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Torque Converter Install
By Richard Cowan (a.k.a. RCowan99SSConv) and DeWayne Parrish (a.k.a. EvilLS1)

This document will show you how we installed a torque converter in an LS1 F-body.  Like any other modification there is a chance that you can seriously break something.  We do not claim that everything within these pages is 100% accurate and if you should use this information you do so AT YOUR OWN RISK.

That being said, lets take a look...

First you will need a variety of tools including:
Metric sockets & wrenches:  11mm, 13mm, 15mm, 24mm
Large extension (we used two 24" extensions)
Short extension
Swivel joint for socket wrench
Flat head screwdriver
Transmission Jack
Narrow funnel for tranny fluid
Lots of rags

Torque Converter
Transmission fluid (at least 8 qts)
Filter (if desired)
5 hours if you've done it before, maybe all day if you haven't

First DISCONNECT THE BATTERY.  Second you need to get the car off the ground.  We jacked the car up and put it on four jackstands as high as they would go.  We did this in two stages.  First we put one side of the car half way up on the jack stands, then we raised the otherside to the full height of the jack stands.  We then jacked the first side up the rest of the way.  We place the jack stands on the rear axles tubes in the back and on the front subframes in the front.

You will want to let your car cool off for a while before getting into it.

Some people do the swap without draining the tranny fluid, but we did it in order to change the fluid & filter.  The car had over 20,000 miles and this was never done so it was as good a time as any.  Also if you leave the fluid in, you'll have to disconnect the driveshaft from the rear but leave it in the tranny tailshaft so fluid does not pour out of it.

We removed the transmission pan.  It is held in place by several 13mm bolts.  You want a big drip pan to catch the fluid.  This can get really messy.  After you drop the pan and drain the fluid, change the filter if you want.  Clean out the pan to remove any metal particles on the magnet and/or pan bottom.  Reinstall the pan.  These bolts are NOT tightened very much.  We used about 10ft-lb.  Check with Helms.

That done, we are ready to begin.

Three basic "movements"
In order to do the transmission swap there are three basic things you have to do.
1) Remove everything attached to the transmission and everything that impedes its ability to tilt down (while attached to the motor).  You have to do this to get it to drop enough so that you can get all the bellhousing bolts
2) Remove transmission and swap converters
3) Reinstall everything

1) Remove stuff

First you must remove a lot of things that are attached to the transmission.  We'll take them one at a time.

a) Driveshaft
First you need to disconnect the shifter cable from the tranny.  This cable is attached to a small lever on the driver's side of the transmission via a simple ball-in-socket joint.  We used a flat head screwdriver to pop it off.  Then we clicked the lever down two clicks to put the tranny in neutral and allow free rotation of the drive shaft.

(Click thumbnails to view full size pics)


The driveshaft rear u-joint is attached to the rear end via two caps that are held by four 11mm bolts.  Rotate the driveshaft by hand to get the bolts in a position that you can work with.  If they are too tight you may have to reach up and push the lever to put the tranny back into park and lock the driveshaft into place while you loosen these bolts.  Remove one cap, rotate driveshaft, remove other cap.  Now slide the driveshaft forward into the transmission to free the driveshaft from the rear end.  Tilt down and slide the driveshaft rearward out of the tranny.  Set the driveshaft aside.

b) Exhaust.
The exhaust system will 1) get in your way trying to remove bellhousing bolts and 2) prevent the transmission/engine combo from tilting down as far as you will need it to.  You need to get it off of there.  If you have a stock exhaust we recommend disconnecting it at the Y-pipe and trying to do it with the Y still attached to the motor.  Why?  Its our experience that if you try to remove the stock Y you WILL break at least one bolt on the driver's side.  We did this install on a car with Mac headers and simply disconnected the system at the headers.  Remove your Y-pipe.  Remove the intermediate pipe.  You can actually do the install with the intermediate pipe in place but it will be very annoying and get in your way when you are trying to get those bellhousing bolts.  We removed it.  Bolts involved vary.  The two bolts on the bracket connecting the Ypipe to the transmission tailshaft on the passenger side are 15mm.  Remove those.  Don't forget to disconnect your two rear O2 sensors if you have them.

c) Torque arm.
The Torque arm is attached to your transmission tail shaft via a clamshell bracket.  The two bolts at the bottom are fairly easy to get, the one at the top you will have to wait to get when you lower the tranny a bit.  Once you get the bolt out at the top of this arrangement you can swing the driver's side half of the clamshell toward the front of the car and out.  This will make more sense when you see it.

Leave the torque arm attached to the rear end.

d) Transmission Crossmember
Now you need to support the transmission with a transmission jack.  Disconnect the transmission mount from the transmission crossmember.  There is a single nut in the middle of the crossmember that attaches to the tranny mount.  Remove this nut.  Disconnect the passenger side rear O2 sensor socket from the tranny crossmember.  This socket is mounted to the crossmember on the top near the passenger side.  Remove the two bolts on each side that hold the transmission crossmember in place.  These are 13mm.  Now you can remove the crossmember and set it aside.

The tranny/motor combo is now free to move downward.  You are probably raring to drop it and get at those bellhousing bolts but there are several more things that must be disconnected first.

e) Electrical connections
Lower the tranny a couple of inches with your tranny jack to make it easier to remove these.
    i) Speed sensor.  On the tailshaft housing of the tranny, on the passenger side is a connector.  Unplug it.  This is your speed sensor
    ii) 20-pin Connector.  On the passenger side of the tranny, above the pan, is a large, round 20pin connector.  Squeeze it to remove.
    iii) Driver's side rear O2 socket.  The socket for the rear O2 on the driver's side is mounted to a bracket on the tranny (much like the rear O2 socket on the tranny crossmember).  It is about halfway up the side of the tranny on the driver's side.  Reach up there and pull it out of the bracket.  You may need to use a flat head screwdriver.

f) Transmission Cooler Lines
On the passenger side of the tranny, about half way up, you will see two hard lines attached to the tranny.  These are your transmission cooler lines.  If you follow them you will see that they go all the way to the front of the car to your transmission cooler.  At this point you may need to lower the tranny a bit more to get at the connections.

You may want to mark one of the lines so you know which one is the "upper" and which is "lower".  The way the lines are bent its hard to screw this up, but you may want to mark them just the same.  The lines are held in place by wire 'e' clips.  There is a plastic shroud on each.  Slide back the shrouds.  The clips are 'e' shaped, but the ends of the 'e' are flared outward which helps you.  The way to remove them is to slide one end out and rotate the clip to make it come off.  The 'e' has several bends in it which force it to sit in "slots"--What I am getting at is when you lift one side and push it around, the clip won't slide on you because of its funny shape. :)  You can use a fingernail or flathead to get it started.  BE VERY CAREFUL WITH THESE.  They are easy to bend and when they come off they like to fly to places unknown.  You don't want to lose one of these, they are not your standard hardware store stock.  After you take these two clips off, the tranny lines will come out easily.

g)  Vent tube
You didn't know there was this much stuff attached to the tranny did you?  On the very top of the tranny behind the bellhousing there is a black plastic vent tube.  You can reach up there and pull it off easily with your hand.  It just slides on there.  The tube exits at your torque arm.  Its fixed to the torque arm with a bracket.  You can follow the tube up from there to find it on top of the tranny.

h) Dipstick tube
You need to get your dipstick tube out of there.  Remove the dipstick from the dipstick tube.  The tube is held in place by a single 15mm bolt that is in everybody's top 5 of biggest PITA bolts on these cars.  Look up at the back of the motor on the passenger side, follow the dipstick tube up there.  You will see a bracket on the dipstick tube that is held in place by this 15mm bolt.  You can reach up there with a 15mm wrench and get it out.  It make take an eternity of small turns to get it, but you will, eventually.

After you have the bolt out of there you have the pleasure of removing the tube from the tranny.  The best way to do this is to have one person above, wiggling the tube from the engine compartment, while the other tries to encourage it out from below.  One method that seems to work is put the open end of your 15mm wrench on the neck-down part of your dipstick tube and try to wedge it up while the other person wiggles it.  Eventually you will get it out of there.

Now you have removed all the "stuff" and your tranny should be free of everything except for those bellhousing bolts!

1) Remove transmission and swap converters

You're almost there.  Before you can remove the tranny you must disconnect the torque converter from the flywheel by removing the torque converter bolts.  First you must remove the starter.

a) Remove Starter
The starter is held in place by two 13mm bolts (15 mm bolts on 98 models).  First disconnect the Oil Level sensor plug.  The wire to this sensor is right under the starter and will get in your way.  The Oil Level sensor is the big, tan,  plastic hex thing on the passenger side of the oil pan.  You have to lift the black flap of the plug which can be accessed on one side of the big tan hex head.  Then it slides right out of there.  Remove the two 13mm bolts from the starter.  Now work it out and try to lower it and get it out of the way.  It will still be connected by wires so hang it from your passenger side control arm with an old coat hanger.

b) Remove inspection cover and torque converter bolts
There is a grey plastic piece there that has a hole that your starter fit into.  There is a single 10mm bolt holding this "inspection cover" to the motor.  Remove it.  Now you have a clear view of the back of the flywheel.  Here's another time where having a buddy really helps.  One person can rotate the motor via the crank pulley bolt while the other removes the TC bolts.  Watch the flywheel while your friend rotates the motor.  When you get one of the three TC bolts where you can work on it through the opening, have him stop.  Remove the TC bolt.  On my Camaro it was an allen head bolt and this car (a 99 Transam) originally had TORX bolts in there!  Remove that TC bolt, rotate motor 120 degrees, remove the second bolt, rotate 120 degrees, remove the 3rd bolt.  You have now disconnected the TC from the motor and you should be able to reach in there with your hand and rotate the TC independent of the flywheel.  There is another cover on the bottom of the bellhousing that you can use.  It is a round hole about 2 or 3 inches in diameter with a metal plate clipped in there.  Pop it out with a flat head and now you can use two hands to manipulate the torque converter.  This can come in handy on the re-install.

c) Remove bellhousing bolts
Go back to the back and lower the tranny all you can.  It will sag with the motor on the motor mounts.  Hopefully it is low enough that you can barely see the top TC bolt at 12 o'clock.  Now you must remove all the bolts.  There are 8 of them and they are 13mm.  Newer cars may have the newer 15mm bolts.  There is a hole in the bellhousing at about 2 o'clock that looks like a bolt should go there, but there is none.  For those difficult upper bolts you will need a long extension and perhaps a swivel.  We used two 24" extensions for a total of 48" to get the top bolt and at least 2 others.  We used the swivel on these as well.  Take your time, be patient, you will eventually get them all.

d) Remove transmission
Once you have all the bolts removed, jack the tranny back up to take the stress off of the pins.  There are two dowel pins on the left and right sides that line up the tranny & motor.  These are notoriously sticky.  Try to hold the tranny with the jack so that there is no bending moment at the tranny/motor interface.  If you are lucky it will slide right off.  If not, you may have to pry a little on each side to encourage the tranny off.

e) Swap TCs
Once you get the tranny off, slide it backward, lowering a bit as you go.  Get it back enough and low enough that you can remove the stock torque converter.  Be careful!  The stock converter with fluid in it weighs over 50lbs!  Make sure your hands are not greasy and you have a good grasp on it when you remove it.  Be careful!  I did it by lying on my back along side the tranny and sliding it out and onto my chest.  Then I eased it onto the floor.  Slide the stock TC out of there and move that beast out of the way.  Fill your new TC with 1/2 to 1 qt of fluid.  Now its time to put it in.  Once again I put the new TC on my chest while I laid on my back next to the tranny and then sort of rotated it up and onto the tranny input shaft.  Slide it on the input shaft and rotate.  Push and rotate at the same time to get it on there.  You will feel three distinct "engagements" as you push and turn.  IT IS CRITICAL THAT IT GETS ALL THE WAY IN!  Here is how to check to see if you have the new TC all the way in:

f) Check it!
Get a straight edge and a ruler.  Place the straight edge all the way across the bellhousing opening.  We used an old lawnmower blade.  Measure from the straight edge into the bellhousing to one of the mounting lugs on the TC.  You should measure about 1.0" depth.  To convince yourself that this is correct look at the back of the motor.  Measure from the back face (where the tranny bolts up) to the back side of the flywheel (where the TC bolts up).  You will get about 0.875"  This leaves you with 1.0" - 0.875" = 0.125" or about 1/8" clearance between the the flywheel and the TC once you get the tranny back up.

Now that you have the TC in, installation is the reverse of removal. :D

1) Reinstall everything

Now we won't leave you like that. :)  Before you put the tranny back up, try to rotate the TC so that the mounting lugs will be close to where they should be on the flywheel.  This will make it easier later.  Jack up the tranny and move it forward onto the dowel pins.  Start the easy bellhousing bolts and get the tranny as flush as you can.  Put in all the other bellhousing bolts and torque to spec.  Now you need to bolt up your new TC.  Go back to the inspection cover.  If you didn't turn it since removing the last bolt, it should be in place to install the first one.  If not, have a buddy turn the motor with the wrench.  There will be some clearance between the TC and the flywheel.  Reach inside the inspection cover with one hand and into the big hole on the bottom of the bellhousing with the other and pull the TC forward to get it as flush as you can.  Now put in the first TC bolt finger tight.  Rotate and put the other two in finger tight.  The torque spec is 44 ft-lb.  Torque all three bolts.  Install the inspection cover and starter.  Plug your Oil Level Sensor back in.

Put the dipstick tube back in place.  With the tranny lowered, you may only be able to start the tube into place, but get it started.  Reconnect the vent tube, cooler lines and all electrical connections.  Raise the tranny as you go (you may not be able to get that speed sensor plug in until its up most of the way.  Put the Torque Arm back in its mount BEFORE you get the tranny all the way up or you won't be able to.  Get the dipstick tube in all the way, its easier this time.  Put the dipstick tube bolt in.  Put the tranny crossmember back up.  Reattach the passenger side rear O2 plug to the tranny crossmember.  Install exhaust and driveshaft.

Reconnect battery.
ADD TRANSMISSION FLUID!  Add about 7 or 8 quarts with a narrow funnel through the dipstick tube and check regularly for the next couple of days to see if you need more.

Before lowering the car, start it up and check for leaks or anything strange (e.g. loose exhaust).  If all is well, lower the car and go for a test drive.  If you have AutoTAP or other diagnostic tool it is strongly recommended that you monitor the transmission temperature until you know you don't need more fluid, etc.

That's it!

I hope this has helped you.  If you see ANY errors or if you have questions or suggestions, please contact me here.


Page by Richard Cowan
My humble home page is here

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