Intermittent Whiner

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Posted by George ( on 23:44:01 02/03/13

2002 Suburban, 5.3L, 2WD, 220,000 miles (today). 4L60E
Wife's daily driver and our primary travel vehicle. Used 3-4 times a year to haul a 30ft travel trailer or utility trailer, with cargo and/or people. Also go to N GA and middle TN mountains 3-4 times a year, sometimes pulling a light cargo trailer.
No prior problems with the tranny or torque convertor (other than occasional sluggish shift on slow accelerations - but it has done that since new) until a few months ago. Started intermittent whine in 1st and 2nd about 3 months ago. Sometimes i can take off and it doesn't whine at all, sometimes it whines noticeably loudly during acceleration thru 1st and 2nd. But whine gets very quiet or goes away in 3rd. Maybe 30 to 40 percent of takeoffs from stop, it whines.
Whine frequency is linked to motor RPM, not vehicle speed. It starts over in 2nd just like it sounded in 1st gear takeoff. So I have assumed it is a tranny or torque convertor problem, not a differential problem.
There are no other problems. It drives and shifts as it always did except for the intermittent whine. I have been babying it recently - let off when i hear the whine and it sometimes, but not always goes away and can then accelerate without the whine.
A few weeks ago, I pulled the pan and changed fluid (to Amsoil synthetic ATF) and filter after it started this. There was some filing buildup on the magnet, but i did not feel it was excessive for 212,000 miles. (but i have little experience inside trannys) The fluid change did not help the intermittent whine. We continue to drive it.

I was thinking about just ordering a rebuilt/exchange and a new Torque Convertor but would like to diagnose first. I have a car lift and tranny jack and have no trouble swapping trannys. But i dont feel qualified to rebuild one, nor have the special tools, nor can afford the downtime if i screw it up.

Any ideas for further diagnosis? I thought about putting it on the lift and trying to get it to whine in idle/drive, and probing around with a stethescope. This is a bit dangerous and im not sure if i localized the whine that would tell me anything.

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