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Convert Your 4L60E To 4L65E Specs

Worried About Scattering Your GM Overdrive? Upgrade Now and Avoid the Implosion.

By Jefferson Bryant, Photography by Jefferson Bryant

'The 700-R4 has long been a mainstay in the General's arsenal of late-model automatic overdrive transmissions. In 1993, OBD-II brought electronic controls and the introduction of the 4L60E. At the same time the 700-R4 was renamed the 4L60. Although the two transmissions have a similar name and share cases and some parts, they are different. In 2001, the 4L60E became the 4L65E when GM upgraded some key internal parts that were failing behind the increasingly powerful Gen III powerplant. The improved transmission utilized a stronger five-pinion rear planetary and a hardened input shaft and sun shell that increased its torque capacity to 380 lb-ft. The nice thing about all of this is that the modern parts are easily swapped into the 4L60E, leaving you with the ability to upgrade your existing tranny without having to buy a new unit.

Since the upgrade requires a complete teardown, a full rebuild with some extra performance pieces is a good idea. We used a Trans-Go reprogramming kit, a Sonnax billet Fourth gear Super Hold servo, a Raybestos Z-Pack clutch kit, and Red Eagle red oxide clutches. We cherry-picked the clutch kit, using the Z-pack for the 3-4 clutches. These are specifically designed to not bow and to have superior holding power. The red oxide clutches have better hold for 1-2.

This is not the most difficult tranny to build, but it is certainly not the easiest. And there are a few specialized tools needed to correctly complete the job. To get an expert's assistance we went to Tony Straughn of Budget Transmission in Stillwater, Oklahoma. The total package including labor priced out at about $1,300, not including the torque converter. We used an ATI High-Stall Street Master lockup converter, which had a pretty hefty price tag of $640.

Upgrading to the 4L65E is advisable in towing applications and where horsepower numbers are up to 500. The 4L60E also uses a four-pinion front planetary carrier, which is more expensive than the rear unit. For cars making over that number, there is a front planetary upgrade as well. Our '96 Impala makes just under 500, so we upgraded the rear planetary only. After the upgrade, the car has a nice, snappy shift under part-throttle, and the full-throttle shifts are supersharp, much better than the stock slush box and more reliable, too.

PARTS LIST
DESCRIPTION PART NUMBER SOURCE PRICE
Trans-Go reprogrammer 4L60E-HD2-C WIT $139.99
Sonnax billet servo 77767K WIT 49.99
Red Eagle rebuild Kit WIT 280.00
Raybestos Z-pack RZP-001 WIT 59.99
Beast sun shell Budget Transmission 39.99
Five-pinion carrier Budget Transmission 69.99
High-intensity band Budget Transmission 24.99
ATI torque converter 708220 ATI Performance 640.99
Labor Budget Transmission 650.00
Total: $1,955.93
SOURCES
ATI Performance Products
800-284-3433
www.atiperformanceproducts.com
Whatever It Takes Transmission Parts (WIT)
Louisville
KY
Budget Transmission
Stillwater
OK
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By Jefferson Bryant
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