Ford’s Powershift Debacle

In the automotive world, change is a constant, and if you’re not keeping up, you’re falling behind. New technologies and methodologies are key to gaining an edge in the market, and companies invest billions each year trying to find the next big thing, or even the next minor incremental improvement.

In just such a quest, Ford Motor Company decided to explore an alternative to the traditional automatic gearbox, aiming for greater fuel efficiency in their small cars. On paper, there were gains to be had. Unfortunately, not everything went according to plan.

The Concept

The dual-clutch gearbox promised fuel economy improvements, as well as lighter weight and easier assembly.

The traditional torque-converter based automatic gearbox was a game-changer for the automotive world. With the advent of the self-shifting transmission, drivers had one less complex skill to learn, and cars became much less taxing to drive, particularly in high-traffic, slow-speed environments.  However, the fluidic coupling of an automatic transmission isn’t as efficient as simple meshing gears, a tradeoff that harms fuel efficiency. To get around this, Ford instead decided to create a dual-clutch automated manual transmission for its small cars.

Dual-clutch transmissions use a pair of clutches, one for odd-numbered gears, and another for even numbered gears. As the car accelerates in one gear, the transmission can preselect the next gear, and then engage the opposite clutch while slowly disengaging the other. This allows for nearly-instantaneous shifting while maintaining torque output to the driven wheels for the duration of the shift. Finding their first road application in high-performance supercars in the 90s, the technology has slowly trickled down to cheaper vehicles over time. Most dual-clutches, particularly those for high-torque applications, use a wet clutch system, where the clutch plates are bathed in oil. Ford wished to maximise fuel efficiency, and instead chose to go with a dry clutch system. The dry clutch eliminates pumping losses from the oil in the transmission.

The Problems

What in the world are you thinking going with a dry clutch?

With an eye firmly fixed on improving fuel economy numbers, the Powershift transmission was pushed through development, to be installed on the 2011 Fiesta and 2012 Focus models. In the lead up to production, problems were already apparent to Ford engineers, who were struggling to calibrate the transmission’s computer controls to allow the vehicles to drive smoothly and safely.

An email sent prior to the launch of the 2012 Ford Focus featuring the Powershift transmission, indicating Ford engineers were well aware of problems prior to cars going on sale. Source: Detroit Free Press

Early pre-production testers had issues with launches from a stop and shift quality. Often, vehicles would lurch violently when taking off from traffic lights, or shudder under power. Efforts were made to solve the problems in software, with tricks used to modulate the clutch engagement to try and better control the torque delivery. Unfortunately, none of the fixes stuck. The dry clutch system faced fundamental problems, with the inconsistent friction coefficient making it difficult to program the transmission controller in a way that could keep things running smoothly.

In a parallel to another automotive engineering disaster, the Takata airbag fiasco, Ford were well aware of the issues with the transmission prior to launch. In one document presented to court, a product development engineer emailed colleagues outlining issues with the transmission’s performance. Launches were a particular issue, with the email being sent just six months prior to launch of the first Focus models to feature the transmission.

Cars fitted with the Powershift transmission would often suddenly shift into neutral, causing dangerous situations for drivers.

Despite this, the company pressed on, and millions of vehicles were sold with the Powershift transmission fitted. In a short period, complaints began to flood into the NHTSA. Particularly of concern was the tendency to suddenly shift into neutral when there was a loss of communication or other fault with transmission components. This behaviour was not considered as inherently dangerous by Ford, as the driver would still have full control over steering and braking systems.

In the face of this complacency, incidents continued to stack up. Cars returned to dealerships time and again for repair, with no proper fix available. Crashes began to implicate the Powershift transmission. Drivers reported cars lurching forward in parking lots into stationary objects, to being rear-ended due to a sudden loss of drive on the highway. Several fatal accidents have been attributed to the transmission by victim’s families. However, due to the complex nature of the incidents involving a loss of control, proving this as a definitive cause has been difficult. Ford have declined to accept the allegations in these cases.

The Cost

With millions of vehicles fitted with the Powershift transmission, the inevitable result was a series of lawsuits against Ford. Class actions were undertaken in the United States, Australia, and Canada. In many cases, Ford initially declined to offer refunds or replacement vehicles at no cost, leading to a backlash from regulators. Eventually, Ford elected to settle in most cases, with warranties extended for Fiesta and Focus models fitted with the affected transmissions.

The fallout was a massive reputational hit to Ford, with following models of the Fiesta and Focus returning to a standard torque-converter based automatic transmission. The high cost of repeated transmission repairs also weighed on Ford in warranty costs, estimated to be to the tune of $700 million.

One wonders whether the cost of a late-stage switch back to a more traditional automatic gearbox would have been cheaper in the long run. In addition to causing less inconvenience and heartache to customers, the lower warranty costs and improved reputational standing are worth considering. It’s likely that Ford has had a stern, hard look at internal policies in the years since to determine just why such a defective transmission was allowed through to production. As always, it pays to get your quality assurance out of the way early, before sending millions of defects down the production line and out into the world.

199 thoughts on “Ford’s Powershift Debacle

  1. Only driven automatic transmission when I travel to the USA and get a rental car. Back home in UK – driven manual (stick shift) since 1982.

    Fluid torque converter is probably the most inefficient device in automotive history.

    Imagine the zillions of barrels of oil wasted over the decades because of this piece of useless design. It might simplify driving but it does Jack for mpg.

    Nuff Said – keep it simple stupid.

      1. Autos have been getting close to the same mpg as manuals since the 1990s I had a Firebird that would routinely get 25 to 27 mpg with a modified 400+hp 5.7l V8 and a GTP that would almost always get 27mpg on the highway without even trying.
        Got 32mpg once as I had to travel extra far on just the reserve to find 91 and kept it under 60mph.

        1. It makes less of a difference when you’re driving an engine that literally takes in a bucket a bang. Regular European cars do 40+ MPG in mixed driving with their turbocharged 1.6 liter engines, so the losses to the transmission are proportionally greater.

          1. I drive a “regular” European car with a 2.0L turbocharged engine, the automatic transmission gets better mileage and accelerates faster than the available manual transmission.

          2. 2.0L is still big for a European car. Statista says the EU-28 average car has a 1.55 liter engine. The smallest average engine size is in the Netherlands: 1.35 liters. The largest in Switzerland: 1.81L.

        2. In some models the auto gets better MPG than the manual offering. IIRC the first vehicle EPA tested with better MPG for the auto was the first year Pontiac Fiero.

          1. You do have to compare the gear ratios though. Look at the current ND Mazda Mx-5. The Auto gets better mileage than the manual, but the manual’s gear box only has ratio’s up to 1:1 in 6th gear – that’s the 4th gear for the automatic. 6th gear in the automatic is 1:0.5 ratio. The automatic gets better mileage because the manual gearbox is designed for weekend track meets, not because it is more efficient at the same ratios.

      2. They’ve had lockup clutches since the 1990s

        However they are rarely engaged during city driving, only highway. I forget what the lockup conditions were on my 1995 LeBaron, on my 2009 Outback they engage in 4th gear somewhere around 40-45 MPH. You can tell it’s in lockup by the fact that the tachometer stops responding to small amounts of accelerator pedal motion. The lockup is disengaged once you push the throttle past a certain threshold.

        1. It responds, it’s just in an overdrive gear with no torque multiplication while locked up so it will just creep up the mph real slow, until you give it too much torque for that clutch to handle, so it will unlock then multiply as well.

          On the LeBaron, the 3 speeds didn’t really lock up until around 50mph, the 4 speeds started modulated lockup around 40mph forget the full lockup speed. However, the 3 speeds might have got it dealer disabled… initially, the 3 speeds worked fine on dexron/mercon standard ATF.. then when the electronic lockup came out, they brought out chrysler spec 7176 fluid, which was also for the first years of the 4spd, this was fine in the 3 spd, 4spd was not fine, then they went to ATF +3, again fine in the 3 spd, if a little less bitey, and better but not perfect in 4spd… so they went to ATF +4 to finally get it right in the 4spd which then proceeded to screw up the lockup clutches in 3 speeds with excessive shudder, and glazing from failure to engage. I had a 3 speed vehicle, which was shuddery in lockup when I got it, determined the problem and went to 1 quart of Type F in balance of regular ATF and it worked great.

        2. Actually, your Outback uses lockup in all gears except 1st and reverse…

          Subaru has been doing that for a long time in the 4EAT transmissions.

          Just correcting missing data on your car brand’s technological prowess.

    1. IMO though, the generic “how to drive economically” advice doesn’t work on an auto. Well, it works for for the wrong reasons, i.e. if you always over-accelerate, not anticipating traffic and road conditions ahead, you’re always going to use too much gas. However, in the simplest case of getting up to speed, where that speed will be maintained for long enough to be worth it, you don’t want to granny an auto, it’s like lazily stirring a cup of coffee and expecting the cup to spin. Neither however, do you want to do a drag strip start. You’ve gotta get the torque converter over it’s stall speed, because only then is it 90% efficient, best it can do. So give it like 2500 rpm, that’s brisk, but not crazy acceleration, and chop it off the instant you get to speed, and bring foot down tenderly until you just feel the motor pick up the strain again, if you can keep your foot steady there, not letting the revs fluctuate, in a 40mph limit, most modern lockups will start to cut in and do better than the 90% there. In a 30 limit, I’m still unsure whether steady, or short pulses works better. Seems to depend on car.

      1. Oops, when I say not letting the revs fluctuate… they will when the lockup comes in, it’ll do a contented little mmm and settle down a hundred or two RPM… now some drivers, this seems to annoy, and they tap the gas to bring the revs back up… and if their regular routes/city has a lot of 40mph-ish, then they’ll be on and off the lockup clutch constantly, and in due course be at the dealer complaining what a piece of crap car they sold them because the fluid and/or lockup clutch is burned and/or shuddering, and/or setting a code because it’s resigned.

        1. I had a 2011 or 13 Focus and never had any problems with the transmission. I had driven a manual for years. The trick is to treat it like is a manual. On starting up give it some gas about a quarter throttle or so. Hold the throttle down steady until it has shifted through third gear. The computer measures everything and selects proper gear, gas, and mixture but it takes some time to measure, adjust, apply and recycle to do again. Moving the peddle To much can confuse the computer. I had that car for couple yeasts and it was a great car while I had the car. Routinely got 55 MPG highway just cruising the road.

    2. Almost every transmission has a lock-up torque converter now which negates most of these concerns. Modern 8-speed transmissions such as ZF’s new design are amazingly efficient and long lasting.

        1. Modern manuals don’t have a proper overdrive gear. With the development of better small turbocharged engines that have low RPM torque, they started breaking the gearbox from torque vibrations and metal fatique, so they lowered the overdrive ratio and got worse fuel economy.

          1. That’s interesting and something I wasn’t aware of. I have a 2011 Cruze Eco which does appear to have a proper overdrive gear in it’s 6 speed manual. About 2k rpm @ 60 mph, and a rated 42 mpg highway. That was tops in the US, not counting diesels or hybrids in 2011.

            The engine is a 1.4 turbo, and so does have peak torque at low rpm, but it’s still fairly modest. Hopefully I won’t have any transmission problems. So far so good after 9 years.

          2. It’s a balancing act. Small engines and cars have small gearboxes, and where you historically had 85 HP at 5,000 revs now you have 185 HP on tap at 2,500 and it’s just tearing them apart. At worst you may be driving some awful “smart” car with a three cylinder engine that’s clanking along like a tractor to begin with, but mostly it’s about making a small engine perform like a big engine without having the structural integrity (material cross-section) to do so.

            In other words, modern small cars are glass cannons.

          3. Yep. The 2011 Cruze Eco with the six speed manual was deliberately made with taller ratios for the top four gears than any other Chevrolet. The regular Cruze with a manual gets 24/36 MPG.

            So that’s another spanner in the gears for comparing auto vs. manual. The Eco’s manual cruises 80 mph at 2,500 RPM, while the automatic turns 3,000 RPM and the Eco clocks in almost 44 MPG while the automatic gets about 38 MPG. The downside is that the manual loses by one second in 0-60 mph acceleration to the automatic.

            It’s all down to what ratios the manufacturer chooses to have.

          4. Check the specs (at least on US-market cars). The manuals usually have overdrive on the top and often the top two gears. Don’t think anyone has made a direct-in-top car transmission in years.

            Now, what they do with the final drive ratio, that’s another story.

        2. Except the original assertion was “automatics are useless and waste fuel and that will never change so they shouldn’t have existed in the first place” so it’s not about making a fair comparison, it’s about pointing out the elephant in the room.

          1. Well, the elephant in the room is that manual gearboxes are deliberately gimped by manufacturers these days to make them as -bad- as the automatics for various reasons.

            The main thing being that they’re cheaper and require less maintenance, so they generate less revenue out of cars that last longer.

        3. Check fueleconomy.gov, select nearly any modern vehicle made with both manual and auto options, and take a look at the numbers. In nearly all cases, across the fleet, almost every single vehicle made today gets better or the same mileage on the auto option vs the manual. Same happens to be true for quarter-mile times, another place people think manuals are better.

          Your knowledge of the advantage of manual transmissions is out of date, the only advantage a manual offers today is giving you the “feel” of a stick.

    3. The reason why they let this out the factory broken was because they had already committed significant resources and incorrectly assumed they could do a software patch later once the “magic” calibration was discovered. As far as torque converter transmissions go my 15 year old Honda will go into lockup in any gear above 1st as long as you hold the accelerator steady while my 25 year old Infiniti will only lockup once its shifted up to the highest driver selected gear such as drive or overdrive. As a bonus if you take you foot off the gas above 80mph the system stays locked up for engine braking until you are below 80mph. for the old Honda the computer watches brake application and will downshift on hills for engine brake or hold gears if it detects you stating down a grade. the newest automatics will beat a manual car for fuel economy and acceleration today due to the advanced shift strategy and up to 10 gears that are available I just would not want to fix one.

    4. Torque converters usually have a lock-up, which engages once the car is moving, eliminating any slippage and energy losses. I think that torque converters are actually brilliant devices. They provide a very smooth launch and reduce wear and tear, which increases the vehicle lifetime. New cars with CVTs generally use torque converters with lock up and they get excellent smoothness and fuel economy.

      Acura has a dual clutch transmission solution with a torque converter – best of both worlds. But what Ford should have done is to replace the dry clutches with wet clutches. Wet clutches are a well understood technology.

    5. Why can’t they just do exactly the same thing a manual does, but with actuators and computers instead of human input? Drive by wire sounds 50x safer than any kind of fancy mechanical business.

      Or better, all electric transmissions, with engine/generator units that can be swapped for battery power if desired, rather than buying a whole new car.

      1. Drive by wire safer…… Ok, Drive by wire involves Software, which is historically much less safe than fancy mechanical business. Start with the Toyota Prius software bug which killed a bunch of people when it went into runaway acceleration.

          1. I had never heard about the tin whiskers… The root causes I had always heard were:
            1) Floormats improperly secured, pushing the pedal
            2) Attempts to reproduce the “feel” of a traditional cable throttle in the pedal led to pedals that could stick. So indirectly, drive-by-wire caused the problem, but due to changes in the mechanical parts and not software!

          2. In any case, RoHS regulations caused a heap of trouble when manufacturers were forced to swap from tin-lead coatings to tin-only coatings and couldn’t always add polymers on top to stop the whisker growth – such as inside potentiometers.

            There are three things that stop the tin whiskers from growing completely: lead, antimony, bismuth. Lead is the best but banned, antimony is toxic, and bismuth causes the mixture to expand on cooling which makes it peel off the substrate. RoHS solders now use silver and copper, which kinda sorta works, but it’s not perfect because you can’t add enough of them without raising the melting point too much.

      2. This is common in high performance vehicles.

        In the case of this article, that’s EXACTLY what Ford tried to do, except that the computer couldn’t handle the variability of a dry clutch system properly.

        Nowadays, CVTs are getting very common, whether a fully mechanical one, or an “electronic” CVT found in many hybrid systems such as Toyota HSD.

      3. The Ford Powershift does exactly that. The execution, however, sucked. Software is never “done”. I have a 2015 Focus, and it would go crazy after a long drive on the highway and stop at a toll booth or stoplight. Which tells me they haven’t designed for a certain temperature range.

        I did find the “transmission reset procedure” (same as towing, sets all the shifts to neutral) and when I do that, it goes into learning mode and runs like a new car again. I also rented one and drove into the Colorado mountains, and it was fine… a little rough and jerky. But the mileage is great.

        The other driver in the family will NOT drive a manual car (I had one 7 years and she never drove it once) but the Powershift is the next best thing. Ford should have kept at it. Some simple mods, maybe even software, would have done it.

        1. If you wanna bandaid that problem, you might stick a transmission cooler down in the lower grill/bumper because upper grille will aerodynamically block at high speeds. However, that will make it vulnerable to rock strikes and could increase aero drag a tad.

          1. A transmission cooler would work with a conventional automatic, which has ATF flowing through it. Not so well with a Dry Clutch Transmission.

          2. The back half of it’s wet even if the front isn’t. However, it might take some details working out, like using a race/rally kit for a manual adapted to it.

      4. The only problem there is if you drive by wire fails there’s no fall back for steering. With a mechanical linkage, even if the vehicle fails and completely shuts down, electricals and all, you can still steer the vehicle.

        I do agree with you about generator+electric motor for vehicles. It would reduce alot of the mechanical wear points.

        1. Infiniti has drive-by-wire steering. As I understand it there’s a clutch separating the column and the steering gear. If power fails the clutch closes and the column connects directly to the rack.

    6. I think Ford could of done an ‘automated’ transmission where you have a clutch pedal for the driver to launch the car in 1st gear and then the computer can shift the transmission up and down once under way. that would solve the problem of having the computer attempt to calculate how to start the car off on hills, under full passenger load, or wet surfaces. hot/cold temperatures etc..

  2. I had a Focus with the DPS6 in it. That was my first (and likely last) Ford vehicle; I had done some development work with some BCM designers and was impressed enough by their design rigor to go ahead and buy my first Ford. It almost literally hurts me to see the email trails that have come out with the classic engineering vs delivery dilemma.

    It was a good transmission when it worked, but it slipped like crazy after about 20K miles. A few recalls, a bunch of warranty work, a dead bearing on the output shaft, and I’d had enough. My new car is a decent, gentlemanly 6MT so any slipping is my fault.

    1. Never take the early models!
      The DPS6 (Getrag 6dct250) is now quite reliable and being used not only in Ford with some VERY good condition even in racing conditions!

    2. I’ve been driving used ford explorers for ages and while I’ve had to swap out transmissions, it was only after like 240,000 miles average on each of them. The only time I had to replace one early was due to a leak in a hose going to the aux radiator for the tow package. Was young and didn’t know what I was dealing with when it stopped shifting correctly.

      If anything rust is the killer in fords. Though I do drive in northern New England. Way to much salt!

  3. So was there a definitive post mortem on what was actually happening? I’d be looking at build up of friction dust, lube contamination, play/yield in the engagement components leading to skitter…

  4. I have no idea if I’m right, as I know nothing about this system, but they mention “calibration” problems.
    Sometimes people calibrate inputs that will produce the right outputs in the “then-current” conditions, but the real calibration should be done within a feedback system that measures outputs.
    Otherwise calibration will no longer be current when parts wear off, etc.
    Still; I find it hard to believe they didn’t think of it.
    More likely strange non-linearities (that we compensate with experience on manual transmissions) are hard for machines.

    1. “Calibration” is used in automotive ecus to describe anything that can be tuned, or modIfied.

      This can include anything from ECU address, valve on time, timeouts, PID parameters, function enablement (auto off/locking etc…).

      Or even things like setting the vehicle weight in the ABS/stability control. (So the same ecu can be used for a small 2500lb car and a 8,000lb truck)

    2. Even 1st gen electronically controlled automatics had wear compensation, also various forms of wear and condition sensing, so I find it hard to believe they’d forget that.

      1. I had one of the 1st gen Chrysler Ultradrives. The politest thing I can say is “fiasco”. And quite a number of things were forgotten or not passed along to the dealers.

        When the issues with the Ultradrive came to light, BEFORE my vehicle had issues, they recalled it, and did a rebuild at the dealer where I bought it. A few weeks later, I took my little kids in to work on a Saturday evening to check on something in the lab-I came out and had no reverse gear with a 6 foot dirt berm in front of me. That cost me a 35 mile taxi ride to get the poor kids home. The service manager calls me saying “You wouldn’t believe what we found, packings in backwards”. He got a quiet, deadly reply “That’s very interesting, because your shop rebuilt it.”

        After the warranty ran out, it went out AGAIN, and this time I took it to a one-man transmission shop, who said when they designed the initial rebuild procedure, they forgot all about rezeroing the adaptive settings that accounted for the wear on the pads. So new full-thickness pads would be put in, and the contact setting was at the depth of the old pads. By the time it had been around the block once, the pads had worn away a significant fraction. That was accounted for in later procedures and the computer was set to auto adjust for the replaced thickness.

        As an engineer, you can write it flat-out in a memo (as we see in the article) and managers/executives will completely ignore predictions of doom and disaster.

        1. Among other things: Apparently the first A604s had language in the user manual and on the dipstick that you could use Dexron or Mercon ATF.

          Yes, that’s right, the owner’s manual actually recommended fluid that was guaranteed to kill the transmission!

          Dexron and Mercon had very different friction properties than Chrysler ATF+ – in fact I think ATF+ actually allowed MORE clutch slippage. The computer was calibrated assuming ATF+, and would improperly control the clutches when Dexron or Mercon was present, lunching the transmission within a few hundred miles in some cases.

          Later A604s were actually pretty solid if you installed a transmission cooler (running too hot was another issue in many implementations).

          1. Even after they got ATF +4 and all the fixes in, there were still dealers saying “Dexron/Mercon is just fine…” and putting it in customer vehicles…..

    3. It sounds like they could measure engine output torque and transmission input torque so it seems like there is a feedback loop there. I’d guess the calibration has to deal with the amount of applied clutch pressure to get a desired torque differential between the engine and the transmission input shafts. Remember that the system would need to smoothly remove torque from one shaft while smoothly applying it to the one being transitioned to. I’d imagine the engineers tried everything I can think of to work through the issue. The most extreme would be only actuating one clutch at a time and trying to use the feedback loop to slowly apply power to the target gear. But that would nullify the advantages of the double clutch system.

      It sound like the clutches had inconsistent friction behavior making it impossible to find the right way to simultaneously disengage one gear while engaging the other.

      The issue was compounded by the decision to switch to neutral in a failure condition. Whats not clear to me is if an issue with a shift could result in an error condition that would lead to going into neutral. I saw an article where the engineers blasted the decision to switch to neutral in their FMEA. If the clutch issues could cause the shift to neutral, that issue would have shown up in their other safety analysis.

      I’d like to know more about the inconstant coefficient of friction observations the engineers made. A comment here indicates a failed seal could allow lubricant into the clutch assembly. That would be a very bad time as it would definitely cause a wandering coefficient of friction where a relatively stable one is expected. I’m wondering if there might be other material problems with the clutches (but that should all be mature tech at this point).

      1. The issue is the dry clutch system, which works inconsistently at the best of times. It’s fine for a manual clutch where the driver is able to compensate, but the computer doesn’t have the same immediate “touch” on the system because it can’t feel the same things as the driver does, nor learn what they mean and how to compensate. It’s trying to apply some fixed formula that catches a subset of the conditions and behaviors that the clutch may have, while trying to keep everything within “safe parameters”, i.e. never “abusing” the clutch in ways that would shorten its lifespan too much or cause excessive torque vibrations in the drive line.

        The last point is especially important because people expect an automatic to crawl right – it’s driven completely differently from standard, where the driver manages the clutch slip and avoids excessive wear by pulse-and-roll techniques and low engine speed. Double clutch gearboxes are well hated for their low-speed characteristics, because it’s never as steady and predictable as a torque converter automatic, and has none of the control of a manual.

        A wet clutch has more consistent behavior because the shear viscosity parameters of the oil are well controlled for, and the clutch can develop some significant torque even as it is slipping, unlike the dry clutch which has a narrower range of engagement with significant variation by everything from wear of the clutch to the local weather.

        1. Also critical is how the majority of people accelerate. With an automatic, many slowly take off to the point a dry clutch system has no choice but to intentionally slip for an extended period(when smooth engagement is the priority), which increases wear and heat, which in turn makes it less predictable of an engagement point.

          I’ve read of a number of owner reports that if one was to drive the cars like a race car(hard and fast), the transmissions worked flawlessly every time.

          The real failure point of this entire thing was ford giving the public an economy car best suited ‘for grocery runs, or bingo nights’ outfitted with a transmission best suited for a race car.

          Had they optioned a similar transmission to a performance vehicle like the mustang, complaints likely would have been halved.

          1. Some cars don’t slip the clutch, they pulse it gently, which gets really annoying when you’re trying to crawl through traffic or get through bumps and potholes or the occasional sleeping policeman without scraping the bottom pan.

            As cars get older, they often don’t idle as well and keeping the RPM low without stalling or stuttering the engine becomes an issue, which makes the problem worse.

          2. Though it’s entirely possible – at least it used to be with certain older cars – to burn your clutch to the point that the surfaces turn glassy and the clutch springs lose tension from being overheated. Then the clutch will act kinda like a torque converter: when you gun the engine, the clutch keeps on slipping until the thermal expansion makes it engage, and the glassy surfaces keep it from wearing out. :)

          3. agreed, and attempting to program a dual clutch to feel like a torque converter automatic is asking for trouble. The customer needs to be advised that a different driving style is needed. I cringe when I see people in expensive dual clutch cars continuously creep them in stop and go traffic. When its probably better to periodically give it a little punch of the accelerator and get off the gas and let the car coast as much as possible if its going to slow to stay engaged in a gear.

          4. That really only means the manufacturer should have a super low creep gear that engages if they don’t depress the accelerator past a certain point.

            It would allow super accurate creeping without lurching dangerously forwards into a non-moving car in traffic.

            If a person hit the accelerator harder it would start out in a more traditionally geared first gear intended to be used coming up to normal speeds.

          5. >should have a super low creep gear

            That’s kinda what they have. The first is slightly lower than in a manual. It would cost more to add another “sub-1st” gear.

          6. It would also be super weird to drive in the crawling gear, because your engine would rev up while you’re going 0.1 mph, like you’re driving a scooter or something.

      2. Matt, you are closer to the truth than you could possibly think. Inconsistent mu (think higher dynamic than static), improper lube of IPS Seals during EOL test and shaft finish lay are keys. Also think about the importance of matching coefficients of thermal expansion of mating parts. All I can say is choose your suppliers wisely. BTW neutral @ failure is preferable to staying locked in a gear because the driver can coast to the side of the road vs. trying to stop a car that is locked in drive.

    4. Correct. You cannot have a fixed, closed loop program for a dry clutch with living (dynamic) characteristics with many variables. The program would need to be a learning program, and individual for each car. In time, no 2 would be the same for they tailor themselves for their own clutch characteristics. Seems to me a Ford bean counter could not stand a model sitting in development waiting for the proper solution.

        1. If I ever develope a product to sell I’m going to advertise that it has fuzzy logic. Managers love it. At work they think it’s some AI code constantly retuning the process to run better. When they give tours they brag about the fuzzy logic. It’s funny because I’ve had the fuzzy disabled for 15 years.

          1. The irony of fuzzy logic is that once you run the algorithms, it reduces back to discrete logic at the output.

            No matter how fuzzy you are when judging whether it’s “hot” or “cold”, at some point you have to make a decision to turn the heater on or off. When the input parameters are fixed, the fuzzy functions simply compute to some discrete value where the heaters will be turned on, and another where they will be turned off, every time.

    5. I am a Ford tech and specialized in these transmissions when they were new. As they age we are seeing issues with clutch dust contamination in the bell housing, however 90% of the reliability issues were either in the not-robust nature of the transmission control computer or on the software’s inability to adapt sufficiently to clutch wear. The latter is what causes almost all of the clutch shudder issues.

      1. I kinda wonder if people would have had as many problems with them, had they been introduced in the 1960s, when everyone (with dirty fingernails) knew the “If your clutch is slipping, hose it off with a carbon tetrachloride fire extinguisher” trick.

    6. In the context of the email shown “Calibration” means firmware.
      Not the actual code running on the ECU, but the values assigned in the firmware to all the thousands of variables, curves and maps that make it all function as required.

      “Calibration” is what “Calibration Engineers” do. Those are the guys you see parked at the tops of mountains, in very hot places and in very cold places with a laptop plugged in to a car covered in weird camouflage and with a puzzled expression on their faces.

  5. yeah but you left out why ford would even do this. the CAFE standard is killing automakers. they are being hit with unreasonable safety (the car is now heavier) and mpg standards. why do you think so many cars are going to CVTs? why are so many cars dropping manual transmissions? why are gdi 1.5L turbo charged engines going into every car? causing HONDA to have an engine recall. if you want fuel efficient drop all US safety standards. the cars will be lighter and can be fuel efficient. or drop the fuel standards because cars are too damn heavy.

      1. Yeah: performance, efficiency, safety, cost, choose three. It’s amazing to me that designers have done such an impressive job of optimizing. (And, yes, performance: a contemporary minivan outperforms a 1960’s supercar, and people expect 1960’s musclecar performance out of the cheapest cars you can buy.)

        1. True enough – one of the magazines tested an early 1970s Porsche 911 against the minivan that towed it to the track. The results were extremely close – seems like the Porsche may have handled better but the minivan won the drag race portion? It was “Grass Roots Motorsport” if anyone has old issues or an index.

          I sometimes have the opposite of paranoia – I suspect there are hidden, unseen forces working to protect us. :-) My suspicion is that saving the world will nearly require banning private passenger autos. An outright sudden ban would lead to… political upheaval, to say the least. The plan, therefore, is to just drive the price up to where only the very wealthy can afford cars and “light” trucks. Sort of the “boiling a frog” strategy. Legally, BTW, a Ford F-350 is still a “light” truck. “Medium” trucks are the Beer Truck -sized vehicles, “Heavy” is the Class 8 over-the-road (“semi”) trucks.

          Political scientists, yes, are well aware of the Law of Unintended Consequences. It seems likely to me that commercial vehicles (probably “over 26,000 pounds GWV”) will be exempted. They (mostly) are right now anyway. I think it will become “not unusual”, especially in rural areas, for kids to be dropped off at school in one of their parent’s Kenworth or Mack road tractors. Twelve MPG Tahoes get replaced with 6 MPG Freightliners… sigh. I suspect the requirement to have a Commercial Driver’s License should limit that – the CDL requires a drug test, a sixth grade reading level, and a surprisingly strict medical exam. At least Volvo’s Mack division (and others) are demonstrating electric road tractors and commercial (class 6-8) vehicles. Mack has a fleet of electric garbage trucks running in NYC right now.

          1. Private motorists subsidise the trucking industry to a great extent. Heavy trucks do 10,000 times the road damage/wear that a car does, but they’re not paying 10,000 the taxes in gas or licensing fees. So banning private cars overnight would mean either the road network turns to rubble, or goods moved by road get extremely expensive.

          2. The trucking industry carries products that pay VAT and other taxes, so the more transportation you have the more the state collects tax anyways.

      2. Wholesale steel currently retails for $1 per pound. Whole aluminum about $5 per pound. Carbon fiber? Try $11 a pound for automotive grade carbon fiber. You plan on bankrolling that 5x to 11x increase in car prices Mr. Deep Pockets? The pandemic has already depressed the car market. Eleven million people are out of work in USA. “Hey let’s kick auto manufacturers while they’re already struggling, right?”

        1. Oh it’s worse than that. Steel frames can be easily bent/welded/hammered back into shape. Aluminum costs significantly more to fix leading to more “totaled” vehicles for what used to be easily repairable. Additionally, Aluminum corrodes much more easily than Steel (and then there’s what happens to aluminum in fire). I expect the 1990 Ford F-150s to still be running when the last 2015 F-150 has rusted away. A Carbon Fiber frame? One bump and you’re looking at replacing the piece or a new car, no repair possible.

          Yes, steel is heaving. It also fails a lot more gracefully than Aluminum. Carbon Fiber doesn’t fail gracefully at all, it just fails.

          1. Modern cars use high strength alloys to save weight. These cannot be welded or banged back into shape without losing their properties and becoming dangerous. They also don’t take as much rust before they turn into death traps, because there’s less material to rust through.

            Many people ask, why don’t they use stainless steel for the frame. Answer: stainless has no fatigue limit, so it’s dangerous by developing cracks over time no matter how small the load is. This is why the DeLorean had a stainless exterior over a regular steel frame, and why the Cybertruck is an exceedingly stupid idea. It’s also difficult to weld correctly and failures in welding cause corrosion at the weld and more fatigue cracking.

            Think of bending a spoon back and forth – as long as you don’t bend it too much, a plain carbon steel spoon will just keep bending forever, while the stainless will break at some point. Same thing with aluminum – it too has no fatigue limit. This is why alloy rims are so massively thick compared to their steel counterparts that may be pressed out of couple millimeters thick sheet versus an inch of aluminum – they have to be over-engineered by a huge margin to be safe.

          2. True. How about Titanium? abundant raw material ( ok, refining takes energy) rust free, recyclable with predictable performance & repair characteristics.
            Not the sort of thing to use if you want repeat car sales, but the right choice if you were building your rental fleet of electric cars – or boats for that matter.

            I see titanium refining as the next big thing for equatorial solar farms.

          3. Titanium isn’t easy to weld either, and it too suffers from stress cracking. Aluminium and titanium alloys “age”, that is, they change their crystal structure over time and welding them makes these changes happen very rapidly, so the welded part is always compromised somehow – usually by becoming brittle around the weld. That’s why titanium and aluminium airplanes are riveted instead of welded, and why SpaceX had to develop an entirely new stir welding method to put their rockets together to make them last multiple launches.

          4. Cars are probably small enough to go in a conditioning oven though, if they’re not aged, then the welding done then oven aged, to bring everything up to same strength/hardness. Then dump powder coat on while they’re still hot LOL

          5. Also, when you’re welding titanium, if the joint isn’t completely covered by shielding gases, it absorbs O2 and N2 from the atmosphere and becomes brittle. The metal is then ruined and can’t be fixed by heat treatments.

            When you see videos from car factories, they’re spot-welding the frames together by robots in open air with sparks flying. If it was made of titanium, all those frames would be junk.

          6. Car plant of the future: titanium mined on the moon, welded in vacuum by robots, and heat treated by leaving out in the sun a couple weeks until the moon rotates. Elon Musk already knows how to deliver cars by rocket ship.

          7. >However, easier to get robots working in a non-oxygen atmosphere than people..

            Expensive though. Since nitrogen or CO2 won’t do, you need to use argon or helium. Titanium has the curious property of burning in a nitrogen atmosphere above 800 C and in oxygen above 600 C. It’s kinda like the nicer big brother to magnesium.

        1. Mostly due to being the only option on hybrids or high end sportscars.
          Unless they’re living in the heart of a big city or want one of the afromented car types, transmission of choice is still often a crunchstick.

        2. Why is my pun detector going off?

          I lived and worked in Germany up until about 3 years ago. Manual transmissions were def. preferred. Auto trans was considered to be something for elderly or ‘handicapped’ drivers.

          I personally prefer to roll my own gears. It’s a boomer thing, I suppose.

      1. Automatics are easier to computer control for meeting (or cheating if you’re Volkswagen) EPA test standards. As Ford found out, a dry clutch is too chaotic. It’s so analog and noisy. It would require a much more powerful and complex electronic control and sensor system along with actuation on par with the sensitivity and control of a well practiced driver’s foot and leg.

        1. That was not the issue. the clutch was not sealed correctly the slippage was caused by trans fluid seeping into the bell housing. wet clutch dcts dont have this issue because both the clutch and gears share the same fluid.

          1. Sadly the wet clutch Ford DCT transmission is just as unreliable as the dry clutch version. It’s also 2 x the cost to repair only for it to go again . Unfortunately there is no consumer protection here in the UK to hold Ford to account. So sadly the UK motorists get shafted again to the tune of a minimum £3000 to fix.

      2. Part of the reason is that manual is the “bog standard” option that few people buy. When you buy a manual, you get none of the electric seats and tinted windows or entertainment systems. If you want them, you have to pay for “upgrade” packages that may also mean you have to pick the automatic.

        The automatic is sold with the all options included package that the company really wants to sell, because they’re stuffing the package with all the goodies to entice people to buy them all at an inflated price.

    1. They are only “unreasonable” until you have a friend or loved one seriously hurt or killed because the manufacturer didn’t bother to fit the feature because it saved them a few dollars. You’re never going to get a 100% safe vehicle, but it’s up to the politicians (I.e. the representatives of the people) to decide how much risk they are prepared to accept.
      It’s much the same with emissions standards, and the reason why the writing is on the wall for IC powered vehicles. Most of the big auto manufacturers have been remarkably slow in recognising this fact.

      1. what are you talking about? gas engines are still fine and need to be kept around. hybrids are a shit show for anyone but city people. and the auto braking and other bonkers stuff pushed into cars was an abject mistake. car were made too complex for marginal gains by people like you who never work on your own damn car.

          1. Because VW owns a large portion of F1 and they were caught in that whole “smoggate” thing and are pushing electric cars into F1 so people forget about how morally bankrupt they are and giving themselves a huge advantage in promoting their own EV’s to boot. VM owns a LOT of high end car brands. They are certainly not doing it because they care about you or me or the environment, it’s literally self-promoting their own cars.

    2. Cars are too damn heavy because consumers want and expect 600HP engines and power butt massage and air conditioned and heated seats and gigantic SUV bodies and full time 4WD and seating for 9 people. And 98% of the time they are driving with only 1 lard a$$ person in the vehicle.

      I think if you can afford a gas guzzler then you can afford a $5000.00 dollar a year gas guzzler tax if your engine has more than 4 cylinders or a displacement grater than 1.5L. Tax should be applied to pickup trucks and SUVs automatically as an excessive consumption tax. Don’t blame CAFE or safety standards for vehicles getting heavier…blame conspicuous consumption.

      1. When you apply taxes to get rid of something, the tax turns against its own purpose because of government greed. At some point they will realize, “Hey, people are no longer buying SUVs, we’re not getting any money.”, and they’ll cut it back to where the demand recovers and the money keeps on coming. Some politician will also gain votes by campaigning for these tax cuts.

    3. Neither safety nor fuel efficiency is something we should compromise though. It’s up to engineers to make it work, so we don’t all die in crashes, or with soot filled lungs.

      They could always increase all standards even more, and subsidize as needed. Tech gets cheap with mass production. People can do way better in most areas of engineering

      1. Increasing fuel efficiency causes more NOx emissions due to higher compression pressures and higher combustion temperatures. Even gasoline engines start doing that when you force the efficiency up.

        The way you deal with it is by urea injection which reacts the NOx with ammonia, except when the engine control software can’t keep up with the exact amount in the exhaust, it will over/under apply the urea and belch both NOx and ammonia out of the tailpipe. It only works in the test bench, not in the real world.

        1. The other way is with EGR, which re-introduces the exhaust back to the intake to dilute the charge and make it burn cooler – which is deliberately putting the efficiency down to stop it from making NOx in the first place.

  6. I like the concept of DCT’s, and had FORD chosen wet clutches I bet this transmission would have been lauded as a step forward. Wet clutches have proven smooth and reliable in standard automatic transmissions for more than 50 years and in use for a least 200K miles if not abused and with fluid maintenance.

    1. As noted though, you’ve got to use more gas to pump the fluid around, waste gas in windage from the geartrain throwing it around, waste gas in warming it to operating temperature. Then your 40mpg car does 35mpg, and you’re wondering what was so bad about the old F-4EAT

      1. True the extra drag would have eaten up part of the savings.
        It seems VW group is the only company to figure out this voodoo and have it both efficient and reliable.

        1. The even wilder part w/r/t VW is the DSG can handle a lot more torque than the 6MT. The 6MT clutch gets shredded with higher torque numbers and needs an upgrade or a low-torque tune.

          1. This is due to simplecost optimization. The 6MT pressure plate has less overhead for torque. The trade-off is that it is cheaper to produce. If I recall correctly, on most MBQ platform vehicles, you can simply switch to a pressure plate from a higher power vehicle. The clutch itself is pretty good. I think it isn’t until stage 2+ that you really need to look at flywheel/clutch/pp all together.

          2. Yah, probably, they used to do one size fits all clutches in most stuff until late 90s, you pretty rarely had to upgrade until you were way over double factory output, because there was a barge in the lineup using the same parts.

        2. Last time the VW group, figured out how to do the seemingly impossible, they just about got put out of business for cheating the tests. I would take any tech innovations from VW with a large grain of salt. If they are the only people who can do something, in my mind the odds are good they are cheating again.

          1. VW actually, unlike many companies, actually cleaned executive house after dieselgate. It’s one of the few cases where I believe executives actually went to jail?

            To the point where in real-world tests, the Porsche Taycan consistently outperforms the EPA test numbers by a HUGE margin, with people getting close to 300 miles of range at 70 MPH from a car with only 200ish mile EPA range.

            (Interestingly, that discrepancy is partly because Porsche figured out how to do what Tesla failed to, in having a dual-speed rear transmission to permit insane amounts of low-speed torque at the cost of efficiency in “sport” mode.)

      2. For the “good” DCT’s the dual clutch assembly is a self contained unit that doesn’t have a large pump like a legacy torque convertor based automatic. There may be small “windage” losses in the clutch assembly but the disengaged clutch has a preselected gear behind it who’s ratio is relatively close to the selected gear so the RPM difference between the two halves of that clutch should be small. All transmissions have losses from the gear train lubrication. I prefer manual transmissions, but if I had to choose the less evil alternative considering long term reliability and the fun to drive factor – I’d pick a wet clutch DCT over a CVT.

        1. I’m not so sure. as CVTs come in I think they may eventually be easier to rebuild than a dct. since all that ever really goes bad is the belt and that takes few tools to change than the clutches on a dct. but that assumes manufactures ever put out material and shops take the work of fixing them. cvts are cheaper (i think) and are getting better. dcts are very nice if you can’t get a manual for a car.

    2. Ford do have a wet clutch DCT, it was used in heavier vehicles . I purchased the tooling and rebuilt my first one for a customer a few months ago. ohnestly not a bad gearbox, seems every bit as durable and nice driving as the vw DSG imho ofcourse. I have so far refused to work on the dry clutch DCT gearboxes cause I feel there just a shit design and so likely to come back to bite me.

      1. The issue there is that we’re talking Ford but those gearbox and made by Getrag (even if part owned by ford) and have many DCT variation 6 or 7 speed from 150Nm to 500Nm.
        The most used (at least in EUI) being the 6DCT250 (dry clutch) , 6DCT450 (wet clutch) and 7DCT300 (wet clutch).
        The 6DCT250 is realiable even overdriven (can handle up to 280Nm depeing on weigth, wheel size), issues comes when you have bad clutch calibration and there’s still some case of leaking oil on the clutchs but way under 1%.
        Happy with mine topping its design max spec everyday for soon to be 100 000km :)

    3. Nope untrue… the Ford wet clutch box has a common oil supply with the clutch and thus contamination of valves solenoids together with plastic clutch components breaking up allied with dry joints on the mechatronic unit add up to a truly crappy autobox. They are known as the powershit box in the UK.

  7. I always wonder about the emails that are dug up after the fact and how meaningful they actually are. There’s enough naysayers in the world and particularly in engineering that I’m fairly certain you could go back and dig up an email from somebody complaining about anything that you chose to look for.

    1. From a discovery POV, priceless. It’s evidence that x, y and z were aware of wtf was going or not going on. In some instances, it’s “safer” to violate court orders and take the potentially heavy hit by destroying the data. Not even vaguely legal or ethical, but it happens.

  8. I love the manual gearbox on my motorcycle – and if you’re in a rush, you don’t even need to use the clutch if you’re quick with the throttle. That said, bring on my electric truck, and maybe even an electric motorcycle, and forget about transmissions entirely. Too much complexity. My current AWD battlewagon needs its front diff rebuilt, it’s not expensive to DIY, but it is going to be a pain in the rear.

    1. I still don’t understand why cars don’t have bike-style gearboxes. They’re sooooo snappy and fast. Much nicer than a traditional H-pattern gearbox.
      With a modern up+down quickshifter, the clutch is only used when pulling away.

      The only thing i can think of, is that you need to keep gearbox revs in mind. Shift from neutral to 1st while doing 2nd gear speeds, can result in crunchy sounds if you don’t up the revs first.

      1. Because driving a manual, you commonly skip gears like 1-2-4 or 3-5 when you’re accelerating to/from different road speeds. You don’t cycle through all of them, and doing that would require you to sync engine speed in the middle gears you’d be skipping, which slows you down.

        1. I don’t, and I think that’s not going to be faster in the vast majority of vehicles than shifting through every gear.

          My bet is that the real reason is because that clunk sound you get when you shift gears on a bike would be pretty nasty with it scaled up for a vehicle that’s ~8x the weight.

          1. It’s not about being faster, it’s mostly about not having to go through the motions more than necessary.

            For smaller engines, you have all the power at higher RPM and all the fuel economy at low RPM, so you get better mileage and acceleration by avoiding the middle gears and just going straight from low to overdrive.

      2. Exactly, the crunchys if not rev matched or rammed into gear. People would not put up with an unsynchronized dog ring transmission in a production street car, that’s what makes the bike trans shift so fast, not the ratchet shifter aspect. You can get racing transmissions for cars built the same way, H or ratchet shifted, either way they shift as fast as you can throw the lever, but they’re high maintenance items, the dogs must be deburred periodically. I suspect the bike gets away with it because the weight and torque are low enough a sufficiently beefy idiot proofed unit with a decent service life is still of a practical weight.

    2. Heh funny thing, years back, had to use a fam members stepthrough/scootery thing to take them stuff to the hospital. The previous bike I’d ridden much was a Cub with a foot clutch and two brake levers, but there was a moped class scooter that was auto I’d been on before that. So I somehow manage to get the thing moving, thinking it has an auto clutch, because the pedal is different, and it looks more like the auto moped-scooter than the Cub, I thought it was a bit picky going into gear had to get the revs right…. so when I get there he couldn’t figure how I’d managed because then he tells me it’s a left lever clutch, whoops. Then the stupid thing was, I stalled it twice on the way home trying to use the clutch correctly.

  9. I think this article asks the wrong question. The real question that should be asked is: why do the auto makers feel its OK to remove driver control? And why aren’t our respective governments demanding better. There hasn’t been a car made since the ’90s that hasn’t removed some degree of driver control… OK maybe the high-end sport types have survived but I can’t afford to find out. Seems things started to go downhill with BCDs. Anyone else ever hit that _sweet spot_: lurch, drag, lurch, drag, lurch, drag, … I used to strip those off to regain driveability. With the computer systems now days getting the rigs to give control back to the driver is harder. I think auto makers should pay for most accidents because in my existence I’ve had at least one near accident and one accident caused by the vehicle not doing what I told it to **when** I told it to.

    I could rant on about this the rest of the day and provide results to testing I’ve done but fortunately for everyone I have things needing to be done. I can’t believe that every other driver out there hasn’t noticed and complained. I’ve mentioned this to other vehicle enthusiasts I’ve known and I boggle they never noticed until I pointed it out. Weird.

    Suffice it to say there isn’t a vehicle sold since 2016 that is trustworthy. I can’t wait until some terrorist group turns them all into human captive weapons. Or the first year/model to all be simultogetherously bricked by an OTA update. That’ll be fun. Lets hope its not during rush hour. And there isn’t a computer controlled rig out there that hasn’t removed some degree of driver control. I’m into classic autos, partly because I think there cool, but mostly because they can be controlled by the driver.

    I think this will be the case until a general purpose OpenSource ECU and appendages become available. As Ford, Toyota and most every other maker have demonstrated its all about the money. People are simply a necessary means to get that money.

    1. Do you remember that old saying comparing Linux to Windows, “Would you buy a car with the hood welded shut?” Well the fact is, if it required no maintenance, 90% of people would. Most people don’t want to drive to “drive” they just want a box to get them and their shit from point A to point B, and on weekends point C, so for most people the more auto-mation, the better. When self driving cars become common the ability to drive will become like driving stick in North America has become, some thing only car weirdos know how to do.

      1. Bought a 2009 Prius. I didn’t even bother with opening the hood until after getting it home. :P The Honda dealer had cleaned it all up real nice. It’s a *#$^ing Prius fer gawd’s sake. All I care about with it is even without driving it in a fashion that will piss off everyone else on the road it easily gets 40+ MPG, which is wayyyy better than what a 2007 Expedition EL gets under optimal conditions.

        When I get the BlueTooth diagnostic dongle I’ll see what the Dr. Prius app shows about the battery condition. If it’s wonky, road trip to Portland, OR to a shop that rebuilds them with new, higher capacity cells for $1K and trade in of the old battery. With only 166 kilomiles on it, the battery *should* be good for quite a while yet.

      2. >”a car with the hood welded shut?”

        If you’re making the MS vs. OS comparison, it’s more like having an extra engine cover under the hood and all the wires neatly tucked up inside looms. For all the parts that the user should even care about, and more, you can poke at the various policy editors and the registry. Getting to the source code level is like turning your own pistons on a lathe: should you ever need to go that far, the designer of the operating system has failed really hard to the point that the users are having to fix their faults. That’s not a good selling point.

        Even if you could, practically nobody would, because most people lack the competence to make anything but a mess there.

    1. Ford be like

      “It’s plain that our Q-101 quality program has failed to treat customers how we think they deserve, we want to try 4 times harder to match promises to reality, so we proudly introduce our next generation quality expectation management drive QQQQ “

  10. This is interesting. First HAD editors post an article how engineers are screwing up and are the cause of problems. And now a post where, of a more typical instance, where the engineers told management that there are problems, and are ignored. Outside of software “engineers”, the latter is much more common.

    Reminds me of my former neighbor. Taught himself arduino crap, and installed his creation in the garage. He proudly demonstrated his contraption to myself only to get all butt-hurt after I told him he had a serious fire hazard. Several weeks later, his garage caught on fire. Insurance refused compensation for the incident (for valid reasons), so I had to pursue him in civil court to recover costs to my fencing, trees, and other stuff.

    What does this have to do with the Ford debacle? The idiot that burned up his garage was a retired Ford executive.

    1. American senior management is typically insular and arrogant and incompetent, and are too stupid to know that they are stupid.
    2. American engineers typically no longer believe in the American corporation, and are smart enough to know that all is now moot, but no longer care.
    3. The crap coming out of China is becoming incrementally less crappy and less unsafe.

    1. It’s almost like it’s a complex issue that has no simple answer and it’s important that everybody involved in a design takes responsibility for getting it right rather than just blaming one group for everything that has ever gone wrong in anything.

  11. I also have a focus 2l tdci with same issues skipping gears. However, I saw on the internet from another fellow that Ford developed a V SURFACE CLUTCH to fix the issues. Is this true and if somebody knows, is it obtainable on the market. Assist guys am in South Africa.

  12. My last 8 cars were Fords. I loved them – then I got the 2015 Focus. I dumped it late last year after the 4th transmission repair. I figure I lost $4000 in value. I am now driving a Camry. I will never ever buy another Ford product. They did nothing to really fix the problem and certainly did not stand behind it in any meaningful way.

    1. Because Ford Csnada only started coming to the table to settle and pay out in December 2019 under the class action suit – which incidentally isn’t much help to a lot of people who just gave up on them as unsellabe junk a few years ago. The hoops to jump through for very minimal payout and exceedingly high effort wasn’t eorth ot for us.

  13. This is a great transmission in the right environment. It’s not a transmission that you should be creeping in traffic in day after day. By 2017 Ford had worked out the bugs and the transmission in my Fiesta has been flawless for 35,000 miles. Delivers a consistent 36-39 mpg. Nice little car. But I live in a rural area and we don’t even have a stop light. I get in it at drive it 75 miles to the nearest big box stores. With these transmissions you either have to stop or go, creeping will kill the clutches.

    1. When I took mine in to get repaired I was told to drive it like I stole it lol

      Fortunately, I haven’t had any problems (at least with the transmission) since I took it in.

      Though i did have to have my engine wiring harness replaced about 6 months after they fixed the transmission problem. Coincidentally/auspiciously a coworker had a different model (same powershift trans) who needed a new engine wiring harness at the exact same time.

  14. While in college I transplanted a 1966, 426 Chrysler hemi engine into my 1965 Dodge Cornett. Equipped with a 4 speed transmission and a 4.10 rear it was possible to get 16 mpg and 60 mph but only about 4 mpg when you wanted to have fun!

  15. I have a 2016 Ford Fiesta we’ve had to have the transmission repaired 4 times. It has literally shut off in traffic while we were driving we could’ve been killed. We tried to get Ford to buy the car back they wouldn’t do it. They didn’t care that we could’ve been killed. I’ll never purchase another ford.

    1. I had the same problem as you Kimberly my transmission went out on me four times I finally got to the point where it was out and other problems with the car were occurring and I let them come repossess it baby asking for money I’m not going to get ready because it’s ridiculous fact that I had to replace a transmission for X in the car yeah I drove a lot at tordon twenty thousand miles on it but Transmissions go out every 50,000 miles yeah I feel I feel exactly what you’re saying we’ll see what they’re going to do with me they’re still trying to actually get money from me but they’re not really pushing it hard to start a going okay we’ll call him and ask him and then it out here in for 3 months we’ll see what happens good luck to

  16. Try being the person on the other end of the phone getting screamed at over this and having the Corp force you to lie to the customers that it is normal! Total moral dilemma

  17. Blame the EPA with the insistence that Ford find a way to squeeze another few MPG.
    This is Hackaday, but maybe it doesnt believe in physics.
    First you can’t exceed Carnot efficiency.
    Then if you make things hot NOx increases so you want to keep it cool.
    Then you need to be heavy to meet safety standards with the mandated “tank”.
    But tanks are heavy.
    So we end up with a lawnmower engine with some superturbos which will last just past the warranty, and some really complex and expensive transmission so it get s 48 instead of 45 MPG.
    How about choice instead of mandates at the point of a gun?

    1. Ah yes, if we let the car manufacturers do anything they want they’ll obviously give us perfectly efficient cars with high safety and low cost instead of just doing the bare minimum they can get away with.

      What a load of bollocks. Restrictions drive innovation. What’s necessary is the *right* restrictions that push things in the right direction and don’t give companies the opportunity to cheat.

      1. At some point you have to concede to the laws of physics. Driving contradictory regulations on safety, economy and emissions that each require compromising the others, and designing them so they get incrementally tighter every year, creates a situation where the industry has no option but to cheat.

        The free market is like a blob of jello – you can hold it in your hand as long as you don’t squeeze.

    2. Manufacturers are still short of the limits of the Carnot cycle, and using fixed plant plus electric drive gets them further still. There are prototype IC engines working at above 50% thermodynamic efficiency (the current crop of production engines tend to top out around 35-40%), and fixed power stations can run over 80% efficient when used for CHP schemes. Try a different excuse.

      1. The reason is that you also have to be able to throttle the engine over a wide power band. When you add a hybrid system to keep the engine at a single RPM, you also lose efficiency by the extra middle steps.

        1. What you can do is put batteries and an electric motor in a car, and make use of the power from fixed installations. We’re not far from this being a cheaper option to build than an IC based vehicle (it’s already cheaper to run). As added bonuses it’s cheaper to maintain, and you get 100% torque from 0 RPM (so they tend to pull away from stationary rather well).

    3. Actually an article I read said that the primary driver behind Ford’s decision to use this transmission had nothing to do with gov regs at all. They chose it because it was cheaper than a regular automatic to make. It was strictly a cost saving decision.

  18. What it needed was to essentially copy the old Hudson wet clutch x2. Hudson used the design until 1954. It had a steel clutch disc with a whole bunch of holes. Squeezed through the holes were round pieces of cork which were then shaved down pretty thin. The pressure plate cover was of course sealed, with a ring of bolts holding it to the flywheel.
    It used a tiny amount of fluid, IIRC less than half a pint. Actuation distance for the pressure plate is pretty small, just enough to remove drag on the disc.

    Replace the cork with some modern sort of automatic transmission clutch plate material and there ya go. Super reliable and strong wet clutch.

    There’s another type of wet clutch that was used in a few expensive cars in the 1920’s. It didn’t use any friction materials. What it used was a stack of metal rings similar to the clutch packs in automatic transmissions where they’re alternately connected to the hub and drum. But this design used no friction material. The rings were thin and had a V profile so they’d nest together. IIRC around the peak of the V there were small holes. The V shape and holes served to control how the fluid squeezed out. Actuation was easy, smooth, and apparently impossible to drop the clutch and stall because of the built in fluid control. Punch the pedal, shift and lift. The clutch did its own feathering, with speeds matched as lockup was reached so wear wasn’t a problem.

    At the time, stamping and assembling all the parts was expensive and overall more complex than a single disc dry (or wet for Hudson) clutch.

    I first read about this type of clutch in an old (pre internet) article in an issue of Old Cars Weekly. Have had no luck trying to find info about it in the web.

    1. Hı i live in Turkey, can be considered as europe.in our country when dct ,dsg or pshift double clutch transmissioned car started to sell in abundance people liked it very much at first sight,they were crisp,fast and frugal,but i did not like them at all.i could see that problems were onthe gate,so i just waited to see whats it gonna happen and kept on driving stick.then it all blew up,service shops were full of failure transmissioned cars mostly vw dsg.those days psa(Peugeot Citroen Opel) group had a very clever step and made a collaboration with transmission manufacturer aisin japan and implemented a cheap ,economic and relatively fast torque convertor transmission compared to older TC ones.shortly psa has the most market share in Turkey mostly because of the problemless transmissions,yes they are not as fast as dct or dsg s but %100 reliable,and thats why i bought one of them…

  19. My first experience with a DCT was in my 2007 VW GTI. The car came with an APR Stage 1 tune which had upped the HP and torque. When the gearbox worked properly, it was gangbusters to drive. Upshifts in about 8 milliseconds and downshifts in around 100 milliseconds. Designed by ASIN, the problems with this transmission were all related to the “Mechtronic” controller which required replacement three different times, the last replacement covered by an extended warranty on the 2990-2007 models. The problem manifested itself as sudden “locked in neutral” episodes that happened upon slow acceleration from a stop, always in my case, as I also turned a corner at the same time and was using the brake to modulate my acceleration. The VW DCT was a wet-clutch design. Even with the problems, I would have continued with the VW except I did not relish a $8000 repair bill for yet another Mechtronic module replacement.

    My second experience with a DCT was in a 2012 Hyundai Veloster. This dry-clutch abortion of Hyundai’s own design was he worst transmission I have ever driven, reminding me of the 1948 Buick Dynaflow i owned in 1955. Glacially slow to shift even in the manual mode, the transmission so affected the slightly underpowered Veloster that I dumped the car after only 4000 miles.

    That said, the future for automatic transmissions is probably dual wet-church designs. I have my eye on the upcoming Hyundai Kona N series which may well turn out to be the first compact performance SUV to be released. Hyundai had better have its DCT act together though……

    1. Couple of my friends own 2015 plus golf r’s and GTI’s with dual clutch and tbh makes me want to buy one after going for a drive in them. Shifts are super quick and brutal at the same time so really fun when you’re giving it a bit.

  20. Ford UK are still denying that there is an issue here.
    They are just putting it back on the owner. One of their agents advised that a new clutch was the answer which despite the car only having done 26k I had to go along with costing me over £900. This hasn’t cured the problem

  21. I can fix a manual, although tbey don’t seem to break… and replace a clutch semi-easily, and parts are cheap. I LIKE how a manual drives!!! But I’m stuck w a 2001 F150 with a dang auto. So – how do I “fix” it? WHERE IS MY HACK???

      1. Move to the Northeast, and your gas mileage will improve as excess sheet metal falls off, reducing weight and allowing flow-through air. Soon all that is left is a fully functioning drive train.

    1. Shift kit mods, severe duty package, also investigate raising line pressure a bit. Instead or as well, Lucas Transmission Fix will de-slush it quite a bit, as well as cleaning gunk/varnish out of the valves etc. Ideally do that with fresh fluid though, unless you’re scrapping it in a year or so.

      Also investigate “tunes” for the transmission controller, which are more relevant the younger your vehicle is (Up until very new, which haven’t been figured out yet)

  22. Now your fighting the pattern. Instead of straight line motion you are doing u-turns. That’s not very fast or efficient.
    There’s a reason for all the gears, use them.

  23. Gee, I can’t understand why all of the other mfrs. haven’t been out beating the bushes trying to find a “filing cabinet guy” to run their operations. If they are looking for but not finding one all they need to do is be patient; Hackett will be available soon.

  24. Sold Ford vehicles when this was going on, good hard working people are owed, how can a manufacturer get away with selling false data. The lack of power to transmission a tool and important component for drivers , customers should not be sold faulty and be dismissed as cause of accidents not only is Ford liable for deaths but also Ford becomes liable for placing all fellow drivers in danger for faulty manufacturing a product knowingly.

  25. The 6F35 was available during all of this. The transmission fit fine for the Focus and Fiesta role and offered comparable fuel economy returns. The Powershift is fun to drive once all the chattering is out the way.

  26. I had the privilege of listening to on of these hand-grenade itself in real-time. First I was incredulous that it was a dual clutch at the price-point of the car.

    But when I looked it up it appeared to have more in common with a never lube Harbor Freight air compressor than anything I would call a transmission. And it all started making sense.

    It was a sad day. My first (and only) new car was a Focus in 2001 or so and it was a brilliant piece of automotive design with a stylish interior (granted, for a hatch and for the price). 140k on it when I gave it away.

  27. I own a 2011 Fiesta SES with the powershift transmission. I have around 140 thousand miles on mine and I havent had any real issues with the transmission. The transmission in these is definitely different when you drive them but once you get used to the characteristics they arent bad at all just a bit harsher then a normal automatic.

  28. Who can remember the Ford Pento? Small finder binder == fireball of death & doom all around. Ford thought it wise to put the fuel tank nearly in rear bumper along with filling port. Very wise.

    Ford Management == same mistakes, another day, nothing learned.

    Why didn’t Ford just look at the dual clutch transmissions used in Mercedes, BMW and Volkswagen (which includes Porche, and Audi in the US). These auto makers have been using dual clutch (wet & dry) since early/mid 2000s. Hello Ford, just license technology or rip it off via reverse engineering like the pc BIOS.

    Seems like American automakers never learn any lessons and after 2014, most vehicles went back to crap on four wheels.

    G

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