AF: Goodbye to our beloved 4 speed ULTRADRIVE | Allpar Forums
  1. This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Goodbye to our beloved 4 speed ULTRADRIVE

Discussion in 'Mopar / FCA News' started by voiceofstl, Dec 9, 2019.

  1. voiceofstl

    voiceofstl Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2010
    Messages:
    2,405
    Likes:
    1,218
    Back in 1989, Chrysler launched its first four-speed automatic—which, unlike any competitors, was a revolution in transmission design. It dropped the old bands and hydraulic controls; instead, while still using hydraulics, the “UltraDrive” was controlled by a computer which activated solenoids. [​IMG]

    It was an unmitigated disaster. The transmission was at least a year of testing and refinement away from being ready. Reportedly, at a meeting of executives, Lee Iacocca blew his top and told the group that he was going to the bathroom—and when he got back, he expected someone to take responsibility for fixing it. That “somebody” was Chris Theodore, who led efforts to fix minor and major problems over the next two years (he told his story to Allpar). Starting around 1991, the transmission reached normal lifespans, and, eventually, people forgot that the UltraDrive/A-604 was ever problematic.

    Chrysler still makes the unit, renamed to 41TE, but it’s only used in a single vehicle, the Dodge Journey. A six-speed version proved to be far superior in most applications, with a greater range of speeds; the lower first provided better acceleration, and the high sixth raised highway mileage and cut noise. But a four-speed is usually cheaper than a six-speed, so it’s used on the low-priced Journey.

    Automotive News sifted through the UAW labor agreement and found out that the Kokomo transmission plant will finish up the four-speed automatics in 2020, after roughly 32 years of production. Chances are few will miss it. It seems likely that the Journey itself will be dropped at about the same time, since its replacement has long been rumored.

    The last traces of Chrysler’s first modern automatic will continue on for a while, at least; the 62TE six-speed version is used by the Grand Caravan (which will probably also end production in 2020) and gasoline-powered Ram ProMaster. The cheaper ProMaster City uses a ZF-designed nine-speed.
    • ===========================================================================
    I don't think it was truly "fixed" untill 2001. The 2 I had were great but I did make sure I changed the fluid at 50,000 miles.




















    [​IMG]
    Four-speed “UltraDrive” to finally leave
    [​IMG]
    Chrysler historian Gary Bridger
    [​IMG]
    Surprisingly small 2019 Ram 1500 recall

    Some popular Allpar pages
    News Home

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    Send a tip
    Subscribe
     
  2. 1999 White C5 Coupe

    Level 2 Supporter

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2006
    Messages:
    504
    Likes:
    354
    I bought a new 1989 Dodge Grand Caravan LE with the new UltraDrive transmission (which replaced a 1984 Dodge Caravan LE).

    The UltraDrive transmission failed repeatedly, and was rebuilt or replaced by my Dodge dealer numerous times. At one point, the transmission controller was replaced with an updated one - but the transmission remained a poor performer.

    The extremely poor quality of the transmission and Chrysler’s failure to provide a fix - other than to keep rebuilding or replacing the transmission, caused me to never buy another minivan. At the time, my wife and I had young children and we became afraid to take the vehicle on out-of-state vacation trips, due to the high failure rate.

    Contrary to the article above, I have never forgot how problematic the transmission was.
     
    Citation84, UN4GTBL and Bob Lincoln like this.
  3. Doug D

    Doug D Virginia Gentleman

    Joined:
    Aug 10, 2000
    Messages:
    14,583
    Likes:
    4,057
    The introduction or upgrade of the fluid from ATF+3 to ATF+4 in 2000 seemed to make a big difference in reliability. We purchased a used '00 T&C Ltd AWD minivan in '03. Other than some line leaks I never had a problem with the transmission. Had 162K miles when we traded it (mistake!). Used it for trips to Florida and upstate New York and numerous local trips.
     
    wtxiceman likes this.
  4. willy4110

    willy4110 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2010
    Messages:
    646
    Likes:
    260
    I also had an '89 Caravan and was on the 5th transmission by the time I got rid of it. All I will say is good riddance, and they should have got rid of it 25 years ago.
     
  5. Adventurer55

    Adventurer55 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Nov 9, 2015
    Messages:
    3,413
    Likes:
    4,437
    I was lucky. I only had one replaced. I agree, good riddance.
     
  6. codypet

    codypet Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2005
    Messages:
    2,325
    Likes:
    1,288
    Our '93 PGV had the solenoid packs replaced in 97. It was trouble free all the way to 2009 when we replaced the car during clunkers. (By then had been in 6 accidents and really shouldn't have been on the road in 2009 anyway). I still miss that car though. A car that light with the 3.3L felt like it hauled. I just couldn't stop in the rain (as evidenced by the 2 of the 6 accidents)
     
  7. blackstratus

    blackstratus Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Nov 23, 2003
    Messages:
    390
    Likes:
    133
    Mine made it 309,000 miles. 2 solenoid packs (50,000 miles and 280,000 miles) and a front pump leak (120,000 miles) but was never apart. Shifted great too. Died coming into my driveway . I have a feeling it was a differential pin as it basically went tight. 1998 Chrysler Town and Country. Changed fluid every 40K its entire life. I guess I was a lucky one and enjoyed that vehicle for over 16 years. My '01 Stratus I sold it to a friend when i bought the Charger is still on its original transmission at 170,000 miles. Same maintenance as the van. Enjoyed that car also for 17 years. He drives it everyday and has no issues with that. I hope I get the same life out of my ZF/Chrysler 8 Speed behind the Hemi.
     
    djsamuel likes this.
  8. djsamuel

    Level 2 Supporter

    Joined:
    Sep 10, 2007
    Messages:
    2,979
    Likes:
    937
    I got 292,000 trouble free miles from the 40TE in my 04PT. Currently have over 158,000 on the replacement 41TE and still working great. My 97 Stratus was on the original when I got rid of it at 226,000 miles. My 90 Spirit had the transmission fail at 128,000. The rebuild worked fine until an 18 wheeler finished the job at 156,000.
     
  9. gforce2002

    gforce2002 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Oct 31, 2003
    Messages:
    2,149
    Likes:
    1,460
    Bye Ultradrive! Don’t let the door hit you in the output shaft on the way out.
     
  10. DC-93

    DC-93 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    May 1, 2014
    Messages:
    3,219
    Likes:
    2,091
    I was there.

    Chris Theodore DID NOT FIX the trans..... Why he takes credit for it, I don't know....
     
    UN4GTBL likes this.
  11. DC-93

    DC-93 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    May 1, 2014
    Messages:
    3,219
    Likes:
    2,091
    This is more accurate. Chris T's "fixes" didn't. !!! My Spirit had 4 transmissions replaced while Chris was implementing various fixes.....
    Sold the car at 95K with the latest fix.
    Ran into the buyer at work and he said it blew up again about 8K later after he got it from me.
    The dealer worked with him on the fix.
    And yes, I had told him the entire history...

    He said, "I'm not worried,Theodore has it all fixed now, for sure!"
     
    UN4GTBL likes this.
  12. saltydog

    saltydog Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 26, 2010
    Messages:
    2,413
    Likes:
    524
    Sad, not so sad day.

    With that, every one of my ultradrives where good trans, but the earliest I owned was 1997 Chrysler Cirrus, so by then I assume they fixed most of the issues.

    My Grandmother had 1993 Grand Caravan and the trans was replaced at 93k and lasted till the rest of it fell apart at 165k. That poor van had more issues than any of my Chrysler products. The only thing that was not an issue, the 3.3 V6. To be fair, it was an LE with just about every option, the ABS was a nightmare and l ton of electrical issues. Sorry, I am rambling on:oops: With all that, it was still a great driving van and one of the most comfortable.
     
  13. hmk123

    Level III Supporter

    Joined:
    Nov 2, 2008
    Messages:
    3,245
    Likes:
    3,332
    Our 2009 Journey SE is now at 125k. Smooth shifting transmission. Only complaint is that the combo of 2.4L and this transmission in this application can make certain highway merges a bit challenging. Otherwise it has worked well.

    Was this used in the LH cars as well?

    By the way, let’s not forget that the MB 5-speed is also 30 years old now...
     
  14. valiant67

    valiant67 ...

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2003
    Messages:
    36,777
    Likes:
    19,600
    Yes, a differently packaged A604. In the oher cases and minivans, UltraDrive became A604 which became 41TE.
    The LH cars used a 42LE.
    The name came from
    * number of forward gears
    * torque capacity (higher number means more)
    * mounting (transverse or longitudinal)
    * E for electric control, H fir hydraulic control.

    I believe the most extreme use of the UltraDrive design was the 42RLE in early Jeep JK years.
     
    Mr. Fusion and hmk123 like this.
  15. codypet

    codypet Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2005
    Messages:
    2,325
    Likes:
    1,288
    Oof the A604 with ABS? That must have been miserable. We didn't have ABS which to this day I debate whether was a blessing or curse. That car liked to slide a lot. It didn't help that my sister and I both cut our teeth on that car.
     
    saltydog likes this.
  16. valiant67

    valiant67 ...

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2003
    Messages:
    36,777
    Likes:
    19,600
    ABS was only really bad on the 91-93 minivans and (late) 90-93 large K-based cars, and 91-92 Premier/Monaco. This was the Bendix 10 system.
    The ABS system used on other vehicles and the later (94+) minivans was good.
     
  17. saltydog

    saltydog Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 26, 2010
    Messages:
    2,413
    Likes:
    524
    Yeah that van was one of the most unreliable in my memory. Still was a nice driving van.

    My neighbor had 92 GV SE and the only real issue was the Trans and A/C(R12) he put nearly 500k miles on that thingo_O
     
  18. CherokeeVision

    CherokeeVision Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2004
    Messages:
    5,951
    Likes:
    2,881
    Had the 4 speed in our 94 Vision go crunch without warning. Driving fine one day, quit midday the next. Wife's car and she didn't abuse it and it always had the proper fluid. Dealer found pieces in the bottom of the pan.
    Only transmission problem from any of the vehicles, new or used we have owned.
     
  19. ka9yhd

    ka9yhd Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Aug 17, 2013
    Messages:
    1,323
    Likes:
    275
    My 92 Grand Voyager had the A604/ 41TE rebuilt or replaced 3 times. The first time was around 90,000 miles then it was averaging about 30,000 ~ 40,000 miles between rebuilds.
     
  20. Bearhawke

    Bearhawke Things happen for a reason

    Joined:
    Jun 18, 2003
    Messages:
    13,910
    Likes:
    533
    That particular tranny rather reminds me of GM's 700R4/4L60 series; one could really abuse that thing and, 100K miles later, gearbox asks are you feeling lucky OR, despite being babied, it'll die within 25K miles.
     

Share This Page

Loading...
 We are not affiliated with FCA. We make no claims regarding validity or accuracy of information or advice. Copyright © VerticalScope Inc. All rights reserved.