Defective Ford Transmission

Discussion in 'The Champagne Room' started by SRT-Tom, Dec 6, 2019.

  1. SRT-Tom

    SRT-Tom Full Access Member Article Writer

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    Oct 2, 2011
    southern New Jersey
    The “Blue Oval” has a serious problem- its Fiesta and Focus cars have defective automatic transmissions. The DPS6 dual-clutch "PowerShift" transmission, used in 2 million cars sold this decade, is the subject of massive litigation and a federal criminal fraud probe.

    The transmissions were introduced in the 2011 model year Fiesta, which went to dealerships in the spring of 2010, and 2012 Focus, which went on the market a year later. They were used until the Focus was discontinued with the 2018 model year and through the 2019 Fiesta model year.

    "It was cheap to make and cheap to assemble," a Ford engineer said, but because the DPS6 used "dry" clutch technology, it couldn't cool itself, ensuring failures in real-world use.

    The vehicles have saddled the company with an estimated $3 billion in warranty costs plus legal expenses from thousands of lawsuits – losses still adding up as court cases play out and customers continue to report problems. .

    On top of everything, U.S. Dept. of Justice fraud investigators opened a probe into Ford's conduct involving the transmission dating to 2010. It subpoenaed material earlier this year seeking to learn whether the company knew the transmissions were defective and couldn't be fixed and whether it lied to federal safety regulators.

    Many of the vehicles shudder, sometimes violently, and can shift erratically, accelerate unevenly and lurch unpredictably. The transmissions are designed to default to neutral when certain problems occur, which causes drivers to lose drive power. Consumers have filed more than 4,300 complaints to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that include reports of 50 injuries, but both Ford and NHTSA regulators say the vehicles do not pose an unreasonable safety risk. The cars have never been recalled for transmission repair.

    At the root of the problem was Ford’s decision to use dry clutch technology for the transmission. The guts of a dual-clutch transmission are more like a manual than a conventional automatic transmission, but the driver does not have to shift gears. These transmissions can improve fuel economy and weigh less than a conventional automatic – and also are less expensive to build.

    There are two kinds of dual-clutch transmissions: wet-clutch and dry-clutch. The difference is whether oil lubricates the clutches. The DPS6 was a dry-clutch design.

    “What in the world are you thinking going with a dry clutch?” one engineer asked. “The friction coefficient is inconsistent, and it creates problems.”

    Ford lawyers did raise at least one worry early on: the potential for the transmission to slip into neutral without warning. Ford’s Office of General Counsel in 2008 challenged engineers on the risk, arguing that the condition could lead to costly recalls if the technology was used for the first time in mass production vehicles.

    The solution, engineers told the Detroit Free Press, was to make neutral an intended fail safe to keep a transmission from burning up or locking up from overheating or an electrical communications glitch. The company has consistently maintained that the neutral state is not a safety hazard because the car doesn't lose steering, braking or turn signals. "It was just a Band-Aid," an engineer said.

    In other automatic transmissions, Ford had used a "limp home" strategy, so if something wasn't working right, the car would have some “tractive” force. Engineers would install technology to limit engine speed and torque but a driver could still get some power from pushing the accelerator.

    The engineers said defaulting to neutral is unsafe. Several Free Press interviews with drivers and complaints to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration describe terror from the experience of losing acceleration on the highway or, for example, when merging onto a freeway.

  2. Jarlaxle

    Jarlaxle Member

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    Sep 27, 2019
    New England
    What a mess.