One of the most overlooked, essential and worthwhile modifications one can perform to their vehicle is the upgrading of an automatic transmission. It is exceedingly rare in the automotive world to find an upgrade that supports both performance AND reliability, making transmissions an exceptionally attractive upgrade for a diverse group of consumers, ranging from diesel trucks to supercars.
A little known fact is that factory automatic transmissions in all vehicles are designed to be economical agents of emissions control first, and refined drivetrain components last. This means that they are designed to help minimize tailpipe emissions above all. We can see by the advent of 8 and 10 speed transmissions, designed to keep the motor in a narrow range of operating RPM at all times to aid emissions control. Because of this, they are naturally lacking in many areas that are important to the average consumer, such as reliability, longevity and shift quality.
In this installment of our popular Drivetrain 101 series, we will be analyzing the benefits of an upgraded or "built" transmission relative to a woeful factory transmission. Keep in mind, all built transmissions are different. Many companies are selling meager OEM rebuilds with fancy paint, or light modifications such as a deep pan or torque converter, with little else to offer. "Budget" companies like this generally do not yield the benefits spoken about in this article.
As such, it should be noted that the benefits in this article are applicable to Next Gen Drivetrain products, and we cannot speak to the manufacturing or design quality of other companies. This is not to say we are the "almighty", but is to say that we cannot account for the way other transmission manufacturers produce their end product. Without further ado, we will now list the top 5 benefits of a Next Gen Drivetrain upgraded transmission.
Benefit #1 - Lower AOT (Average Operating Temperatures)
AOT is a simple metric for the mean or average temperature that the transmission in your vehicle will operate at across its lifetime. Minimizing AOT is highly relative to longevity and driving dynamics alike. Transmissions that operate at higher temperatures on average will lose friction material faster than transmissions who average at more comfortable temperatures.
The cause of high AOT is a combination of unnecessarily high amounts of torque converter "slip" whilst in an unlocked status (except for "Dual Clutch" style transmissions such as the Lamborghini Huracan). This is the product of high stall speeds, used to produce a nominal effect on tailpipe emissions at idle. Modifications to the stator of the torque converter can change this dynamic. Further, the factory oil pan of nearly all transmissions is a stamped piece of metal that can be made for cents to dollars each. It does not support cooler operating temperatures.
Nearly all Next Gen Drivetrain transmissions feature both an ultra-deep oil pan AND a modified torque converter stator, both designed to support cooler operating temperatures across all applications. By implementing these basic modifications, we manage oil temperature in an intensely effective fashion that dramatically extends the lifespan of the transmission, especially in heavy duty applications.
Benefit #2 - Improved Transmission Longevity & Durability
As stemming from Benefit #1, the regulation of oil temperature supports enhanced transmission longevity greatly. However, an additional benefit of a built transmission is the increase in torque capacity; effecting durability. Next Gen Drivetrain transmissions feature an amalgam of upgrades that allow the transmission to live longer, and withstand more abuse.
To aid longevity, we use a variety of upgraded friction materials such as High Energy, GPZ or G3 to support a longer lifespan between internal maintenance. Strategically, we choose friction materials based on the intent of the consumer. For example, our Project Carbon™ products are designed for maximum performance, in a reliable package. Because of this, we favor GPZ or G3 materials in said units as it optimizes for both abuse and longevity.
For products such as our Xtreme Tow™ series, we use materials such as High Energy as they optimize for smooth engagement and longevity specifically. This strategy allows us to offer uniquely longlasting and durable transmissions for any application. In fact, we physically add more clutches to many products across our lineup to further multiply the torque capacity of said transmissions. The end result is exceedingly reliable transmissions that are designed to go in the vehicle, and stay in the vehicle. Our 2 year, unlimited mile warranty is designed to only be the beginning.
Benefit #3 - Restoration of Lost Power
In automatic transmissions, especially those with a torque converter, a built transmission is a prime opportunity to "unlock" power that is originally lost in deeply inferior factory or budget-built transmissions. To expound, many OEM transmissions and similar allow for large amounts of slippage to decrease engine load, in turn decreasing fuel delivery, in turn decreasing tailpipe emissions by negligible figures.
At Next Gen Drivetrain, our priorities are very different. Our goal is to engineer and manufacture the highest quality and best functioning transmissions achievable. To do this, we want to minimize slippage fervently. By minimizing slippage, we minimize clutch drag, minimizing the release of heat by the inefficient engagement of friction elements inside the transmission, beckoning back to Benefit #1; the decrease of AOT.
Further, and more importantly, our torque converters are designed to be extremely efficient, allowing far less slippage than OEM converters in almost all cases, especially diesel. By decreasing the allowable speed difference between the motor and the input shaft, we force the vehicle to move closer to the speed of the motor rather than further below it.
The effect is a lighter feeling, more responsive vehicle, caused by the refinement of how the transmission operates. It is a rational expectation to feel more accessible power with a Next Gen Drivetrain transmission. It should be noted that a transmission does not actually increase power, but rather restores power that is otherwise lost in the factory automatic transmission.
Benefit #4 - Faster Acceleration
To progress upon the information mentioned in Benefit #3, a subsequent benefit of a Next Gen Drivetrain built transmission is faster acceleration, (sounds nice for a reliability upgrade, doesn’t it?) especially in diesel truck applications. This is achieved through 2 different means.
Firstly, and as mentioned prior, we decrease the allowable speed difference between the motor and the input shaft of the transmission in most torque converters that we manufacture. This is achieved through the use of a less restrictive stator inside the torque converter. This enables the transmission to operate at speeds closer to that of the motor. If you’ve ever gotten hard on the throttle and felt like the motor was doing it’s job, but the power just wasn’t reaching the ground, this is likely cause to what you felt.
Additionally, factory transmissions take a long time to shift gears. In fact, we’ve recorded vehicles whose zero to 60 times have lost multiple seconds due to extraordinarily slow shifts. Some of the worst are Aisin Seiki and RFE Series Chrysler transmissions such as the 68RFE.
Through our focus of high line pressure, closure of crossleaks and faster synchronizing friction materials, we ensure the fastest yet smoothest shifts achievable. In fact, some vehicles who are extremely burdened can shave as much as 2 complete seconds off of their zero to 60 time; an eternity in the world of performance.
Benefit #5 - Improved Shift Quality
Lastly, but perhaps most obvious, is the improvement in shift quality. Many transmissions shift dismally from the factory, offering slow and unpredictable shifts. Others start out fine, but it’s quickly degrade as the miles pack on, or under heavy engine load. When building a transmission, one of our largest priorities is the improvement in driving dynamics.
For some transmissions, this is more obvious than others. Dual Clutch Supercars such as McLaren 720S and Lamborghini Huracán will see only modest enhancements in acceleration; hardly different. Whereas, large diesel trucks, especially Mopar vehicles, will see massive changes.
Whoever you are, and whatever you drive, it is a standard of Next Gen Drivetrain transmissions to shift far better than OEM. It is natural to expect fast, efficient, crisp but never aggressive or sloppy shifts from our built transmissions. We are seeking to optimize for reliability, drivability and utility in all applications. This is a testament to our promises of reliable performance for all applications.
Many people rush to perform motor and suspension modifications because they know what more horsepower and better handling feel like. Few people know what tangibly to expect out of a refined built transmission, making it a less common area of focus. In fact, if you ask many people what the purpose of building your transmission is, they would simply say “so that it doesn’t break.” By reading this article, you’ve learned that this is simply an extraordinary understatement.
Smart consumers who’ve done their homework will know that a transmission is paramount, and reliability comes before performance. But, with a Next Gen Drivetrain built transmission you can achieve both. This installment in our popular Drivetrain 101 series serves to close the knowledge gap, and educate the public on the benefits of a proper and refined built transmission.