What I Did For Thanksgiving.

CarMichael Angelo

my rearend will smell so minty fresh,
15 Year Member
Nov 29, 1999
Birmingham, al
It was my plan to spend a fair amount of time reconnecting w/ my neglected Gila Monster. Having the week off with the days before, during , and after thanksgiving, I was confident I was gonna effect a change.

That was up until my #1 son drove the 86 LX back here from Shreveport to spend the time here as well.
The car was supposed to have a Jasper engines rebuilt 3.8, as well as a recently fixed automatic transmission when we bought it. Subsequent test drives showed no indication that anything was wrong, and it made it the 300 miles from here in September, and the 300 miles back here in November w/o any incident.

That is until day 2 of his stay. ( That would make it Monnday)

He backs the car out of the drive to go meet up w/ some of his buddies, puts the thing in drive, and gets nothing. It only goes backwards. He comes in and tells me what has happened, to which I do a quick Google search ** C5 Auto trans has no forward gears** and instantly come to the conclusion that he, along w/ however many thousands of others has had the typical intermediate clutch drum failure. A problem that requires a complete tear down to remedy. Needless to say, he didn't hook up w/ his friends that night.
The next day I start the search for a rebuild kit, and a shipper close enough to get it to me before Thursday. I find a place in the panhandle of Florida, they recommend that I replace the converter as well, and for the bargain price of 245.00 shipped, we get a Transtar master overhaul, and a rebuilt lock up converter that arrives on Wednesday.

In anticipation of that rebuild, he and I set out to remove the transmission. (That would make it Tuesday)

I have removed my share of transmissions before and this one was no different.......save for one thing:

When the mechanic removed the transmission to repair it before we purchased the car, he must've used a thermonuclear powered impact wrench to tighten the top two bolts. Try as I may w/ my weenie 1/2 impact, those two top bolts were not moving. No room to use a breaker bar, and extension handle......The biggest part of the problem was the number of sectioned shorter extensions required to get at those top two bolts, and with the flexible universal joint at the end, all of that wobbly sh it was acting in concert to diminish the torque I was able to transmit to the perma-bolts that refused to budge. I knew that I'd have to change that method of attack, and consequently jumped in the truck and headed off to HF to buy an impact rated extension at the proper length. I needed one at least two feet long.

That unfortunately was not meant to be. The only lengths available were 12", so I bought two, an impact rated universal joint, and headed back home.

Still nothing.

I made sure the gun was set at the highest pressure setting.

Still nothing. I just lied on my back and held that b itch there while it hammered away, all the while that stuck bolt was just laughing it's ass off at me. Now I'm getting p issed.

I went to check the regulated pressure on the compressor..........................90 PSI.

(S'pose that was my problem)

I opened the damn thing 35 more PSI to match the max pressure setting that my compressor has, and went back out to try one more time.

Out they come.

Once the C5 is out, I have my #1 spend the rest of the damn day cleaning that greasy pig off, and I set about making my bench top visible again from months of piling junk on top of it so I have a place to rebuild it.

As I start tearing it down, I pull the clutch drums out and remove the snap ring out of the Low/reverse drum only to find that some hack has has this drum apart before, and has installed a steel plate on top of the pressure plate to take up the massive slack in the drum as a result of him only installing 3 clutches, instead of the four it was supposed to have. Despite that omission, there was absolutely nothing wrong with them. All three clutches were perfect.
I was starting to worry that I had pulled this thing and it may have been a valvebody problem instead.

That was up until I tore the intermediate drum apart.
5 roasted clutches, and 4 blue steel plates in that bad boy. WOO-HOO!!!

It was now Wednesday

( Isn't it weird that when we find s hit that's clearly blown up, we're somehow happy that we found it?)

The rest of the trans was unharmed, and just needed cleaning, all stuff that #1 was happy to do considering that I was saving him about 1000.00 by doing it instead of him having to go to AAMCO

Thursday was Thanksgiving, I only moderately dinked around w/ the thing setting the clearances on the clutch drums

The next biggest issue, and almost the deal breaker, was in the tech manual that I thought I had. I have one of those Haynes " Ford Transmission Overhaul" books. Woefully inadequate when it comes to detailing the differences between a C4, and a C5 auto transmission.....specifically where the hell those stupid little check balls were supposed to go, and where the hell this stupid little puck dealy-bobber was supposed to go.

On Friday morning, I spent the better part of two hours online trying to find the answer to that, and ended up resigning myself to buying the download-able ATSG tech manual specific to the C5 for the "I'll never use this again" price of 30.00.

It detailed what I needed though, and I managed to get it, and all of the clutch drums overhauled and back together, and once that was done, put all of the rebuilt assemblies back into the case. Before long, I had a transmission again.

It needs to be said that of all the transmissions out there, that if you attempt to rebuild one, there is no easier transmission to attempt that on other than a C4/C5. They are about as simple as one gets. Despite that statement, it still is a mystery machine. Even though I was about 80-90% sure that everything was done correctly, I still had my doubts that it would work properly, if it even worked at all. And it was now 4PM on Friday afternoon. Despite the fact that it was done, it was still sitting on a bench, instead of being in the car.

This morning we set about installing the transmission. In the grand scheme of things, the easiest part of the job. More research tells me that an empty C5 will take 11 qts of Mercon V transmission fluid. We dumped 3 qts in the converter before we installed it, and another 6 in the trans before I started the car to start to ck the fluid. Once started, I put the stick in it, and ck'd..............nothing. I added the 10th qt. and checked it.
Just to be sure I put it in gear to see if the wheel would turn.......
I added the 11th qt.
And Checked it.Still nothing.
I looked under the car to make sure it wasn't pouring on the ground.
I was out of the fluid we bought, so I grubbed around amoungst ancient qt bottles of type F that I had in my garage hoping I could find one measly qt. of MerconV.
I found 3/4 of a qt. (Thank you again 89 mach 1 for having a Tremec TR3650)
I dumped that down the funnel, and decided to try and put it in gear....................I pull the shifter one click back.
The rear wheels start spinning backwards.
I put my foot on the brake, and move it two clicks further back, release the brake and look back........
They're now going forwards.

Encouraged, I put the thing back in park, check the fluid one more time, and see that fluid is now showing up on the stick,but I'm still one qt. low, and I got nothing.

I put the car on the ground, get #1 in the passenger seat, and off we go to Advance for the last of the almost 13 qts that this little piggie has guzzled. The test drive goes flawless .
It upshifts when it's supposed to, downshifts when it's supposed to w/ no shudders or slippage. The last qt was put in right in front of Advance using one of their funnels.
It comes back home equally flawless.

It's now 5PM Saturday. It has to go 300 miles back to base tomorrow.

I didn't get to do a damn thing to the Monster though.
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I have been doing it wrong this whole time
15 Year Member
Mar 23, 2007
Middle of Maine
Tech tip: Next time the impact gun will not loosen up the fastener, try spraying some PB Blaster into the impact gun. It works like a charm. I was having a rough go of getting a front axle nut loose on a car at work, Hammer away with the gun, wait for the compressor to top off, spray PB Blaster on the nut and threads, hammer away some more, and one of the guys I work with comes over and says "spray some PB Blaster in the gun", I told him I had already oiled the gun, and he insisted that spraying some into the air gun would work. I was very skeptical, but Ogiun (yes that is his name) (he is an old coot from Latvia or some such Baltic state) said that it would work. And wouldn't you know it, Blam first pull of the trigger on the air gun and the nut just flew off the axle! I have tried this on other stubborn fasteners thinking it was a fluke the first time, but damn, that stuff makes the air gun act like it is supercharged. Try it next time, you might be amazed.
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