1989 Taurus half-shaft? or axle? or transmission?


Old 03-04-07, 12:37 PM
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Unhappy 1989 Taurus half-shaft? or axle? or transmission?

I recently acquired my mother-in-law's 1989 Ford Tarus - 105,000 miles and well taken care of. It is a 6 cylinder with an automatic transmission. When I got it, the tires needed to be replaced, so all 4 are now brand new. Also, the tie-rod ends were shot and I had those replaced along with an alignment done. Car has been driven around 200-250 miles since then. Noticed that the recent alignment seemed to be off - it was veering to the right a little bit.
Starting 4 days ago, car seemed to have trouble going in reverse - I had to give it more gas than should be normal for it to go - transmission fluid looked and smelled fine, and going forward in drive was no problem, just reverse. I also noticed a slight clicking noise, especially when turning or going slow.
Yesterday, car went into reverse just fine, but seemed to be shifting a little more roughly in drive. After about a mile, I heard a clunk that seemed to come from the drivers side wheel area when I came to a stop at a traffic light. When the light changed, I stepped on the gas and no response. I was able to get the car to engage in reverse, but not in drive. I shut the car off, restarted, etc. Still no response in any of the forward drive gears (from 1 through OD). Finally, after 10 minutes of holding up traffic at a busy intersection, it engaged in drive enough to get to my office, a block away, but seemed to be a little off, as if something was loose.
Now, the car goes in reverse just fine and I no longer have to give it more gas to go in reverse, but will not go into drive. In reverse, the clicking noise now seems louder than before, like a playing card in bicycle spokes. This transmission ran smoothly until shortly after I had the tie-rod ends replaced. Could it have magnified a half-shaft or axle problem? I don't think the transmission is bad. I just can't figure out why the problem would first be felt only in reverse and not drive, then switch to being felt in drive, but no longer affect reverse.
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Old 03-04-07, 02:33 PM
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There is about a 90% chance that the tranny is toast. That vintage Taurus/Sable was known far and wide for premature tranny failures - we're talking less than 50,000 miles for a smoked tranny was not unusual. My brother's Sable (inhereited from Dad) crapped the tranny at under 40,000. I could be wrong, but I think the planetary gear was the primary culprit. The level of care seemed to have no bearing on the life expectancy; that tranny was one of Ford's worst engineering jobs. Side note, if the engine you have is a 3.8L (other option is 3.0) they're known far and wide for blowing head gaskets prematurely.
Old 03-04-07, 02:35 PM
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OK........Let's address the alignment/pull first............taurus has no Caster/Camber adjustments........Unless you want to believe what some will say about drilling the spotwelds in the strut tower........If the car DIDN'T pull before the tires/align and does NOW, flip the 2 frt tires.....It's probably an out of register belt.
As far as the trans goes...........Well..........You could TRY flushing the fluid. but the reality of trans service is that it doesn't REPAIR the trans......just keeps a good trans from going bad.......and it sounds like yours is on its way
The clunking noise????.........Check the motor mounts......Open the hood put your left foot on the brake and apply power with your right........If the engine wants to leap out of the car, you've found the problem
Old 03-04-07, 02:58 PM
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Please don't just jump to a quick "bad tranny" conclusion

The alignment was done because of the bad tie rod ends - there was play in the steering before and there wasn't afterwards. I had the tie rod ends replaced when I had the tires replaced - the tires were worn evenly, just pretty old. Also, the motor mounts are fine - that is not the problem.

I thought I gave an accurate explanation of what is going on. I really do not think the transmission is bad or is going bad. Why would the reverse gear suddenly fix itself?

I guess another question may be: Does the half-shaft play any role in the transmission engaging in gear? I now know the problem I had with reverse (having to give it gas to go - it wouldn't just start slowly rolling in reverse by letting off of the brake) is something that is indicative of a half-shaft problem, as is the clicking noise, so could it also be responsible for the transmission not going into drive?

Last edited by RodriguezR; 03-04-07 at 03:10 PM.
Old 03-04-07, 03:42 PM
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In order for a half shaft to keep a car from moving, one of 2 things would have to be true..........Either the shaft is not completely locked IN the trans (would make a LOT of noise Grinding)...........Or the outer CV joint has completely hand grenaded ...............again........LOTS of noise
I an aware that you had the alignment due to tie rod replacement........HOWEVER......Tie rod adjustments affect TOE ........Caster/Camber are the 2 angles that make a car pull (Especially CASTER).......and in the Taurus they are NON ADJUSTABLE
Old 03-04-07, 08:26 PM
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can't explain the reverse first then forward and reverse ok or whatever it was BUT the tie rods and their replacement is not going to affect your situation.

There is no reason to even touch the axle (same as a 1/2 shaft) to change either the inner or outer tie rod ends (inner is actually termed a socket).

a cv joint, when it finally does die, is very definate and is not going to get better on its' own.

Hate to tell you but I believe it to be the trans.

the only other possibility, which I have never seen happen spontaneously and really should not have happened with a tie rod change, is the half shaft came out of the trans. I highly doubt this situation. I also don't see it as causing an intermittant problem.

it's the trans.

as tow guy posted, these are notorious for premature failures.

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