Hold my Coffee ! another manual transmission swap thread

#1
I bought a used '94 E350 7.3idi van four years ago to use as my race support van/motocycle hauler. it's an extended van, so after installing a conversion van rear seat/sleeper it is now the perfect vehicle to do this. I can camp out/sleep on race weekends and have plenty of room for up to 3 motorcycles and gear. I have driven it to many races in California/Nevada/Arizona over the years and several camp outings and discovered things that I love and hate about it. One of the things I have a love hate relation ship with, is the E4OD transmission, which is pretty standard in these vans.

I originally selected this particular van, is because I wanted a simple/reliable power plant. having had some experience with 6.9/7.3l idi diesels in the past in F-250 trucks, I was excited to find a van with it. what I didn't realize at the time, is that the E4OD is computer controlled and it needs a TCM (transmission controller module) to make it shift properly. while the IDI diesels does not need a computer itself, it has now has several sensors, like TPS, RPM, VSS, MSPS, etc... that all need to work properly, before the transmission will work well. with this being older technology, there are various connectors which like to leak/corrode and otherwise fail on these. another thing, even when things are working well, the E4OD likes to hunt in the mountain switching between 2-3-O/D, never really being very happy, unless I override it with the shift selector. the final straw, is that it likes to over heat when you go slow with some load, like crawling up hills, which I discovered after installing a locker and doing some off roading with it.

I could go on and tell the story about how I spent two months trying to track down an intermittent starting issue, which turned out to be a bad connector on the transmission to the manual shift position sensor, which has the "neutral" safety switch circuit that locks out the starter.

Whenever I'm reminded of these shortcomings, I keep dreaming about having a manual transmission, and have been planning on how I could do a swap on this van. Being a 4th gen van '93-, there was never a factory option for a manual transmission, so I figured it would be an ordeal and have been holding off. after reading a couple of van manual transmission swap threads on here by VANMAN and naterry, I got inspired and got started on a swap.
 
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Bikersmurf

Expedition Leader
#2
Where is the manual shift position sensor located? I had an intermittent start issue for the first year or so... it would not start till I gave the dash a thump and then it work again. I chased a number of problems, and I've not had trouble with it for a long time... In fact a few years... but in case it does It'd help to know where else to look.

I'd also love to have a standard, but since my shift knee is FUBAR I'll have to stick with the E4OD and make the best of it.

I'm looking forward to following your build.
 
#3
Where is the manual shift position sensor located? I had an intermittent start issue for the first year or so... it would not start till I gave the dash a thump and then it work again. I chased a number of problems, and I've not had trouble with it for a long time... In fact a few years... but in case it does It'd help to know where else to look.

I'd also love to have a standard, but since my shift knee is FUBAR I'll have to stick with the E4OD and make the best of it.

I'm looking forward to following your build.
The shift position sensor is on the left side of the transmission, where the shift selector is. the sensor is a plate looking thing that slips on the shaft and on the older E4ODs, the connector comes out the top and collects water, which corrodes the contacts. I have had to replace the sensor and the connector in the harness over time. also, water can get into the sensor and corrode the contacts in there as well. if you wanted to by-pass the neutral safety switch, you could find the two wires in the harness near the connector and just short them together. there is also an ignition switch module, under the dash, which can go bad. I had to replace the key lock cylinder on mine, because it was worn and lose and sometimes wouldn't move the switch module properly.

at one time, I had thought about getting an after market computer for the E4OD, and then using paddles to manually shift it up/down, it eould improve driveability, but the reliability issues would be the same.

I also considered make a hand control clutch (like a T handle on the shifter), because I didn't want to deal with installing s foot pedal under the dash. there are some companies that make various hand control devices to activate the clutch pedal for impaired people who can't use their foot.
 
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#4
I had been complaining about my dilemma to a friend at work, who is actually very knowledgeable about cars. we both had fathers who were in the automotive business one way or another, but yet ended up being electronics people ourselves. we discussed several approaches over time, but what really triggered the swap was after I had installed a truetrac locker in the rear and had taken the van off road and noticed that the E4OD didn't really have a very good ratio in 1st gear for doing slow crawling. it would overheat and the O/D light would flash until I let it cool down.

I found a low mileage ZF5 with transfer case on the local FB market place for a very reasonable price and promptly ordered a "universal" clutch pedal kit from JEGS and a master cylinder form wilwood with remote reservoir. IMG_20181102_163149279s.jpg
IMG_20181102_163157537s.jpg

since I felt that doing the clutch pedal fitment was going to be a big deal, I started on it right away. besides, I can still drive the van, even with the clutch pedal installed, since I like driving it to work.

first I removed every unnecessary bracket under the dash and moved the fuse box. then used my saws-all to hack off the brake pedal.

IMGP0116s.JPG
then I fab'ed some brackets and cut the universal pedal frame to clear a diecast bracket under the dash. this was time consuming and took a couple of trial and error attempts to get it right.
IMGP0135s.JPG
IMG_20181104_112619040s.jpg

IMG_20181104_112642300s.jpg
it's not perfect, but I figure it's a good first attempt. once I finish the swap and drive it for a bit, I can always change it if I don't like the ergonomics. for now, it feels pretty comfortable.

next, trying to figure out the transmission....
 

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Raul

Adventurer
#5
I love this project. Looking forward to the updates.

The think that kept me from doing this on my 2010 5.4 was not knowing the effects of removing the transmission inputs to the engine computer.

I didn't realized how offset the brake pedal was, it doesn't look out of place once you cut it.
 
#6
I love this project. Looking forward to the updates.

The think that kept me from doing this on my 2010 5.4 was not knowing the effects of removing the transmission inputs to the engine computer.

I didn't realized how offset the brake pedal was, it doesn't look out of place once you cut it.
yeah, not sure. I think if you have a separate TCM, from the ECU, then it's pretty easy. however, if the ECU also controls the auto transmission, you might need to swap the ECU from a truck with the same engine but manual. I live in California, so I'm hesitant to make any changes to a vehicle that requires smog inspection (like swapping ECUs), because it's a hassle, when it fails.

I might be getting a '97 E-250 with a gas motor (5.4 I think) at some point, and I'm not sure if I would attempt a M/T swap on it. on something like that, I might consider a referee'd diesel P/S swap first, before anything else.
 

Raul

Adventurer
#7
It is the whole needs vs wants and the amount of effort you can allocate. I never owned a vehicle with auto transmission except for the two van I've own. I like the idea of having a manual van, but, in my case, the amount of effort, having the auto tranny rebuild for the 4x4 conversion and the amount of mile I drive doesn't justify the swap. It won't be the first time I do things that do not make sense, but I'll hold for now while enjoying your build.
 
#8
I feel your pain, my 94 idi diesel is a banks turbo with a e4od transmission. I have a love/hate relationship but ever since I fixed the speedometer it’s been 2000 miles of driving heaven!

When mine was acting up if I could have found/afford a manual shift it would have been converted......now I’m kinda glad I have a auto so nice in stop and go traffic.
 
#9
It is the whole needs vs wants and the amount of effort you can allocate. I never owned a vehicle with auto transmission except for the two van I've own. I like the idea of having a manual van, but, in my case, the amount of effort, having the auto tranny rebuild for the 4x4 conversion and the amount of mile I drive doesn't justify the swap. It won't be the first time I do things that do not make sense, but I'll hold for now while enjoying your build.
well said. everyone's need/want ratio is likely to be slightly different for everyone. I tend to overthink things like this, e.g. do I leave it alone (i.e. no mods, since it works well enough), TTB vs. SAS vs. 2WD, A/T vs. M/T, E4OD vs. C6, IDI vs. P/S, etc...

for me, the important things are having a reliable motovan/chase vehicle for racing, which gets good mileage, that I enjoy driving to the point that prefer it for my work commute as well. I get immense satisfaction purchasing older vehicles, doing the proper maintenance/useful mods and then driving them as long as possible. I typically, keep my vehicle as stock as possible and often back out silly mods that previous owners have done. I'm sure from a economic stand point a M/T swap makes no sense in this van, and I might regret it. but, it's a learning opportunity and I like challenges. what do they say "idle hands are the devil's tool/workshop." or something like that...
 
#10
I feel your pain, my 94 idi diesel is a banks turbo with a e4od transmission. I have a love/hate relationship but ever since I fixed the speedometer it’s been 2000 miles of driving heaven!

When mine was acting up if I could have found/afford a manual shift it would have been converted......now I’m kinda glad I have a auto so nice in stop and go traffic.
oh, I can totally relate to that. the badness sort of creeps up on you with this transmission to the point that it doesn't shift right at all, and then you pull the codes to figure out what's wrong and fix the sensor (BTW, I have also fixed my speedometer module on mine at some point) and then everything is really happy and it's soooooo nice when it shifts nice and at the proper points... typically for another 10k miles or something... lol if I'd never have any problems with it, I would live with the gear ratio and never consider a M/T swap.
 
#12
it's easy to get lost in the variants of the ZF transmission for the IDI and PS diesel. there are the 5-speed S5-42 and S5-47 and the S6-65. the bell housing is integrated and so there are versions for the 6.9/7.3l IDI or PS dieseland for gas motors. there are also different versions depending on the speedometer interface, gear ratio spreads (generally wide and close ratio) and whether they are for 2WD or 4WD application. this site has an overview of the different part numbers and applications. the part number, gear ration spread is found on a plate on the left side of the transmission above the PTO port (more on that later).

http://rebuiltzftransmission.net/rebuilt-zf-transmission-models.html

the 4WD variants have bolt on transfer cases and require tank modificationin the van, since the stock tank extends too far forward and interferes with the transfer case. Ujoint Off Road has a gas tank kit and will sell you aftermarket gas tanks that will fit the transfer case on a Van. if you go the shortened gas tank route, there is an aprox. 3gal. loss in capacity. other options include converting to a rear gas tank, which come in different varieties from Ford and after market. one cool rear tank swap, is the 38gal or 55gal tank from the cutaway van version. rear tanks involve removing the spare tire assembly and possibly removing a cross member on the extended version. it's a good idea to use frame mounted electric fuel pump when moving the tank back, since the mechanical fuel pump on the IDI diesels will have a hard time pulling fuel from the tank initially if there is air in the fuel line.

one note about transfer cases. there are (of course), two basic options. electric or manual activation, the manual cases would require cutting an extra hole in the floor board for the selector, while the electric cases only need a switch.

as mentioned, the gear ratios vary on these transmissions. in general, they are as follows for the diesel version (I put the E4OD ratios in there for comparison) :


E4OD S5-42 S5-47 S6-650
1st 2.71 4.14 5.08 5.79
2nd 1.54 2.37 2.60 3.3
3rd 1.00 1.42 1.53 2.1
4th 0.71 1.00 1.00 1.31
5th 0.77 0.77 1.00
6th 0.72


the transmission I was able to get is a S5-42 4WD with a BW1356 transfer case. my van is not 4WD and I'm on the fence whether I want to do a conversion in the future or not. If I install the 4WD transmission now, I can still drive the van in 2WD, but have to make the tank mod. another option, is to find a driveshaft emergency/parking brake from a SuperDuty, which bolts in place of the transfer case, effectively turning the 4WD transmission into a 2WD. this option would allow me to convert to a 4WD at a later date, by doing the tank mod and then replacing the ebrake with a transfer case, while the transmission stays in the van. here is what the ebrake looks like.

IMG_20181109_064256129.jpg
 
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#13
OK, let's look at the gear ratios in more detail. I calculated the speed for max. torque (1800rpm) and max. HP (3000rpm) for the 7.3l IDI. I use stock tire size (30.5") and have a 3.53:1 differential. the overdrive ratios are slightly different between the E4OD and the S5-42 I have. Because the S5-42 is higher (shorter), I should be able to stay in overdrive at lower speed on the hills (i.e. max. torque), before having to down shift, when I'm in direct (3rd on the E4OD and 4th on the S5-42), the speeds are the same, once I drop out of direct, the jump to the next lower gear isn't as severe on the S5-42, as it is on the E4OD, so overall I should be hunting less in the mountains. besides, the organic computer (me) is likely to be less annoyed, since I'm in charge of the shift points... always a bonus for my passengers.


S5-42 1800 3000
4.14 11.0 18.5
2.37 19.3 32.2
1.42 32.3 53.8
1.00 45.9 76.4
0.77 59.6 99.3



E4OD 1800 3000
2.71 16.9 28.2
1.54 29.8 49.6
1.00 45.9 76.4
0.71 64.6 107.6


another note, however, I have no real data to substantiate this. for commercial/industrial diesel engines the manufacturer provides graphs/data for the fuel consumption. one of these show the specific fuel consumption (SFC) for various loads and RPM, which is expressed as the amount of fuel needed to make 1HP for an hour. there is a sweet spot for diesel engines where the SFC is the lowest, this is the most efficient operating point. the reason large trucks have so many gears (e.g. 18), is so that they can select a gear for a particular driving condition/load, that puts the motor in the sweet spot. for a 4000 mile cross country haul, even a few percent fuel efficiency at some target speed, is money in the bank.

I don't know where the sweet spot is on the 7.3l IDI, but best guess it's about 200rpm above max. torque, which puts it at 2000rpm. this works out to be about 70mph on the E4OD, but at this point, the wind load is pretty high. I was getting 18mph at 70mpg, 20 at 65mpg and 21 at 60mph on the highway. it will be interesting what the economy will be like with the S5-42, since the sweet spot is now at approx 65mph, and the wind loading should be 15% less at 65mph, than at 70mph (square law). 65mph, seems to be a comfortable speed in this van, and it would be nice to get a little better mileage there.
 
#14
Ujoint probably has a stack of those E brake housings that bolt to the 4wd tail housing. E450 ambulances probably came with them.... id bet they're stored upstairs and to the right....
 
#15
You will like the ZF5..see my post....I love it...and dumped the E4OD for the reasons you listed...and over the years I had ALL the E4OD issues.....easier install on mine (1990) because I found a clutch pedal assembly..that fit my van...your's I don't believe EVER came with a manual tranny like the 1975-91 vans....

Mountains...YEAH maybe a little better split between gears BUT...I still plan on putting in a gear splitter ( would prefer an older US gear Overdrive unit but may put in a gear vendors if I have to....for the gear spliting ability)
 
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