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Dodge Durango Transmissions: Overview, Problems, Fluids

On this blog, we’ve written extensively about the Dodge Durango and various aspects of the vehicle. Today we’re going to take a deep dive into the transmissions that have been used throughout the years and much more. Let’s start with a quick answer:

The first generation of the Dodge Durango was equipped with the 4-speed A518 TorqueFlite automatic and 45RFE or 545RFE automatic transmissions. The second generation has the 4-speed 42RLE automatic, 5-speed 545RFE automatic, and CVT Two-Mode automatic transmissions. Finally, the third generation has the 4-speed A518, the 545RFE, the W5A580 (NAG1), and the 6-speed 65RFE transmission. The 8-speed 845RE/8HP70 automatic is also equipped in specific models.

However, that doesn’t tell the whole story. Below we first outline the specific generations and the transmissions that have been used. After that we’ll discuss how long each transmission should last and how much they would cost to replace. Furthermore, we discuss all the common problems of each transmission and how to identify them. Finally, we’ll give recommendations for the right transmission fluid for each unit. Read on!

Also read: Types Of Gas A Dodge Durango Takes (All Generations)

What Transmissions Has The Dodge Durango Used

First Generation

  • 4-speed A518 TorqueFlite automatic
  • 4-speed 45RFE automatic
  • 5-speed 545RFE automatic

Second Generation

  • 4-speed 42RLE automatic
  • 5-speed 545RFE automatic
  • CVT Two-Mode automatic

Third Generation

  • 5-speed W5A580 automatic
  • 5-speed 545RFE automatic
  • 6-speed 65RFE automatic
  • 8-speed 845RE automatic (2014-17 Pentastar 2018-on 850RE )
  • 8-speed 8HP70 automatic (2014- Hemi)

How Long Does Dodge Durango Transmission Last?

The 45RFE, 545RFE, 845RE, and 8HP70 of the Dodge Durango are reliable transmissions that should last between 180.000 and 250.000 miles depending on the use of the vehicle. The A518 TorqueFlite should also reach this mileage if the overdrive is turned off. The 42RLE, W5A580, and 65RFE can last up to 200.000 miles. However, many will have numerous problems and will wear out around 80.000 – 100.000 miles.

Also read: How Many Miles Can A Dodge Durango Last? (Answered)

How Much Does a Dodge Durango Transmission Cost?

If you need to replace the transmission, then it’s helpful to know how much these units cost. We’ve done our best to overview these transmissions for used, remanufactured, and retail units.

  • A518 TorqueFlite costs around $1.500 for a remanufactured unit. Retail these are difficult to come by.
  • 45RFE and 545RFE costs around $950 used and $2.100 at retail.
  • 42RLE costs around $2.100 remanufactured and $2.500 at retail.
  • W5A580 costs around $1.000 used and $2.000 remanufactured.
  • 65RFE costs around $2.200 remanufactured and $2.900 at retail.
  • 845RE costs around $2.500 remanfactured and $3.500 at retail.
  • 8HP70 costs around $3.000 remanufactured and $4.000 at retail.

Also read: The Exact Bolt Pattern Of A Dodge Durango

Common Dodge Durango Transmission Problems

No transmission is without a problem. Here are some of the issues with the transmissions of the Dodge Durango.

A518 TorqueFlite

The A518 TorqueFlite is a derivative of the A727 TorqueFlite. The A518 has an overdrive option added to it, and this is also the part that created the most problems in these units.

  • The overdrive comes on too early and this results in a drop in line pressure that creates numerous other problems. The lack of power generally resulted in the driver having to depress the accelerator hard enough for the transmission to downshift and upshift in and out of overdrive. Keeping the car out of overdrive (by depressing the button on the dashboard or rewiring the TCM) is the best way to fix this problem.

45RFE/545RFE

Both the 45RFE and 545RFE are solid transmissions that shouldn’t cause any problems. If the transmissions are cared for properly, and the correct transmission fluid is used, these transmissions should be pain-free.

42RLE

The 42RLE is a problematic transmission because the design of the unit is not that good. Below we’ve outlined the major problems and the most likely causes:

  • Poor shifting due to the use of Dexron or Mercon transmission fluid. The 42RLE should only use ATF+4 Synthetic Type 9602 automatic transmission fluid.
  • Limp home mode being activated for no apparent reason. This means the transmission is stuck in first and second gear and can’t move further. Most likely caused by a defective sensor that makes the transmission think it’s in danger when it’s not.
  • Poor shifting not caused by the transmission fluid is most likely caused by a solenoid or valve stuck in the valve body, a computer malfunction, or a pump failure.
  • Random transmission downshifts caused by a defective lower or upper speed sensor.
  • Rough 1-2 shifts which normally can be solved by changing for the proper transmission fluid. Also make sure to change the filter to ensure all old fluid is out of the system.
  • Rough shifts and slipping of the transmission with the following ECU codes stored: P0750, P0755, P0760, P0765, P0846, P0871, P0841. Caused by corrosion in the 10 pin solenoid harness connector or a wiring issure between the transmission control module and the engine control unit. Changing the solenoid and/or rewiring is the way to fix this.

W5A580

  • Water entering the transmission via the dipstick tube which causes shuddering of the transmisson in 3rd, 4th and 5th gear. This problem is caused by a defective o-ring and replacing it will fix the issue.
  • Poor shifting due to the use of Dexron or Mercon transmission fluid. The W5A580 should only use ATF+4 Synthetic Type 9602 automatic transmission fluid.
  • Poor shifting or harsh engagement of the Drive or Reverse options. This is caused by design flaws of the engine and a mechanic will need to figure out the exact problem.
  • The torque converter gives out prematurely. This is caused by a faulty solenoid or clutch, or fluid contamination. Replacing the torque converter is the only option.

65RFE

The 65RFE is not a terrible transmission but also not a good one. The transmission has some design flaws,, and the 45RFE and 545RFE have proven to be more reliable. The 65RFE has the following issues:

  • Clunks or knocks when the vehicle is shifted into neutral. Furthermore a lack of ‘check engine’ light or other problems. The clunk sounds are most likely caused by an incorrect underdrive clutch position. This is solved by installing a revised spacer plate into the valve body.
  • A difficulty shifting into drive or revers. This is caused by a worn low-reverse solenoid assembly which failed prematurely. Replacing it with a revised solenoid should fix the issue.

845RE/8HP70

The 8HP70 transmission installed in the Dodge Durango is an excellent transmission with very few reported problems.

Also read: The Oil Type, Weight, And Capacity Of A Dodge Durango

Transmission Fluids and the Dodge Durango

Throughout the years, Chrysler transmissions (which are used in the Dodge Durango) have had multiple problems caused by the faulty use of transmission fluid. This is mainly because some mechanics and dealers thought it was okay to use Dexron in this vehicle. However, this causes significant problems. Below we’ve therefore outlined the recommended transmission fluid for every transmission:

  • A518 TorqueFlite can run ATF+3 but ATF+4 is recommended
  • 45RFE, 545RFE, 65RFE, 42RLE and W5A580 use ATF+4.
  • 845RE and 8HP70 use Mopar 8&9 speed transmission fluid, ZF Lifeguard 8 or QuantumBlue specifically designed for these units.

Sources