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Old 09-24-2013, 12:15 PM   Thread Starter #1
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Default Lessons from a AW55-50SN Solenoid Replacement

The Goal--Valve Body Solenoid Replacement:
I've spent the last two weekends replacing my valve body (VB) solenoids with Rostra's kit (P/N: 52-9036, includes SLS + SLU + SLT solenoids and bracket purchased from USA Industries on Ebay, $209) and considering that it should be a 2 hour job that took me about 20 hours (much more on why), I thought I should share my experiences to spare you the headache.

Why I replaced the solenoids:
I really had almost no issues besides the occasional hard engagement into Drive and Reverse, but based on the abundant literature on the AW55-50SN OEM solenoids, I decided for a preemptive replacement to avoid future issues. My 2005 Maxima 5 speed auto has only 62k miles and was gifted to me with records indicating a drain and fill (D&F) at 45k. I performed two more D&F using Amsoil Multivehicle Synthetic ATF (P/N: ATF) and found shifting to be much smoother (very important info on ATF fluids later). Finally, as a double PhD (Chemistry, Engineering), I need weekend projects to relax my mind.

Installation Instructions--Tool Tips:
I found that rpsuordave's VB replacement instructions were excellent for accessing the VB. I will note that using a T-40 bit in the appropriate 1/4" drive socket and a 1/4" ratchet with a 4" extension is the perfect tool for accessing *all* of the valve body bolts. Note that these bolts are only torqued to 10-12 ft/lbs--which is a reasonable load for the average Craftsman 1/4" ratchet. I was nervous about prying the valve body cover off, but then I watched this video (go to 4:15) on YouTube and sacked-up. A standard large-blade flathead screwdriver with a thin blade (or flathead chisel) with a couple taps of a soft mallet in the upper left hand corner of the VB cover works well. To remove solenoid connectors, see 5:00 on the same video.

Installation Tip--Solenoid Replacement:
I successfully replaced the solenoids with the *VB on the car*. I didn't want to deal with fragile gaskets, removing and possibly breaking 8 or so additional connectors, incorrect reassembly, etc. Once you remove the battery and tray and move the fuse box over, there's a ton of room. I had virtually no RTV left on the tranny side, but the little bit that remained, I removed with a plastic flat edge with a shop towel tucked around the VB to avoid contamination.


Installation Tips--Calibration Kit:
***I can not stress enough that a Solenoid Calibration Kit for the VB cover is damn near necessary!***

***I opened up my VB three separate times after the initial installation for additional calibration.***

Save yourself the headache, expensive ATF (I didn't want to risk contamination by recycling), and the forsaken removal of RTV from the cover. I'd rather take a paper cut to my genitals than remove RTV black. There's nothing short of elbow-grease that will remove it. I used a pointed panel remover, old credit cards and even a dremmel with polishing or rubber heads--it didn't matter, it's a miserable job. Gasket remover spray/gel does not remove RTV. God, beer and/or a blumpkin will not save you or make it any less painful. I was also tempted to buy 3M's Pinstripe Removal Wheel with Arbor (P/N: 3M-7498), because reviews indicate it works well on gaskets, but at $30 and the risk of it not working, I passed.

BlueReach Automation sells a kit (P/N: TEM-55) through Makco that includes VB grommets, a (worthless) troubleshooting guide, and polycarbonate template (that fits over the VB cover with alignment holes) to take the guess-work out of where to drill holes. You kit is $40, or alternatively you can just buy the grommets for $10 and use the measurements from Sonnax's AW 55-50 manual (page 12) to save a few dollars--just measure twice and drill once. I started with a 3/16" pilot hole and worked my way up to the grommet size (~1/2") in small size increments. Also to avoid destroying your bits when drilling through metal, add a couple of drops of oil (e.g., drilling oil, motor, ATF, 3in1, or something viscous) to bit/hole every 10 seconds and let the drill bit do the work. The resulting holes had sharp edges, so I gave each a quick pass with round file. Make sure to thoroughly clean the metal shavings and oil residue out of the VB (glass cleaner & paper towels work well). Secure the grommets with sufficient RTV black inside and out of the cover to prevent leaks. The pressure within the valve cover is virtually 0 psi, so you don't have to worry about the grommets blowing-out. Alternatively, you can use rubber plugs, but they seem messy and more prone to working themselves out over time. In case you're worried about ATF dripping out when the grommet screws are removed like I was, I'm fairly certain that the valve body cavity doesn't retain very much ATF. I never had leakage and only a slight ATF residue on my custom calibration screwdriver after inserting it into the ports for calibration.

Installation Tips--Calibrating Solenoids:
You need (Vernier) calipers, so put the wooden ruler away and buy a pair (ex. Amazon has them for $11.50). The measurement is taken from the top of the calibration screw to the beginning of the solenoid valve assembly (clip removed). You should measure the old solenoids and apply that calibration to the new solenoids. The default factory setting is 0.195", but from my experience, that's not even close.

This is why you *need* a calibration kit to adjust the solenoid based on shift behavior from a test drive. You can easily access all three calibration kit ports once the car is reassembled. For the SLS and SLU, you must unclip the fuse box (next to the battery) and slide it over and the SLT port can be accessed as-is by reaching underneath the battery. You will need a towel/glove to shield your arm/hand from the hot coolant hoses as you're fine-tuning the solenoids based on shift behavior.

To calibrate the solenoid after complete reassembly, I used a very small, large-blade flathead screwdriver and chopped-off nearly the entire handle. It needs to be about 3-3.5" long and fit through the narrow calibration grommet. Any longer and the lower coolant hoses next to the SLS and SLU solenoids will get in the way (don't be afraid to nudge them over to insert the screwdriver). You may use a 3mm Allen wrench, but I had no luck finding the the calibration screw with it. Also, calibration of the solenoids using this technique is a see-by-hand method--meaning you're sticking a small screwdriver into the VB ports and feeling for the calibration screw. I found the best technique was to make sure that the screwdriver was parallel with the front of the valve body cover and gently feeling for the screw. You'll know you're in (ahem) when you rotate the screwdriver and feel a stop in the CW and CCW directions. Sometimes I felt the screw upon first entry, at other times, it took 15 minutes and lots of cursing. Don't rush it, be sure that the screwdriver is in the calibration screw. I'd recommend testing the feel of the solenoid calibration screw with your small custom screwdriver before assembly or if you're really OCD, take the measurements of their positions and mock them up with a marker on the cover.

Also, kinda funny, if you're outside and calibrating the solenoids on the car, you're forced into this bent over position with your arm tucked down near VB and your head nearly rests on the engine cover--you should probably move a limb or your head every so often, otherwise the neighbors think you're dead and cars on the road slow down to rubberneck--happened many times.

Rotating the calibration screw requires a little bit of torque since the screwdriver is so small, but you'll feel the screw click as it's turning. If you accidentally pop-off the retaining clip, then you'll have to visit RTV hell all over again. Also, make sure you clear the threads inside the grommet, or you may just pop it out into the VB.

I found that a click or 1/4 turn of the screw does nothing. You need to turn that screw 1 to 2.5 turns based on the severity of the shift problems. A single or double click should only be used when you're very, -very-, close to perfect shifting.

Installation Tips--Calibration Charts:
If you use the (required calibration kit), there's a a few charts on to to resolve shifting problems based on increasing and decreasing solenoid pressure--most of them are garbage. The reason I say this is because each solenoid has many jobs. For example, if you have a hard 1-2 shift, you may be instructed by a chart to adjust the SLU (linear lock-up solenoid), but the SLS (shift pressure control solenoid) can also give you this problem. So which one do you adjust?

The best answer that I found (after many hours of aggravation) was [URL="http://rostratransmission.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/Screen-Shot-2012-12-04-at-3.36.41-PM.png"]Rostra's Adjustment Chart[/URL].

This calibration sequence is very important (all calibrations are done with engine off):

Start with the SLT adjustment first. This controls a bunch of things, but the easiest to observe is (D)rive engagement. You want to adjust this solenoid to where when you shift from (P)ark or (N)eutral it into (D)rive, the engagement is quick and tidy--that is instant and without a bump. You shouldn't even really feel it engaging. The best way is to remove your foot off the brake and shift from (N)uetral to (D)rive and allow the car to roll to confirm engagement while keeping your eye on the tach as a secondary confirmation--you'll see a tiny dip in RPM). Continue to adjust this solenoid according, turning the screw less each time as you zero-in on the perfect setting. You can test drive the vehicle in between adjustments, but if (R)everse is delayed or engages hard, there's no point as shifting will be off and you're going to place unnecessary stress on the tranny. Go to the SLS next.

Next, adjust the SLS solenoid. Follow the linked chart for instructions on whether to turn the calibration screw in or out. You're looking for the same smooth and quick engagement from (P)ark to (R)everse as you observed with calibrating the SLT. Now, would be a good time to test drive. *Do not use the Tiptronic/Pseudo-manual shifter, only (D)rive. Allow yourself space plenty of space on the road and for the love-of-all-things sacred (your beloved Maxima), DO NOT throttle more than (2000 rpm). Yes, I'm saying pussyfoot like you've got a trunk full of narcotics and coincidentally found yourself in front of a DEA SWAT truck. If you hear the engine flare (quickly increase in RPM) without any immediate increase in forward speed, *let go of the gas*, otherwise you're in for quite the bang when it decides to engage--it's the equivalent of a neutral-drop into drive--not good. If you successfully calibrated the SLT and SLS, you shouldn't observe major flares, but just in case, keep this in mind.

While you're driving it easy, you may observe a 1-2 or 2-1 shift bump. That's OK since we still haven't adjusted the SLU solenoid. If it's really bad, as in you get wheelspin from the 1-2 shift, then park it and tweek the SLU screw CCW to decrease the pressure and try another test drive. Now take it up to speed, 40-50 mph (with plenty of room; country road) while maintaining low RPMs (~2500) and check for TCC (Torque converter clutch) lock-up. This is when your torque converter creates a hydrostatic link with your gears, that is, a 1:1 (RPM to speed) ratio, and is indicated by the fact that when you *slightly* increase the throttle, your RPM increases linearly with speed. Meaning, there's no slip of the TCC when you hit the throttle (if you apply more than about ~20% throttle, the TCC lock-up will disengage). If the TCC locks-up really quickly after you get to speed (say 50 mph) and back-off the throttle, then you will need to increase the SLU pressure a little bit. If you get no or late lock-up, decrease the SLU pressure. You're looking for TCC lock-up to occur within 3-5 seconds after you get to speed (50 mph) in 5th gear (can also happen in 4th if less than 40 mph), while in (D)rive. You'll know when the TCC engages because it almost feels like a 6th gear engaged after 5th gear and again, when you lightly press the throttle, RPMs will increase with speed--linearly.

Final Comments on Installation:
Finally, a comment from experience on Adaptive Learning. Your transmission will not/cannot learn to correct a badly calibrated solenoid. The Adaptive Learning process corrects shift-point timing from a standstill (garage-shifting) and forward engagements (up and down). You need to go through the whole relearn procedure by making sure your transmission is up to temperature (~80C using Torque App) and going through the motions of the relearn procedure outlined in the chart. The relearn procedure is not an end to your vehicle getting used to shifting. The Adaptive Procedure get the shift timing in the ball park for Grandma, but Grandma's shift timing will not work for most of us. Continue to drive it easy for several days. At the time of this article I have 60 miles of driving over 3 days and the shift point timing is almost perfect. My tranny still hasn't learned what gear to maintain when I slow down and try to quickly accelerate or attempt a break-away to get better lane position. The shifting timing gets better every time I drive it, but I'll probably increase the SLS (shift pressure) solenoid a click to get crispier upshifts--the upshifts are currently too smooth (with no TCC slip) for my liking.

Not addressing the correct calibration of the SLT, SLS, and SLU solenoids by making sure you have a smooth (D)rive, (R)everse engagement, and TCC lock-up *will not* be fixed by Adaptive Learning.

I'll even be bold enough to state that *I* believe most of the shift issues, on these low mileage, regular service, Aisin Warner Transmissions that have the solenoids replaced and have continued shifting problems are the result of poor solenoid calibration. Save yourself some a few hundred dollars on a Valve Body and get the Rostra/Sonnax solenoid kit AND a calibration kit/grommets and replace it the right way (and avoid RTV-removal hell).

Interesting information on Nissan K-Matic ATF substitutions:
After much research, remember, I'm a both a PhD Chemist and PhD Engineer, I've found that any Jaso-1a or JWS 3309 ATF is an acceptable substitute for Nissan's "required" K-matic ATF. Personally, I use Amsoil Multi-Vehicle Synthetic ATF, which can be bought for about $8-9/qt (including the discount you receive by -paying- to become an "authorized dealer"). I've found Amsoil's ATF to have superior properties to K-Matic's specifications, but most importantly, better thermal resistance to breakdown and a reduced viscosity which is important in narrow VB channels.

I'll end on this disclaimer:
Our Aisin Warner 55-50/51 transmissions are susceptible to several issues that cause bad shifting problems. Those include defective OEM solenoids, worn bores, electrical issues, inability to hold vacuum, etc. Based on my research, it seems that the majority of shift issues are caused degraded ATF/incorrect ATF and the limited-life of the OEM SLS, SLT and SLU solenoids. While I resolved my occasional shift issues by replacing my solenoids, I cannot guarantee that you will achieve the same results. This article is provided as a guide and collection of resources to the experienced mechanic or bold do-it-yourselfer, and it may not be a definitive solution to your vehicle's problems. I urge those who use the advice provided to take their time, use common safety precautions, and consult an expert when in doubt. Please note that part of this repair involves "test-driving" the vehicle whereby the vehicle may not function as designed or as expected before the repair--the writer of this article urges you to drive with the *expectation of transmission failure* on public roads to proactively avoid endangering the driver/vehicle occupants and surrounding life and/or property.

Comments
  
  Great thread .

Last edited by secanonymous; 09-25-2013 at 10:32 AM. Reason: Clarity, spelling, extra information
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Old 09-24-2013, 02:35 PM   #2
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Default Re: Lessons from a AW55-50SN Solenoid Replacement

Great write up!
Thank you.
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Old 09-24-2013, 02:49 PM   #3
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Default Re: Lessons from a AW55-50SN Solenoid Replacement

Thanx for sharing mate , great thread in there .
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Old 09-24-2013, 03:31 PM   Thread Starter #4
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Default Re: Lessons from a AW55-50SN Solenoid Replacement

Thank you for the positive remarks. Writing it gave me a little break from work. I need to clean it up for spelling/clarity, but it'll do for now.

I just wish that someone had written this for me. The professionals perform many tests (vacuum, pressure and electrical) to confirm proper operation of the the VB. Most of us don't have the tools, equipment or facilities to perform these tests. So that leaves us with the next best thing--the ability to perform educated trial-and-error tests on the vehicle via calibration ports.


I hope this additional info helps to clarify VB solenoid replacement. If you have any questions, post or PM me and I'll try my best to answer them.

-secanonymous
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Old 09-24-2013, 06:29 PM   #5
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Default Re: Lessons From A AW55-50SN Solenoid Replacement

If you have anything else , please post them mate .
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Old 09-25-2013, 08:00 AM   #6
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Default Re: Lessons From A AW55-50SN Solenoid Replacement

That's a great write up and really good instructions. If you do anything else definitely do a write up if you can.

So says latinmaxima, so it shall be!
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Old 09-25-2013, 11:41 AM   #7
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Default Re: Lessons From A AW55-50SN Solenoid Replacement

Bump.

It's still there but won't be in the "New Posts" section until someone replies to it or posts in it.
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Old 09-25-2013, 11:57 AM   #8
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Default Re: Lessons From A AW55-50SN Solenoid Replacement

Can you Sticky this thread !
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Old 11-11-2013, 08:55 AM   #9
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Default Re: Lessons From A AW55-50SN Solenoid Replacement

Thank you for the great write up. Have a great day.
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Old 11-11-2013, 09:55 AM   Thread Starter #10
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Default Re: Lessons From A AW55-50SN Solenoid Replacement

Originally Posted by sledguy View Post
Thank you for the great write up. Have a great day.
No problem.

A quick update--I had to increase the SLU pressure a tad because I was getting the occasional double-bump from 2-3 and 3-2 and shifting from 1-4 was a little soft.

The tranny is...crispy. I just had my dad drive my Max (it was his wife's old car) and he say's it almost shifts as good as his 2008 BMW M5, but not like his 2012 Alpina B7. I guess that's a compliment considering his two other cars are way out of the Nissan's league. I'll take it though.

One other thing, the double bumping I was getting was mostly resolved from replacing the front, passenger and tranny motor mount. I was too much of a puss to replace the rear motor mount by myself (since the f'kin engine/trans subframe needs to be removed), but I'll get to it eventually and do a final tune on the valve body.

If anyone want's the my VB mold, hit me up. I'll just charge you shipping.

Some other things tutorials I'm working on: 04-06 automatic reverse mirror lowering, dash plastic scratch removal, side mirror blinkers, and sound deadening.

Stay--tuned.
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Old 02-21-2016, 06:42 PM   #11
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Default Re: Lessons from a AW55-50SN Solenoid Replacement

Where can I order these? I Googled and couldn't find someone selling this brand. I want the rostra

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Old 05-15-2016, 12:11 AM   #12
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Default Re: Lessons From A AW55-50SN Solenoid Replacement

Very awesome writeup. I just finished replacing the valve body solenoids with new ones from Rostra.
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Old 08-12-2017, 09:32 PM   #13
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Default Re: Lessons From A AW55-50SN Solenoid Replacement

Hey. I am posting to say thank you to everyone for coming up with the solenoid fix. I purchased my Maxima new and I have 150k miles on it. I started having the transmission issue about a year ago and it started with delayed/hard shifts between D/R and R/D. Then a few months ago it started between 1/2 and 2/1. I decided I would give the fix a try since it cost less than $200 total including the Rostra solenoids and transmission fluid. I wasn't optimistic I would be able to pull it off and I fully planned to be purchasing a newer vehicle when I failed...well it was a success. It took me about 5 hours or so total. Thank you again.
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5 speed auto shift, 6th gen, adaptive learning, aisin warner, amsoil, aw55-50/51sn, aw55-50sn, aw55-51sn, k-matic substitute, nissan maxima, re5f22a, rostra solenoid, solenoid installation, sonnax solenoid

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