Common 545RFE Transmission Problems That Not Many People Know About

You may not be aware of this but there are quite a few 545RFE transmission problems that may be concerning for many people.

Basically, this transmission is electronically-controlled. When it was first released, there was n o doubt that it worked perfectly fine. Eventually, this unit was replaced by new ones – the 66rfe and the 65rfe. 

When the 545RFE transmission was introduced to the market there were so many positive reviews about it. Moreover, this was a suitable transmission for any two-wheel drives and even all-wheel drive vehicles.

Previously, this transmission was called the 45rfe, and it was quite common among the 1999 model year of the Jeep Grand Cherokee. There were three high quality planetary gear sets unlike the usual two, which four-speed automatics often use. 

Learn more about this transmission, what’s great about it and some issues that come with it. Here we go:

545rfe transmission problems

Facts About the 545RFE and Transmission Problems

First, let us take a look at some of the features of this transmission. As we have mentioned, there are three planetary gear sets to it. Moreover, there are three multiple disc input clutches and the same number of multiple disc holding clutches.

The dual internal filter system is another add-on, where one filter is used for your fluid cooler return system and then there is one for the transmission sump.

This transmission has a design based on the 45rfe automatic, which was extensively used in the entire fleet of Chrysler’s heavy-duty, rear-wheel trucks. But this is with the exception of sedans and coupes.

In 2001, Chrysler introduced the 545RFE transmission, bearing a taller design and more overdrive ratio, as well as some programming changes. This transmission also came with a standard axle ratio, which provided 2000 revolutions per minute (RPM) at the engine. Hence, it is absolutely possible to cruise your vehicle at about 70 miles per hour.

Additionally, the transmission gained popularity in various truck and SUV applications from the time of its inception up to the year 2012. These include the Jeep Grand Cherokee and the JeepCommander, which featured higher output engines. Other vehicle models that used this transmission include the Dodge Durango, to name a few.

While the engine was lacking by 200 RPMs compared to the 45rfe, there were positive results from it in terms of fuel consumption and noise production. Furthermore, there were six impressive forward speeds and one that was reserved for kickdowns.

As for the assembly, it is a bit similar to the Torquefiles, but with a more updated version. Like we have said the design was taller with 3:00:01 first gear intended for the initial acceleration. 

When it comes to the reverse, it is equivalent to the first gear. Hence, it can accommodate hefty loads more easily. During the time this transmission was introduced, there were more gear ratios available in its class. In fact, the factory that produced the transmission was brand new.

With the programming done in 2009, drivers became capable of choosing the highest gear for shifting using this transmission. This is why it got easier for vehicles to ascend steep inclines and descend hills without any problem.

However, the 545RFE transmission is not without any fault. In the next section, we will touch on some concerns that come with it, so you know what to expect.

Common 545RFE Transmission Problems

545rfe transmission problems

Because there were no transmission bands to the 545rfe, as it is controlled electronically, it needs the solenoid switch pack to direct fluid efficiently to the right clutch pack required for seamless gear engagement. In case something ends up bad and there is a defect to the solenoid, this completely eliminates gear engagement. Thus, the engine may stall and go into a limp mode while failing to engage the overdrive function.

Additionally, overheating may arise since the transmission tends to generate more friction heat, which the ATF is unable to siphon away. This overheating problem is largely caused by towing very heavy loads, driving in bad traffic, and when shifting constantly as you pass mountain roads.

Moreover, there is a delay in the gear engagement, as well as slipping issues. The transmission pump includes some valve mechanism that controls fluid pressure transferred by the torque converter. When there is a fault to the valve mechanism, this causes a delay in the gear engagement. Stalling and overheating on the transmission and torque converter, slipping and reduced fuel economy may also occur.

Some people who use the 545RFE transmission also complain about some unusual delays that can also be severe when going on a 3 to 4 or 4 to 5 gear shifts. There were also instances of the transmission being reluctant to get into the intended gear. This issue is due to valve body problems where the material for the check balls has severely broken down. Hence, fluid gets into this component and causes the underdrive clutch to engage in between shifts.

What you can do is to install your upgraded number 2 checkball with a more robust material to prevent this issue. 

Now, automatic transmissions that are either four- or five-speed come with about 90 percent interchangeable components. This is why repair work is much easier and simpler. This is one good thing about the 545RFE transmission. It is also more durable and highly reliable, so serious damages can be prevented.

The 545RFE transmission is basically designed for use by engines that are for heavy duty applications. But at the same time, it is quite compact. With the electronic control systems incorporated to the transmission, this minimizes the drive shafts and body size, making it quite compact.

Read More: GM 6 Speed Transmission Problems You Never Knew!

Bottom Line

Overall, the 545RFE transmission is highly reliable and designed to last a long time. It is a bit like the 45rfe although there is a difference in the software. The 545RFE has a fifth gear that is activated electronically, and there are also some differences in the solenoid pack and the control module.

It is a dependable unit but there are some issues that occur, which is why the 65rfe and 66 rfe eventually replaced it.

2 thoughts on “Common 545RFE Transmission Problems That Not Many People Know About”

    • Hi Daniel, The best place to purchase an upgraded #2 check ball would be from a reputable auto parts store or online retailer that specializes in transmission parts. Some examples include Summit Racing, Jegs, and Transtar Industries. You may also want to consider reaching out to a local transmission shop or mechanic who may have access to the upgraded check ball and be able to install it for you.


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