Originally Posted by RhoZeta
Most likely tranny overheated, started venting trans fluid directly onto the catalytic converter which immediately caused the fluid to catch fire?
Had a similar experience with a Ford Windstar - predecessor to Freestar. Rented the smallest U-Haul covered trailer to move from California to Colorado. Van started smoking on grade up to Eisenhower Tunnel on I-70 (10K ft). Before I could get the rig completely over to the shoulder, the transmission siezed solid. Although my transmission fluid was venting over hot exhaust pieces, it never caught fire.
Sold the Windstar to a mechanic for $800 since my wife was never going to let us ride in that vehicle again.
FWIW, in Alaska I had a 1992 Ford Explorer. Was towing a 200lb aluminum skiff (total of 400lbs) 5 miles from Chicken, Alaska (population 32), over 100 miles to anywhere else. Transmission started slipping. Got out to check - fluid all over frame of trailer. I thought I had holed transmission oil pan. Hitch-hiked 5 miles to Chicken, where there was an Anchorage mechanic who spent his summers in Chicken. He said that transmission was notorious for blowing front seal under load, but that the seal was resilient enough to sometimes reseat itself. He sold me a case of tranny fluid, I filled the tranny (5 qts low). He said check it every 30 miles while I drove the 400 miles to Whitehorse. After the first few checks revealed very little leakage I lengthened my checks to about 50 miles. At the Canadian border, I asked the Canadian agent about any repair facilities in Dawson City, which was about 200 miles closer. I got to the recommended shop and they said the same thing - that Ford transmission was notorious for blowing front seal. They replaced the seal (last one on their shelves) for $400 Canadian ($300 US in 1999). After that, I always manually shifted the Explorer when towing - the transmission went over 100K miles with that new seal.
I will never tow again without adequate transmission cooling, although the Explorer was an internal pressure issue, not overheating like the Windstar was.
just my experiences - I'd prefer to learn from the mistakes of others instead of my own.