545RFE Transmission—All You Need to Know

Chrysler has made a tremendous effort in not only making cars but transmissions as well, one of which is the 545RFE transmission. It was fitted in many heavy applications and, during its time, was a champion. It reigned particularly for its ability to allow shifting into the highest gear for better-towing capability and hill driving.

Another of the transmission perks is its ability to minimize noise and fuel consumption. This article will discuss how it evolved, what cars used it, and common problems and solutions. So here is the 545RFE transmission explained in detail.

545rfe transmission for sale
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545RFE transmission explained

Manufactured by Chrysler, the 545RFE transmission is a five-speed electronically controlled transmission first fitted into Chrysler’s 1999 models. It was particularly built for vehicles with 2-wheel drives but can also be fitted into 4-wheel drive systems. And comes as the successor to the popular 45RFE transmission.

The 45RFE transmission is a 4-speed electronically controlled transmission that made its debut in 1998. And was first fitted into the Jeep Grand Cherokee 1999 models. It was notable for two things. First, instead of the two planetary gearsets used by a 4-speed transmission, it was fitted with three planetary gears.

Secondly, while it was called a 4-speed automatic transmission, it used a total of five gear ratios since it has an alternate second gear. The 45RFE transmission was, however, replaced by the 545RFE transmission in 2001 following some programming changes and an extra override ratio.

With the update to the override, the transmission could cruise at 70 mph and, with a standard axle ratio, can output 2000 rpm—200 rpm less than the 45RFE transmission. However, while the 545RFE transmission had a lesser rpm, its upgrade —the addition of an extra gear ratio, resulted in lesser noise and better fuel mileage.

The 545RFE transmission has six forward and one reverse gear. While a five-speed transmission should have five forward gears, the 545RFE is different because it uses an alternate second gear, making it six. Chrysler, however, still chose to let it remain as a five-speed automatic transmission.

Its first gear is of the ratio 3.00:1, allowing for enhanced initial acceleration. The first and reverse gears are of equal ratio to better withstand heavy loads. At the time the 545RFE transmission was launched, it utilized the widest gear ratio among transmissions in its class.

The 545RFE transmission utilizes two overdrive gears, which are very close to each other. The first has a ratio of 3.00.1, the second gear 1.67:1, the second prime gear 1.50:1, the third gear 1.00:1, the fourth gear 0.75:1, and fifth gear 0:67:1 and the reverse gear at a ratio of 3.00:1.

These ratios were orchestrated to output all torque. Hence, they were a good fit for the huge torque of the Hemi 3.7, V6, 4.7, V8, V8, and the VM 2.8 diesel engines. Like the 45RFE, the 545RFE utilizes three disc-holding and three disc-input clutches. It also features a dual internal filter system—one for the transmission sump and the other for the fluid cooler system.

Some versions were built with the tow/haul mode, which enables faster shifts without wear on the transmission. These versions also helped hold lower gears for extended periods and enabled the use of lower gears when driving downhill to enhance engine braking.

According to Chrysler, the transmission had received another update in 2006, which allowed for better-quality shifts—giving the Grand Cherokee and Jeep Commander a load rating of 7000 lbs. The 545RFE transmission upgrade involved a newly built solenoid which aids in quieter shifting, and a turbine dumper to absorb noise and vibration the torque converter outputs.

The transmission is housed by a one-piece shiny die-cast aluminum casing, allowing for an even rigid transmission. Its recommended fluid is the Dextron 3-6 or MOPAR +4. The 545RFE transmission fluid capacity amounts to 10.5-11.1 quarts of ATF. Older versions could take 6.6 quarts of the ATF+3 fluid, while newer models took the same quarts of the ATF +4 fluid.

In 2009, it received another programming update that allows drivers to choose the highest gear to shift the transmission to effortlessly. This update made towing other vehicles, downhill driving, and descending effortless.

The 45RFE and 545RFR are almost identical, so the 545RFE transmission identification may be tricky. So how do you differentiate them? The major difference is that the 545RFE uses an extra overdrive ratio. So while the 545RFE uses five ratios in normal shifts, the 45RFE uses four. Both transmissions have an alternate second gear for kick down, allowing for smoother downshift, especially on high speeds.

The 545RFE transmissions were fitted into several trucks and SUVs between 2001 and 2012. The Jeep Grand Cherokee and Jeep commander utilizing higher Hemi engines also used the transmission within this period. And is also fitted to various Dodge Durango. Here is more detailed information on cars equipped with the 545RFE transmission.

Read Also: 4L60E transmission—All you need to know

Vehicles Years
Jeep Grand Cherokee

(with the 4.7L, 4.7 H.O and 5.7 Hemi engines)

2001-2013
Jeep Liberty

(Diesel Applications)

2005-2006
Dodge Ram

(With the 4.7L and 5.7L Hemi engines)

2003-2011
Dodge Power Wagon 2005-2011
Dodge Dakota

(With 4.7L and 4.7 H.O engine)

2003-2013
Dodge Durango

(With 4.7L and 5.7L engines)

2003-2013
Jeep Commander

(4.7L and 5.7L Hemi engines)

2006-2013
Jeep Wrangler

(With 2.8L CRD engine)

2007-2010
LTI/ London Taxi Company TX4 2007-now
Chrysler Aspen

(With 4.7L and 5.7L Hemi engines)

2007-2009

545RFE transmission problems and fixes

The 545RFE transmission no doubt delivers performance impressively but is not perfect all around. So here are common 545RFE transmission problems and how to fix them.

Solenoid pack issues

The 545RFE transmission does not have transmission bands that aid in directing fluid. Therefore, a solenoid pack is used instead to efficiently transmit transmission fluid to the right clutch pack to engage gears properly.

However, if the solenoid pack fails, there will be nothing to engage the gears. This often results in stalling and causes the car to enter limp mode. To solve the problem, repair or change faulty solenoid packs.

Overheating

Typically, as the transmission works, it also disperses the heat the transmission components produce. However, overheating can occur if the transmission components produce more heat than the transmission can expel. Drivers often experience overheating when towing heavy loads, driving on hilly roads, or in stop-and-go traffic where a lot of shifting is required.

Slipping or delayed gear engagement

The 545RFE transmission Pump functions with a valve that helps regulate fluid pressure outputted by the torque converter. If this valve goes bad, gears will fail to engage. You will also experience stalling, overheating of the torque converter transmission slippage, and decreased fuel economy. Repairing or replacing this pump would take care of the situation.

Harsh or delayed 3-4 or 4-5 shifts

The transmission is also known for experiencing sudden delays when changing from 3-4 or 4-5 gears. When this happens, you will feel like the transmission is reluctant to go into a particular gear.

Delayed 3-4 or 4-5 shift often stems from valve body issues where the materials used in making the valve’s check ball are damaged. This often results in fluid flowing through easily and engaging the underdrive gears during gear change. A simple way to solve this is to install a higher check ball made of a stronger material.

Read: 700R4 Transmission – All You Need to Know

Is the 545RFE transmission good

People are often curious about what they’re about spending their money on, and transmissions are no exception. So Is the 545RFE transmission good? The 546RFE is one of the strongest transmissions ever built by Chrysler. Its enormous gears made shifting effortless, with each gear well-built to take high-performance engines.

The transmission is known to emit less noise and give better fuel mileage thanks to its update. The transmission also allows drivers effortlessly tow heavy roads, drive down hills, and descend without issues. The transmission uses three planetary gears with the widest range of gear ratios among transmissions in its class.

Basically, its gear ratios combine with precise selection amounts for maximum power output and better fuel mileage.

But like everything else, the 545RFE transmission reliability is questionable, as users have had several complaints about it.

While a standard 545RFE can withstand 400-450 horsepower, a built 545RFE transmission can withstand higher. So if you want greater horsepower, you can either upgrade yours or buy a 545RFE-built transmission.

Frequently Asked Questions—FAQs

Q: What vehicles has the 545RFE transmission

The transmissions were fitted to a number of vehicles that are still in use today. So

What vehicles have a 545RFE transmission?  Literally, all of Chrysler’s line of rear-wheel drive heavy-duty trucks were fitted with the 545RFE transmission except for their Sedans and Coupes. They include Jeep Commander, Jeep Liberty, Dodge Dakota, Dodge Ram, and Dodge Durango.

Q: What years did Dodge use the 545RFE transmission?

Dodge used the 545RFE transmission between 2003 and 2013. The transmission was fitted into the Dodge Ram with 4.7L and 5.7L Hemi engines from 2003 to 2011. From 2005-2011, the Dodge power wagon also had the transmission.

Similarly, the Dodge Dakota with 4.7 and 4.7 H.O engines also had the transmission from 2003-2013. You will also find the transmission in the 4.7 and 5.7 liter Dodge Durango 2003-2013 models.

Q: What does 545RFE stand for?

The 545RFE transmission is a five-speed electronically controlled transmission. But names are often a reflection of the transmission’s Acronym. So what does 545RFE mean? You would understand its meaning better if you first understand the 45RFE meaning.

In the 45RFE, the 4 indicates the number of forward gears used by the transmission, while the 5 stands for the torque rating. R indicates rear-wheel drive, and FE stands for fully electronic. Now there is a five added, making it 545RFE; the 5 in front indicates the transmission now uses five forward gears instead of 4.

While the 545RFE had other changes, adding an extra gear ratio was why the 45RFE was changed to 545RFE. So typically, the 545RFE is a five-speed transmission built for cars with rear-wheel drive and controlled electronically.

Q: How much does it cost to rebuild 545RFE?

The 545RFE transmission rebuild cost could be between $2500 and $3000 or more depending on the transmission rating and who is rebuilding it. Usually, a 545RFE performance transmission will cost more than a regular 545RFE. If a professional is building it, it will cost more as these guys have all the necessary tools and expertise needed to make a quality transmission.

The reason you’re rebuilding also influences the price. For rebuilding a faulty transmission, old parts will still be used, with only the affected part changed. If, however, you’re rebuilding to upgrade your transmission, you would spend more as most parts used will be new and of a higher standard than the one in the former transmission. The cost can be lessened if you can build one yourself.

Generally, so long as you know your way around, all you need to get is the 545RFE transmission rebuild kit and other parts needed. If, however, you want an even more affordable 545RFE transmission, you may want to go for a used one. There are shops online that sell used 545RFE transmissions. So you can find one around you by typing used 545RFE transmission for sale near me.

Q: What transmission does 5.7 Hemi use?

The 5.7 Hemi engine uses TorqueFlite eight-speed automatic transmission. The eight-speed Torqueflite transmission was first introduced in 2012 and was used on several Chrysler models. Particularly, the 2015 Dodge Charger and challenger outfitted with the 5.7 Hemi V8 engine had the eight-speed transmission as OEM.

Chrysler built the eight-speed Torqueflite under the license of a German engineering firm. Aside from the Dodge Charger and Challenger, the transmission has been fitted into other rear-wheel drive vehicles and 4WD and AWD.

Q: What Transmission does the 4.7 Dodge have?

The Dodge 4.7 engines come standard with a six-speed automatic transmission. However, the 4.7 dodge was also outfitted with the 545RFE 5-speed automatic transmission perceived as a 6-speed transmission since it has two second forward gears. So basically, the Dodge 4.7 uses both a five and six-speed transmission.

Q: How many gears does a 545RFE transmission have

People often confuse themselves regarding the number of gear used by the 545RFE. So the 545RFE, how many gears does it use?  The 545RFE uses six forward and one reverse gear. But there is a catch.

The 545RFE is a five-speed automatic transmission, which means it uses five forward gears. However, the transmission comes with an alternate second gear. Hence, people often assume it’s a six-speed transmission.

However, Chrysler still says it’s a five-speed transmission and that the alternate second gear is not really counted but is just there to boost better shifting. So typically, the 545RFE transmission uses six forward gear ratios. In fact, many often think that the 45RFE and 545RFE are 5 and 6 speeds, respectively.

This is true because both transmission, aside from their number of forward gears, uses an extra second gear which Chrysler didn’t acknowledge as part of the forward gears. Here, the 45RFE uses four forward gears and another second gear, making it have five forward gear ratio, while the 545RFE uses five forward gears and an alternate second gear, making it have six forward gear ratio.

Q: What years Rams have transmission problems?

The Dodge Ram with the highest complaint of transmission problems includes those fitted with five and six-speed transmissions. They include the 2009 Dodge Ram and 2010-2017 model years. These were the 1500, 2500, 3500, and 5500 models. These Ram models seem to have problems significantly different from one another.

For example, the complaint for the 2015 Ram 1500 was that the transmission started having a hard shift around 25k miles. Others also complained that the transmission fitted to these year’s Ram 1500 notably shifts from one gear to the other while the car is in motion. The transmission fitted into Dodge Ram 1500 was also noted for having risk of rolling, lack of acceleration, and downshifting. While jerking is peculiar to the 2012 Dodge Ram 1500.

Likewise, the Ram 2500 and 3500 were known to shift out of Park while the key is not even in the ignition. The 2500 and 3500 Ram also had an associated steering issue, as the steering linkage can loosen anytime. These are some of the problems with those years’ models, all of which were recalled.

Q: How much does a 545RFE weigh

A 545RFE transmission weight depends largely on the truck it’s fitted to. For example, a 2WD Dodge 545RFE transmission weighs 238 pounds with the transmission fluid and Torque converter. In contrast, a 545RFE 4×4 transmission is about 8 pounds less. It means without the transmission fluid; it would even weigh less.

Q: Is it cheaper to rebuild a transmission or replace a transmission?

Rebuilding a transmission is much cheaper than replacing it. Rebuilding involves replacing only the affected parts of the transmission. So basically, the old parts will be used when rebuilding, cutting costs. It is even more, cheaper if you can rebuild it yourself, as all you need is the technical experience and the specific transmission rebuild kit.

However, replacing entails removing an old transmission and putting in a new one entirely. Here, no part of the old transmission is used. That said, there are rebuildings whose cost equals or is more than the replacement cost.

For example, if you own a transmission that you want to upgrade to withstand more engine power than what it’s rated for. Here, all parts used for the upgrade are usually of higher quality and all new, so the cost to do this kind of rebuilding may spike.

Final Words

The 545RFE transmission is an electronically controlled five-speed automatic transmission. However, instead of the normal five-forward gears used by a five-speed transmission, it uses six instead. Typically, it has two second-gear ratio allowing even better shifting. Chrysler manufactured it specifically for rear-wheel drive applications, though fitted to AWD and 4WD.

It was originally called the 45RFE, which used four forward gears, but after an upgrade that included an extra gear ratio, it was named the 545RFE—the upgrade allowed for lesser noise and better fuel economy, and power output.  The 545FE was fitted into all Chrysler’s fleet of rear wheel heavy-duty drive applications except Sedan and Coupes. And has a fluid capacity of 10.5-11.1.

Osuagwu Solomon

Osuagwu Solomon is a seasoned automotive technician for the past 9 years, and a technical writer. He loves writing about auto professional repair guides, DIY repair guides, and buyer’s guide. After spending six years in the automotive workshop, he decided to impact his knowledge to people aside his domain, and he has achieved this by centering his Automotive writing skills on REPAIRS.

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