sent the car to diagnostic, the mechanic asked me some questions as to the symptoms and I answered. I also informed him that I had tried just about everything with the car to no avail.

The Mechanic checked the car out and informed me that the ECM unit was out. So I bought a new-rebuilt ECM unit for about $300.00 and slipped it in. The car started immediately, I drove the car home and I noticed that is was making a tapping sound coming from the engine area.

The car had never made a tapping noise before so when I got home I found the problem being that a sensor on the transmission housing was not set correctly. It was inserted to deeply into its insert hole. I think it's the timing sensor. The location of the sensor is near the torque converter area where the housing starts to funnel in. It is located on the right side of the transmission near the rack and pinion and the catalytic converter.

Well, after I slipped in the new ECM and adjusted the timing sensor, the tapping noise ended but, some electrical parts of the car started going out. First it was the alternator, and then it was the spark control module. After working many hours on the car I noticed that a certain wire was being pinched between the starter and the starter housing, as if someone loosened the starter bolt then decided to tighten with the certain wire chafing the wire.

I am curious if this chaffed wire had anything to do with the burning of the alternator and the spark control module? And maybe this chaffed wire caused some sensors to burn out, or maybe the transmission computer is burned out. Maybe the wire had been that way since I bought the vehicle used. Or the banging of the timing sensor damaged the sensor. Anyway my arms are up in the air, and I need some help.

The Chrysler is the only vehicle that I have, I have a disability on SSA and at present time can't afford a new car. Either way I love the Chrysler, can't get enough of it. I am slowly restoring the car and have done plenty of repair on the suspension and the interior.

And another issue, I don't trust any mechanic to take dirty hands on the car or my wallet. The reason that I ask is the transmission was working fine until the ECM gave out and I made all the electronic repairs.

Thank you,

A. It sure sounds like your transmission is going into a "Fail Safe" mode.

This can happen for several different reasons, caused by either internal transmission problems, or external control system problems. Internal transmission causes of this problem can be faulty solenoids or stuck valves.

External control systems can also cause wrong gear starts. Two common external causes are:

  • a complete loss of power or ground to the control system.
  • a fail safe protection strategy initiated by the computer to protect itself or the transmission from an observed problem.

Both the "No Power" problem and the "Fail Safe Strategy" problem result in the same wrong gear start condition. The gears that you get in each shifter position are the same.

SO, I guess the first thing I would do is check the Transmission Control Module (TCM) for stored codes.

To call up codes, cycle ignition switch on, off, on, off and on within 5 seconds. Stored codes will be indicated by flashes of the power loss/check engine lamp. The codes will be indicated as two digit numbers, with a four second pause between codes. An example of a code is as follows:

  • Power Loss/Check Engine Lamp illuminated for approximately 2 to 3 seconds as a bulb check, then turns off.
  • Lamp flashes 2 times, pauses, then flashes 6 times.
  • Lamp pauses for approximately 4 seconds.
  • Lamp flashes 3 times, pauses, then flashes 1 time.

This would indicate that code 26 and 31 are stored. The lamp will continue to flash until all stored codes have been displayed. Let me know what codes you get and we can go from there.

Added 12/23/03

Mr. Ciulla, In reference to my 1992 Chrysler Fifth Avenue. I was having transmission problems, such as the ones mentioned in my initial letter, bump shift and limp home/fail safe mode. After some $200.00 dollars, I can say that I finally got the car running to the best of its 12 years of age.

Some minor repair was done by me, to no avail, which consisted of changing the input/output sensors, the solenoid pack, the oil and filter, with no improvement. On a hunch, and long shot, I managed to get my hands on a Transmission Control Module (TCM) from a salvage dealer for a minimal amount of $50.00.

I installed the used TCM and the problems disappeared. What is odd about the changing in the TCM is that instead of using a 3.8 liter model I used a 3.3 liter, but the problem was resolved and I am not going to press it any further. Thank you for your kind attention and I hope other troubleshooters can use my experience to their advantage.

Thank you,

Thanks for the additional information Carlos. I'm sure it will help others with the same or similar problem.

There was a TSB issued with a software upgrade for the TCM. This bulletin applies to vehicles equipped with the 41TE or 42LE transaxle. The effected models are:

  • 1989 - 1995 Acclaim/Spirit/LeBaron Sedan
  • 1989 - 1993 Dynasty/New Yorker/New Yorker Salon
  • 1990 - 1993 Daytona
  • 1990 - 1995 LeBaron Coupe/LeBaron Convertible
  • 1989 - 1994 Sundance/Shadow/Shadow Convertible
  • 1990 - 1991 Chrysler TC
  • 1990 - 1995 Caravan/Voyager/Town & Country
  • 1990 - 1993 Imperial/New Yorker Fifth Avenue
  • 1995 Cirrus/Stratus
  • 1993 - 1995 Concorde/Intrepid/Vision/LHS/New Yorker

Additional Information provided courtesy of ALLDATA

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© 2003 Vincent T. Ciulla

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