Transmission Leak

After the short drive last Friday, we took the car for a good long drive last Sunday. It was a beautiful day, and I decided it was time to actually take it for a real cruise — not a long drive to get a leak fixed, and not a loop around the area to test it out. We hoped in the car and drove a loop over a hundred miles through the New England countryside out to the coast, where we stopped and got lobster rolls. It was a fantastic drive, and a hint of many things to come.

As with all the other longer drives, I jacked the car up and gave it a once over during the week. The oil leak is definitely fixed on the oil pan, but there was a bit of a leak still on one of the valve covers. I tightened the bolts again on it, and hopefully that’ll stop that leak. It wasn’t messy like the oil pan leak, it just dripped a bit onto the passenger header, and made a lot of smoke yesterday when I fired the car up. I also noticed a drop or two of oil on the garage floor again, and figured out it was transmission fluid dropping from the transmission mount.

Yesterday I spent a bit of time doing some tuning on the engine — the idle was far too high, so I adjusted it as low as it will go. It seems to idle well when hot, although it takes a minute or two getting stable when cold. I think there may be a cold-enrichment setting in the ECU that I can adjust, but I needed to let it cool down yesterday to figure it out.

Today I decided to figure out what was the issue with the transmission leak. From under the car, it seemed it was either coming from the seal between the tail housing and the main body of the transmission, or possibly from the shifter assembly. The latter is something I could reasonably get to and check out, but the former would require dropping the transmission to deal with. I decided to take apart the center console so I could see if it was the shifter assembly.

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I could feel some oil on the shifter assembly through the holes under the cupholders, so it seemed a reasonable thing to do. It was possible it was just blown-back engine oil from the old leak, but its not a huge amount of work to remove the console at this point.

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This is precisely why I went to so much effort to design a console that was removable — in a lot of FFR cars, I would’ve had to drop the transmission to do this. I removed console face plate, and then the three bolts holding the side panels on and pulled the pieces out.

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With the console top off, I could see there was fluid in and around a couple of the bolts. These bolts are straight shots, through the shifter assembly and into the transmission. For fluid to be here, it would have to be leaking out the bottom, too. I see no reason to think this wasn’t the source of the oil drips.

There were two possible places it could be coming from — the seal between the transmission and the shifter unit, or a leak in the shifter unit itself. The latter would be hard to fix, so for now I decided to remove the shifter assembly and try to re-seal it better than before.

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I removed the shifter assembly and started scraping as much of the old RTV silicone off it. Because the bottom surface is machined, it has a texture that makes it hard to remove all of it. Ideally it should be perfectly clean, but I did the best I could on it.

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I hit it with some acetone, too, to get it good and clean.

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I did the same thing, as best as I could, on the opening in the transmission, as well.

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Once everything was clean I re-applied some RTV Gray silicone sealant. This is the same stuff I used the first time, so hopefully it won’t turn into a problem again. If so I’ll look at other options. I’m hoping it just didn’t cure right or I tightened it up too soon last time.

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I couldn’t finish putting the console back together because I have to wait 24 hours to fully tighten the bolts on the shifter assembly. I did, however, take advantage of the console being out to install the carpet piece behind the console.

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The carpet piece covers the space below the dash and the inner panels on the two footboxes.

Tomorrow I’ll tighten things up and get it back together. I may try to drive it a day or two this week to work, but I really need to get the vents hooked up and the console wired before I do any real long drives. Its still three weeks to the Factory Five Open House, so I have plenty of time to finish up that wiring. I may also take the dash back out to fix the high beams. That may be more hassle than it is worth, though.

And, unrelated, here are the three videos I shot last weekend but never posted. All of them are in high-def, so click through to YouTube directly if you want to see them in their full 1080P glory.

A walkaround of the car.

The engine running.

The side-pipe while the car is running.