2004 Rubicon Transmisson Problem - Jeep Wrangler Forum

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Old 07-17-2010, 02:15 PM   #1
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2004 Rubicon Transmisson Problem

I have done allot of searching but I have not been able to find any possible solutions to my problem.

I have a 5spd NV3550. It shifts fine before the transmission properly warms up. No grinding or resistance just smooth shifts.

After it reaches operating temp the transmission begins to become difficult to take out of gear. It mainly happens in third but I believe it has happened at least once in all gears except maybe reverse. It does not grind or make any noise and seems to shift into gear smoothly.

It is also intermittent. It does not do it every time. I noticed if I hold the RPM when I push in the clutch it seems not to happen. Also if I pull it and it offers resistance and I let go then pull again sometimes it comes out smooth. Sometimes it just doesn’t do it (stick).

I found a Service Bulletin about this problem but I believe it is for 2000 and older models. It says the problem is the detents are not properly greased. I will try what it suggests to see if that fixes the problem but seems like that should be fixed since I have a 2004.

I changed the Trans oil with Pennzoil Synchromesh and it still does it. I also noticed it looks like the Trans fluid had very recently been replaced. It has a new clutch as per the previous owner.

I just bought the jeep a few days ago. The seller says he has never noticed the problem. (Probably lying)

I also found this post on a few websites but it had no replies it was from 2009. It sounds like the same problem.

Quote is from Pirate4X4.com poster is jnowacek
Transmission hard to get OUT of gear -2003 TJ NV3550 (long post) - Pirate4x4.Com Bulletin Board

Transmission hard to get OUT of gear -2003 TJ NV3550 (long post)


Apologies in advance for the long post – this has been a long, drawn out issue…

The particulars:
2003 TJ, 4.0, NV3550 5-speed manual trans, 70k miles (under warranty), 3:73, 31x10.5.

Problem occurs more frequently when outside temps are warm (above 80).

After driving long enough to warm transmission, it is difficult to get the transmission OUT of gear. Just seems to stick in gear and you have to pull hard on the gearshift to get it out of gear.

The problem is intermittent, and can range from only mildly more difficult to shift than usual to having to really yank it to get it out of gear. Occurs primarily coming out of third and fifth gears.

So far, here’s what’s been done to diagnose and fix the issue:

Took it to the dealer. Dealer concludes, after many test drives and calls to the Chrysler tech line, it is a clutch problem, not the transmission, that the close tolerances in the clutch can lead to these symptoms if the clutch does not fully disengage. Suggests I replace the clutch to eliminate that as a cause before they diagnose further (transmission is a warranty part, clutch is not…). I have my doubts about this theory, but I don’t really seem to have a choice. So at my own expense (and with the help of some good friends) I replaced:

clutch disk
pressure plate
throwout bearing
pilot bearing
entire master/slave/hydraulic line assembly (it is all one piece)
turned flywheel
new oil pan and rear main seals

This does not fix the problem. Back to the dealer.

Dealer completely disassembles the transmission, finds one worn out detent. The new theory is that this worn detent was allowing both shift rails to move simultaneously, causing the difficulty shifting. All other transmission internals are in perfect shape.

Dealer reassembles transmission, replacing worn detent and one other detent for good measure, along with many of the bearings and the shift forks. Within a few weeks I took a road trip, the weather had warmed up and the transmission was once again difficult to shift. The problem is still not fixed.

So I take the Jeep back to the dealer. Dealer checks with district manager to see if any other Jeeps have had this issue. District manager says he’s only seen one other example like this and that replacing the transmission in that Jeep with a brand new unit did NOT fix the problem. The district manager has a theory that the issue is related to bellhousing tolerances or some such thing. I have my doubts about this theory as well.

Because of the other Jeep that was not fixed by swapping in a new transmission, the dealer is not willing to replace the transmission in my Jeep. Said the owner of the other Jeep eventually sold it because of this issue. Not an option for me.


Has anyone had a similar issue in their Jeep? If so, what was the diagnosis and what fixed it? Any other theories?
Anyone have any Ideas? Anyone have this problem? I would appreciate any help.

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Old 07-17-2010, 05:24 PM   #2
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My 2000 started the same thing today. I was thinking crap I don't want to get a new tranny already . Maybe some of the smarter people on here can chime in with advise.

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Old 07-18-2010, 02:35 AM   #3
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Interesting problem -
If you hadn't said they replaced a whole tranny and it didn't go away, I'd guess too much endplay on the mainshaft.

A dragging clutch would make it hard to shift INTO gear, not so much OUT.

A side pressure on the input shaft (misalignment) might cause it - I've never seen it make it hard to shift out though.

A tolerance problem with the bellhousing is a possible. The bolt holes - engine to bellhousing - are slightly bigger than the bolts - that gives it a few thousandths of tolerance. When the bellhousing was bolted on, it may have gone on slightly misaligned.

Try something - put a jack under the bellhousing and raise the jack slightly. No need to disconnect any mounts. The idea is to take the weight off the trans mount - putting it into a "neutral" state, but not stretching it up either.

The engine is supported in the front, the tranny is supported in the back - picture the center trying to sag. You want to just take the sag out.

Loosen the bellhousing to engine bolts - all of them - just loose enough so the bellhousing can shift position a tad - so it's straighter.

Retighten the bolts.

Do the same thing with the trans to bellhousing bolts - just enough to "neutralize" the stress.


It's also possible the bellhousing and the engine are not perfectly aligned - machining error on either the bellhousing or engine. I don't remember if there are dowel pins between them on a Jeep, probably. Offset dowelpins are available. The trick is to know how much and to what position.

Be sure to let us know if it helps.
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Old 07-18-2010, 06:23 AM   #4
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Old 12-06-2012, 12:16 PM   #5
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I don['t know if you ever got an answer. My 2003 Rubicon had the same problem. I went through a similar thing with the clutch but I went outside of the dealer. The repair shop said nothing was wrong with my clutch. The dealership replaced the transmission oil and it did it even worse. I took it back and whatever they did fixed the problem. They didn't have it long enough to drop the tranny ( an hour or two at most) so I don't know what they did. The only thing I can figure is they added an additive or lubricated something.
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Old 12-06-2012, 04:13 PM   #6
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That sounds like a classic case of the transmisson input shaft wobbling around for whatever reason. Never had a jeep tranny out but the stuff we work on has a small brass bushing the input shaft rides in and it will wear out of round. Exact same symptoms to a T.

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