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Flight-o-matic Transmission locking up when shifting from low to high!

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  • Transmission / Overdrive: Flight-o-matic Transmission locking up when shifting from low to high!

    Been awhile since I have posted, but I just had a pretty good scare, so I thought this would be a good place to sound off. I was moving the cars around so the lubricants would get a work-out and the tires get a little rotation, so the first one I took around the block was my '57 Hawk (blocks here are about two miles around). About the point it was supposed to shift from low to high, the rear-end locked up and sent me sliding sideways! I never lost control, but almost came to a complete stop; it started rolling again (as if it downshifted into low). So, I immediately stopped, checked underneath, forward backward, no problems. Back in drive again, smooth takeoff and again - when it was about to shift into high - rear lockup again! Same scenario. So I kept it in low and limped back home. Has anyone ever had that problem on one of these flight-o-matics? Thank you in advance for your inputs.

  • #2
    Well, the Flightomatic has second-gear start, unless you have converted it. I am guessing that the second-gear clutch is staying applied when the direct-drive clutch kicks in. Putting it in manual Low, which is the true first-speed gear, would prevent that happening.

    I'd suggest you check the fluid, idling warm in Drive, and if it is low, add some Dexron II. You might also add a can of Trans-X transmission conditioner. Drive the car until the transmission is well and truly warmed up, allowing the fluid (and conditioner, should you use it) to circulate and work on any gummed-up valves. Drive at least 5-10 miles. Then carefully try the automatic upshift again. You might get lucky. If it works OK, I'd suggest that you drain the fluid, install new, and drive it a few more miles before storing the car again.
    Gord Richmond, within Weasel range of the Alberta Badlands

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    • #3
      My shift indicator has P-N-D-L-R, so that is what I was going by when I say low to high (being Drive); I had forgotten - or simply never knew - it started in 2nd (this is my first Studebaker); that makes it the same as my '55 Mercury with Merc-O-Matic. The fluid has been changed using Type A; that was about 6 months ago before I parked it.

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      • #4
        At what speed, and how light/hard was the gas pedal pressure?? . Sounds like the throttle pressure may be off and it went back into Low-- Which is low enough to lock 'em up....buck, skid and shutter to a stop.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by carussell View Post
          My shift indicator has P-N-D-L-R, so that is what I was going by when I say low to high (being Drive); I had forgotten - or simply never knew - it started in 2nd (this is my first Studebaker); that makes it the same as my '55 Mercury with Merc-O-Matic. The fluid has been changed using Type A; that was about 6 months ago before I parked it.
          Where did you get Type A fluid? Most any Type A produced in the last 20 - 30 years or so is junk (may be just colored kerosene). Get it all drained first thing and, replace it with Dexron II. Also, the torque converter has a drain plug so be sure to drain it (just rotate the torque converter until you see a pipe plug in the hole in the housing centered on the bottom).
          Last edited by 53k; 01-28-2013, 12:03 PM.
          Paul Johnson, Wild and Wonderful West Virginia.
          '64 Daytona Wagonaire, '64 Avanti R-1, Museum R-4 engine, '72 Gravely Model 430 with Onan engine

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          • #6
            I would be tempted to jack the rear off the ground, support the axle on jack stands, and run it up to see how it shifts without putting it on the road. Have you tried that? In fact, if you do the warm up as suggested above, how about doing it with the wheels off the ground.

            So far, I have been fortunate to not have this kind of problem. I usually do my best learning by forcing myself to solve problems. Until then, the things I have not had problems with...work by some mysterious magic. Sometimes, I break things while studying the mysterious magic...but...I usually learn valuable "stuff" and unlock the mystery in the process.
            John Clary
            Greer, SC

            SDC member since 1975

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            • #7
              All Studebaker automatics are 3-speeds. The indicator being P-N-D-L-R is misleading, if you put the car in 'D' it will start in second gear and upshift to 3rd. If you put the car in 'L' it will start in first and upshift to 2nd. Hope this helps.

              Joe

              Originally posted by carussell View Post
              My shift indicator has P-N-D-L-R, so that is what I was going by when I say low to high (being Drive); I had forgotten - or simply never knew - it started in 2nd (this is my first Studebaker); that makes it the same as my '55 Mercury with Merc-O-Matic. The fluid has been changed using Type A; that was about 6 months ago before I parked it.
              sigpic

              1962 Daytona
              1964 Cruiser
              And a few others

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              • #8
                Originally posted by irish View Post
                All Studebaker automatics are 3-speeds. The indicator being P-N-D-L-R is misleading, if you put the car in 'D' it will start in second gear and upshift to 3rd. If you put the car in 'L' it will start in first and upshift to 2nd. Hope this helps.

                Joe
                To my knowledge, there is no upshift from 1st to 2nd when in L position (mine does not). I do understand that in D position it starts in 2nd and shifts to 3rd (which mine normally does), just not this go 'round. Again, that shift sequence is the same as the Merc-O-Matic in my '55 Monterey.

                Clarification: P-R-N-D-L is the indicator reading on my '55 Mercury with Merc-O-Matic; if you put the car in 'D' it will start in 2nd gear and upshift to 3rd, same as the Studebaker with Flight-O-Matic.
                Last edited by carussell; 01-28-2013, 02:15 PM. Reason: Clarification

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by 53k View Post
                  Where did you get Type A fluid? Most any Type A produced in the last 20 - 30 years or so is junk (may be just colored kerosene). Get it all drained first thing and, replace it with Dexron II. Also, the torque converter has a drain plug so be sure to drain it (just rotate the torque converter until you see a pipe plug in the hole in the housing centered on the bottom).
                  I get the Type "A" ATF fluid from O'Reilly's, but almost any of the major parts stores will order it in for you on request. I put the same fluid in my '55 Mercury Monterey with similar Merc-O-Matic transmission and it works just fine (and that is the recommended fluid). I seriously suspect it is not fluid related; a sticking valve perhaps, but not fluid.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by jclary View Post
                    I would be tempted to jack the rear off the ground, support the axle on jack stands, and run it up to see how it shifts without putting it on the road. Have you tried that? In fact, if you do the warm up as suggested above, how about doing it with the wheels off the ground.

                    So far, I have been fortunate to not have this kind of problem. I usually do my best learning by forcing myself to solve problems. Until then, the things I have not had problems with...work by some mysterious magic. Sometimes, I break things while studying the mysterious magic...but...I usually learn valuable "stuff" and unlock the mystery in the process.
                    I have not tried that - but I must say - I do not like the free-floating idea; perhaps a dyno would work better? I have access to one of those. Thanks for the input though.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by (S) View Post
                      At what speed, and how light/hard was the gas pedal pressure?? . Sounds like the throttle pressure may be off and it went back into Low-- Which is low enough to lock 'em up....buck, skid and shutter to a stop.
                      Pedal pressure was moderate as I was trying to feel the shift and not push it (I had not driven it in months). Throttle pressure could be off, so that's a thought. I was going between 30 and 40 mph when it locked.

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                      • #12
                        Okay. Fluid was a little low, so I let it warm and added more, went through the gears and level was fine. Took it out for a drive in L (low) up to 40mph, no problems. Stopped and put it in D (Drive) and when I attained between 30 and 40 mph - presumably at shift point - rear-end locks up (mine's a posi-trac), tires screech and smoke , I get sideways in the road. Luckily I'm in a rural area with minimal traffic (none today). It became apparent to me that it IS NOT just shifting down to low but completely locking up; perhaps as if going in reverse and a forward gear at the same time! It will not go back on the road until this is resolved! Too dangerous!
                        Last edited by carussell; 01-28-2013, 04:59 PM. Reason: spelling correction

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                        • #13
                          Fluid problem...no..! Hydraulic fluid is hydraulic fluid. Modern fluid is fine, no matter what brand or grade...! Even the $2.00 will work...though I wouldn't use it..!
                          Shift problem...no. That shifting method is fine, I do it all the time.

                          BUT......you may not have been going fast enough..! If you aren't going the "normal" speed (rpm) for the trans. to shift normally, it WILL, shift into second when you move the lever from first to second and back again, then slam back into first.........ask me how I know..!
                          And saying this, depending on your actual speed, it could very well "lock" up the tires...but in actuallity you were just in that transition area of the trans. wanting to be in both gears at the same time..the "shift" rpm...and at the speed you were going, shifting suddinly back into first, "seemed" like it was locking up, but was actually just slammed back into first gear, till the speed was reduced suffecintly to "unlock" things, or in actuallity, was a good rpm for first gear to be in.

                          Another possibility, the trans. didn't "fully" make the shift as you asked it to. You need to hold the second gear position for a split second longer.

                          I know some of this sounds kind of convoluted, but having been thru it before, you should be fine.
                          Next time, just let the engine go a few more rpm higher before shifting. When I use first gear, I normally shift between 3000/3500rpm for what it may be worth.

                          Mike

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                          • #14
                            I respectfully disagree. You have a very dangerous situation. It is going into reverse somehow from what you are describing. That's what happens when the reverse band is engaged and the control body is suspose to be directing fluid toward the other gears/bands. Thankfully you have not wrecked the car or yourself. Long time ago I test drove an Avanti. The trans lever detent for reverse was defective. Made the shift from 2 to 3 and it was all over the road at 45 miles per hour. A miracle it didn't turn over. I've been in that seat you were in and "terror" is a better word to descibe it.

                            Replace or rebuild the transmission IMO.
                            Start and Stage Your Studebakers

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                            • #15
                              Check the band adjustments. It sounds like maybe one might not be releasing and or applying the way they should. Do you have a shop manual? When my flightomatic went south, it was very good at helping me pin point the problem.
                              1962 Champ

                              51 Commander 4 door

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