Northwest Metro Denver

3686 W. 72nd Ave
Westminster, CO 80030
8AM – 5:30PM Mon-Fri

(303) 421-4140

(303) 421-4140

Southwest Metro Denver

SE Corner Mississippi & Pierce
1194 S. Pierce
Lakewood CO 80232
8AM – 5:30PM Mon-Fri

(303) 922-4102

(303) 922-4102

Lakewood 303-922-4102

Westminster 303-422-4140

Ford 6R80 6-Speed Automatic Transmission Problems

Since the development of the automobile and the introduction of automatic transmissions, manufacturers have faced the need to make products better and more efficient. There has been a constant push to increase the quality of the driving experience and to give vehicles more fuel economy. This has driven manufacturers to develop automatic transmissions with more and more gears as the years have gone by. The first automatic transmissions were 2-speed, and they have just continued to increase the number of gears. Ford, in particular, was using 4-speed automatic transmissions through the 90’s until the introduction of the 5-speed 5R series in 1997.

In a push for more, Ford worked with their competitor, General Motors, on a 6-speed automatic for front-wheel drive applications. For their rear-wheel drive vehicles, Ford opted to work with the ZF Group of Germany on a version of the ZF6HP transmission, which Ford built under license at their Livonia Transmission facility in Michigan. This is a 6-speed automatic transmission intended to be used in rear-wheel drive applications, and Ford designates these the 6R series. The “6” represents the number of gears, the “R” represents the rear-wheel-drive application, and the number represents the duty usage (with larger, heavier-duty applications represented by a larger number). Specifically, the 6R80 was built for pickup trucks like the F150 and for higher horsepower applications like the Mustang. Ford has used the 6R80 transmission in the 2009-2020 F150 pickup, the 2009-2018 Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator, the Ford Ranger from 2011 to the present, the Ford Transit from 2015-2019, and the 2011-2017 Ford Mustang.

The Ford Mechatronic Unit and the Lead Frame

The first versions of the 6R80 transmission used what Ford called a “Mechatronic” unit, which was essentially a connector plate that housed the transmission control module (TCM) and all of the other sensors to control the shifting of the transmission. With the changes Ford made for the 2012 line of vehicles, they moved the TCM from the plate and combined it with the powertrain control module (PCM) but retained the other sensors and switches for shifting on what Ford now called the “lead frame.” The Mechatronic is essentially a lead frame combined with the TCM, while the later lead frame is all of these electronic controls except for the TCM.

The Mechatronic/lead frame unit also contains the output shaft speed sensor, turbine shaft speed sensor, transmission fluid temperature sensor, and transmission range sensor (also called a PRNDL switch or neutral safety switch). From an efficiency standpoint, it makes sense to bundle all of these electronic components in one place. However, like many things that look good on paper, this design would turn out to cause problems for a large number of Ford drivers for years to come.

6R80 Lead Frame Issues

The 6R80 is a good transmission, but it’s far from perfect. Problems began to appear with the centralized design of the original 6R80 Mechatronic unit and the later 6R80 lead frame. Intermittent electrical issues within the lead frame would trigger error codes for one of the electrical components, such as the TCM or the temperature sensor, triggering the “check engine” light to come on and other warning lights on the dash to flash. This also can result in putting the vehicle into “limp mode,” where the vehicle starts out in a higher gear than normal but will not shift out of that gear in order to limit further damage to the transmission.

Because of the intermittent nature of the electrical problem, turning the ignition switch off and then restarting the vehicle will often clear the codes and get the vehicle out of limp mode. However, the situation will often repeat itself fairly quickly, which can be very frustrating for the driver. Simply finding error codes stored in the computer doesn’t really tell the whole story of what is going on, so it is usually best to take the vehicle to a transmission specialty shop as soon as possible to get to the root cause.

6R80 Lead Frame Fixes

When your transmission specialty shop has the chance to inspect the transmission and finds that the lead frame is causing problems, there are a couple of ways that it can be addressed. If the transmission is otherwise in great condition and doesn’t have too many miles on it, it is possible that the lead frame itself may be replaced in order to correct the problem. This will involve dropping the transmission pan, removing the valve body, replacing the lead frame, and then reassembling the transmission. While this is still a fair amount of work that needs to be handled by a trained technician, it will be much less expensive than a full transmission rebuild.

However, this is not always possible or recommended. If the vehicle has a lot of miles on it and the transmission is showing signs of significant wear, it might not make much sense to just replace the lead frame. There are a large number of “soft” parts inside of the transmission that wear over time and are intended to be replaced. If the transmission has reached the point that these parts are beginning to degrade and break down, it won’t make much sense to replace the lead frame and leave everything else as is. Since the transmission already has to be disassembled, it may make more sense to go ahead and rebuild the transmission while replacing the lead frame in order to make sure that the transmission is operating according to OEM specifications. Choosing a repair shop with an in-house transmission rebuild department, such as Advanced Transmission Center, will likely be more affordable than finding a remanufactured Ford 6R80 transmission for sale online. However, this is something that you should definitely discuss with your transmission specialist in order to find the best strategy for your repair.

Ford Transmission Experts

If you drive a Ford vehicle with a 6R80 transmission and suspect that you are having transmission issues, give us a call! The Advanced Transmission Center team consists of technicians who have decades of experience diagnosing, rebuilding, and repairing transmissions in Ford cars, trucks, and SUVs. We can diagnose Ford 6R80 transmission problems and either repair, replace, or rebuild the transmission, depending on the severity of the issue.

Regardless of your driveline problem, contact Advanced Transmission Center at either of our locations, and we’d be happy to help! We’re your local transmission shop. Unlike dealerships or many independent repair shops, we are transmission specialists trained to fix issues related to a vehicle drive-train. You can reach out to whichever location is most convenient.

Additional Considerations

What preventive measures can Ford vehicle owners take to minimize the risk of experiencing these common 6R80 transmission problems?
Regular maintenance is key. Owners should not only follow Ford’s recommended service intervals but also consider having a transmission specialist evaluate the 6R80’s condition periodically, especially if the vehicle is used under heavy load or extreme conditions frequently. Early detection through diagnostic checks can prevent minor issues from becoming major repairs.

How do the 6R80 transmission issues impact the resale value of affected Ford models, and what can owners do to maintain their vehicle’s value?
Addressing transmission issues promptly and keeping comprehensive records of maintenance and repairs can mitigate potential negative impacts on resale value. Proactively managing and rectifying any transmission problems demonstrate to potential buyers the vehicle’s reliability and your commitment to its upkeep, which can be a selling point.

Are there specific driving habits or conditions that could exacerbate the 6R80 transmission problems, and how can they be avoided?
Adapting driving habits can significantly reduce the strain on the transmission. Avoiding aggressive acceleration and deceleration, ensuring the vehicle is not overloaded, and using the correct mode for towing or other specific conditions can help extend the life of the transmission. Awareness and adjustment of driving habits in response to vehicle feedback can prevent many common issues.

Advanced Transmission Center – Lakewood
1194 S. Pierce St
Lakewood, CO 80232
PHONE: (303) 922-4102

Advanced Transmission Center – Westminster
3686 W. 72nd Ave
Westminster, CO 80030
PHONE: (303) 421-4140

If you’re looking for Ford transmission repair, give us a call or send us a message ASAP. We look forward to serving your vehicle drivetrain and transmission needs. Over 35 years, our goal remains to be “Geared for Customer Satisfaction!

Owner at Advanced Transmission Center | Website | + posts

Advanced Transmission Center is a Colorado-owned and operated auto repair shop with locations in Denver / Lakewood and Westminster. ATC specializes in driveline issues such as automatic transmission repair, four wheel drive repair, clutch replacement, differentials, manual transmissions and CVT. As Colorado's first AAA approved shop our goal is to provide accurate, timely service with exceptional customer satisfaction. All of our technicians are certified in the latest makes and models and we are one of the few transmission repair shops with a nationwide warranty.

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