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old yukon 12-13-2010 04:59 PM

4L60e, to rebuild or not rebuild, that is the question ?
Hi guys
First up I'm not working on any hotrod project as such, Yet!
But i jumped onto this site because you guys seem to know what you are talking about, and give good honest clear advice.
Its about the 4L60e tranny in my 2000 5.3L yukon (243,432 miles on it and just went for the first time).

I just read a few posts about DIY 4l60 tranny, the followed the book to the "T" and did (almost) everything as I would have done it or better, and after a few months (!!!!) of working on the tranny and finishing it. It turned out to be a waste of DIY time and $ ( ) this page 3 of the thread.

What do you think ? Is it doable or not ?? I really want to do this, but don't want the bitter disappointment Like this dude had. I am the pro active type and mechanically minded always fixing thinks work house car. Its not just the saving in $$'s but the satisfaction of knowing you have done it right and gaining a new insight into the car that i rely on every day. if i can get another 1500k mile on it, i would be wrapped.

Old Yukon

transbuilderguy 12-13-2010 05:16 PM

if you are wanting to learn the 4l60e is not the trans to learn with the hydraulics in the 60e are complicated you can put all the parts you want to in it and if the hydraulics are not sound it will fail. Something as simple as a #7 checkball leaking can cause a 3-4 failure everytime and you wouldt even know its leaking if you didnt have expereince to see it. If you wanna learn get a th400 and learn on that trans its simple drum to drum all planets are in the rear and the hydraulics are simple. I would hate to see you waste money and spend more than you would have if someone just did it for you. On the other side is it do-able yes as long as yu follow the ATSG to the T as far as inspection and listen to the guys on this site as far as setup then you can do it with basic mechanical knowledge. I am here to help make sure to ask alot of questions

old yukon 12-13-2010 08:50 PM

Thanks for the reply.
Its not a matter of learning on a tranny for me. Just keeping the yukon going strong for 4 or 5 more years at least.

Man my biggest issue it lack of access to anything; books, tools, knowledge, and helping hands. With this "one hand tied behind my back" I have a gut feeling it will be a challenge, a really big challenge. Hay I like a challenge !!, but i don't want to bit of more then i can chew.
Doing a tranny, this is a new thing, and i will be traveling into the world of the unknown.Some type of reference point would be really helpful for DIY'ers like me.
For example
Level of complexity -( 1-10 most complex)
range of tools needed -(1-10 complete range of general and specialist tools)
Skill level required - (1-10 high level of skill)
Time required in total - (hours)
Success rate of backyard DIY 4L60/e rebuilds - (%)
Main problems of rebuild failures -(parts, kits, errors etc)

Calling on those with experience ( good and bad ) to help us DIY'ers out here, it would be a really useful thread if we could get a clear insight into the tranny rebuild world.

Old yukon

sparkydog 12-13-2010 09:00 PM

I am a lifelong DIYer and am always biting off more than I can chew. When my 4l60E turned out bad the first thing I wanted to do was rebuild it myself. After doing exactly what you did - checking the internet and reading attempts by others - I chickened out. I cannot believe how mature I must be getting. :D

I found a guy on clist that rebuilt mine for $550 and so far after 500 miles I am happy.

I agree with what has been posted - there are soooooo many little tiny details that can go wrong. Made me skeeert. :(

old yukon 12-13-2010 09:18 PM

Thanks Sparkydog, i know were you are coming from.
Some type of reference point would be really helpful for DIY'ers like me.
let me start for example
Level of complexity - 10 ( 1-10 most complex)
range of tools needed - 9 (1-10 complete range of general and specialist tools)
Skill level required - 9 highly skilled, sharp eye and good trouble shooter (1-10 high level of skill)
Time required in total - 100hrs 5hrs/day x 3weeks with all things ready to go.(hours)
Success rate of backyard DIY 4L60/e rebuilds - 50 % (%)
Main problems of rebuild failures - wrong parts, poorly installed, seals damaged on installation, wrong torque settings, wrong clearances (parts, kits, errors etc)

Calling on those with experience ( good and bad ) to help us DIY'ers out here, it would be a really useful thread if we could get a clear insight into the tranny rebuild world.
Old yukon

Kawabuggy 12-14-2010 11:20 AM

I have found Dana @ Probuilt to be a good source of reference. While I have not bought anything from him yet, he is still willing to help me wade through my first 700 build. The 700 is very similar to your 4L60E-same internals, just different valve body, wiring harness, placement of bolts on valve body, length of some bolts, and several other pieces that the 700 does not have. Anyway, I'd bet money that if you purchased your parts from any of the known vendors out there-like the ones that support this site, they would be more than willing to assist you with any problems you have with your build along the way.

I can recommend that you start with the ATSG manual for your year of transmission. They are very straightforward for doing a stock rebuild. If you plan on venturing off the stock path, they are basically useless though. For performance mods, you will have to partner with your parts supplier to ask for the inside scoop, or buy one of the complete performance kits that will come with all of the upgrades included.

I think the reason it is so hard to get good information from trans builders on the web is that most of them work in excess of 10 hours (or more) a day, and I don't think that at the end of a long day they want to sit down on a computer and type out what it has taken them years & years, & years, to learn for FREE. Not saying they don't want to help because most really do, but would you really want to explain to a stranger over the internet how to do your job at the end of a 12 hour day knowing they have no prior experience, don't have the right tools, and lack the "feel" that only comes with experience? That would be like guiding someone through open heart surgery that has never operated on a human before.. Just far too difficult. So while for the amateur, like myself, it can be frustrating that you can't get the answers that you need in the instant that you need it-that's just the way it is. Read all you can. Buy all of the books that you can get your hands on. Look up the different companies shift kits and search for their instructions on-line. A lot of these kits are very detailed in & have good pictures so that you can see the name of parts, and how it all fits together.

And last, don't expect to be able to sit down and do this in a couple hours. As I have learned, it has taken me over 3 weeks now to get mine back together. I keep having to stop and buy parts that when I tore it down looked good, but now that everything is cleaned, you can see the wear, cracks, fatique spots, clearances are off, etc; That's another thing, try and get your clearances as close to spec as possible. If you are not close, don't just think that it will work as it may, or it may not, and if not you will be doing it over again real soon. There are backing plates, apply plates, steels, and frictions of different thicknesses to get each of the stacks to exactly where they need to be.

I'd say buy a used core transmission that will work in your vehicle and start working on rebuilding that core while you keep your daily driver up and running. That way, you can take all the time you need to get your rebuild done right, and then it should only take a day to swap the rebuilt unit into your vehicle. If you have problems with your rebuild, you can always just swap the old unit back in and start again on figuring out what you did wrong.

old yukon 12-15-2010 10:43 AM

Thanks Kawabuggy

That make sense about the techs and work and R&R.

You said "buy a used core transmission that will work in your vehicle " what do you mean, is it a nother tranny which one would you suggest?

Come Diyers and those with experice complete this list below, to help us decide if we should rebuild the 4L60E as first timers or not. It will only take a few short minutes.

Level of complexity - ( 1-10 most complex)
range of tools needed - (1-10 complete range of general and specialist tools)
Skill level required - (1-10 high level of skill)
Time required in total - (hours)
Success rate of backyard DIY 4L60/e rebuilds - (%)
Main problems of rebuild failures - (parts, kits, errors etc)

looking forward to the replies by the DIYers and experts

Old yukon.

Crosley 12-15-2010 05:51 PM

Not sure you will care for my comments. Do not confuse my statements here that I am saying a DIY rebuild does not function ( I am not saying that).

On the flip side: transmission parts failures , screw-ups, mistakes from the lack of knowledge are expensive

Also remember There is a difference between replacing parts and rebuilding something properly.

A 4L60e is not a DIY friendly trans. Too many thing can go wrong , not checked or over looked by a DIY.

I put the numbers at '10' on those questions.

Hours needed for rebuild? I know how long it takes me. Can not comment on others.

Success rate for DIY - backyard mechanic? Unkown by me.

Failure causes? I doubt it is parts.

I've chatted with customers that would tell me how the parts we sold him were the problem. Yet I use the same parts in 250 - 300 rebuilds of 4L60 trans every year. So is the failure the cause of our parts or the lack of knowledge and ability?

It has been suggested to me a dozen of times I should write a book on trans rebuilds.. I point out that there are books and videos already available.

Over the years I've had DIY person hand me a rebuild manual as they wheel in boxes of parts from their failed rebuild attempts.

Seasoned mechanics bring in transmissions they built that would not work properly. Upon inspection I find glaring errors.

If you wish to attempt a rebuild ... go for it. I answer questions when needed. You may have "that ability" and all works out well.

Over the years I have watched some folks develop into excellent trans techs. There are a couple on this board

old yukon 12-15-2010 08:31 PM

Thanks Crosley thats the type of insight we DIYers need, that was the gut feeling I've been having over the last few months surfing the forums, a 10 rating for all those key questions = stay away unless your adventurous or desperate.

Just a bit more clarification on one very intersitng comment you made. you said "...[B]There is a difference between replacing parts and rebuilding something properly. A 4L60e is not a DIY friendly trans. Too many thing can go wrong , not checked or over looked by a DIY.[/B]

Could you list the "too many things that could go wrong, not checked or overlooked by DIYers". Perhaps even write a thread. We would all realy appreciate it Crosley, and have an even greater respect for good tranny rebuilders like yourself.

This is a top forum keep up the good work!

Old Yukon

Crosley 12-15-2010 08:56 PM


Originally Posted by old yukon
Could you list the "too many things that could go wrong, not checked or overlooked by DIYers". Perhaps even write a thread.
Old Yukon

LOL.....Nope. I could type for 2 days just on the mistakes i have seen and anything can done incorrectly on the trans. You post questions - symptoms, folks here will answer.

An example of an item that happened on this BBS.

A member had problems with a 700r4... he describe the problems. A few members offered ideas, I also offered suggestions.

He found the problem was he placed the extra pump to case gasket between the pump halves. The rebuild kit comes with early and late design pump to case gaskets.

Questions are : Why would he even think to place that gasket there? The gasket does not remotely cover the whole surface of the pump halves.

How would the folks here looking at a computer screen ever think of that gasket placed there by mistake?

Here is a photo of a fellow that blamed "parts" for his troubles.. his complaint was the trans had "no gears", He had CHECKED everything ..... twice:

Photo shows the pump thimble filter placed into the hole in the pump where the filter tube is installed. This shuts off the flow of fluid into the pump. I have never seen that mistake in decades of rebuilding the 700 series of transmissions.

So.... you post questions, folks here will answer them.

i would also suggest you visit the wiki on Crankshaft Coalition

clik here for wiki

old yukon 12-15-2010 09:48 PM

Oh Crosley you had me fall of my chair from laughing so hard! Its the best laugh I had in months.
Man its guys like those DIYers that keep the tranny guys working hard and selling alot of kits.
But surely they are the extreme cases !!

Big difference between those crazy rebuilds and a leaking check ball !!

Old Yukon

Keep up the laughs !!!

old yukon 12-16-2010 03:44 AM

Thanks to Crosley, sparky dog, transbuilderguy, and Kawabuggy for their replies.

It sounds alot like the truth is that a Diyers or Backyard Mechanics has had little if any success on rebuilding the "[B]dreaded 4L60e[/B]", especially for first time tranny builders.

Hay but i maybe wrong.

Maybe someone out there as triumphed over the "dreaded 4L60e" and has lived to tell their tail? or maybe not??

Old Yukon

Kawabuggy 12-16-2010 11:29 AM

I too agree that the 4L60E's are just too difficult a transmission to start out on. If, and I say IF the DIY'er gets lucky and it's just a simple blown up part that caused it's failure, then a rebuild kit, an ATSG manual, and new parts to replace the broken one might be the ticket.

The problem comes when you find the broken parts, but don't have the experience to know why it broke. You simply replace the broken part and put it back in, then it runs for a while and breaks the same parts, or other parts, again. That is the perplexing part. The understanding why certain parts have failed is key to a successful build.

With the 60E's, you have to bear in mind that not all problems start inside the transmission. Remember you have a computer, wiring harness, sensors on the engine all that feed information to the transmission. Faulty sensors can burn up a transmission. Then if you go looking for the answers inside the transmission, you will be looking in the wrong place. Yes, you may find broken parts inside the trans, but you will not have found the initial source, and you will be pulling the trans again all the while cursing the transmission when in fact the problem has been external to the unit the entire time.

In talking with a friend (newfound friend since I started my first build) he admits that often times they are in such a rush to complete a job, and so short on time, that they will basically just throw entire assemblies (valve body, 3/4 drums, cases, pumps, etc;) in an effort to solve the problem. He works at a commercial shop which I will not name, but they are VERY big. They are a large shop with hundreds of cores just stacked up so they can afford to do this. DIY'ers don't have access to all of the things that can make you, or break you when you are trying to troubleshoot. Having enough money to throw at a problem is the next question-do you have enough money to buy another valve body, or another case, or start throwing money at sensors hoping to figure out where the issue is??? I don't.

After having completed my first build (still not successful-no 4th gear!) I can say that it's not how a transmission goes together that determines success, it's the builder/installers ability to troubleshoot problems that equates to success. Even the BEST builders still sometimes experience issues with the transmissions once they are installed in the car (unless they are dynoed first). It's the knowledge of knowing what to do to fix those issues that is worth a LOT of money.

After just going through my first build, I'd rate a 10 on every question except rate of success with DIY'ers.. That one, probably <50% (if 6 months is the goal) I think short term anyone could build a unit to last a few months, but the true test is how long/far will it go.

Also, my hats off to you builders for I now realize just how difficult your jobs are, or can be. I'll never underestimate anyone who can rebuild transmissions for a living.

old yukon 12-17-2010 08:27 AM

From what an Expert tranny builder (Crosley!) has said to a gutsy and honest DIYer (Kawabugy!) things arent looking good for Tranny DIYers with little ot no experience in tranny building, regardless of how good they maybe at other mechanical fixers.

Anybody correct me if I've got this part wrong !

Level of complexity - (10/10 most complex)
range of tools needed - (10-10 complete range tools)
Skill level required - (10-10 high level of skill)
Time required in total - (2/3 days Pro, 2 -3 months DIYer)
Success 4L60/e rebuilds - (95 -99% Pro, less then 50% DIYer )
Main problems of rebuild failures - (Pro- faulty parts, occasional slip up)
(DIYer - every possible combination of problems, form wrong parts, wrong instalation of, lack correct clearences, wrong torque settings, overlooked electricals etc..)

Thanks Kawabuggy for the insight. We would love to hear some of the troubles you had and how you overcame them, and what you think the problem was with the 4th gear.

Also, any other DIYers who braved a tranny rebuild, especially the 4L60e, we would love to hear from you. If you had any problems, and how you resolved them !!

Old Yukon.

Kawabuggy 12-17-2010 01:51 PM

I also forgot to mention that I am not the average DIY'er. I build differentials, set up gears, do LSD/POSI installs for a living. I also build transfer cases, and have built well over 200 engines (guesstimate as I have been building them since I was a teenager), so it goes without saying that I have "some" mechanical ability. The problem with transmissions is that it seems to me that it's more "theory", and "logic" than it is mechanical.

No, I still don't have 4th gear with my 700.. However, I've been studying the hydraulic circuits and looking at the charts that show the different devices that are applied for each gear, I think I have it narrowed down to the following;
1. Sticking/stuck 3/4 valve
2. Worn 3/4 valve and/or valve bore in valve body
3. Cut/torn seal on the 2-4 servo
4. Blocked servo exhaust hole (on pan rail)
5. Potential air pocket trapped somewhere in the 4th circuit. I read on another site that if I can make it shift into 4th at least once, then it will work from that point forward. Poster said to run it up to 100+mph in 3rd gear to see if I could make it shift at least once. I'm not holding my breath on this last one.

All of this is hypothesis though. I deduce that the band is holding when it applies because I have 2nd gear. Both 2nd & 4th need the band to be applied in order to get those gears. I deduce that the clutches, and/or apply piston seals for 4th are good because 3rd gear uses the same clutches & piston so if you have 3rd, you know the circuit for 4th has the potential to hold within the drum. I deduce that the sunshell is good because I still have reverse, & 2nd gear. So that leaves the numbered items above as possible culprits. For a transmission that is 20 years old, I guess problems like this are to be expected. For 4L60e's with aluminum valve bodies, I can't imagine that they will last as long as the older 700's with cast iron valve bodies.

Folks, building clutch & planetary type transmissions is a dying art. The new double clutch units as most manufacturers are heading towards (all electronically controlled) is the distant future. I have a feeling that if I decided to learn to build these older style units by the time I got a good handle on it, the technology would be obsolete. I think in the next 10-15 years, the types of transmissions that are common now, will only be found in classic cars, antique cars, or the junkyard. CVT's are already here and though I've heard of lots of problems with them, eventually the OEM's will figure out how to make them work and when that happens you can expect everything to have one of those in it. The CVT's from what I read, are much cheaper to manufacture once you get the tooling set up. They use far fewer parts, weigh less, and are smaller than traditional clutch & planetary style tranny's. So they potentially are the successor to what we are all working on today. Does not bode well for muscle cars though.. Have you driven a CVT car? Yeck!! I hate the way they slide between ranges.

Anyway, I won't be working on my 700 again until the weekend, and maybe not again until after the first of the year depending on the holiday schedule. I WILL figure it out, it will just take some time & money.. Lot's of money I'm guessing.

I've tried looking for a replacement pack of springs for all of the valves in the valve body so I could "recondition" the valve body-but no luck. Nothing like this exists on the open market apparently.

Anyone have any ideas where I can buy replacement springs for the valve body? Even my buddy that works at a shop said he does not know of where to buy individual springs like that...

Hope I'm not hogging the post, but it's nice having a place I can vent my thoughts.

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