Transmission Pump & Valve Body Inspection

What to Look for in a Worn Transmission Pump

Before any transmission noise/vibration diagnosis is done the engine and drive train should be ruled out. Check for worn u-joints that can cause a noise at all vehicle speeds. Check for worn mounts that can cause a vibration or cause the transmission to touch the frame or body of the vehicle. Transmission oil pumps provide fluid pressure for the transmission and the torque converter. The valve body regulates, controls, and directs the flow of this pressurized fluid to provide shifting. Gear and rotor-type are considered fixed displacement pumps. Most pumps today are variable displacement. This means they vary or change fluid pressure according to demands.

Fixed Displacement Pump

In a fixed displacement pump the pressure increases with rotational speed, sometimes providing unneeded pressure. In a variable displacement pump the pressure is allowed to decrease with lesser demand. This saves energy by decreasing output without affecting speed.Transmission pumps are driven directly from the engine through the torque converter. The torque converter housing is mechanically attached to the engines crankshaft. This causes the pump to operate whenever the engine is running. This is why the pump will make a whining noise in all gears including park and neutral.

Plugged Filter or Pump Noise?

A restricted or clogged transmission filter will make the same whining noise as a transmission pump. This is important when diagnosing a transmission pump or a torque converter. A transmission pump makes noise in all gears and is directly related to engine speed.

Torque Converter or Pump Noise?

A torque converter will make the most noise when the vehicle is placed in gear and the wheels held stationary. This is because the turbine is held stationary while the housing is spinning from engine rotation (working the bearing); while in park and neutral the noise is gone because the whole unit is spinning. This rattling noise usually decreases as the vehicle begins rolling forward.

Diagnosing a transmission is the same as anything else and often ends up being a process of elimination. Begin with the basics and remember if something is not moving itโ€™s not making a noise. This is important to remember when diagnosing planetary gear sets and the drive train. When a vehicle is placed in drive with the wheels held stationary the entire drive train is also held stationary. This can help in eliminating these items as a potential cause of transmission noise.

Operation of Transmission Valve Body & How to Service it

At the heart of the automatic transmissions hydraulic control system is the valve body. It usually consists of several parts: the separator plate or transfer plate, valves, and the valve body itself. The valve body often consists of two parts, upper and lower separated by a gasket and a separator plate. The valve body is installed onto the transmission as a single unit. It can be constructed of either iron or most likely aluminum.

The different types of valves inside the valve body you will find are:

  • the poppet valve
  • the check ball
  • the spool valve
  • Poppet Valve

    The poppet valve can be a ball or a flat disc. It typically has a stem that acts as a guide for the valves opening or closing. This valve like so many others acts as a port to either block or allow the flow of fluid.

    Check Ball

    A check ball valve sits in a seat in the valve body. It allows or blocks fluid flow according to the direction of its flow. These check balls can be either normally open or closed depending on the application and manufacturer.

    Spool Valve

    The spool valve is the most common valve found in automatic transmissions. They resemble a spool of thread with large areas used to block fluid flow called lands and stemmed areas called valleys. At each end of the valve is located a reaction area. This is the area where fluid pressure, linkage, or a spring acts as a force to activate the valve.

    Servicing an Automatic Transmission Valve Body

    Once removed, the valve body should be cleaned with solvent and should be wiped clean using a lint free cloth only. Clearance between the valve in its bore is typically .001″. If bent, the valve must be replaced. If the valve body’s bore is beyond specifications the valve body is replaced. There are two things that are most common that you’ll find in a worn valve body.

    1. Worn valves and valve bores
    2. Stuck or sticky valves and possibly worn valve body springs

    When cleaning the valves for being sticky I will use emery cloth or Scotch Bright. Then I will take a small piece of the Scotch Bright and wrap around something like the picture shown. Then I can run it with my drill in and out of all the valve bores. It’s almost like cleaning cylinder bores for a re-ring.

    Valve Body Bore ToolValve Body Bore Tool in Drill

    Now, if you see signs of wear on the valves or bores I suggest you look into replacing the valve body or look into valve body update kits. Sonnax makes some really good kits which are way less than replacing the valve body and besides what you will get is most likely the same thing just done by somebody else.

    This post was written by: Martin Hand


    If you find this information helpful please consider a donation. These articles, questions and comments are very time consuming so even a small donation gives me motivation to keep educating automotive owners. Donations will allow us to continue open questioning/comments, automotive education and repair tutorials in the future as the business grows. All proceeds go to the expansion and maintenance Thank You

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    About Martin Hand

    ASE Certified L1 Advanced Mastertech. Martin Hand has over 15 years experience in Asian and European Import Auto Repair. Specializing in electrical diagnosis, engine performance, AT/MT transmission repair/rebuild. Martin is also pursuing a degree in Computers Science & Information Systems starting at Portland Community College while he plans to transfer to OIT. Certified in Java application level programming, experienced with other languages such as PHP, Ruby, JavaScript and Swift. Martin has future plans of automotive diagnostic software development.


    • James says:

      I’ve disassembled my valve body out of a subaru 4eat and I have 1 stuck valve and 2 sticking ones. How abrasive of scotch brite or emery cloth do you use? If you’re suggesting running it on a drill to clean the valve locations that have clearances are around .001″ I would think anything abrasive would bore it out more.

    • Babatunde says:

      Good evening sir, I use mercedez Benz c180 d gear is not changing aside 1 though its get to reverse and I’ve tried to reprogram it which worked for like 4days but for it not to engage again pls what could be d problem though some of d auto mechanic say its d valve body

      • Martin Hand says:

        Check codes first and repair any electronic failures first then look into the valve body, could have a hung up valve or worn valve in the valve body getting blow-by. Check all springs and retaining clips they can break also.

    • Tobi says:

      Hi, I’m currently working on a 2003 ford eacape with a cd4e transmission. Working to replace the 2-4 band. I can’t seem to get the pump out, do. u have to remove the valve body before the pump?

      • Martin Hand says:

        I cannot remember but the valve body needs removed anyways. If you still can’t figure it out I would recommend buying a transmission rebuild manual for that specific transmission

    • Precily says:

      Hello sir lm in need of a detailed diagram of the valve board layout for toyota ist l mistakenly dropped the check balls and now don’t remember were exactly they go .please help .thank you in advance

      • Martin Hand says:

        Sorry I don’t have that diagram. If you study the valve body close enough you’ll see where they go, I do it all the time without a book or diagram. Most of these transmissions are idiot proof so they only go together one way just have to pay close attention to DETAIL.

    • Joseph Reynolds says:

      I have a question that has to do with a Dodge 46re automatic transmission front pump assembly. On the side of the front pump assembly there are three small balls, they look like small ball bearings, are these supposed to rotate? Any help on the matter would be greatly appreciated, thanks!

    • Josh says:

      I have a 93 vette with auto. Transmission car was shifting great Sunday. Went to drive car Monday and it didn’t want to shift into 2nd. So I revved it til it reached 3500 rpm and it shifted into all the gears no prob. Then Tuesday I went to drive car and it would work fine for about 5min. Then when I would come to a complete stop and go to take off it would Rev to 5000 rpm and wouldn’t shift. It wouldn’t shift for about 3miles then out of no where it shifted and rpms went back down seems as if something is sticking. Would you recommend using the Lucas transmission fluid to help fix this issue or is there something more major wrong with the car?

    • ted kilroy says:

      Would like to send a short video of “whining” noise I can hear from the transmission area if you’ll accept it? No liability will be expected from you comments, would like to get an opinion as to whether I have a pump or TC that is going bad.

      • Martin Hand says:

        You can setup the video on YouTube and post the link to comments. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to identify the problem without seeing the vehicle in person but I’ll check it out.

    • Mary says:

      I have a 2006 Hyundai Sonata, that will go forward but will not go in reverse. Whereas I know it would be quite difficult to diagnose my problem I was wondering if you could give me some possible suggestions of what could be my problem?

      • Martin Hand says:

        I’m assuming it’s an automatic transmission? I’m not that familiar with those transmission so wouldn’t know of any common failures. Transmission will most likely need rebuilt but hard to day without seeing the vehicle. I recommend to take it to a reputable transmission repair shop for a diagnosis.

    • James nii aryee says:

      Please i need help from universal motors
      I have jetta4(1.8T)and am facing aproblem with the gearbox when you accelerate the engine speedometter have to move 30to40 before it change th gear please do have any idear of that please help me

      • Martin Hand says:

        VW valve body and AT transmissions are very specialized units. I only recommend to buy a new valve body or transmission from Volkswagen directly. I do not attempt to repair them. The same goes with Volvo AT transmissions.

    • Uzair sserunkuma says:

      Hi, my 1993 Toyota Previa has issues with transmission. It shifts properly from reverse, 1, 2 then it revs high instead of shift to 3, 4, 5.

      But when u power it from start as if ure racing it shifts all gears before slipping or reving high as if in neutral.

      My mechanic changed clutches but didn’t help.

      Any suggestion

    • MrC says:

      The best would be to remove the valve body and wash it in sand, which is plentiful in Botswana. Just fill every nook and cranny with sand, put back on and you should be good to go!

    • mackenzie says:

      I bot a golf 5 gt n it is jerking.wat could b de cause?whr in Botswana can I clean de valve body?

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