Removing the valve body from a Chrysler 42RE transmission.
Automatic Transmission Repair:

Removing The Valve Body
In A 1993 Dodge Dakota With A
Chrysler 42RE Transmission

Fixing A Broken Shifter Detent Mechanism


In This Article:

After the transmission pan is removed, the gearshift linkage and throttle cable are disconnected. Electrical connectors are unplugged and the neutral switch is removed. The valve body is unbolted, the park rod is disconnected and the valve body removed. The ball detent is replaced and the manual shaft repaired, and the valve body is installed.

Related Articles:

Skill Level: 4-5 (Advanced to Professional) Time Taken: About 8 Hours

By Bruce W. Maki, Editor


For the past couple of years I found it difficult to shift my 1993 Dodge Dakota out of Park. About a year ago, the shift detent, that feeling of "clunk-clunk-clunk" while shifting the transmission, just stopped working. I could shift the transmission, but it was difficult to be sure what gear I was in. And it was easy to bump the shift lever out of gear, though it wasn't possible to do anything truly dangerous like shift from Drive to Reverse while the truck was moving.

Right after that, I tore apart all the plastic covers around the ignition switch and steering column, but I couldn't find anything broken, or any sign of a detent mechanism. A detent mechanism is simple, just a spring-loaded ball that rides against a toothed or wavy piece of metal. I had no idea where the detent mechanism was located.

A month ago I changed the transmission fluid on my 1996 GMC Yukon, and I noticed a detent mechanism in all the stuff behind the transmission pan. On that truck the detent is a roller that rides over a tooted segment that connects to something in the transmission.

That got me thinking... maybe my Dakota's detent problem wasn't in the column but in the transmission. So I decided to drop the pan and take a look.

Metal ball found in transmission pan.

Earlier, while removing the transmission pan, I found this metal ball stuck to the magnet in the pan.

I suspected that this ball might be part of the detent mechanism that broke. It turned out I was right.


Bottom of Dodge Dakota transmission with pan removed. Dodge automatic transmission with pan removed.


External linkages on transmission, Chrysler 42RE.

There are two sets of linkage that connect to the transmission. One linkage is for the gearshift, the other is for the throttle.

1: The throttle lever, which connected by a cable to the throttle body. When the gas pedal is pushed down, this cable moves, which moves the throttle valve inside the transmission. Newer transmissions (i.e. newer than 1980's) use this type of linkage instead of a modulator valve, which sense engine vacuum to determine the load on the powertrain, and when to downshift.

2: There is a return spring that connects the throttle lever to the underside of the vehicle. I removed this spring before removing the throttle lever from the transmission.


The throttle valve and the shift lever both connect to the transmission at the same point, where there are two concentric shafts.

Throttle valve and shift lever on automatic transmission, Dodge truck.


Bolts securing thottle lever and shift linkage to Chrysler rear-wheel-drive transmission.

There are two bolts that need to be loosened to remove the throttle lever (1) and shift linkage (2). Both of these bolts required an 11mm wrench or socket, whatever works.

I loosened the top bolt a couple of turns and pried the throttle valve off the shaft with a medium pry bar.

Before prying on these connectors I hosed them down with penetrating fluid, figuring that after 15 years they would be pretty rusty and hard to remove. But they came off without too much hassle.

After removing the electrical connectors for the park/neutral switch and the case harness (just to make for easier access), I loosened the shift linkage connector with an 11mm box-end wrench. Disconnecting gearshift linkage on Dodge truck transmission.


Gearshift connector on Dodge Dakota.

This is the shift linkage connector. It just clamps over a round tube on the transmission called the manual shaft.

The red arrow points to a flat spot in the connector clamp. This keeps the clamp aligned properly on the manual shaft, so the gear positions on the column shifter are synchronized with the internal components of the transmission.


This is the throttle valve connector, which clamps around a small shaft that is inside the manual shaft.

It's not easy to see, but there is a small flat-sided area inside that hole to ensure proper alignment.

Throttle lever after disconnecting, Dodge.


Removing The Park/Neutral Switch:

Electrical connector for park/neutral switch on Dodge truck.

Earlier I removed the electrical connector from the park/neutral switch (also called a neutral safety switch).

This was a tricky connector to remove... it was not obvious to me.

There is no release tab like most connectors. This hard plastic "shell" just popped off the neutral switch when I pried on the rim. Look inside the connector... you can see a series of small ridges, which looks like a screw thread, but it's NOT. This connector uses a series of concentric ridges to hold onto the body of the neutral switch.


A more direct view of park/neutral switch. I cleaned the dirt from around the switch so it wouldn't get inside the transmission. Neutral safety switch, Dodge/Chrysler.


Removing park/neutral switch, Dodge truck. I placed a 1" socket over the park/neutral switch and loosened it with a breaker bar. There wasn't enough room for a ratchet.


The park/neutral switch after removal. Note the black rubber gasket and thin steel washer. Neutral/Park switch, Chrysler.


External linkage and electrical components, front band adjustment, Chrysler 42RE automatic transmission.

Dodge/Chrysler 42RE Transmission -
Identifying External Components -
Left (Driver's) Side:

1: Throttle valve shaft. Connects via cable to the throttle body on engine.

2: Manual shaft. Connects to gearshift linkage.

3: Hole for park/neutral switch. The manual lever is directly behind this hole.

4: Case harness electrical connector.

5: Front band clutch adjustment screw/nut.

Before removing the valve body, I cleaned the dirt around the manual lever and the case harness connector.


Unbolting The Valve Body:

These pictures were taken from my vantage point... laying on my back... so they are upside-down. But this is how the valve body would appear if the transmission was removed and the unit rolled over.

There are 10 bolts holding the valve body to the transmission. All of these bolts required an 11mm socket.

There are 2 different lengths of bolts here, the longer bolts go in places where the valve body is thicker.


Valve body mounting bolt locations, Chrysler 42RE.


Valve body rear bolt locations, Dodge/Chrysler. There were 3 bolts at the rear edge of the valve body.


There were 3 bolts at the front of the valve body, close to the exhaust crossover pipe. Valve body front bolts, Dodge/Chrysler.


Valve body bolts around accumulator.

On the left (driver's) side, there were 4 bolts over the accumulator.

There is a pair of big springs behind this housing, so I found it best to remove one of these bolts last.


After I removed the valve body screws, the body dropped down a bit (don't worry, if can't just fall out) and I could see the accumulator spring that is mentioned in the Dakota service manual. Accumulator inside transmission, Chrysler 42RE.

The service manual says to "work manual lever shaft and electrical connector out of transmission case". Yeah, thanks.

I carefully pried between the valve body and the transmission case, being careful not to gouge the pan mating surface. I could feel that the manual lever was free, but the electrical connector was sticking in the case. I pried a little harder, and SNAP... the valve body dropped down. "Uh-oh" I thought, "what broke?".

It was the electrical connector. Damn!

In hindsight, I realized that pushing downward on the connector, from outside of the transmission case, would've been a better idea. I tried that at first, but it felt like the connector wasn't moving. It made me wonder if the connector had a plastic outer "tube" that stayed in the case. No. My problem was caused by too much dirt around the connector... I should've scraped it off with a small screwdriver instead of just wiping it with a rag.


Chrysler 42RE valve body during removal.

The manual shaft (1) and the case harness connector (3) are the only parts of the valve body that penetrate the case of the transmission.

By lowering the driver's side of the valve body, I could see the park rod (2) where it connects to the manual lever. There is an E-clip here, and I was tempted to try to remove it, but the shop manual says to just pull the park rod out of the park sprag,

The park sprag operates a metal bar (park pawl) that engages in one of the many slots in a shaft near the back of the transmission, and keeps the vehicle from moving.

I manipulated the valve body so it wasn't obstructed by the exhaust pipe and pulled the body forward and the park rod just popped out. Piece of cake! Apparently there is a ball-and-detent mechanism where the park rod engages the park sprag. That's good to know, because I sure couldn't see anything that far inside the transmission case.


I placed the valve body in a plastic dish pan, and more tranny fluid drained out.

Transmission work is a load of fun... every time you do something, more fluid drips out. You basically take a bath in transmission fluid.

Valve body after removal, Chrysler 42RE.


Broken electrical connector in transmission, Dodge truck.

This is the electrical connector that I broke.

I'll discuss this later...


Fixing The Broken Shift Detent:

This is the manual lever. Note the toothed segment at the right. The shop manual says that this part is one of the few replaceable parts on the valve body. But it's a dealer part (not sold at aftermarket parts stores), so it's bound to be expensive. Manual lever on valve body, Chrysler 42RE.


Missing detent ball on Dodge truck transmission.

This is the source of the problem.

There is supposed to be a metal ball that rides against the toothed segment. The ball was missing (I found it stuck to the magnet in the transmission pan) and the spring (red arrow) was sticking out.

It appeared that the toothed segment was riding TOO LOW, which you can sort of see in the picture, because the spring had slid out and was resting above the toothed segment.


To remove the manual lever, I removed this E-clip and washer from the top of the shaft.

Then the shifter portion of the manual lever (the other portion, the center shaft, is for the throttle valve) pulled right off.

E-clip and washer for manual lever/shaft, Dodge.


Removing seal on manual shaft, Dodge. I removed this seal from the center of the tube that connects to the shift linkage.


The manual lever after being removed from the valve body. Manual lever from Chrysler 42RE automatic tranny, Dodge Dakota.


Found - The Root Cause Of The Problem:

I figured out WHY the detent ball fell out in the first place... the steel plate with the toothed segment was riding too low because that plate had become loose on the tubular shaft.

Manual lever at shaft, no gap. When pressed together, the plate and tube look like this...


... but the plate was so loose that it could sag like this.

While this amount of looseness may seem trivial, it allowed the manual lever to ride too low, and that's how the detent ball fell out.


Gap between manual lever and shaft, Chrysler 42RE.


Poorly formed metal on manual shaft/lever, Dodge truck.

The cause of this loosey-goosey plate is these swaged areas on the underside of the plate. I'm guessing that these smacked-down tabs of metal have either worn out or gotten bent upwards, resulting in a loose plate.

Or maybe this wasn't swaged properly during manufacturing?

All of a sudden everything made complete sense. The problem I've been having with the park/neutral switch was caused by the metal plate being loose and not touching the "nose" of the switch when the transmission was in the Park position.

These two metal tabs are part of the park/neutral switch system. When the gearshift is placed in Park or Neutral, one of these tabs is supposed to touch the tip of the switch. Metal tabs for park/neutral switch, Chrysler automatic transmission.

For about five years I've been having occasional problems with the truck not starting in Park. I would just turn the key, shift into Neutral, and the truck would start fine.

After the detent mechanism broke, the truck wouldn't start in Park at all... I had to shift into Neutral, if I could find it, since the detent was gone and the little pointer got bent while I was screwing around looking for the problem at the steering column.

The reason I had been having that intermittent problem with starting in Park was because that metal plate had become loose and that little tab of metal wasn't touching the park/neutral switch, because the tab was too high or too low, not because there was anything out of adjustment.


CSI - Handymanlyness:

Nick or gouge on valve body caused by loose manual lever.

I found more evidence. There was this little gouge in the outside of the valve body. This was caused by the pin that connects the park rod to the metal plate on the manual lever.


1: Park Rod

2: Manual Lever

3: Park Rod Connecting Pin

When I moved the manual lever out of the Park position, the park rod pin (3) would rub against the edge of the valve body, and then, when moved further it would ride over the gouge shown above.

Park rod and valve body, Chrysler/Dodge automatic transmission.


Nick in valve body from park rod pin. I could see a nick (red arrow) in the edge of the valve body. The gouge shown earlier can be seen in the background.

For about a year before the detent broke, I often had to force the gearshift out of Park, but shifting between any other gears was smooth. I now see what was happening... the park rod linkage was rubbing against the sharp edge of the valve body, but it was only a problem when shifting OUT of Park.

That's good to know, because that hard shifting was another concern... I was worried that there might be a problem in the shift linkage between the tranny and the steering column.


Fixing The Problem:

Using a punch and a hammer, I pounded on these swaged areas to squash the metal tighter. It worked pretty good... the metal plate tightened up nicely, but the metal in swaged areas looks kinda thin. I'd like to squeeze a couple more years out of this 15 year old truck... I hope this doesn't become loose before the truck completely rusts away. Re-swaged manual shaft, Chrysler automatic trans.


Manual lever re-installed on valve body.

Miraculously, I was able to re-assemble the manual lever AND get the detent ball and spring in place.

The shop manual says to use a special tool (which looks like a special C-clamp) too hold the detent ball in place when the manual lever is installed.


I was able to assemble this without the special tool.

I just placed the manual lever in the Low (First Gear) position (which is the position in the previous photo), lifted it off the shaft and put the spring in the hole. Then I put the ball in place, pushed it in with my fingers and pushed the manual lever down to hold the ball in place.

Detent ball replaced in proper position, Chrysler automatic tranny.

Then I replaced the seal (after coating it with petroleum jelly), the washer, and the E-clip.


Fixing The Broken Electrical Connector:

Since the electrical connector broke when I removed the valve body, I spent some time fooling around trying to glue the mounting tab back onto the body of the connector. I drilled some small holes in the plastic near the break (on both parts) and applied some JB Quik epoxy around the break. I seemed like the broken plastic part was fixed.

Then I installed the connector on the valve body. The connector is NOT held firmly in place... it's free to slide around a bit.

This part broke again while installing the valve body, and it didn't matter. Actually, it was easier to install the valve body with this part broken because it wasn't in the way.


Installing The Valve Body:

This was not an easy procedure.

Chrysler 42RE valve body manually placed in Low or first gear.

The service manual says to put the manual lever in Low (first gear, or gear "1").

In this position the park rod is positioned as far rearward as possible.

First, I applied some petroleum jelly (Vaseline) around the seals on the electrical connector and around the shaft of the manual lever where it goes through the case of the transmission. I also applied some petroleum jelly around the seal in the case for the manual lever. I cleaned out the hole in the case where the electrical connector goes through, and I applied some Vaseline around the inside of the bore. I wanted to be sure that these two items would slide through the case easily.

Also, note that the park/neutral switch MUST NOT be installed in the case, or it will interfere with the valve body.

There are 3 things that need to happen when installing the valve body:

  • The Park rod needs to be inserted in the park sprag,
  • The accumulator piston and springs need to be installed in their bore in the transmission case,
  • The manual lever and electrical connector need to be inserted in their holes.

This only sounds simple.

The park sprag is about 10 inches downstream from the valve body. I couldn't see anything, and since the park rod is above the valve body, I really couldn't grab the rod and feel any vibrations as I tried pushing the rod in the long deep hole. The Dodge Dakota service manual says to listen for a click as the park rod is engaged with the sprag. HAH!

On my first attempt, I heard a click as I inserted the park rod. So I installed the accumulator in it's bore, rotated the valve body so it was blocking the accumulator from falling out, and I pushed the manual shaft and electrical connector into their holes. It seemed to work, but it was a b-i-t-c-h to hold the valve body up while installing the bolts. I should have known when the bolt holes didn't quite line up perfectly. But I pushed the valve body forward to make the holes align, and I installed the bolts.

Then I re-connected the gearshift linkage. Remember... the valve body was supposed to be in First gear. The shift linkage connects to the manual shaft by a split collar, and the collar has a small flat side that aligns with a flat surface on the manual shaft. With the column shifter placed in "1", the shift linkage just would not align. When I moved the column shifter to Park, that split collar just fell right into place. But I couldn't tighten it fully, since the bolt head was rotated to a hard-to-reach position. So I tried moving the column shifter into another gear, but the shifter WOULD NOT MOVE. It was stuck in Park. $hit!

The stuck shifter meant that the park rod did NOT click into position. The click I heard was the manual lever moving from First all the way to Park.

So I removed the valve body and tried again. This time I used a little inspection mirror and a flashlight to look in the hole. I wanted to see where this rod was supposed to go. I realized that I needed to keep the park rod down low and towards the driver's side.

The service manual says "turn propeller shaft to align sprag and park lock teeth if necessary". I tried that. I could hear clicks from inside the tranny case. I could feel vibrations on the park rod, but I couldn't get that bloody rod into place. Then... it seemed like it worked. I juggled the valve body in one hand while fumbling around with the accumulator piston and springs. Everything went in the proper holes, so I bolted the valve body down. Well, up actually.

I connected the gearshift linkage, hoping for the best. But... that damn manual shaft had moved to Park again. It didn't look good... It wasn't.


The Third Time's A Charm:

Somebody once said that when someone keeps making the same mistake over and over again, without trying something different, that is the definition of STUPIDITY.

After spending perhaps 2 hours friggin' around with this valve body, I decided to remove the park rod from the valve body.

(I'm re-using this picture to make my description more understandable.)

There is a little E-clip (just above the tip of arrow 3) that holds the park rod (1) to the manual lever (2). When the manual lever was in First gear, I could see that E-clip from beneath the valve body. In any other gear... no way.

Park rod connection to valve body, Chrysler/Dodge automatic transmission.

With the park rod removed, I slipped it down the "rabbit hole" and it just popped right in. Unbelievable. I could also pull it out. And put it back in. I turned the drive shaft while pulling the rod forward slightly. Hey... that spot makes the driveshaft lock up, like when the truck is in Park. Push the rod towards the rear and the driveshaft can be turned.

So I installed the valve body for the THIRD time. It was easier to install... the bolt holes lined up perfectly. First I installed a couple of short bolts where short bolts should go. With the valve body hanging down a quarter-inch, I tried to slide the connecting pin on that park rod into its hole in the manual lever. Of course, I couldn't actually reach the park rod with my fingers, I had to use extra-long needle-nose pliers and a curved hook tool to manipulate the park rod. I realized that the rod was hitting the tranny case, and there wasn't enough room for the pin to get into the hole.

So I put the 3 long bolts into places where short bolts should go, and removed the bolts I had started earlier. This allowed the valve body to rest comfortably about an inch-and-a-half below the transmission. THEN I was able to manipulate that park rod into the proper hole in the manual lever. And I did that by long distance, using only long pointy tools. Installing the E-clip was a test of my patience. I used a long magnet (a pencil magnet) to hold the E-clip, and pliers to push it into place. If I pushed in the wrong direction, I would shift gears, and then I couldn't reach that pin. Eventually, I don't really know how, the E-clip snapped into place. Whew!

I put all the bolts in the valve body, making sure that everything was in the right place. Before going too far, I wiped the mating surfaces with a clean paper towel. Any dirt between the valve body and the tranny case will only do bad things. I tightened the valve body bolts to 100 inch-pounds, using a cross-pattern.

When I looked at the gearshift linkage I knew my assembly was correct because I had to shift the column shifter to "1" in order to align the split collar with the manual lever shaft. After fastening the linkage I tried running the column shifter through all the gears. IT WORKED. And it had the detent "click" that disappeared a year ago.

I reconnected the throttle lever to the small shaft that runs through the center of the manual shaft. Working on that part was so much easier than when I removed it.

I installed the park/neutral switch, using a 1-inch socket, and connected the wires.

I also connected the wires to the case harness connector.

I apologize for not having pictures of the re-assembly process. It was hard enough to take photos during dis-assembly, there was no way I could juggle all these parts AND snap a picture during re-assembly. Hopefully my written description will be of some help.

After re-assembling everything, I installed a new transmission filter, put a new gasket on the cleaned-up pan, and replaced the pan as mentioned in my article about changing transmission fluid. After adding fluid (I needed 8 quarts, 2 quarts more than a simple fluid change), I took the truck for a test drive to see if the transmission would work in all gears. It did.

For additional information, read the article about changing the fluid and removing/replacing the transmission pan.

More Info:

Tools Used:

  • Ratchets, 3/8 Drive, 1/4 Drive
  • Extensions
  • Sockets: 1", 1/2"
  • Wrenches: 1/2", 11mm
  • Torx T-25 Bit
  • Small Pry Bar
  • Small Flat Screwdriver
  • Pliers, Needle-Nose, Extra Long
  • Curved Hook Tool
  • Oil Drain Pan
  • Dish Pan
  • Parts Cleaning Brush
  • Floor Jack
  • Jack Stands

Materials Used:

  • Transmission Filter and Gasket Kit, NAPA Part 1-7957
  • Automatic Transmission Fluid, Dexron III, 8 Quarts.
  • Mineral Spirits (Paint Thinner)
  • Automotive Brake Parts Cleaner

Related Articles:

Specification Summary -
Chrysler 42RE Valve Body Install:

  • Fluid Type: Dexron II or III, (Mopar ATF Plus type 7176 preferred)
  • Fluid Amount: 8 Quarts
  • Valve Body Bolt Torque: 100 inch-pounds
  • Filter Screw Torque: 35 inch-pounds
  • Pan Bolt Torque: 150 inch-pound





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Written April 23, 2009