Overheating transmissions in Antarctica [Archive] - PowerStrokeNation : Ford Powerstroke Diesel Forum

Overheating transmissions in Antarctica

Mike K
11-16-2007, 11:01 AM
All of our vehicles equiped with Mattracks have a problem with the transmissions overheating, this his been a known issue and we always tell the drivers to just pull over untill the transmission cools down. Recently (as in 2 nights ago) we had an operator ignore our warnings and the vehicle caught on fire.

Pictres:
Before: http://img134.imageshack.us/img134/7229/dsc00517wa3.jpg
Durring: http://img122.imageshack.us/img122/3875/p1120175uf9.jpg note the line of trans fluid leading up to vehicle
After: http://img134.imageshack.us/img134/3277/dsc00506pk6.jpg

Now the company is actualy going to try and FIX the overheating problem. We have already tried installing aftermarket coolers but that apparently hasnt solved the issue so i have come to the experts.

We have 2 different types of Mattracks, one you have alread seen but the details are: 2000 F250 5.4L 4x4 with the Mattracks. They have not been regeared and are constantly run in 4x4 mode, along with the snow here the engines are under full load just about all of the time and they only see up to 20mph.

The other type is a 2005 F550 6.0L 4x4 crash recovery/fire truck with the larger Mattracks.

Picture: http://img443.imageshack.us/img443/9523/dsc00484za1.jpg

It too overheats and is starting to melt the wiring harnesses around the transmission. The Ford factory wiring harnesses appear to have a heat shield tape (metal/aluminum in color) but the problem is the company that builds the unit on back just uses cheap split loom harnesses and those are melting. I have proposed dropping the tranny and retaping everything but that still doesnt solve the overheating issues that and they dont want to down the vehicles any more then they have to. Its not melting the insulation around the wire just the loom holding everything together.

We have roughly a dozen F250 Mattracks and 4 F550 fire trucks.

I have proposed getting aftermarket coolers with fans but they need to be idiot proof as in they come on automaticlly. Do you guys know of such a product and how much does it cost? I have also suggested getting an aftermarket guage to accuratly display the temp.

Do you think regearing the differental would help enough to make it worht the cost?

Any suggestions are welcome and thank you for your help.
-Mike

Mark Kovalsky
11-16-2007, 01:36 PM
I find this REALLY interesting! I was an automatic trans engineer at Ford from '88 to February of this year. The last three years I was a trans cooling engineer.

Are they in 4x4 high or low? Running at full load at 20 MPH in 4x4 high is going to cook the trans. There may not be a way around that. Keeping the transfer case in 4x4 low puts a 2.7:1 ratio in the driveline, which will reduce the load on the trans by about 2.7:1. At 20MPH in high the torque converter will be unlocked and making A LOT of heat. In low range the converter may be locked, I'm not certain. Even if it isn't locked the loads will be a lot lower, so it will create a lot less heat.

If you already are using 4x4L, regearing both differentials would help a lot.

Do you run synthetic ATF? Getting dino ATF to flow through an air to oil cooler at the ambients you see will be a problem. I've seen dino fluid gel in the cooler at about -20F, and I know you see a lot lower than that. When the fluid gels a bypass opens and then there is NO flow to the coolers. Your trans would have seconds to live after that happens.

Yet another problem you have is that if your 2000 model year trucks were built before February, 2000, they don't have a cooler in the radiator. You need that!

I think an air to oil cooler may not be the solution here because of the extreme ambient temps. A really good water to oil cooler may do a better job.
I did a quick search and found this, for example. I don't know this company, but this is the type of heat exhanger that I was thinking of.

http://www.flatplate.com/?gclid=CImc9OzK4Y8CFQZegQodqmmC8g

The way to do this would be to mount it anywhere under the truck or under the hood that is convenient. Location is not important. Run the ATF through it and use water returning from the heater to cool it. You don't want to use water directly out of the radiator because it could be too cool and cause gelling. Heater return water is plenty cool enough to keep the trans cool.

Mike K
11-16-2007, 03:33 PM
Thanks for the responce. Just to answer a few of the unknowns... They are most likely driving in 4x4 in high, i havent tried with low. I am in the process of installing a 100-230* temp gauge on the F550 we currently have in the shop and we will go from there.

I dont know about the F250s but the F550 fire truck has 4.88 gears in the diffs... that is just an FYI i guess.

Current ambient temps are warming up and are around 10-20 degrees F, when i first got here they temps were as low as -25 not counting any wind chill.

The 4 new 2005 trucks are probably lucky enough to still have the factory fluid in them as they only have low miles/hours. The one in the shop currently has 3,600 miles (1,600 hours). But the older 2000 we would have changed out durring sceduled transmission service a long time ago.

I asked what kind of fluid we are using and couldnt get much information but was told that it is in fact synthetic.

*EDIT* also, do you think using tow/haul mode would help at all? The only problem with this is that the operators would have to turn it on every time they restarted the vehicle.

Mark Kovalsky
11-16-2007, 04:54 PM
The 2000 trucks don't have tow/haul, so that's out. The later trucks do, but the difference would be minimal. The real problem is 4x4 high. I think you could solve your problem by shifting each truck to 4x4 low and leaving it there.

The 2005 trucks have synthetic ATF. That's the factory fill. There has been synthetic available for the older trucks, but the factory fill was dino.

As for axles, the 4.88 is common in the F550s. I don't think you need to go lower. Try 4x4 low. I think that's the problem.

gregrob
11-16-2007, 05:02 PM
I agree with Mark. I have solved over heating issues with a heavy load on a very steep, windy mtn road by switching to 4x4 low.

I could have pegged the gauge if I had kept runnng in high.

Cat_Rebel
11-16-2007, 05:08 PM
Get a tranny temp gauge & try low range & see what it does. I'd get one of the bigger coolers & a fan that comes on when you start it so it's more dumbazz proof. Might also try strapping a block of ice to the tranny? :shrug:

Mark Kovalsky
11-16-2007, 05:18 PM
I'd get one of the bigger coolers & a fan that comes on when you start it so it's more dumbazz proof.
I think that will make the problem worse when the temps get extremely cold. Oil to air coolers are not a good thing when it's well below zero!

gregrob
11-16-2007, 05:20 PM
I think he's talking about adding another cooler in addition to the factory stuff with a fan. Not a bad idea for low speed situations IMO

cowboy_dan
11-16-2007, 05:43 PM
I don't know if it would be feasible/allowed, but having DP-tuner flash a custom program might help. They could set the speed limiter to about 30mph and have it all programmed specifically for 4L, including having the TC locked up 100%. If the driver tried to go in 4H, it would lug the engine, telling him to switch to 4L.
You said you had tried aftermarket coolers, but there are a lot to choose from. The 6.0L cooler might help the 5.4l trucks.
If the trucks have a low ratio (geared for speed), it probably would help to regear.

I'll post more tonight when I have me notes in front of me.

Cat_Rebel
11-16-2007, 07:01 PM
I think he's talking about adding another cooler in addition to the factory stuff with a fan. Not a bad idea for low speed situations IMO

Yeah kinda like what all of the mud boggers do. But then again I don't know alot about over heating trannys because the most we ever saw on my Ma's or buddy's truck on a 100* day in town was about 150*.

Mark Kovalsky
11-16-2007, 07:37 PM
I think he's talking about adding another cooler in addition to the factory stuff with a fan. Not a bad idea for low speed situations IMO
I understand what he's talking about. I'm telling you at VERY cold temperatures, such as Antartica, you are going to have problems with gelling in an air to oil cooler. Once it gels you have ZERO flow through the cooler, and the trans (and probably the whole truck) is toast.

Synthetic ATF will lessen the problem, but it is still a problem that's best to avoid. I've tested these things down to -40. How cold have you measured the flow through the cooler? I used $10k flow meters to determine that there often isn't much, if ANY, flow through an air to oil cooler when it's -40 ambient. That's as cold as I've tested. I suspect the problem gets MUCH worse as it gets colder, but I don't have any data to prove that.

gregrob
11-16-2007, 07:43 PM
Mark,

Thanks for clarifying. Hadn't considered gelling.

As hot as they're getting these trannies, wouldn't it prevent any gelling?

And wouldn't the factory bypass, bypass the coolers partially or completely if the fluid was getting that cold?

Cat_Rebel
11-16-2007, 08:45 PM
I heard of a guy that had his cooler get plugged up & kept over heating the tranny so they ran it without a cooler & it worked alot better. But what if the trucks are stored in a barn that is heated to just above freezing?

444-4D
11-16-2007, 08:54 PM
And wouldn't the factory bypass, bypass the coolers partially or completely if the fluid was getting that cold?

Yes, and if it gets cold enough to bypass all the fluid the trans overheats.

Cool Canuck
11-16-2007, 09:29 PM
In low range the converter may be locked, I'm not certain. Even if it isn't locked the loads will be a lot lower, so it will create a lot less heat.Earlier this summer that was something I was curious about so I went out and tried it. My '01 would not lock in Low Range.

gregrob
11-16-2007, 09:29 PM
Yes, and if it gets cold enough to bypass all the fluid the trans overheats.

That makes a lot of sense :rolleyes:

If the trans is overheating, should it warm the fluid to the point where the bypass is not closed fully?

IMO the only way the bypass should be fully closed, is if the trans is not hot enough to need any external cooling.

gregrob
11-16-2007, 09:34 PM
Then you're going to come back and say the bypass will stay closed because of the restriction of the cold fluid in the coolers.

Then I'm going to come back and say if the trans is boiling it should be pushing HOT fluid through the coolers, and there should be no restriction because the fluid at that point is no longer COLD

Mark Kovalsky
11-16-2007, 09:35 PM
That's not how the bypass in the 4R100 works. It is a pressure sensing device. If the cooler is plugged, such as gelled fluid, the pressure in the cooler line gets high enough to open the bypass. Now the flow skips the cooler and the hot fluid is sent back into the trans just as hot as it leaves. In this case that's death to the trans in a very short time.

Once the bypass opens the pressure at the cooler is almost zero. The fluid in the cooler is gelled to where 50 PSI hot fluid won't push the gelled fluid out. How is zero PSI going to clear the cooler. It isn't going to clear again until summer.

As for keeping the trucks in a heated barn, that will work fine until you take them out of the barn. Once the air to oil cooler sees all that REALLY cold air the fluid inside gels, and there you go again.

Air to oil coolers are BAD in really cold weather. Maybe if I say it enough times it will sink in. I've tested this.

gregrob
11-16-2007, 09:37 PM
I understand Mark.

Just seems to me there could be a smarter bypass if you will. I mean with all the complexities elsewhere, why a ball and a spring?

Mark Kovalsky
11-16-2007, 09:42 PM
I understand Mark.

Just seems to me there could be a smarter bypass if you will. I mean with all the complexities elsewhere, why a ball and a spring?
There could have been, but there wasn't. The TorqShift is better. It uses a thermostat instead of a pressure device, but it still can gel the cooler and get no flow.

What is really needed is a way to bypass the air to oil and still maintain transmission cooling. Replacing the OEM coolers with one like I showed in my first post would keep the trans cool without the risk of gelling.

Though in this instance I think the real problem is running in 4x4 high. That's too much load on the torque converter.

gregrob
11-16-2007, 10:14 PM
I agree, this is all a moot point, they need to run in L

Cat_Rebel
11-16-2007, 10:25 PM
What if you mounted the trans cooler in the cab? :poke:
Yes I know it sounds stupid, but you could throw a couple of hand warmers on it to help warm it up. Then throw a bag of ice on it to help cool it off.

444-4D
11-16-2007, 11:30 PM
Then you're going to come back and say the bypass will stay closed because of the restriction of the cold fluid in the coolers.

No, I would come back and say the bypass will stay open because of the restriction of the cold fluid in the coolers.

gregrob
11-17-2007, 04:14 AM
You knew what I meant :poke:

Mike K
11-17-2007, 05:58 AM
Thanks for the comments everyone, we installed the gauge on the F550, today is my day off and if the truck is still here tomorrow i want to take it for a test drive both in high and in low to see how much it helps.

If that doesnt work then we will look into Mark's idea with the oil/water cooler.

Cool Canuck
11-17-2007, 04:28 PM
Earlier this summer that was something I was curious about so I went out and tried it. My '01 would not lock in Low Range.Seems I lied. I tried this again and it does lock, you just can't feel it. I installed an LED indicator awhile back and it lights up at about 22mph in low range. No overdrive though.

444-4D
11-17-2007, 04:42 PM
Current ambient temps are warming up and are around 10-20 degrees F, .

Are the transmissions overheating at these temps? What was the temp when that truck caught on fire?

Mike K
11-18-2007, 04:39 AM
Are the transmissions overheating at these temps? What was the temp when that truck caught on fire?

Yes they are overheating, its mostly on the longer trips like when we drive out to the air fields (8 miles away to the furthest one). I hear they were also overheating when i first got here and it was -30 at times.

I dont know about the second question, we dont have any of that info.

444-4D
11-18-2007, 11:30 PM
Yes they are overheating, its mostly on the longer trips like when we drive out to the air fields (8 miles away to the furthest one). I hear they were also overheating when i first got here and it was -30 at times.

I dont know about the second question, we dont have any of that info.

You know your problem isn't jelling at +20° F. So you may need to consider the possibility of a compound issue. Whatever you do to correct the issue now may not provide cooling when it gets cold. I have an idea what I would do but I'm not going to pretend to know more than Mark.

Mark Kovalsky
11-19-2007, 12:01 AM
I certainly don't claim to know everything! What would you suggest?

Redfish
11-19-2007, 12:19 AM
I think the tranny cooler in the cab sounds pretty nifty, thats provided that the cab does not drop below -20, better yet, just a WAG, maybe you could fab one to go just after the heater core, and somewhat heat the fluid if need be?

444-4D
11-19-2007, 12:24 AM
I'd have to look at the truck to determine what was physically possible but my knee jerk thoughts would be, 1/2" cooler lines, an OTW cooler in the radiator, a large OTA cooler such as a 6.0 cooler placed between the radiator and engine fan, modify the bypass and place it between the OTW and OTA coolers, and as you said, drive in low range.

Dysfunctional
11-19-2007, 01:34 AM
What about removing the bypass valve off the trans? A couple pipe bushings will get it done. I know what it does... but either way in those extreme cold conditions your dead with gell'd up fluid. Long as the trans isn't blowing chunks out, you shouldn't have clogged lines. I do agree with removing the OTA cooler and only running a OTW cooler. I think some new programming to lock the converter at the slowest speeds possible. Or what about a aftermarket lockup switch after the rigs are up to speed. Definitely RUN IN 4 LOW ALL THE TIME, unless you are able to exceed 20-30mph. I guess for the ultimate cure, just start installing 6 speeds :flipa:

Mark Kovalsky
11-21-2007, 01:18 PM
take it for a test drive both in high and in low to see how much it helps.
Have you had a chance to drive it yet?

Mike K
11-21-2007, 02:24 PM
Have you had a chance to drive it yet?

No, i work night shift and i was half way through the guage install, day shift came in, finished the guage and sent the vehicle on is way :doh: I told them that i wanted to test drive it (the whole reason the guage was installed) but nobody cared. :confused:

Mike K
11-21-2007, 03:02 PM
oh and BTW, i found out that we use non-synthetic ATF. I know i said synthetic before but we found a drum and its not, they said synthetic is too expensive.

They are, however, looking into your oil to water cooler recommendation.

Mark Kovalsky
11-21-2007, 03:17 PM
Before changing ANYTHING, evaluate it in 4x4 low. I think that will fix the entire problem.

HitchHiker
12-17-2007, 07:52 PM
Mike, how are things going, any up dates on this? Merry Christmas and stay warm.

Snowman269
01-02-2008, 01:06 AM
Hey Mark, for what it's worth, I'm thinking you are right on the money.

T/C needs to be locked to not build excessive heat. Low range should put the system where it can lock, simple if not the whole solution. A project like this would be fun to go down there to work on equipment, solve the issue inside of a month & go home. Mini vacation for a gearhead.

I'd like to know what they are doing in Antarctica anyway, just curious. It's not often we get someone in some far reaching place (extreme environment)posting regularly. Very interesting indeed.

I could be off base, but it sounds like some brainiac's doing testing down there, don't have a clue as to how a vehicle works & that's not an environment where you just turn the key, throw it in drive and go.

Also, it sounds like another business where the right arm doesn't talk to the left arm. All too typical. It's cheaper to buy new trucks, replace transmissions, than to actually solve the problem. Too bad really.

Too bad Mike hasn't updated us, it'd be nice just to see why they are down there, what they encounter daily, how the trucks perform. I'm sure there are enough Gearheads on the site here, interested to know. :postwhore2:

Likely the lowrange selection solved the issue & well never hear back.

imelmo
01-03-2008, 01:31 PM
And there's always the trusty tc lock-up mod if it still doesn't lock.

Snowman269
01-03-2008, 09:47 PM
Except it looks like the drivers are not mechanically inclined enough to operate the switch when needed and not. Unbelievable I know.

Sounds like a PCM custom tuned to lock the TC for this application would be a solution.

imelmo
01-04-2008, 12:56 AM
Yup, or maybe an ATS trans commander. I think one or two of the sponsors carry a set-and-forget lock-up as well. But if you can get a tuner that does it for jsut a little more.....

Mark Kovalsky
01-04-2008, 01:48 PM
If they would just leave them in 4x4 low the stock programming will be fine to keep them from overheating.

Snowman269
01-04-2008, 04:17 PM
Likely why they haven't returned here. Low solved the problem.