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Old 06-19-2019, 12:47 PM   #1
shifty
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Controversial 4l60e maintenance question

Based on what I'm reading elsewhere, seems like this is a heated topic. I even see a couple of zombie threads on here with similar.

1998 Sierra, 90k original miles, L31/4l60e. Shifts a little rough when you hammer on the gas or in odd situations. Truck spent much of its life hauling boats and landscape boulders if that's important.

Last 20k maintenance records and PO for last 50k miles both show no regular tranny fluid/fiter change was done.

I keep reading at various places to avoid filter/fluid changes on any 60e that never saw regular maintenance. Logic being "detergents in new fluid will bust up sludge deposits and kill the tranny within a few K miles". Dozens of people chiming in with their anecdotal case where it happened.

How valid is that opinion and is there any "safe" way to get up to maintenance w/o rebuilding?

Maybe, like, drain a quart, add a quart, drive 1k miles, and repeat the process a few times before changing the fluid and filter, slowly breaking it all up?

Or is it better just to deal with periodic sluggish shifting?

Anything I could be doing here at all?
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Old 06-19-2019, 01:18 PM   #2
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Re: Controversial 4l60e maintenance question

700r4 or 4l60-e and shifting funny = time for a full diagnostic and prob rebuild at-least some of it in my opinion .

when i was turning wrenches for a living i first looked at fluid color red to dark red i said o.k.

next was road test drive like grandma to hard core if shifted funky NO WAY would i flush it or filter and refill job .

the reason they tend to go south after this when there already ??? is all the grit is gone from the old fluid being out .

its a can of worms i hate to say . take a gamble or find a super good trans shop and let them look it over and do there magic .
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Old 06-20-2019, 01:56 AM   #3
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Re: Controversial 4l60e maintenance question

Opinions on changing fluid are like ... well ... anyways.

Find a good trans shop, have it checked out. There are a thousand things that can cause trans problems, half of them aren't inside the transmission (ECM, sensors, wiring, etc etc)
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Old 06-20-2019, 06:13 AM   #4
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Re: Controversial 4l60e maintenance question

I never bought into the no maintenance mind set. I always change trans fluid whenever I buy a vehicle and never had a problem. If a trans did die due to lack of maintenance then I would just deal with it.
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Old 06-20-2019, 08:20 AM   #5
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Re: Controversial 4l60e maintenance question

I changed the filter and fluid on my 200K+ mile 97 Burb about a year ago. Didn't flush, just replaced what came out. Really helped downshifting. Before it would take a solid 3 seconds to downshift @ WOT, now it downshifts closer to what I would consider normal. I believe the truck was well maintained before I got it, but I am not sure the last time the fluid/filter was changed. The fluid looked good before I changed it.
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Old 06-20-2019, 09:31 AM   #6
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Re: Controversial 4l60e maintenance question

Shifty, you didn't say if the fluid looked and smelled OK. That is the first step in a logical decision.

But even if it is "burnt smelling" what can you do except change the fluid. Just do it the usual way, no flushing. If the improved viscosity causes slippage then it was well on it's way out anyway. The only reason NOT to change it is if you are a shop owner and you don't want a customer claiming YOU caused the problem.
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Old 06-20-2019, 11:30 AM   #7
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Re: Controversial 4l60e maintenance question

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Originally Posted by WorkinLonghorn View Post
Shifty, you didn't say if the fluid looked and smelled OK. That is the first step in a logical decision.
Good point, I'll drain some off and check this w/e.

Other details follow, if it helps?

Pretty sure my '03 Sierra had a 4l65e in it. Shifted way less clunky than this 4l60e. Clunky/late shifting is most of my gripe, similar to what rpmerf describes above.

I'm in the 12-18 month range owning this thing (my 5th GM truck now...) and rarely need to drive more than 10-15mi/day so only ~4k miles driven so far, it was enough to find and tackle a lot of the bigger cumulative problems. CarFax I ordered after purchase shows regular oil changes (3-5k miles) its whole life, but not much more.

At 3k miles I started working through 1st-round maintenance, lubes & flushes. Seafoamed the top-end & oil ~150mi before my 1st oil change. I was amazed, putting Seafoam in the oil killed all valvetrain chatter I'd been hearing. Swapped out the buzzing fuel pump while replacing a failed tank pressure sensor, also swapped the fuel filter, the truck starts instantly now and accelerates like it's brand new, but that helped expose the shifting issues.

Brake/Cooling/Tranny flush and filter change are coming up quickly in my list of crap to tackle. That led me to dig on recommendations for maintenance on the 4l60e and ... that when I saw all the warnings everywhere about flushing the fluids causing imminent death. Maybe I'm confusing "flush" with "change" and that's coloring my opinion.
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Old 06-20-2019, 11:45 AM   #8
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Re: Controversial 4l60e maintenance question

I'm in the camp of routine maintenance. If you change the oil and the tranny goes out, it was dying anyways. Happened on my 1998 Z71. Dropped the pan in my 220K 4l60e, did a new filter, and refilled the oil. At the next oil change, I pulled the plug and "changed" the pan oil in the tranny again. It died about 1500 miles later. It was just on it's way out, period.
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Old 06-21-2019, 11:48 AM   #9
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Re: Controversial 4l60e maintenance question

I always wondered why the fluid smelled burnt, maybe the clutches have worn. most people don't change fluid until they experience an issue with the trans...."maybe the filter is clogged" ? if the filter is clogged than the trans must be coming apart ? Trans is a concealed unit, nothing from the outside can get into the filter ? So as a shop owner I will not change trans fluid if its burnt, take it to quick lube or someplace and have it done. If I change the fluid most likely the old worn out clutches don't like the new fluid and if the customer has a issue after the fluid change than I get a bad name because I was the last one to work on the trans !!! I rebuild transmissions not a fluid changer, a lot can be said about that statement take it how you like.
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Old 06-21-2019, 02:26 PM   #10
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Re: Controversial 4l60e maintenance question

I've always considered the burnt smell to be burnt clutches. At that point, you are better off leaving it and looking for a new / rebuilt trans for when this one goes out. Just my opinion.
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Old 06-21-2019, 04:46 PM   #11
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Re: Controversial 4l60e maintenance question

here is 2 good chart's to understand how little the temp change can make a HUGE effect on fluid life span .
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Old 06-21-2019, 11:50 PM   #12
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Re: Controversial 4l60e maintenance question

"Good point, I'll drain some off and check this w/e."

Just pull the dip-stick and give it a whiff. Should be red or reddish with a little oil smell. If it is dark or brownish color and smells "burnt" then you have a problem. Well, you know all this. Just replace the fluid in the pan or as directed in your manual (and keep fingers crossed).
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Old 06-22-2019, 02:09 PM   #13
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Re: Controversial 4l60e maintenance question

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Originally Posted by WorkinLonghorn View Post
Just pull the dip-stick and give it a whiff. Should be red or reddish with a little oil smell.


That's so obvious it deserves a headsmack, I'm glad you said it. I had one of those cheapy fluid pumps, I was going to pull a few ounces into a clear cup with that. Just gotta manage to find the time to get on it today. (stuck at the warehouse right now)
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Old 06-23-2019, 08:06 PM   #14
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Re: Controversial 4l60e maintenance question

Here's the fluid color, solid garnet.
Doesn't smell burnt.
Obviously nowhere near as bright as new dex3 or dex4.
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Old 06-23-2019, 11:49 PM   #15
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Re: Controversial 4l60e maintenance question

If it was mine, I'd do a fluid change as directed by the service manual but I wouldn't flush or put it on a machine, just the usual pan drop and filter change and refill unless the manual says different.
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Old 06-24-2019, 09:38 AM   #16
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Re: Controversial 4l60e maintenance question

When I did my fluid change, I used a mighty vac to suck out as much fluid as I could through the dipstick hole. There was only a little bit left in the pan, so I was able to pull the pan without dumping ATF all over the driveway. Probably took a bit longer, but worth it for a cleaner job.
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Old 06-24-2019, 10:36 PM   #17
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Re: Controversial 4l60e maintenance question

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Originally Posted by rpmerf View Post
When I did my fluid change, I used a mighty vac to suck out as much fluid as I could through the dipstick hole. There was only a little bit left in the pan, so I was able to pull the pan without dumping ATF all over the driveway. Probably took a bit longer, but worth it for a cleaner job.
Ended up doing very similar today. Used fluid pump to pull exactly 2qt out, dropped pan, just under 1qt remaining, cleaned magnet, wiped pan, replaced fluid. Filter looks like I should probably change soon. Don't have the correct tools for the filter seal, unless it's advised to leave the old one in there.

No abnormal amount of residuals on the pan magnet. Measured what was in there as I removed replaced with same, did the typical idle/drive/measure routine and we're in the goal posts, no top-off needed.

Shift seems better from 1st to 2nd, and dropdown after banging WOT seems faster also, but maybe it's all in my head. Will run it as-is until another oil change, then drop the pan and probably change filter and seal.

Is it worthwhile to swap the factory pan to one with a drain? Seem to be cheap enough and would be a lot less hassle than pumping out the dipstick.
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Old 06-24-2019, 11:31 PM   #18
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Re: Controversial 4l60e maintenance question

Just install a drain plug in the pan you have the next time the pan is off.
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Old 06-24-2019, 11:31 PM   #19
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Re: Controversial 4l60e maintenance question

I saw some guys on a thread saying to leave the seal.

https://www.bobistheoilguy.com/forum...Number=2762106

But I know nothing about this trans. I bought a pan with a drain-plug for my car which also has a drain plug in the torque converter. Really easy now to change it all.

I'd say you are good if there was no build-up of friction material in the pan or loads of metal. -BA
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