Ford A4LD Transmissions: Specs

In This Guide


Vehicle Compatibility – Makes & Models

  • 1985–1990 Ford Bronco II
  • 1987–1993 Ford Mustang (when equipped with the 2.3 I4)
  • 1987–1988 Ford Thunderbird (when equipped with the 2.3 I4)
  • 1985–1994 Ford Ranger
  • 1986–1994 Ford Aerostar
  • 1991–1994 Ford Explorer
  • 1991–1994 Mazda Navajo

A4LD Transmission Overview

The A4LD was a modification of the C3. It has four speeds, achieved primarily by adding an overdrive gear. The C3 did not have this gear. The A4LD first saw use in North America in the Ford Bronco II and the Ford Ranger, both of which were developed in 1985. Meanwhile, the European market got the Ford Scorpio. All of these models used four-cylinder and six-cylinder engines. However, the A4LD, in turn, gave way to the 4R44E and 4R55E.

The A4LD pioneered electronic controls for torque converter lockup. Specifically, the 3-4 shift was controlled by an electrical solenoid. Meanwhile, the other gears maintained a hydraulic control system. The 3-4 gear shift is the most common one used while driving at traffic and highway speeds.

Because of its status as a pioneer in electronic transmission control, it could be expected to have problems. Specifically, the two solenoids that controlled the torque converter lockup and the other one attached to the 3-4 shifter tended to fail often.

The solenoids failed due to Ford’s inexperience in creating electronic components for the transmission. Heat overworked the metal wire that was used to create the magnetic assembly.

After the wire broke down from excess heat, there was no way to power the electromagnet and use the controls. It could also create a short circuit, which had the same effect. Either the torque converter would no longer lock up, or the vehicle would no longer be able to shift into fourth gear.

Common Problems with the A4LD Transmission

The A4LD has a long history of problems and failures in its years of service. Drivers who still own a vehicle with this transmission should watch out for the following problems:

First, a lack of overdrive. Often, this happens because the overdrive sprag locks up and doesn’t provide any give to the forward clutch spring pack. Shifting into overdrive rips the spring pack completely free, and the only way to fix it is to completely disassemble the transmission and replace the broken part.

Second, the transmission might keep slipping. This happens most often in the A4LD when the kick down cable loses its adjustment. In turn, this makes the transmission slip and destroy clutches. The transmission has to be fully disassembled before any repairs can be made.

Third, you might lack third gear or lack the ability to do a proper 1-2 shift. When this happens, the modulator is defective. If you are doing repairs at any point and notice fluid coming out of the modulator vacuum line, it’s an indicator that the modular has failed or is about to fail. Luckily, it’s an easy and cheap fix.

Finally, there could be fluid leakage at the front. Over time, the front seal can harden or simply wear out. When this happens, it doesn’t hold its shape and cannot stop fluid from leaking out. Transmission fluid provides cooling and lubrication. It could also be the front pump bushing. This isn’t a quick fix; to get to either the front seal or the front pump bushing, the transmission has to come off the vehicle.

If you still have an A4LD transmission and don’t yet want to replace it, you can extend its working lifespan using a few simple methods and modifications.

Place an aftermarket transmission cooler in the return line in addition to the factory cooler. It can help keep the transmission cool because too much heat buildup will destroy it. You should keep the temperature of the transmission below 200 degrees Fahrenheit maximum.

Prevent debris from getting into the cooler by installing an extra inline fluid filter on the line going toward the radiator. By keeping debris out, you increase the life of the cooler because it has to do less work and fluid can flow more freely.

Add a Sonnax valve body kit. This kit includes both a sleeve and a valve, both of which add pressure inside the valve assembly. When pressure increases, it keeps the clutch packs from separating, as well as keeping the clutches and associated bands from overheating.

Change your transmission pan from a steel one to an aluminum one. Also, make it deeper, provided your vehicle has enough ground clearance. The reason for the extra size is to hold more fluid. Also, steel does not dissipate heat as well as does aluminum. Therefore, you run less risk of overheating.

Use an aftermarket shift kit. By making this adjustment, you can increase the transmission line pressure, decreasing the time it takes for the clutches and bands to do their work.

Keep an eye on transmission fluid levels and status. Dark fluid or leaking fluid indicates a problem. You should probably change the fluid every 20,000 miles. If you have any doubts, take your vehicle to a mechanic and have him run a check.

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Gerald K Hubbard
2 months ago

Blowing fluid from dip stick tube and vent

4 months ago

I have a 93 Ford ranger four-wheel-drive automatic The transmission but putting it in gear hits a little hard and I notice when I run it and I checked the transmission fluid it’s high up on the dipstick

4 months ago

On my 1990 2.9 auto trans when u shift into Rev it’s like it goes into Rev and drive at the same time and neutral pulls like drive and overdrive thro first pulls as well but some times it feels like the transmission is holding the truck back and u can randomly move the shifter and it will release and continue on with no resistance like it might be trying to go in a lower gear while in like 3 or 4

Robert Short
1 month ago
Reply to  Grizz

Same thing with reverse, once I shift into reverse, it travels backwards about a foot, and then slams into park. Only way to travel forward is put in OD ,but only has 2nd gear. If I put in any other forward gear it slams into park. Do you have any idea what is the malfunction?

6 months ago

At a light the fluids ran out and then it started to slip them towed home

Brandon T
5 months ago
Reply to  Rob

Did it leak fluid out at the front? Mine does that if you run it a ways. Does fine on short trips. 5 or 10 miles here. 5 or 10 miles there. But dont run it for 30 something miles. Fluid will start pouring out.

Last edited 5 months ago by Brandon T
Kenneth Brady
7 months ago

won’t go bckwards. started slowly slipping at first and then got worst. It is in a Ranger and has 245,000 miles. This is the 3rd Transmission it’s had in it and all have done the same thing after awhile. Transmission cooler?

7 months ago
Reply to  Kenneth Brady

Mine too.

Robert Johnson
11 months ago

Won’t go into gear any of them The ship never moves but it doesn’t engage

patrick heddinger
1 year ago

92 explorer a4ld transmission what wires go were to 3@4 solenoid and converter

patrick heddinger
1 year ago

There are 4 wires going to the 3@4 solenoid and converter solenoid. Witch one goes were

Robert Pentz
1 year ago

Rebuilt trans. Now it has no power in reverse

Mark Clark
1 year ago

I need to know what way the od sprag locks

Mark Clark
1 year ago

Which way does the od sprag lock

Eric Hoppe
1 year ago

I have a 1994 Ford Aerostar XL 3.0 I tried
To replace the Neutral Safety Switch, it’s on the side mount right by the linkage
Unhooked the plug wiring, using wrench
Removed the switch (looks like a spark plug) got new one just screw back in, easy
Peasy? Nope! Cannot get it to screw back in
Just keeps turning, even tried to put the old one back nope.

Eric Hoppe
1 year ago
Reply to  Eric Hoppe

I fixed it
Got it to go back in
Works great again

1 year ago
Reply to  Eric Hoppe


1 year ago

My A4LD quit shifting into overdrive works fine it’s just like it’s a 3 speed doesn’t try to go in or slip.
It’s all mechanical 87 Ranger

1 year ago

Transmission has to have high RPMs to engage 4000 to 5000 any lower motor stalls (acts like stuck in high gear)

randall waters
1 year ago

Hello. I am considering 4wd or AWD for my A4LD ’92 ranger. it’s powered by a 2.3 sohc turbo from a merkur xr4ti. I believe the engine (160hp or so) has enough torque & hp to move the xtra wt. of xfer case and frt.axle, incl. frt. drive shaft & 2 axle shafts. Will I be able to use my existing a4ld w/ a 4wd or awd adaptor? I have seen some small xfer cases as used in early escapes etc. Can you please offer any advice on the main 3 concerns? Thank You.

2 years ago

Thanks for this page and the accompanying video. 94 Explorer trans won’t shift into 3rd/4th gears at about 30 mph. The vehicle is not worth it, but I’d like to repair for sentimental reasons and this helped me understand what I might be getting into.

Dave Mix
3 years ago

I have the a4ld in a 1987 aerostar. Borg Warner 1350 was custom installed with Dana 30 front axel. 26,000 on $4400 rebuilt engine. We are into this vehicle for a total of $12000.many problems over the years. It has been parked for over 18 years.Tranny paused going into we Parked it. Now leaking from front seal.tranny has been pulled out a total of 5 times. For repairs. Hesitant to put more money into it or take it to scrap yard. It has 116,000 miles total

3 years ago

Is this Trans compatible with the 3.0 and the 4.0?

3 years ago
Reply to  Zach


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