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700r4 Rebuild Tips, Tricks & Tools - Corvette Forum

Dec 19, 2014



700r4 Rebuild Tips, Tricks & Tools - Corvette Forum

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03-08-2012, 03:40 AM

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Cliff HarrisCF Senior Member 1986 Chevrolet Corvette My Garage

700r4 Rebuild Tips, Tricks & Tools

Background: After I had my car for about 20 years it started leaking transmission fluid from the hole in the torque converter cover. I figured there are only a few gaskets involved, so I bought those gaskets from the local Chevy dealer. After taking the transmission out of the car and getting it on the workbench, I opened the shop manual. The first step in the pump removal process is, "TOOLS REQUIRED: J-23772-A Oil Pump Remover", which of course I didn't have. I looked at the pump and thought, "I can get it OUT of there, one way or another, but I don't think I can get it back IN without damaging something". So I went to a local transmission shop and talked with the owner. Two of his guys came and picked up the transmission. He rebuilt it and I went to his shop to pay for it. The first thing I noticed was that he used a cork pan gasket. They ALWAYS leak, which I mentioned to him. He said, "We've never had any complaints". I thought, "Yeah. From mini-van drivers who park their car in the street". After I put the transmission back in the car it immediately started leaking at the pan gasket, so I bought a new gasket and installed it. Now it was leaking at the front, even worse than before and I was out $950 for the rebuild plus a lot of pain and strain getting the trans out and back in. I decided to live with the leak because it was too much hassle to take the trans out again. The leak has really irritated me and I was tired of dealing with the puddle of trans fluid on the garage floor so five years later I started doing some research online and I found out that there is a well-known problem with the 700r4 front pump seal that was fixed in mid 1987, when the transmission was redesigned. It seems the front bushing tends to walk out of the pump, pushing the seal with it and causing the leak. GM fixed this problem by machining a lip in the pump to keep the bushing from moving. I decided to buy a newer pump and just replace the pump, thus fixing the problem. Then I remembered that one of the guys in my Corvette club had taken the 700r4 out of his '89 Corvette and replaced it with a ZF 6 speed manual trans. I figured he probably had the trans sitting in the corner of his garage gathering dust. He did. I told him I wanted to buy it and he said I could have it for free (which is what I was hoping he would say). Cool. The improved version with the valve body upgrades, too. He even gave me a transmission jack that he no longer needed. I rented a U-Haul van to get the transmission. I brought lots of ropes and we tied the transmission down really well. I didn't want it flying around in the van and getting damaged.

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5/2/12 7:22 PM

700r4 Rebuild Tips, Tricks & Tools - Corvette Forum

Forced Induction

Going around the third corner on the way home the trans jack tilted and the transmission tipped up on its nose and transmission fluid poured out everywhere. Why this happened later... After getting it home, I decided I had better rebuild it since it had about 95,000 miles on it. That turned out to be a good decision, since he had upgraded his engine to a high output 383 and burned out the clutches. I did a lot of research on rebuilding 700r4s and since I was unemployed with lots of time and little money I decided to buy a rebuild/upgrade kit from Dana Wilkes at Pro-Built Transmissions: The advantage of his kit is that all the parts needed are included with the appropriate heavy-duty components. He even included a DVD video that shows how it's done. This article is a little different from the usual 700r4 rebuild article. Others have done a great job of documenting the process in great detail, so I didn't want to repeat what has already been said quite well. Here are a couple of links: -- Pete's Transmission Threads -- janarvae's 700r4 Transmission Rebuild The reason the transmission tipped over in the van was that the jack is a cheap Harbor Freight unit and the too-thin sheet metal bent from the tension on the trans holding strap and allowed the jack to come apart. This is the trans cradle (upside down). The sides are supposed to be vertical, but they spread apart and the U-shaped guides came off the rollers.


I drilled holes in the cradle and added a long bolt across the bottom to prevent the spreading in the future.

Some preliminary pics before the meat of the article. Here's the victim. Note that the trans will not normally stand up like this because of the way the bellhousing is shaped. It has a couple of

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5/2/12 7:22 PM

700r4 Rebuild Tips, Tricks & Tools - Corvette Forum

blocks of wood under the front of the pan.

These passages in the case are known as worm tracks. Very appropriate name.

Cylinder Head


This is looking into the case with the pump and input clutch housing removed. The output shaft is also out. You're supposed to use the fancy tool to take the pump out, but you can actually pop it out quite easily by prying on the back with a long screwdriver. I saw that in a YouTube video.

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700r4 Rebuild Tips, Tricks & Tools - Corvette Forum




There are several springs that need to be compressed in order to remove the snap rings that hold them is place. Since I didn't want to spend over $100 for a tool I would only use once, I opted to make my own spring compressor. Here's what it takes to get the rear spring out of the case. The spring to be removed is in the back of the picture, with the snap ring on the left. The snap ring pliers are made by Lisle. It has interchangeable bits that can remove internal or external snap rings. Unfortunately the junko spring retainer that holds the bits allows the bit to wobble around, making the tool worthless. A screw and nut fix that problem. Next to the spring is a piece of angle iron that I bought at Lowe's. It was two feet long and I cut off an appropriately-sized piece. I taped a couple of plastic spacers on it with masking tape. The long bolt also came from Lowe's. In the front is part of a harmonic balancer removal tool that I bought several years ago. It's Interesting that when I went to the transmission shop they had an almost identical tool that they had made.

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The Lisle snap ring pliers with the worthless spring-loaded pivot. It allowed the tips to wobble so much that the tool was unusable. A stainless steel bolt and nut fixed the problem.

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700r4 Rebuild Tips, Tricks & Tools - Corvette Forum


Under the Hood

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Another problem with the snap ring pliers was they wouldn't open far enough to remove some of the snap rings.


I ground away some of the material near the rear pins to let the pliers close further so the tips would open more.

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5/2/12 7:22 PM

700r4 Rebuild Tips, Tricks & Tools - Corvette Forum

Restoration Used Parts Manufacturers


Fuel Systems

It turned out that the harmonic balancer removal tool fit perfectly in the back of the transmission.

The tool in action.

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700r4 Rebuild Tips, Tricks & Tools - Corvette Forum

I drilled these holes in my workbench to mount various tools. I have holes for the big vise in the background, a drill press vise, a drill press and a bench grinder. The mounting bolts and wing nuts are stainless steel. They spin on and off very nicely.

It's traditional to drill a hole in your workbench to put the input clutch housing in while you're working on it. I didn't want to do that so I drilled a hole in a piece of 2x4 instead. It's mounted to one of my tool mounting holes.

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5/2/12 7:22 PM

700r4 Rebuild Tips, Tricks & Tools - Corvette Forum

Here's the input clutch housing mounted in the hole. Trans fluid drips out of holes in the shaft so it's good to have something below to catch it. You can get really cheap pie tins at the grocery store...