Do you have a Leaking Gearbox?

If your Fairway doesn’t pull along like it used to, or it’s not getting the top speeds that you hear other owners boasting about, then there’s a good chance the auto gearbox has something to do with it!

In my case, the acceleration was very poor, the car was barely getting above 50mph on a flat road and it was taking a boot full of revs to get the thing moving over my gravel driveway.

If you notice a few drops of red/brown oil left on the ground when you leave a parking space then, like me, you’ve probably got a leaky gearbox. My gearbox leak is slow, but after two years of being off the road, enough fluid had leaked out that meant the gearbox wasn’t transferring much power to the wheels.

In this case, the gearbox oil needs topping up and if you have time you can easily change the old oil at the same time.


Draining the Gearbox Oil

Since I have never changed the gearbox oil in my Fairway, I decided to give it a go. At the same time I made sure I restored the correct level of fluid so the gearbox worked as it should.

The process is fairly straightforward and requires little more than a 19mm spanner for the oil plug, something to catch the old oil in (around 4 litres) and some new gearbox fluid to fill the thing back up with – Dexron II or Dexron III is suitable.

Firstly, jack up the front of the taxi or drive it onto some ramps so you can get access to the gearbox. The oil plug is on the bottom of the sump (not to be mistaken with the engine oil plug which is further forward).

fairway taxi gearbox oil plug
Looking forward at the gearbox oil sump, you can see the oil plug on the right hand side.

Put a tray or bucket beneath the sump then remove the plug with a 19mm spanner or wrench. Mine was done up very tightly and required the use of a breaker bar to get it loose. About half of the old oil will drain out of the sump, which is around 3 or 4 litres (the total capacity of the gearbox is 7 litres according to the manual). The remainder stays in the torque converter and doesn’t drain. If you want to flush the whole system then repeat this entire process again.

fairway taxi oil drain
The old gearbox oil draining from the sump. Almost chocolate like in colour!

In my case the oil was a chocolate like colour and had a burnt smell, suggesting it hadn’t been changed for a while. If the oil was black or much darker there would be cause for concern and may suggest a more significant problem with the gearbox. The new oil which goes in is a cherry colour and smells fresh.

fairway taxi gearbox oil
A sample of the old oil on the left, the new Dexron III fluid on the right.

Having drained the old oil, now would be a great time to remove the gearbox sump and change the filter and gasket. I don’t have either of these parts to hand so this is a job for the future – I’m mainly interested in getting the car moving like it used to!

Filling the Gearbox Oil

Assuming your gearbox wasn’t overfilled before you drained it, fill the gearbox back up with the same amount of new oil. You’ll find the filling hole and dipstick hidden away between the blower and the rear of the engine block. It’s quite low down so you may have to stand on the bumper to get to it.

Reading the level of the gearbox oil requires a warm engine. Even though the dipstick has a ‘COLD’ range on it, this is inaccurate and you’ll find this significantly overreads compared to a warm reading.

Run the engine at idle for 2-3 minutes, then with the handbrake applied, alternate between 1st Gear and Reverse leaving ten seconds each time. This will prime the gearbox and give you an accurate reading within the ‘HOT’ range of the dipstick.

If you’re doing a straightforward oil change, there should already be the correct level of fluid because you’ve refilled with the same amount.

If there still isn’t enough fluid, or you’re not sure if the dipstick has old or new oil on it, a great place to look is inside the lower of the convex bumps on the dipstick. This area doesn’t drag up any of the fluid which you’ve just poured down the filling tube so if it’s still dry then keep gradually filling up the oil. Remember to reprime the gearbox each time you recheck the level and repeat as necessary. Once the oil is clearly on the inside of the lower bump, you can add small amounts to bring the oil level within the two lines of the HOT range.

In my case, I needed an extra 1.5 litres of oil! With some relief, the gearbox was now working as it used to. I haven’t taken it for a drive on the road, but I could tell just by running up and down the driveway that it had much better acceleration than before.

20 COMMENTS

  1. Great help thanks. My gearbox was playing up and stuck in first. Followed your instructions and I now have gears. Mind has been converted to a wedding car and is on a wedding tomorrow. Phew!! Thanks again

    • Have a decommissioned 08′ TX4 and just had the AA attend as the EML came on and gears weren’t engaging properly. Turned out there was zero transmission fluid!
      Guy had no idea what to do with these and we just followed your directions at the roadside! Thanks

      • Hi Aljerome,

        Thanks for your message! So glad the instructions were of some help. I noticed you posted this at 12:24am – hopefully you weren’t stuck at the roadside at such an unsociable time!

        Tone

  2. Afternoon.
    I have an 07 plate TX4 auto.
    I need to top up the oil. Do you know what is the correct oil that I should use?
    Normally I just use my local Halfords so it ideally needs to be a common oil.
    Thanks

    • Hi Paul,

      Thanks for your comment, I believe you’d be perfectly fine using Dexron II or III in your TX4 automatic gearbox.

      If your shopping in Halfrauds you’re unlikely to get any Dexron, so look for any Semi-Synthetic auto gearbox or power steering fluid.

      Good luck,
      TT

    • Hi Dan,

      I’ve just updated this post with two photos which may help you out! It’s certainly a little tricky to find. Have a look directly behind the air filter, and below the heater. It’s quite low down.

      The filler and the dipstick are one and the same I’m afraid – you’ll need a small funnel to get the fluid in.

      Thanks,
      Tone

  3. Only about 2 Litres drained from mine, but reading the dipstick to refill is difficult as the stick picks up the oil in the tube, think I’ll check it when it’s all run down the tube over night. Definitely needs more than the 2 litres of new oil though

    • Yeah it’s certainly not a surprise that you need a bit more to get it up to the correct level – these gearboxes leak like nothing else!

      When you do the filling up to find the right level, get the engine running for 10 minutes so it’s warm. Fill the gearbox with 500ml or so of fluid at a time and cycle the gears through from R to N a couple of times, this will get the fluid moving and you’ll find you only need to wait 5 minutes or so before the oil in the filling tube dissipates.

      Tone

  4. Hi do you know of a kick down cable for a 1991 Fairway taxi gear box or do you know where I could purchase one. I have tried so taxi part companies, but no one has one available. I have a car with one that is working, but not sure if it’s easy to take off and if so whether it has to be adjusted to a certain setting when replacing.
    Any info would be very much appreciated. I know you can get one made, but a bit reluctant to take it off the other car I have in case it causes a problem refitting it.

    Many thanks

    Simon.

    • Hi Simon,

      Sorry for not replying sooner – I’ve only just seen your message.

      Did you get your kick down cable sorted? As far as I know, the only kickdown function of the Fairway is a little switch on the back of the accelerator with a connector which runs to the transmission – I have mine disconnected as I find the kickdown too sensitive and have never really needed it.

      You could try and make one up yourself, I’m not sure what the connector is though which goes into the transmission? Maybe you could let me know if you have got a second?

      Cheers,
      Tone

  5. Finally got my tx2 on the road. First thing i done when i got the cab was service the auto box. Since getting her on the road i’ve noticed two things one is reverse slips and judders very badly worse when warm. I’ve had it once where it gets stuck in first gear and then have to switch to neutral then drive to rectify. Also she seems really slow and sluggish and then some days it feels like a rocket. Check the oil and it was up to the max however its turned brown even though i service the gearbox with a new filter. My first thought was maybe it was old fluid mixed with the new fluid so i’ve changed the oil again and no difference. It has also turned brown again. If im not mistaken does this mean that the fluid has overheated at some point. Its not black or has a burnt smell which would mean the gearbox is on its last legs. Any idea? Guessing it may need a box rebuild.

    • Hi Nathan,

      I’m no transmission expert, but if you’ve changed the oil and filter and it’s still being sluggish, it could well be a bigger issue. It’s normal for the oil to turn a bit brown, as you say, as long as it’s not black or burnt smelling then it should be ok.

      Would recommend taking it to a gearbox guy for further investigation.

      All the best,

      Tone

      • Cheers for the reply Tone

        Think the best thing is to take it to a specialist whilst i do have a full manual about the gearbox i don’t really fancy taking it apart myself as it all looks terribly complicated and i’ll only make the issue worse. It is weird that some days it feels really snappy and will overtake cars with ease and cruise on the motorway at 70 mph and then other days i’m really struggling to hit 50 mph.
        My initial thought was that the clutches were worn but as mentioned usually the fluid would turn black and have a burnt odour

        Will take her to a auto box specialist in the new year.

      • So finally got round to sorting out the gearbox

        Took her to an auto box specialist who are really good at what they do and initially he said it’s common on them for the radiators to fail causing the water to mix with the gearbox oil as thus causing them to break up and fail which happened in my case so something to watch out for as its the same gearbox fitted to the fairway however not sure if the rad is different.

        So the end result was TX2 – 1 – My wallet – 0 £2500 later she has a fully recon box fitted to her and a new radiator. Just thought i’d share my experience to help others

  6. Thanks Tone, Spent 1/2 hour trying to find auto dipstick now know where it is. I have a problem priming the gearbox-The cab is stuck in the garage and won’t move, I am assuming it;s an empty gearbox as the cab hasn;t moved fot 10 years!! The engine starts but I will be dead with carbon Monoxide poisoning before I get to the first prime!!!

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