4L80E Transmission Swap

The easy guide to swapping a 4L80E and ditching the fragile 4L60E in the process

Justin Cesler Sep 11, 2013 0 Comment(s)
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Whether you are a full-size truck owner looking to do some hauling on the weekends or an F-body enthusiast looking to do some hauling on weekends, you will eventually end up in a position where upgrading your stock transmission becomes a priority. For the working man looking to tow, pull, or haul heavy loads, having a stout transmission means having peace of mind on those long hauls and being able to tow a boat behind your 4.8/5.3/6.0/6.2 without having to fear every upshift as if it may be your last. For the car crowd, a quality transmission needs to shift hard, hold big power, and take a beating run after run. Unfortunately, General Motors didn't exactly outfit many of our favorite cars with the strongest of factory units and many an "old timer" in the LS game can probably tell you a horror story or three of the ol' 4L60E giving up the ghost in a variety of situations. There is the common "2-3 flare," where the transmission just can't quite grab Third gear under power, the less popular but even worse "1-2 rev-limiter showdown," and the least favorite of all, "my transmission goes into drive and does nothing at all but free rev..."

So, what's an enthusiast to do with a 4L60E that's on its last leg? Well, obviously, you could rebuild it and add new hard parts to get it to shift better. That's pricey but sometimes gets you a warranty and at least a couple more years of service (depending on your power level). You could also drop another stock 4L60E in its place, but that's only going to lead to more trouble down the road. Or, as you will see here, you can jump up a level, installing the much more robust and heavy duty GM 4L80E in place, which will bolt a much better stock unit between your engine and rear end, one which can handle much more horsepower and torque than a 4L60E, even in stock form. And if you upgrade one with a reputable sponsor? Well, hang on tight...

4L80E_shift_kit 2/26

Okay, so it just drops in place right? It's just a slightly upgraded 60 from GM, no? Well, not exactly. Installing a 4L80E where a 60 once was requires a bit of work and, depending on your chassis, some new parts, but it doesn't take a rocket surgeon to get the swap done. In almost every case, you will need to build (or buy) a new transmission crossmember, a new torque converter, a set of transmission lines, a modified or swap harness, and a modified driveshaft with a larger yoke and crossover U-joint. Otherwise, the stock shifter will still work and the factory ECM can control all of the 80's functions. In return for your hard work, you will get a GM transmission that features much larger, upgraded internal hard parts held in a stronger casing, which can easily hold up to the horsepower and torque that most of us are sending to the back tires. You'll also sleep better at night, knowing you're not one hard shift away from calling your buddies and saying "Can you come get me... I'm stuck on the side of the road."

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