Chrysler Ultradrive

The Center for Auto Safety is the nation’s premier independent, member driven, non-profit consumer advocacy organization dedicated to improving vehicle safety, quality, and fuel economy on behalf of all drivers, passengers, and pedestrians.

December 2000

Dear Consumer:

Thank you for contacting the Center for Auto Safety (CAS) about problems with the "Ultradrive" electronic automatic transmission in your Chrysler. When this transmission was first introduced in 1989, it was such a huge lemon that former Chrysler Chairman Lee Iacocca had to personally direct its rescue. In February 1991, Consumer Reports advised against purchasing vehicles equipped with the Ultradrive transmission. In 1992, Consumer Reports declared that "though still troublesome last year, the transmission seems to be improving." CAS continues to receive complaints on later models.

CAS launched a major effort in late 1990 to get Chrysler to take responsibility for the Ultradrive woes by redesigning it to get rid of the bugs and to help consumers who had already bought one of these lemons. Our sustained efforts over the next year resulted in specific, public promises from Chrysler to repair all Ultradrive transmissions, waive the $100 deductible in the warranty, provide loaners, buy back any 1989-91 models with Ultradrives that could not be fixed and to improve the quality of the Ultradrive in future models. Chrysler ran an unprecedented campaign in 1991 to contact all owners of vehicles with Ultradrives in order to find and fix any vehicles with transmission problems.

The most common problems with Ultradrive transmissions are poor shifting quality and sudden locks into second gear ("limp-home" mode), even during highway driving. Between January 1989 and July 1991, Chrysler tried 28 different changes to deal with Ultradrive problems according to Chrysler’s reference guide, "History of the A-604 Transaxle." Nine design changes were made in an attempt to fix clutch failure, and four were directed to "shift busyness" — e.g., excessive shifting on hills.

In 1992, Chrysler renamed the A604 Ultradrive as the 41TE transmission. Technical service bulletins (TSBs) after this date refer to the Ultradrive as a 41TE transmission even though the bulletin might cover 1989 models when the Ultradrive was known only as the A604. Much like the Jeep CJ became the Jeep Wrangler and the Firestone 500 became the 721, the A604 became the 41TE to escape bad publicity.

If you are currently experiencing difficulties with your transmission, use the information in this packet to have the transmission fixed by the dealer. For poor shifting or transfer gear whine, the TSBs should cover the problem. For vehicles which lock into second gear, you should not pay for any repairs or replacements, your dealer should bill Chrysler. Contact Chrysler Customer Relations or the zone office if your dealer refuses to perform repairs for free. If both of these avenues fail, you can file for arbitration, go into small claims court or contact a lemon lawyer as explained in the enclosed materials. Be persistent and make Chrysler take responsibility for its engineering mistakes.

You’ll find more information on Ultradrive transmissions below and what you can do about them plus a complaint box. Your information will help us build a strong case against Chrysler on the defects we know about and help us spot new ones.

We need you to support the Center for Auto Safety in our fight for consumer rights and against poorly designed and unsafe cars. Your contribution is tax-deductible and entitles your to our quarterly newsletter, Lemon Times. Please submit the membership form along with your contribution and complaint. If you contribute $35 or more, we will send you the current edition of The Ultimate Car Book, by Jack Gillis. Every home should have this invaluable consumer guide.


Clarence M. Ditlow
Executive Director



TSB Year Description 21-09-88 1989 Dipstick seats improperly in transmission. Bend dipstick to fit. 21-01-89 1989 Loss of speed, lock into 2nd gear, clutch slippage between 3rd & 4th gears caused by reaction shaft support seal ring imperfections, blockage & failure. Diagnostic procedure. 21-01-89A 1989 Same symptoms as 21-01-89. Revised diagnostic procedure. 21-08-89 1989 Same symptoms as 21-01-89. New reaction shaft support, input clutch retainer, separator plate, computer controller. 21-09-89 1989 Proper procedure for pressure testing. 21-10-89 1989 "Repeated automatic transmission failures." Proper technique for flushing the transmission oil cooler following Ultradrive installation or repair. 21-10-89A 1989 Revised procedure for 21-10-89 21-20-89 1989 Transmission bearing preload/shimming procedures 21-25-89 1989 High gearshift effort out of "Park." New park sprag guide bracket 21-28-89 1989 Restricted transmission oil flow through transmission oil cooler causes transmission failure in cold weather. Install transmission bypass valve. 08-16-90 1989-90 Identification of bad wiring, connectors & terminals. New parts for Ultradrive electricals. 21-06-90 1990 False signal causes torque converter to lock & unlock, surge above 45MPH. Cluster wires to avoid interference. 21-07-90 1990 Loss of speed, harsh shifting, lock into 2nd gear. Replace PRNDL & neutral safety switches. 21-09-90 1989-90 No reverse, 3rd or 4th gear, transmission slipping. Replace OD/REV clutch assembly components. 21-09-90A 1989-90 Same symptoms as 21-09-90 plus bump after vehicle stops. Replace OD/REV clutch assembly components 21-12-90 1989-90 Transmission "hunting" between 3rd & 4th gears. New Ultradrive computer controller. 21-16-90 1989-90 Detailed transmission oil cooler flushing procedures specific to different Ultradrive transmission coolers. 21-22-90 1989-91 Upshift shudder between 1st & 2nd gears. Remove transmission, recondition 2-4 clutch. 21-24-90 1990-91 OD/REV clutch failure, slipping, no reverse. Undersize input clutch hub &/or defective reaction shaft support journal. 21-25-90 1990 Identical to 21-28-89, but extends to 1990 model year vehicles as well. 21-01-91 1990-91 Back-up lamp has intermittent illumination. Replace PRNDL & neutral/safety switches 21-02-91 1990-91 ATF fluid foams (burps) in high ambient temperature, towing, heavy load, up grades or into headwind. Cannot be replicated at dealer. Add anti-foaming additive. 21-03-91 1991 New OD/UD reaction plate enters production 21-05-91 1989-91 Diagnostic guide to A-604 transmission 21-09-91 1989-90 High frequency whine/transfer gear noise during acceleration/coasting. Replace transfer gears. 21-14-92 1992-93 Buzz in reverse 21-16-93 1989-90 Harsh 2-1 downshift transaxle (replaces bulletin # 21-16-92 on same subject). 21-36-93 1993-94 Improved transmission shift schedule 21-02-94 1991-94 Engine stalls following initial shift from park or neutral to a forward gear 18-05-94 1993-94 Acceleration shudder during torque converter EMCC (Electronic Modulated Converter Clutch) operation at 28 to 42-mph due to leakage in transmission front pump. 18-27-94 1989-95 Poor shift quality. Update TCM with latest software. 21-01-95 1993-95 Intermittent delayed engagement at vehicle start up. Replace valve body & oil filter 21-06-95A 1989-96 Shudder when first accelerating, slips on shifting. Overhaul transmission 21-10-95 1995-96 Goes into limp-home mode. Replace input speed sensor. 21-13-95A 1996 Intermittent powertrain shudder with A/C on. Change fluid twice. 21-15-95 1995-96 Goes into limp-home mode prior to warming up. Replace 2-4 accumulator piston. 21-05-96 1989-96 New TCM calibration to reduce frequency of limp-home occurrences 21-08-96 1996 Operates only in 1st or Reverse for first few minutes after starting. 21-09-96 1989-92 Improper repair causes low mileage repeat failure. 21-11-96A 1995-96 Shudder during 1-2 moderate throttle shifts. Replace clutch plates & discs. 21-18-96 1989-97 Changes in 41TE transmission 18-17-96B 1989-96 Shudder during lockup. Replace front pump assembly & torque converter 21-05-97 1989-97 Shudder during EMCC engagement in 3rd or 4th. Change fluid & filter twice 21-08-97 1997-97 Transmission fluid overheats. Install auxiliary cooler on 6-cylinder engines 21-09-97 1989-97 Improved repair diagnosis 18-09-97 1989-96 Same symptoms as 18-17-96B. Replace front pump assembly & torque converter 21-02-98A 1996-97 Shudder during 1-2, moderate throttle shifts, 2-3 upshift after 3-2 or 4-2 kick down. Reprogram TCM module. 21-03-98 1998 MIL illumination in cold weather; long 3-2 shifts. Reprogram TCM module. 21-07-98 1989-98 Intermittent delayed engagement at vehicle start up. Various repairs including replace pump, replace PRNDL switch, replace valve body, overhaul transaxle & replace seals. Replaces TSB# 21-01-95. 21-06-99 1989-99 Intermittent loss of speed control. Check sensor connectors