Friday, June 28, 2013

Rocker Panel Repair

Fixing the left rocker panel of our van

Difficulty Level (Easy, Medium, Hard, Insane):

Back in May I had to fix the holes in the rocker panels on our van to pass inspection. At first sight I thought I could just patch up two or three small areas but upon further inspection I realized that the whole left rocker panel was pretty much shot and instead of spending two nights to fix half of it and then another two nights fixing it again in a year or so I figured I might as well replace the whole thing from front to back.

The process was pretty simple: remove the old rusted panel, weld the new one back in, body-fill it, sand, primer and paint it. And that's all she wrote but I have to say that fixing those bloody things is an UGLY, DIRTY, LOUD job. Not something I would do for fun!

About the right hand side: It was actually pretty good except for a couple of small holes. I just patched those up with some body filler and painted over top of it. That patch job will do for the next 2-3 years...

A small hole but not much around it holding up the hole
Those "specialists" at the shop jacked up the van by the rocker panels and bent the snot out of them so I had to straighten that mess out again...ughh...
After the rusty rocker panel was removed. What a dirty, ugly job that was!
The bent rocker panel straightened out again with my hydraulic body kit from princess auto
I welded a 1" x 1/8" piece of flat steel in to strengthen it and give me a good surface to weld the new rocker panel to
The new rocker panel spot welded at the bottom
And then welded at the top
Looking straight down, the back of the rocker panel by the wheel well; that was completely rusted off
After it was patched with some heavy duty tar
Body filler ready for sanding
Another view
Sanded and ready for primer
After it was primered
Then I gave it 3 nice coats of dark bronze metallic paint
Good as new, actually, it's probably better than new

Angle grinder
MIG welder
Impact wrench
Socket set
Body filler rasp

Rocker panels
Body filler




Looks wonderful. I'm sure glad that's done!

Transmission Oil Cooler

Install an external transmission oil cooler

Difficulty Level (Easy, Medium, Hard, Insane):

When the van transmission started shifting hard and giving me the P1811 code (particularly when the engine warmed up) I knew I'd have to replace the EPC solenoid which I did later (Tranny Fix) but until all the parts got here I wanted to install a tranny oil cooler to alleviate the symptoms.

It ended up working out quite well because the oil line was close to being rusted through so that would have become an issue sooner or later.

The process was pretty simple: Finding the tranny oil return line, cut it, connect one of the external oil cooler lines to one side and the other line to the one that went back to the transmission.

The $4000 scan tool at Mr. Transmission showing the P1811 code
The rusted line after I took it off and cut it
The $60 oil cooler on my work bench
The return line that goes back into the tranny has been removed
The cooler mounted in front of the radiator
Using the double/bubble flare tool to put a little lip into the oil line so the rubber hose won't slip off
The piece that goes from the main radiator to the external oil cooler
This picture shows the rubber hose coming from the external oil cooler connected to the steel line that goes back to the transmission
The oil line connected to the transmission again

Pipe cutter
Double/bubble flare kit
Side cutters

Tranny oil cooler



Not sure how much they would have charged me to install, but I'm guessing $130 bucks or so

It definitely helped in keeping the oil temperature down and prevented the hard shifts 90% of the time.

Fixing My Van's Transmission

When we got a 2005 Pontiac Montana (with has a 4T65E transmission) from Mel's parents I knew there would be some work involved with getting it up to snuff, but I certainly wasn't counting on having to fix the transmission.

From the first time I drove the van I noticed that it would shudder on take-off if I hit the gas pedal a bit harder than usual but it would eventually kick into gear and take off as you'd expect. Also, once the engine warmed up I noticed that the shifting between gears got very hard and almost immediate with a fairly hard kick so I brought it into Mr. Transmission who did a free scan on the tranny and found the much dreaded and very well known P1811 code (Maximum Adapt and Long Shift).

Basically what that means is the computer determines that the shifting between gears takes too long (>0.65s) for whatever reason and tells the switch that regulates oil pressure to the gears and clutches to put maximum pressure on it so it wouldn't take too long and burn out the clutches.

After some thorough research and finding some really good articles I determined that the most likely cause for the shudder and hard shifts is the electronic pressure control solenoid (EPC) also known as pressure control solenoid (PCS). Luckily the part alone is less than $30 bucks on eBay but the labor to replace it is listed at 6-8 hours at a transmission place (Mr. Transmission quoted me $1200 bucks), it'll obviously take longer for someone who doesn't do it every day.

I ended up buying and installing an external tranny oil cooler ($60 bucks at Mr. Transmission) which took a good 3hrs of labor, but it greatly extended the time until the hard shifts would manifest. It virtually eliminated the symptom for any drives under an hour but I knew it was just a temporary solution because the real problem wasn't fixed, it was just simply masked by keeping the oil at a lower temperature.

Here are the two links that helped out a lot, particularly the first one:

Solenoid Replacement Link
Transmission Fluid Flush Link

After much humming and hawing, and considering that I'll be driving to Ontario and back this summer I decided to take the plunge and buy the EPC solenoid. However, since I would have the tranny cover off already and easy access to all the other solenoids I figured I might as well spend the extra $75 bucks and buy not just the EPC but all the other solenoids as well (TCC solenoid, shift solenoids, and the TFP switch). I found the entire kit on eBay for US$88 plus shipping which came to CAD$138.93 and arrived within less than two weeks.

Difficulty Level (Easy, Medium, Hard, Insane):
Medium, just very time-consuming

Since the process was so involved and had so many steps, I knew I couldn't keep it all in my head so as I took each component off the van I wrote it down so I could follow it backwards when installing. Here are my personal notes:

1.    disconnect battery cable
2.    disconnect throttle cables (2)
3.    loosen both engine torque mounts(15mm & 13mm)
4.    remove air intake duct & plugs
5.    remove maf
6.    jack up car
7.    remove both tires
8.    remove axle nut (L)
9.    remove wiper cover
10.    remove brake caliper & rotor (L)
11.    remove strut to steering knuckle bolts (2x11/16")
12.    disconnect tie rod end (L)
13.    remove axle (L)
14.    remove plastic wheel well cover
15.    remove radiator shield at bottom (4x10mm)
16.    remove felt steering column cover inside (L)
17.    disconnect airbag plugs (1 under steering column cover, 2 under seat L & R)
18.    remove stabilizer bar (15mm)
19.    disconnect abs plug (L)
20.    disconnect tie rod end (R)
21.    remove sway bar bushing brackets
22.    remove sway bar
23.    remove rack & pinion bolts (2x11/16")
24.    remove rack & pinion heat shield (2x10mm)
25.    remove left motor mount bolts (2x15mm)
26.    loosen right sub-frame bolts (2x18mm)
27.    support sub-frame with jack
28.    remove left sub-frame bolts (2x18mm)
29.    disconnect exhaust hanger
30.    unhook oxygen sensor cable
31.    remove transmission pan (10mm)
32.    disconnect main tranny connector plug (push in at 3 and 9 o'clock)
33.    remove steering column pinch bolt
34.    open wire clips on top of engine
35.    remove strut to steering knuckle bolts (R)
36.    lower engine
37.    remove tranny to subframe mounting bracket (4x15mm)
38.    remove tranny cover bolts (13x10mm, 4x torx)
39.    remove tranny side cover
40.    replace EPC (PCS) solenoid
41.    replace TCC solenoid
42.    replace 1-2, 2-3 shift solenoid
43.    replace 3-4 shift solenoid
44.    replace fluid pressure switch (8ft/lb torque)
45.    installation is reverse of removal


This one is the simple removal of the 3-4 shift solenoid, the others were just as easy

This one is the re-installation of the new 3-4 shift solenoid


The kit I bought on eBay
After the wheel, brakes and axle were removed
The old and new sway-bar (stabilizer bar) link kit
The old one snapped as soon as I tried to loosen it
The left side bolt was better but still pretty scary
The engine support bar I built for this job
All the parts I took off about half-way through the tear-down
Getting ready to lower the sub-frame
Catching some of the oil coming out of the axle hole
Loosening the rack & pinion bolts
Draining the tranny oil
The bottom cover; the oil looks nice which is a good sign as to the condition of the tranny internals
Looking at the bottom of the tranny
The cover all nice and clean
Parts diagram of the transmission
Getting ready to lower the engine and transmission
Disconnecting the steering shaft from the rack & pinion
Lowering the engine
View into the top of the engine compartment while lowering the engine and tranny
Finally ready to remove the side cover after 8 hours of labor
The inside of the side cover
The side of the transmission with the solenoids accessible
Another view of the lowered engine/transmission and the side cover removed
The engine way down low
The gasket for the side cover. I had to be very careful so I could re-use it as it costs over $100 for this gasket alone
3 of the 4 solenoids I replaced
The 4th solenoid
The new parts
THIS is the culprit, the EPC (or also called PCS) solenoid
The sway bar link bushings all new and shiny
The sway bar bushing all nice and shiny too
After I flushed the remaining 5L of old transmission oil that remained inside the torque converter

Car ramp
Engine support bar
Impact wrench
Sockets and wrenches
Oxy/Acetylene torch for two rusted bolts
Torx bit
Hook tool

Solenoid kit
12L of transmission fluid




Drives great. I hope it continues like that and I'll NEVER have to do that job again!!!