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Old 12-17-2008, 10:22 PM   #1
jeepinwi
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Default VTi to AF23 transmission swap

As some of you may know, I recently bought an 04 Ion3 QC with a broken VTi transmission. Instead of replacing the Vti with another possible lemon, I decided to swap in a 5 speed automatic from an Ion sedan. I may have the world's first Ion QC with a 5 speed automatic transmission.

The swap was pretty straight forward. The most difficult part may have been locating parts. I was lucky enough that a local salvage yard had a wrecked but complete 04 Ion sedan. The parts needed to complete the swap are as followed:
  • AF23 transmission from an 03 or 04 Ion sedan
  • AF23 torque converter
  • transmission computer for the AF23 transmission
  • transmission cooler hoses for AF23 transmission
  • AF23 front transmission mount
  • AF23 driver's side upper transmission mount
  • AF23 bracket for rear lower transmission mount
  • AF23 transmission wiring harness
  • shift cable bracket that mounts on transmission(from an AF23 trans)
  • 8 quarts T-IV transmission fluid(the fluid from a Toyota dealership is $5/quart)
  • 2 new axle shaft oil seals for the transmission(same seals for both transmissions)
  • mounting bracket for the PCM and AF23 TCM)

From doing research, I found that the passenger's side axle shaft for the AF23 was 3/8" shorter, but upon comparison, I found it was actually 1/2" longer than the VTi axle shaft. I reused the VTi axle shaft in the AF23 trans, and all seems to be working well after 1 mile of driving. The driver's side axle shaft is identical for the 2 transmissions.

I won't go into complete details on the removal of the transmission since they can be found in a Haynes or Chilton's repar manual. As far as installing the AF23 trans, here are some pointer that would have made it an easier process for me.
  • For installation, support the engine with a floor jack and raise the transmission up to the engine with some kind of hoist. I used a come-along attached to my shed's trusses.
  • Have the torque converter completely seated into the transmission when you atach the trans to the engine.
  • put a little oil on the stub nose of the torque converter so it slides into the crankshaft easier.
  • I drained the coolant and removed the radiator hoses to get better access to things
  • I also removed the radiator overflow container for better access
  • Putting trans fluid into the AF23 trans is difficult since the dipstick is towards the bottom front of the trans. I used a dipstick tube from another engine and a tip on the top of an oil bottle to put the fluid in.

Once I had the AF23 installed, I had issues getting the engine to start. It may have been a faulty ignition switch since it was about 10 degrees, or it may be necessary to do a passlock relearn procedure(as suggested by 2006 ion2). I have not figured that out yet.

Once the engine started, everything worked perfectly. The transmission shifts through all the gears smoothly, so I didn't need to have the TCM reprogrammed as I thought I would.

Some of you may be interested in the cost of this swap. Total price of all the parts for me was $745.76...a far cry from the $5,000 for a new Vti transmission. The transmission I picked up only had 8,000 miles on it, so it should be ready for the life of the car.

Feel free to post any questions you may have.
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Old 12-18-2008, 10:33 AM   #2
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Default Re: VTi to AF23 transmission swap

I applaud you on this.

I have been following the Ion QC Transmission swap. There are many QC that I'm sure you could pick up really cheap with burnt tranny.

Good job. When you have some more extensive driving experience of your newly modified Ion, let us know.
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Old 12-18-2008, 08:10 PM   #3
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Default Re: VTi to AF23 transmission swap

Update:

I was able to drive almost 70 miles today with the new transmission installed. When I first started the car this morning, the check engine light went off on its own. It was off throughout the day while driving, but came back on as I pulled into the garage this afternoon. The transmission went into limp mode with only 2nd gear and reverse engaging. I shut the engine off, restarted, and the transmission shifted fine, but CEL still on.

Other impressions: The 2-3 upshift was very firm throughout the day, almost jerking when I dip into the throttle a bit. Also, the trans hesitated to shift into 5th gear at one point until I accelerated up to 65 mph. Once I pull the code for the CEL, I'll have more information on what's going on. I may try a reprogram of the TCM to fix the issues.
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Old 12-18-2008, 11:27 PM   #4
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Default Re: VTi to AF23 transmission swap

Is there a chance the ECM has a different software version that isnt communicating with your new transmission computer perfectly?
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Old 12-18-2008, 11:44 PM   #5
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Default Re: VTi to AF23 transmission swap

there's no software in the transmission, so there's no room for compatibility issues between the transmission and the TCM, however, you may have the old software, which has issues.
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Old 12-19-2008, 12:00 AM   #6
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Default Re: VTi to AF23 transmission swap

Quote:
Originally Posted by 2006 ion2 View Post
there's no software in the transmission, so there's no room for compatibility issues between the transmission and the TCM, however, you may have the old software, which has issues.
I was refering to ECM (Engine Control Module) communicating with the new TCM (Transmission Control Module)

I swapped a V6 with the asian 5 speed auto into a Vue that had a 4cyl / VTI transmission. I replaced the ECM, TCM ,BCM and every wiring harnesses (so i could add all the fun power options). I procured a rolled over donor vehicle for this project.
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Old 12-19-2008, 12:23 AM   #7
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Default Re: VTi to AF23 transmission swap

oh, ok, either way the donor TCM was from the same year ion, so still SHOULD be no issue, but sounds like he's having other software related issues, too, so a reflash is probably in order in his case, but because of the tcm software itself, not an incompatibility.
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Old 12-23-2008, 10:10 PM   #8
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Default Re: VTi to AF23 transmission swap

thanx allot for doing this...it will definately help me do it...im having one hell of a time finding parts though...seems that most salvage yards these days pull everything and shelf it scrapping all the little things...so no wiring harness yet but im still looking...im hoping to get this together soon...hey and merry christmas and all that jazz peoples!
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Old 12-28-2008, 07:56 PM   #9
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Default Re: VTi to AF23 transmission swap

i have found the m43 option transmission from an 04 sedan for 250 shipped...i just need all the bells and whistles...so the search continues
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Old 01-04-2009, 04:03 PM   #10
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Default Re: VTi to AF23 transmission swap

any new word on the transmission? im still having the worst time finding parts...i did in fact find a donor with a manual trans...so im concidering that instead
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Old 01-05-2009, 02:41 PM   #11
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Default Re: VTi to AF23 transmission swap

One of the new axle seals I installed is leaking like a siv, so I'm waiting for a new seal from my local Saturn dealership. I must have torn the seal when installing the axle. Once I get that seal installed, I will be taking the car into the dealership to have the TCM reprogrammed.

I've been able to drive the car almost 300 miles, and it usually works flawlessly. The 2-3 upshift is still jerky, and the check engine light comes on randomly. A couple times when first starting the car, the trans goes into a limp mode, starting out in 2nd gear. I just shut the engine off, restart it, and the trans works normally.

I averaged about 27 mpg from my first tank of gas, which I think was respectable. Temps have been in the single digits, so lots of warming up, and maybe 30% stop and go driving. I'll keep this thread updates when I get the TCM reprogrammed.
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Old 01-13-2009, 04:53 PM   #12
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Default Re: VTi to AF23 transmission swap

You have laid the groundwork for saving an awful lot of QCs.

My question: if you could figure it out, why couldn't GM,once they realized the failure rate, thereby saving all the ill will and negative customer experiences. Probably cheaper to do a Goodwrench conversion than to rebuild that damnable vti or warrant it to 70,000 miles as well.

Why ask why, right ?

Good work. Looking forward to your progress reports.
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Old 01-13-2009, 06:08 PM   #13
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Default Re: VTi to AF23 transmission swap

because GM is dumb, look at their lineup of cars, a compact that gets worse gas mileage as a car 800LBS heavier that has 30 more HP!! why, oh and the aveo, with an even weaker engine and the same mileage as the astra. If GM had a brain, it would make the almost good cars it has sellable and they would replace the death trap transmissions with the direct bolt-in replacement transmission for thousands cheaper, or if they were really smart, they would recall all the ions and vues and fix ALL of them for FREE.
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Old 01-13-2009, 07:12 PM   #14
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Default Re: VTi to AF23 transmission swap

Update:

I've managed to get the axle seals sealed. The passenger side seal must have been damaged upon installation. I installed the new seal with the proper tool and used some GM engine sealant around the transmission bore.

I was having an issue with the drivers side axle not staying seated into the transmission. The problem was the small cupped piece in the axle that goes up against the axle seal wasn't allowing the axle to get seated into the transmission. I'm not sure what that cupped piece is for, but the axle is secured and not leaking without it.

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Old 01-14-2009, 04:16 PM   #15
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Default Re: VTi to AF23 transmission swap

Last night, I went to the Chevrolet dealership I used to work at to get the TCM reprogrammed. After much debate, the technician were not positive they could reprogram the TCM. When they enter into their computer program, they have to insert the VIN for the vehicle. The VIN for my QC Ion does not show any options for programs on an AF23 transmission, only for a VTI. Next thought was to insert the VIN from a 4 door Ion. Transmission programs appear for that car, but when you program a vehicle, the VIN is also a part of the program. That means the VIN in my PCM would appear as a 4 door, and that may cause issues with the security system.

Long story short, I did not get anything programmed, and I'm not sure what I'll be able to do. The car ran fine to the dealership, but went into limp mode on the way home. In limp mode, it slams into reverse and starts out in 2nd gear. Simple fix is to shut the car off, restart, and transmissions shifts normal.
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Old 01-14-2009, 05:25 PM   #16
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Default Re: VTi to AF23 transmission swap

why would your car thinking it's a sedan be a problem with the security system/
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Old 01-15-2009, 02:20 PM   #17
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Default Re: VTi to AF23 transmission swap

With a different VIN in the computer, it may make the system think something is not right. If I'd had another way to get home, I would have let the dealership try the programming. However, when I was talking with the techs as they tried to dissect the programming, there were too many "maybes" coming up in the conversation. Another thing I don't understand is they were talking about reprogramming the PCM rather than the TCM. I need to do a little more research about how the two computers communicate with each other and how each affects the shifting patterns.
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Old 01-15-2009, 02:55 PM   #18
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Default Re: VTi to AF23 transmission swap

yeah, why couldn't they assign your VIN to an AF23 program? both problems solved
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Old 01-18-2009, 09:19 PM   #19
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Default Re: VTi to AF23 transmission swap

The programs available for a vehicle are pulled up by the vehicle's VIN. The VIN for my quad coupe only shows programs for the VTI transmission. I think I'll go back to the dealership with the VIN for the vehicle the transmission came from and try the programming. The one thing the techs were sure about is if the program doesn't work, they can reload the program that is currently in the computer.
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Old 01-18-2009, 10:09 PM   #20
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Default Re: VTi to AF23 transmission swap

or if all else fails, see if they can put the new vin in all computers.
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