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Automatic Climate Control - Cool Transmission Tech

A Cooler Trans Is a Happy Trans

Photography by , Terry McGean

No matter what part of the country you find yourself in, summer is prime time for cruising, racing, or whatever you like to do with your "fun" cars. Of course, it's also the time for intense temps and lots of traffic. So, whether you're out on the racetrack or sitting in traffic trying to get there, your drivetrain is likely being subjected to its worst enemy: heat. We were made acutely aware of this during last summer's Hotchkis' Track Day. First, the tow vehicle (former Caltrans laborer, Project Jake) was brutalized over California's infamous "Grapevine": a stretch of the I-5 that traverses grades serious enough to concern even the most calloused truckers. Then there was the event itself, featuring long open-track sessions on Buttonwillow's rather fast road course--lots of fun, but also a serious workout for any vehicle when overly competitive motoring journalists are driving.

Vehicles intended for this sort of use are generally built with extra cooling capacity, and many have gauges, or at least warning lights, to keep drivers apprised if any of the vital fluids exceed safe temps, except of course, the automatic transmission fluid. This nearly universal oversight may be because trans temps are not a major concern on typical road-going vehicles, but all it takes are a few hot laps at a racetrack or an extended Second-gear hill pull with a loaded trailer to saturate the entire fluid capacity of the average automatic with heat. What follows is often disastrous and expensive.

So, after being reminded of these facts, we were motivated to upgrade the fluid cooling abilities of a few of our fleet. An external transmission cooler is a time-tested method of enhancing the transmission's cooling capacity and is relatively simple as well. Similarly simple is the practice of increasing total fluid capacity with a deeper pan. We went to one of the original sources of automatic transmission performance, B&M, and ordered a universal Supercooler kit and a cast-aluminum deep pan kit in the hopes that our automatics will be better equipped to survive the next heavy-foot episode.

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