With the introduction of electronic controls into the vehicles of today, the latest generation of automatic transmissions by automakers has “old school” automatics slowly going by the wayside. Automatics were once generally controlled by hydraulic valve bodies and Throttle Valve (TV) cables. Today, the electronically-controlled transmission uses solenoids to command the hydraulics, resulting in more efficient clutch and band engagement.
The electronic transmission control works in unison with vehicle sensor inputs to upshift, downshift and lock the torque converter. This offers greater refinement in operation than a standard automatic transmission once had and increases driveability and performance.
With these improvements in function, the next feat of taking these transmissions into a performance application meant revising the electronic controls instead of modifying old hydraulic valve bodies. Baumann Controls has developed stand-alone electronic control systems with OEM-level shift quality, along with exclusive performance features for many of these popular electronic transmissions.
“The US Shift transmission control system can interface with any OEM or aftermarket engine induction system, including carbureted and diesel. Alternatively, the stand-alone design allows for late model transmissions to be transplanted into everything from racecars to street rods and truck applications,” says Jake Chandler from Baumann Electronic Controls, developer of the US Shift product line.
Three controller options are available. The US Shift Quick 2 and Quick 4 controllers interface with General Motors 4L60E, 4L65E, and 4L70E group of transmissions. Also applicable are the GM 4L80E and 4L85E group, the Ford AOD-E, 4R70W (wide ratio AOD-E), and 4R75 transmission lines. The Ford E4OD and 4R100 diesel transmission applications can be used with these controllers, as well. Many of these transmission models are gaining popularity for their physical strength within performance applications as much as for their 4-speed and overdrive advantages.
The primary difference between the Quick 2 and Quick 4 controllers can be seen in their option packages. The Quick 2 is a basic controller for those needing simple and straightforward transmission control. Some enhanced tuning options are available with or without a laptop or personal computer.
The Quick 4 controller contains many more options, along with increased shift timing and control. Some of these options include their OFF-RODE TCC control (an enhanced performance and engine-braking in manual ranges) and a burnout/drag race mode. Manutronic push-button/paddle/H-gate shifting options are built into the Quick 4 unit. Additionally, ballistic shift control, a throttle release delay, and a top gear delay are included.
We pride ourselves in explaining that the US Shift controllers are something no more difficult than a car stereo to install. – Jake Chandler
The Quick 6 controller supports 2011 and later Ford 6R80 transmissions used in Mustang GTs and F150 trucks.
“The Quick 6 Controller will come into play as many new GM and Ford transmissions are released in the near future,” Chandler says. “The Quick 6 controller has a patent-pending shift algorithm offering the highest level of shift control and synchronization for these new clutch-to-clutch transmission designs. There is an “Accushift” learning capability in the Quick 6 controller resulting in very accurate wide open throttle shift points.”
The Quick 4 and Quick 6 controllers also have features engineered just for drag racers. A burnout mode will always shift your transmission based on the wide-open throttle shift point values, regardless of throttle position. An adaptive shift point control changes gears related to the different engine, weather, and track conditions. The shift points are also consistent, regardless of whether the torque converter clutch is applied.
This level of shift point accuracy from the Quick 4 and Quick 6 controller is especially useful for bracket racing applications. The precise control of the torque converter clutch (TCC) operation at wide open throttle is especially helpful to maximize the performance. Of interest to many hardcore racers, the Quick 6 Pro model also features an integrated trans-brake function.
For late model hot rods, the US Shift systems work passively with your car or truck’s engine control unit (ECU). In the installation of the control box, splicing three circuits into the existing ECU power, ground, and throttle position sensor (TPS) wiring is the only hardwire process needed. For example, with a GM 4L80E and 4L85E transmission, the connection process is completed by replacing the harness-style connectors from the transmission speed sensors and the main transmission solenoid harness connector.
“On an electronically fuel injected vehicle, we do recommend that all of these spliced connections be as close to the ECU as possible,” Chandler continues. “Use the proper solder and heat shrink automotive method for splicing. That is the only difficult part of the installation process if you want to call it that.”
These controllers are also popular when mated to carbureted and diesel applications. In this function, the US Shift controller needs the input from an add-on throttle position sensor unit also available from Baumann Electronic Controls.
The main transmission solenoid harness from your new US Shift controller not only controls the transmission solenoids, but it also receives additional data from your transmission to work in symphony with the spliced power and TPS sensors.
When the US Shift team presents the Quick 2, 4, and 6 products to a performance/racing enthusiast, much time is invested in explaining the advantages of their control systems compared to other, more complex designs.
“A transmission control system has always been looked at as intimidating. We’ve taken so much of the installation and operation complexity out of our controls that anyone can install and operate it,” Chandler says. “You can make multiple tuning changes right from a three-digit readout and configuration knob on the controller box itself. You rotate the knob to select various menu items, then click or double-click down on the knob to choose a selection or make changes.”
The latest US Shift tuning software also allows you to plug various versions of Windows into the controller via a USB cable. The graphic readout replaces the use of the configuration knob. A simple graph window shows all current shift points, line pressures, and up-down shift speeds. Any changes to these parameters are made by simply dragging these points on the graph.
Some racers are known to use their laptops for concise alterations, and yet still be savvy enough to make a quick between-round modification utilizing the configuration knob in the staging lanes.
Just like any practice where you connect a computer into remote electronics, you should review the interface details seen on Baumann Electronic Controls Shiftware page for specific computer and software compatibility.
A basic tune comes custom installed into the control ordered from US Shift individually as a starting point for your specific vehicle. From there, you can fine-tune from that point using the function knob or laptop.
An array of essential tunes are also included on a CD-ROM or can be downloaded from the US Shift website. Diving into the more in-depth settings of this basic tune can be achieved with graphic-style displays via your laptop.
“In our website’s support/software section, we have created many initial calibrations or ‘tunes’ to help you get started,” Chandler explains. “Each of these files was developed following months of actual vehicle testing. This removes the guesswork out of initial setups and gets your transmission functioning immediately without errors.”
A multi-tune feature allows up to four different calibration tunes to be stored at one time. The driver can move between two of the calibrations with the flick of an installed toggle switch. It is a typical option to hold two “normal or aggressive” calibration tunes. Many hardcore enthusiasts have been known to wire the dual tune switch into the armed circuit of their nitrous system. When nitrous is engaged, it automatically changes to the aggressive transmission control.
By adding your tachometer signal into the Quick 4 controller, you can also take advantage of US Shift’s adaptive learning process. This function will complete a learning cycle of the shift and TCC characteristics during the first few hard-throttle passes. This function can be disabled or reactivated as needed.
Not only are you now equipped with full control of your electronic transmission, but you can also troubleshoot your system with easy-to-read error messages. Functions of your shift solenoids, control current parameters, and sensor malfunctions are quickly displayed on your controller readout display.
The old school hydraulic race transmission still has a long way to go to obsolescence, but the new-school electronic transmissions are finding their way into the racing/performance world quite quickly with these performance controllers.