The two most iconic American vehicle manufacturers are competitors and yet still partners. As economic instability motivated companies to find ways to increase efficiency and meet new governmental fuel economy standards, Ford and General Motors have found it beneficial to work together. This has occurred a few times in the last 20 years but often on the most complex vehicle systems. It is not surprising that transmission engineering became a target to join forces. A few years ago, the two companies agreed to share transmissions for use in their domestic products. Ford shared its new 10-speed transmission with General Motors to use GM’s new 9-speed transmission in select Ford vehicles. The 10-speed transmission is intended for longitudinal (rear-wheel drive) applications, where the GM unit is for transverse (front-wheel drive) usage. The 10-speed has been used in Ford’s F150 pickups and Mustangs, while GM has used it in their Corvette and Camaro as well as their pickups and larger SUVs.
As befitting any great rivalry, Ford decided that the GM 9-speed offering wasn’t quite up to their standards and opted to make some changes. Ford has introduced two 8-speed transmissions, one based on the GM 9T and the other a rework of a 6-speed transmission that GM and Ford partnered on back in 2002. Ford felt that the GM 9-speed did not improve enough fuel economy over existing 8-speed units, which has undoubtedly been seen with GM automobiles using the new 9-speed. For instance, the 2017 Chevy Malibu with the new 9-speed transmission gained only 1 mpg on the highway over the previous model’s 8-speed. The 2019 Buick Envision actually lost 1 mpg over the previous model’s 6-speed automatic transmission!
With that in mind, Ford made some significant changes to the base GM 9-speed transmission. Where GM had focused on drivability and smooth shift transmissions, Ford decided to focus on improving fuel economy. The result was the 8F35 transmission.
Ford decided that there was no real advantage to having 9 speeds, and the extra gear added weight and cost that didn’t improve fuel economy. Essentially, Ford decided to remove the 4th gear, among other adjustments. These changes made the 2-3 shift step very small, and the transmission acts as a 7-speed under most driving conditions.
Ford also decided that they would use several design features they had used in the 10-speed platform. Borrowing the 10R torque converter saves space and weight but is a more complicated unit to control because it applies the torque converter clutch towards the impeller assembly rather than towards the cover. Ford also redesigned the valve bodies and the oil pump assembly to use the same software platform used by the 10-speed unit. This saved weight and reduced the number of valves needed in the system. It also borrowed parts already in inventory for the 10R transmission.
The 8F35 is too new to have been seen frequently in transmission shops since they are still under the manufacturer’s warranty. However, Ford owners should be aware of the following complaints about the units. Most of these issues deal with harsh or erratic up and downshifting, as well as a noticeably hard engagement when going from park to reverse, park to drive, and from reverse to drive. This can be caused by a Power Control Module (PCM) problem, and a Technical Service Bulletin has been issued for this. A copy of this TSB can be found HERE.
Other owners have reported issues with low-speed surging and inconsistent acceleration. The 8F35 does use a computer-controlled adaptive learning system, which means that the system “learns” from your driving style and adjusts shift points. Further driving might make the problems go away, or it might need reprogramming. The increased use of computers, sensors, and adaptive characteristics has contributed to the complexity in designing, maintaining, and repairing these driveline systems. This increased electrification of transmissions is a trend to stay and another reason to trust transmission specialists for transmission maintenance and repair services.
For now, these current issues will be taken care of under the manufacturer’s warranty with service provided at the dealer.
Ford Transmission Experts
If you drive a Ford vehicle with an 8F35 transmission and have questions about its performance, 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.
If you are having problems with your transmission or any other driveline related issue, contact Advanced Transmission Center at either of our locations, and we’d be happy to help! We’re your local transmission shops. Unlike dealerships or many independent repair shops, we are transmission specialists trained to fix vehicle drive-train issues. You can reach out to whichever location is most convenient.
Call our Westminster (Northwest Denver) location at (303) 421-4140, our Lakewood (Southwest Denver) location at (303) 922-4102 or contact us online ASAP. We look forward to serving your vehicle drivetrain and transmission needs. Over 35 years, our goal remains to be “Geared for Customer Satisfaction!