Swapping 545RFE...lessons learned - JeepForum.com
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post #1 of 37 Old 02-25-2019, 11:09 AM Thread Starter
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Swapping 545RFE...lessons learned

So this past weekend's weather was going to be bright and sunny, all of my parts had come in during the week for the spare trans, and like the ambitious idiot I am, I decided it would be a great plan to drop one transmission and swap it out for another! (Maybe I shouldn't drink as much when making life-alternating decisions...)

Well, here is my list of lessons learned when removing and replacing a 545RFE transmission:

1) Do not think you can do this in one day! Ain't gonna happen! (At least not by yourself... see note below)

2) Get help from friends, relatives, neighbors, the homeless guy living behind your house...anybody!
I jumped the gun on this process because of the warm weather this weekend. I had planned it for either one of the next two weekends and was lining up friends to help. Unfortunately, nobody was available this weekend! My abs and core got a tremendous workout over two days because there is a lot of ups/downs getting tools, parts, etc. I'm sore in places that have never been sore before!

3) Transmission jack - absolutely the best thing! DO NOT try this without one (IMHO). I went to Lowes/Sunbelt Rentals and pick one up on Saturday morning. 1-day rental over the weekend with turn-in on Monday morning. Cost me $42.33 and I got to use it for two days. Let me rephrase that... I needed it for two days! (this wasn't a quick process by myself...)
With help from friends, you might be able to do this with a regular floor jack, but keep in mind the 545RFE trans w/ transfer case is almost 4 feet long and not well balanced. Even with the trans jack and chains, the thing still rolled over on it's side when I was trying to pull it out from under the Jeep! And during this process I used both of the floor jacks I currently have, along with the trans jack!


4a) Getting the exhaust out of the way... This was the beginning of my nightmare! When under the Jeep, the Y-pipe going up the 4.7L manifolds doesn't look very intimidating. Until you actually try to get the bolts out! Drivers side is easy and very visible with plenty of room. Passenger side...not so much. The bolts on the Pass.side are above the starter and trans cooler lines, and they point towards the oil pan! I did find that raising the Jeep up to let the front suspension drop allowed just enough room to fit my smallish-girly hands in the space below the bolts (thank you God for not giving me fat fingers!)

With three 3/8" drive extensions, a swivel, and a 15mm deep socket, I could just get on the bolts and start turning them. I got one loose and was feeling pretty good about myself! WRONG! The 2nd one decided to humble me...
1-1/2 hours later and with the help of a pneumatic die-grinder, I finally got the bolt out! The nuts on top of the manifold flange have a small, flat plate welded to them to keep them from turning when loosening/tightening the bolts (since you can't reach up there with a wrench). This one bolt had apparently been cross-threaded when the PO had new O2 sensors installed.
The plate on the nut bent and the bolt started to spin. Just freaking great, I thought! 2nd part I need to get off the Jeep (and has to be out of the way to get the trans out), and I can't get this thing loose! Luckily, I had just enough room for the die grinder and the bolt lost that war!

4b) - 2nd part of the exhaust, getting the rest of it out of the way. The factory exhaust is three pieces: Y-pipe from the manifolds, catalytic converter center section, and the muffler rear section. Each piece slips into the next and is held with a clamp. Sounds simple, right? HA!
After loosening the clamps, I noticed the clamps had dimpled the sections together. Just go ahead and plan on cutting these sections...
I used my die-grinder (again) to cut slices into these sections. Two or three cuts will allow you to wedge a screwdriver under the metal and pry it open enough to eventually get the pieces separated. I left the muffler section hanging.

5) Driveshafts. Front and rear driveshafts are pretty easy. 8mm socket takes care of most of the bolts, except for the universal joint going into the front diff. Not enough room on the bolts to fit a socket, but Jeep was kind enough to provide bolts with a Torx head in them also (a little forward-thinking by automotive engineers - WOW!). I don't remember the bit size, but they came out easy. Enough said on that topic.

6) Disconnecting electrical connections on the trans. This was pretty straightforward. Besides the O2 sensor connections (2 of which are located on the passenger side of the trans - 2 rear sensors), you have these other connections to deal with: main harness connector (DS), line pressure sensor (PS), front & rear speed sensors (DS). That's it. I tried not to break any of them. I succeeded on that front at least!
As for the wire harness holders alongside the trans (plastic clips), I gave up on trying to save those. I was too frustrated by this time and figured I'd zip-tie everything back into place. You just need something (anything) that will keep the wires from falling down, but even then it's not that critical.

7) Trans cooler lines on PS. Fittings took a 5/8" line wrench. regular wrench should work also as these weren't all that tight.

8) Ear plugs... I know what you're thinking, earplugs for using the die-grinder, right? WRONG! - I can't hear worth a darn anyway. No, I found out a great use for earplugs is for capping off the cooler lines and the vent tube on the transfer case! Roll 'em up and stuff 'em in there! Works great. But if you pull them out once they've soaked up a little bit of oil, they will not roll back up enough to go back in. Just get new ones.


9) Bell housing bolts. There are 6 of them and they are 2 different sizes! (I take that automotive engineer compliment back!) The 4 across the top are 15mm. The two on either side (these come in from the engine side and point towards the rear) are 5/8"... WTF?!? Yeah, I didn't believe it myself, but a 5/8" socket fit them the tightest. Bolt diameter is bigger on these two also.
As for the top two bolts, my advice is to lower the back of the transmission and get as many socket extensions as you can. I used 3 - 8" extensions as that's all that I had, but it worked. With the rear of the trans lowered, this tilts the engine down and allows greater access to these bolts. I didn't figure this out until I was going back in with the transmission (yeah, it's probably that drinking thing again...). Anyway, climbing up on top of the engine to get at those bolts can be done, but it ain't fun! Tilting everything back is SOOOOO much easier!

10) Get the darn thing on the ground! So a bit of transmission info... From the bottom of the pan to the top of the bell housing is 19" (roughly). The trans jack I had adds another 8" to that height, so I needed a total of 27" in order the get the transmission out from under the Jeep. Between the dip in my driveway and the ramps I was using, I had 19"... (here's one of the places where the extra floor jack comes in handy!) I ended up lifting the front of the Jeep off the ramps ( don't try this at home folks...) and I got just enough height to clear.
Then I realized that the chains on the trans jack weren't really as tight as I thought they were as I watched the whole mess roll over on it's side and start puking trans fluid all over my driveway! Whatever.... my attitude at this time was not in a great place, but the trans was out and most of my Saturday was gone!

11) Pulling the transfer case. OMG! that thing is heavy! I'm actually glad I planned to do this after I had the trans on the ground. It is pretty easy to pull off with the trans standing up! Oh, on the bolts holding it in place... There are two at the bottom that sit directly behind the rear transmission mount. You'll need to get that mount out of the way in order to get at those two bolts. I didn't see any other way around this.

12) There is a difference btwn a Jeep & pickup truck 4WD 545RFE! But mainly it's in the rear tail-shaft housing. I didn't catch this until I was pulling the transfer case off and I had the two trans side by side. The tail-shaft housing (or extension) on a Jeep trans is about 2" longer. Not a big deal, but it does mean swapping this part out and having some black RTV on hand to seal everything back up. Clean the surfaces good and get all the fluid residue off!
In the pic below, the Jeep housing is in the foreground, and the p/u housing is behind it.


Going back together time!!!

13) Get everything out of the way! Take some time and get all the hanging harnesses/cables/cooler lines out of your way for putting the trans back in. You can sort of just stuff things here and there to the side or use a liberal amount of zip ties! It just makes things easier when you only have two hands and your using both of those to stuff a big, fat, heavy transmission back into place. It's 10x more complicated if you also have to push wires and stuff out of the way at the same time.

14) Get the dip stick tube in place before hand. I didn't! And I almost had to drop the trans again. I was able to wiggle it back into place from the bottom (it will not go down from the top) with the rear of the trans dropped. It was definitely a pain in the .... well you get the picture. Use plenty of forward thinking, it helps!

Edit to add:
15) Forget what I said in tip 4b above. Just cut the s.o.b. into pieces!
Had I known then what I know now (after trying to put that stupid exhaust back together), I'd just buy an aftermarket replacement from the headers back!!! But, alas, I'm too cheap for that and I'm a glutton for punishment! I got the "Y" pipe connected back up to the headers. Not too big of a deal. Then I spent 1.5 hrs trying to get just the center section (with the converter) back into place! Ended up with a 2x4 and sledge hammer pounding it back in! (actually went thru 2 - 2x4's) I'm going to finish cutting it up and use some fancy-smancy exhaust clamps likes these: exhaust clamp
"...hey, where's my saw-zall? There it is! Now hold my beer...."


Other than that, it pretty much goes back in the same way it came back out. I'm two days into this fiasco and I'm still not done. About 16 hours and I still have to get the rest of the exhaust mounted back up. I did bring out a few of the neighbors when I started it up on open headers to get the trans fluid flowing! But I live near a bunch of gear-heads, so it's all good!

If I happen to remember any other tips, I'll post them here. If you do decide that you're brave enough to tackle this job, good luck! It can be done. I used to do stuff like this all the time when I was younger, but it was mostly with manual transmissions. Now I'm older, but my brain is still as brave as back then...not really a good combination. This morning, I'm sore in places I've never been sore before...

But I've saved myself at least $1200 or more! (Great....)


'05 WK 4x4 Ltd 5.7L (mine) 200k+ club
'01 WJ 4x4 Laredo 4.7L (daughter)

Last edited by 99sajeep; 06-13-2019 at 08:01 AM. Reason: clarification info...
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post #2 of 37 Old 02-25-2019, 11:29 AM
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You are a better man than I. I have only dealt with 2 transmissions in my life. A 3 speed (stick) in a 56 Chevy and a 4 speed (stick) in a 52 pickup. The 3 speed was easy , 4 bolts, the drive shaft, and the speedometer cable. I could get it out in about 15 minutes. The 4 speed a bit more complicated because of the closed driveshaft and its much heavier, but nothing like you went through.
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post #3 of 37 Old 02-25-2019, 11:37 AM Thread Starter
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The things we do for our kids....

Yeah, this is easily the longest (worst) transmission swap I've ever done! On my old 240Z, I could have the entire engine & transmission on the ground and separated in 45 minutes flat! If I was just pulling the trans (which I had to do a regular basis since I kept blowing bearings in it while racing), it was 30 mins without the use of a jack! Even the 5-speed drop on my old '94 Explorer wasn't bad - 2 hrs to be on the ground.

I guess I'm just older and out of practice!

'05 WK 4x4 Ltd 5.7L (mine) 200k+ club
'01 WJ 4x4 Laredo 4.7L (daughter)
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post #4 of 37 Old 02-25-2019, 11:55 AM
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99, really enjoyed your write up on this. I kinda have the same views as you, doing stuff on cars like we did when we were younger really does find things to ache that never ached before or just didn't existing in our younger days. I used to play Squash and if you didn't play for a while and then played, there were muscles in your arse (English for ***) that you didn't know existed and they ached like hell. I often wonder what those muscles are there for - can't just be for playing squash or working on Jeeps or are they?

Those pesky 5/8 bolts - didn't turn out to be 16mm by any chance? What was the problem with the old transmission?

St Antonio weather looks good for outside working this time of year. Not been to Texas yet, but must do before too long. Always wanted to see the singer Jimmy La Fave on home turf, but sadly too late now.

Let us know how this finishes up, hopefully the 'new' transmission cures your problems. All the best.
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post #5 of 37 Old 02-25-2019, 12:36 PM
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The horror! At least when it comes to the 4.7 WJ, it has been my feeling for years that I'd rather pull an engine than a transmission. Your write-up, nice as it is, only serves to reinforce that sentiment.
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Rage! Rage against the dying of the Jeep.

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post #6 of 37 Old 02-25-2019, 12:43 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HampshireWJ
What was the problem with the old transmission?
Well, I sort of hijacked @cDee63 's thread here: https://www.jeepforum.com/forum/f310...-gear-4330987/

Basically, tranny was having issues of stalling periodically when stopping. It eventually pointed to issues with the pump and I believe it has one or more broken valve springs in the pump itself. I'll know for sure when I dig into it.

Yeah, SA weather right now is pretty mild to say the least. A couple hours further north of here and it's a different story!
We haven't even had a hard freeze yet this season. Which is why I took advantage of the warm weekend, even though I had no help lined up. I had 3-4 people willing to help, just weren't available this weekend!

edit: as for the 5/8" bolts, 16mm is bigger than 5/8" so it wouldn't have fit otherwise. A 16mm would have been too sloppy for these I believe.

'05 WK 4x4 Ltd 5.7L (mine) 200k+ club
'01 WJ 4x4 Laredo 4.7L (daughter)

Last edited by 99sajeep; 02-25-2019 at 12:48 PM. Reason: forgot to answer a question
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post #7 of 37 Old 02-25-2019, 02:58 PM
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I was going to ask... but now I know for sure... I ainít gonna try this!!!


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post #8 of 37 Old 02-25-2019, 04:24 PM
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Great write-up! Isn't yanking trannys fun! I will be doing this as soon as the weather breaks, it's 19 here as I type this.. I can imagine the 545 is a heavy dude, and I know the T/case alone weighs dam near 100 lbs. You did good on the time actually, it took me 2.5 days to pull the trans on my 06 Crown Vic alone, I did have to cut every bolt holding the crossmember in though. That did take a bit of time...lol.
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post #9 of 37 Old 02-25-2019, 05:59 PM
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AND you are a better father than I am. I would have been inclined to offer my kid a ride to pick up his vehicle from the mechanics.
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post #10 of 37 Old 02-26-2019, 08:02 AM Thread Starter
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Still trying to piece together the exhaust system... I'm not sure why I even try!

New tip added to first post above!

But I did have a little fun last night listening to the "new" exhaust note! These recordings are of just the "Y" pipe to the catalytic converter (no muffler). My daughter absolutely loves the sound, but when I drove the Jeep thru our neighborhood last night it was droning really badly!

And yes, I drove it last night! Another step in the right direction!



I know, I know....cheesy exhaust videos... sorry, I just couldn't help it. It does sound good!

'05 WK 4x4 Ltd 5.7L (mine) 200k+ club
'01 WJ 4x4 Laredo 4.7L (daughter)
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post #11 of 37 Old 02-26-2019, 08:25 AM Thread Starter
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Something else I thought about last night after fighting with the converter portion of the exhaust...
I'm extremely under paid in this endeavor! Granted, I'm kind of a self-imposed, slave labor and I can only blame myself... But I ran some numbers in my head. Bear with me on this as I had a beer in my hand while trying to do head-math last night!

If I paid myself around what I get paid at work, I'm into this for about $750 in labor. (Which should be well worth that since I sit on my butt behind a desk all day and maybe travel to a construction site 2-3 times a month!) I definitely worked harder on this transmission than I do at work!!! )

I had a quote from a shop for $1200 just to pull and replace the trans. No rebuild, just out with the old and in with the new. They offered a 12-month/12k mile warranty on the install.

I guess if I look at this correctly (and I can convince myself of just about anything), I'm $450 to the positive and I have my own "Lifetime Warranty" for as long as my daughter owns the car!

'05 WK 4x4 Ltd 5.7L (mine) 200k+ club
'01 WJ 4x4 Laredo 4.7L (daughter)
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post #12 of 37 Old 02-26-2019, 11:27 AM
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When I pulled my oil pan I dropped the exhaust off completely. I ended up piecing it together with a Dynomax Ultra Turbo muffler in place of the rusted stock one. Sounds great with very little drone but a nice bark when I get on it.

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post #13 of 37 Old 02-26-2019, 12:32 PM Thread Starter
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I'd love to replace the exhaust on both the WK & WJ, but nothing rusts here in South Texas...it just dies of old age! I don't have that long to wait!
(And my "Finance Manager" doesn't see the need to replace stuff that's not broke!)
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post #14 of 37 Old 02-28-2019, 08:27 AM Thread Starter
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- $13 for exhaust band clamp
- $28 for (2) bolts/nuts for exhaust flange to manifold connection (Dealer)
- $4 for new 2-1/4" u-bolt clamp
- $7 for new ground strap

The WJ is finally 100% back together! (What the hell was I thinking last week?!?)

Drove it into work today and no issues so far. (Keeping my fingers crossed...)

Another tip for the masses, although this one doesn't have much to do with replacing the trans itself, more with clean-up...

**) When using cat litter to soak up all the trans fluid you've spilt or let leak out onto your driveway, try to clean it up before the morning dew or a light rain gets to it. It turns into a nasty, slimy mess that will stick to damn near anything that goes thru it!!!

You can't imagine how hard it is to push yourself around on a creeper when your shoes are covered in something with the consistency of slime!

Something else I just thought of... If you ever have to go to the Dealer to order those bolts/nuts like I did for the exhaust manifold flange, don't let the parts guy tell you that the 4.7L exhaust manifolds only use the bolt with no nut plates. Their parts diagram is wrong and he has to look further and find the little note about the nut plates being required!

'05 WK 4x4 Ltd 5.7L (mine) 200k+ club
'01 WJ 4x4 Laredo 4.7L (daughter)
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post #15 of 37 Old 03-12-2019, 05:26 PM Thread Starter
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For those that may be interested, my old transmission is currently for sale: SOLD

'05 WK 4x4 Ltd 5.7L (mine) 200k+ club
'01 WJ 4x4 Laredo 4.7L (daughter)

Last edited by 99sajeep; 03-20-2019 at 08:10 AM. Reason: deleted link to classified
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