Slipping drive train on a '97 2WD

From: Tom Coulter (
Date: Thu Jan 31 2013 - 10:16:25 EST

'97 Dakota Sport | 2WD | 3.9L V6 | 42RE 4-speed automatic transmission

It’s been quite a while since I posted and hope everyone is off to a good
New Year.

In July 2009 (@71180 miles), I drained and changed the tranny fluid, as well
as the filter. While I was at it, I drilled a hole in the pan and welded on
a ˝” nut for a plug (this would make future changes less messy). I added 5
QTS of ATF+4.

During the last year or so, and ever so gradually (as many Dakota problems
evolve), I noticed the clutch slipping – kinda like you would notice on a
standard tranny when you “slip” the clutch. It was worse when the temp. was
colder and generally got better (less noticeable) after the engine was
working for an hour or so. My street is about a 3% grade and just driving
up to the stop sign would cause the tranny to slip if the RPMs were nudged
greater than about 1000. For a while I ignored this, assuming it was just a
sign of the transmission going south.

But it’s been turning really cold and the problem was really getting to me.
So the other day, I did what I should have done months ago: I checked the
ATF level. Duh! To my shock, the dip stick was dry! I immediately added
more fluid. It took just shy of 2QTS to top it up. A test drive convinced
me that everything was, once again, working and feeling fine: there was no
more slippage. WooHoo!

Now my questions:
1) During the time I noted the slippage, I saw no red fluid on the asphalt
driveway or anywhere else. Moreover, when I checked the fluid, I noted that
the pan and plug head were dry. So where did the fluid go?

2) The mileage is now 79300, which means that the ATF was changed about 8000
miles ago. The slippage gradually occurred over the past 2000 miles or so
(just a guess). With all this in mind, did I cause irreversible harm to my
transmission? How bad was this? Or is the 42RE resilient & forgiving? (I
have read that the 42RE is “Heavy Duty”.)

As a side note, I wonder where the January 2013 archives are hiding? If you
go here:

you will only see them archived thru December 2012. I have tried to inquire
of Jon Steiger about this but have receive no reply. I therefore have no
idea where this post will end up.

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