By on December 2, 2011


TTAC Commentator Cameron Evans writes:

Dear Sajeev,

I am the proud owner of a 1992 F-150, 4×2, regular cab, long box, with power nothing and the Big Six. I love everything about the truck, except for the one concession to my wife, the E4OD gearbox.

Now that the tranny is shot (slip city, followed by violent shifts), I need your advice. The Ford has a lot of new, high quality parts (Michelin’s, o2 sensor, egr valve, coil, water pump, alternator, exhaust, etc), but it’s also rusty as hell from 19 Minnesota winters and the body is beat up from being a municipal truck.

Simple question, drop the cash on a rebuilt tranny or cut my losses?

Thanks in advance!

Sajeev Answers:

Unless the floors are rusting out, I’d keep it. Even then, sheetmetal stock and talented welders are cheap and easy find almost everywhere. A truck is a truck, my friend. There’s a reason why songs are sung, jobs get done, and America is America: the work truck beat to all hell is a symbol of our national pride.

Ok, let’s try to give a technical reason why.  Look at all those new parts!  The exhaust is a big plus. Great choice in tires too.  And if the EEC-IV controlled, 4.9L Big Six was a reasonably attractive woman, I’d marry her on the spot. You know I’m right, son.

Now to the tranny: finding a Ford savvy rebuilder is sometimes a bit tough.  So you’ll have to call around to find one, lest you wind up with an inferior product.  But when you do, and when you drop a decent shift enhancer on it, the E4OD is a great unit. Much like the rest of your parts, spending a good $1000-1500 (not including installation) for a proper rebuild by a proper Ford man is totally worth it.

Send your queries to [email protected] . Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.



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27 Comments on “Piston Slap: 4.9L Pride at What Cost?...”

  • avatar

    Doesn’t look like there’s a lot of losses to cut. You can drop a tranny in there for a little over a grand and be golden. If you would pay $120 a month over the course of a year to keep it running for 3+ more years would you?

    If the answer is yes, put the tranny in and keep it movin’, pun intended. That’s about what it’d cost you.

  • avatar
    Ian Anderson

    Do what Sajeev says, keep it and get the bad sheet metal replaced. You/your bodyman/welder can order all the panels to build one of those trucks. Make sure to get the thing undercoated when all is said and done. Drop in a quality rebuilt trans (I’d ask around in Ford forums for any in your area) and run that six until it blows… Or until the floors rot out.

    If the truck doesn’t make the cut, sell me the big six so I can put it (and a diesel truck turbo) in a four door Fox body for a sleeper drag car.

  • avatar

    I had one of these with the stick shift for 10 years precisely because every automatic I looked at threw codes and was about to die.
    I also cut my losses and sold it because I did not use it much, it nickle and dimed me to death,and the insurance/registration/maintenance was high compared to a trailer. I sold my rusted, dented, flake-painted truck to a body shop. A match made in heaven.

    I would consider parking a better trans behind it, can a C4 or some other trans be used instead? That engine has been used for thousands of years (ok not really) and the F150 is basically unchanged from 1980 to 1996 so you might be able to swap the E4OD out for a reliable box.

    I’m bearish on big trucks, most people don’t need them and those that do could probably get by with a van instead.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m with you.

      Rust is a losing battle. You may replace body panels, but are you willing to replace suspension components, brake & fuel lines, and weld endless patches into the frame?

  • avatar

    You could just try changing the fluid or throwing in a “mechanic in a can” substance. It probably won’t fix your problem, but if the truck doesn’t get a ton of use it could buy you some time.

    At the very worst, it’ll kill the dying transmission that you would need to replace anyway.

    Either way, I say keep it until it rusts in half.

  • avatar

    Brown’s of Two Rivers is your friend
    (body parts and replacement cab corners to fight the rot)

  • avatar

    Thanks much Sajeev, I’ll start researching local shops and get her fixed as soon as the spring financial aid comes through.

  • avatar

    Rust? Cut your losses. Once this generation of Ford gets the tinworm the end is near. If you’re a gamblin’ man you may want to try a junkyard tranny but I wouldn’t.
    Sometimes it’s hard to give up but…..

  • avatar

    Ha! That is literally the exact same truck a good friend of mine had in college, powertrain, year, (lack of) trim, etc except his was purchased absolutely mint from an older guy who probably did nothing but drive to the diner every morning for coffee. It was a nice truck. If you can get it fixed for 1500, I say go for it.

  • avatar

    I assume that your degree of slip city, followed by violent shifts has reached a state beyond how Ford delivers their transmissions. Coming out of any other car and then driving any automatic Ford, that’s how they’ve all felt to me.

    • 0 avatar

      Generally don’t agree with you in most cases, but if you are talking about older Fords (like a typical Taurus) I’d have to say you are right…

      • 0 avatar

        I don’t remember anything about the automatics in two rented 2009 Ford Focuses(Foci?), but I had access to three 2008 Town Cars with less than 20K miles each, and their transmissions slipped and lurched just like ones with ten times the miles. Compared to some other companies’ automatics, they always feel like they’re at death’s door. I first remember the phenonenon from Tempos and Topazes, then from a new early Taurus and a new Merkur XR4ti. Those cars even slammed into low gears as you slowed to a stop.

  • avatar

    A quick search on Autotrader reveals that F-150S optioned like yours appear to be worth about $3,000- $4,000, irregardless of mileage or condition. I found seven of them with mileage ranging from 125K to 241K that were being offered for sale at $3,995.

    Sell yours locally for $4,000 or whatever you can get for it. Find a new- to- you one with less mileage, less rust, and a transmission that’s already been rebuilt for whatever you get for yours in the Sunbelt. Repeat every few years.

    I have a ’95 Sierra with 169K on the odometer. It’s in decent shape, but if the tranny or some other big ticket item starts to go, I plan to sell itbefore it craps out completely and find another one just like it, albeit with less mileage, for whatever I sold the old one for.

    • 0 avatar

      Local research I did on mine came up with values around 1000 dollars, no where near 4K, but hey you can ask whatever you want for it on AT and hope for the best.

      The fact people will drive a vehicle with a known problem right up to the end and then list it for sale is why I don’t think I’ll be buying anymore really old cars again.

  • avatar

    Do what my next-door neighbor did w/his rusted-out ’91 4.9 equipped F-150: Find a nice shell with a bad engine and swap your 4.9 in, along with your new parts.

  • avatar

    Just make sure the oil pan doesn’t leak. One really nasty thing about this engine is that to drop the oil pan, you need to remove the exhaust manifold, which on a rust-belt truck is a very iffy proposition. So I’d make sure all is dry down there before springing for significant coin fixing the transmission.
    How big an effort would it be to install a used manual transmission? I suspect the computer controls may pitch a fit, but if that’s not an issue, that may be an attractive option.

    • 0 avatar

      Nevermind that the head is likely cracked and/or has multiple sunken valve seats. Both weak spots on this engine. Another weak spot is the lower intake manifold where the rearmost bolt mounts it to the side of the head. The tab breaks off and causes the #6 and sometimes the #5 cylinder to run lean which fubars the pistons, valves or head gasket. When searching for heads and manifolds the people I asked if they had one were telling me a replacement/fix for these parts do not exist because they all break or crack. Some if not all of these issues surely exist on this truck and will most likely become actual problems when the truck starts seeing more regular & likely heavier duty. If this were my truck I’d be happy it got me as far as it did and call it a day.

  • avatar

    A c4 would probably live well behind a 300. There are c6 units with the Small block bell housing pattern out there as well. Is the E4OD computer controlled? If so swap to the 5 speed computer and throw a c4 in there. Probably cheaper than rebuilding the E4OD.

    But yeah, as long as the frame is sound then keep it. Its the rust belt…there are way newer trucks than yours with rust.

    • 0 avatar

      Precisely what I would do. Every auto I looked at threw code 628, front pump pressure problem. Rebuild required new valve body, most can’t be rebuilt when they die. 1800 in parts, 2500 out the door. The problem is caused by s$itty design and pulling loads in overdrive instead of D. Same trans in the Panthers and until 98 they ignored the problem.

      The C4 is a proven workhorse, easy to rebuild. I tortured one behind a small block for years.

      • 0 avatar

        E4OD was not used in panther, AOD was. 4.9L I-6 F-series got the trouble prone E4OD, while 5.0L V-8 trucks got the somewhat more reliable AOD unit – not sure if E4OD was an option on 5.0L. Manual was available behind both engines.

        5.8L is unfortunately a different story – automatic only (for sure from the late 80’s on), and E4OD only.

        Buddy of mine had a ’96 truck with a 5.0L/AOD combo and it was very reliable, in spite of having spent much of it prior life with a large pop-up camper on it and a boat behind it.

      • 0 avatar

        I had the POS E4OD in a 5.0 equipped ’94 F-150. Heavy duty my arse! Cut your losses. I didnt and the rebuilt trans cost $1800 at a reputable shop I have used in the past, only to fail again a couple of years later.

        The 5.8 didnt get the manual because the Mazda-sourced 5-speed cant handle the torque. The ZF can, but was only offered for the SuperDuty. Different belhousing for big-block and diesels? I dont know.

  • avatar

    I’ll see your c4 and raise you one. Had an 85 (IIRC) E150 with a 300 and a C6.
    I don;t know how you can possibly kill one. I tried to kill it and it spit at me.

    I live not far from the Gulf Coast. You could do what the guys do on the beach. Just keep replacing the body parts and look for something better to replace them with. Stainless for example. There are some vehicles here the the salt air just eats up and they run fine so long as the frame is intact. Pop rivets if you have no welder. I think the older and uglier they get the more the beach rats love them.

  • avatar

    The repair cost may seem a lot if you think about how much the truck would bring if you try to sell it, but the real cost is how much you would spend to get whatever you think would be a good replacement for it, and compared to that, it’s peanuts.

  • avatar

    Budda-BoomDecember 2nd, 2011 at 7:13 pm
    Do what my next-door neighbor did w/his rusted-out ’91 4.9 equipped F-150: Find a nice shell with a bad engine and swap your 4.9 in, along with your new parts. <— This.
    Pickups are forever. With replaced parts, that is. Compare to buying a new truck. you’ll see.
    My truck is a ’72 Chevy. I’ll never sell it. It would be like selling my left arm.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    A truck is a truck, my friend. There’s a reason why songs are sung, jobs get done, and America is America: the work truck beat to all hell is a symbol of our national pride.

    BTW Sajeev, that line made my fiance clap and say “Hell Yeah.” But then her Dad has owned the same 72 Chevy since the mid 70s.

  • avatar

    If you get the E4OD rebuilt, make sure they put ’96 Spec internals at the minimum in it. If you can spare the change for 4R100 (same transmission for the most part) internals – even better.

    My buddy has a turbo 460 with a 168,000 mile E4OD behind it. Holding up fine. E4OD’s are basically C6s with an overdrive and electronic controls. The early ones were plagued by design issues however.

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