The General Motors Company manufactures two types of car transmissions, namely the 4l60e and the 4l80e. Usually, the 4l80e is used in a big block and diesel cars. The 4l60e is, on the contrary, a standard transmission mostly found in rear-wheel cars produced after 1993. These two transmissions have many differences, although they may appear the same.
You may be asking yourself whether it is possible to swap them. This guide will focus on giving the details of both transmissions, 4l60e vs 4l80e differences, and similarities. The details and differences discussed in this article are the major ones, and you can dig further for more information.
Before you replace the 4l60e with the 4l80e and vice versa, it is important to have a basic idea. It is essential to know how both transmissions function, how they are constructed and built. Only then can you note their similarities and differences.
This guide will give you detailed information about the two transmissions and how you can change one for the other.
So let’s get started.
The 4L60E transmission details
The 4l60e unit was uncovered in 1992. It was an improved version of the 700R4 unit. Both the 700R4 and the 4l60e were similar in many ways. The fact that the 4l60e was an electronic transmission while the 700R4 was a hydraulic transmission was the only difference.
Only small cars e.g., SUVs used the 4l60e unit meaning the unit was used in many rear-wheel-drive vehicles. The 4l60e had many advantages, one of which was its cost. It was not expensive. Also, it had high fuel consumption abilities. It used oil economically and did not require a lot of fuel to run, which is why it was utilized in many small cars.
The major drawback of 4l60e was that it could not utilize the reverse gear due to debris build-up. Moreover, at high power and high speeds, it could not perform well, which is why the 4l80e was invented.
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Performance details of the 4L60E
The design of the 4l60e unit suits to handle engine torque of up to 360 lb-ft. The meaning of its name tells much about this transmission unit as follows:
- 4-refers to the number of gears the unit has
- L-refers to the longitude way in which the unit is oriented
- 60-means the unit can handle a GVW of 6000 pounds
- E- Means the unit is electronically controlled
The predecessor of 4l60e was made using one piece while the 4l60e is constructed by joining three pieces together. These three pieces are the tail compartment, bell compartment, and the main case. Cast aluminum alloy is used to make the three pieces.
The unit’s length is 21.9 inches, and when it is dry, it weighs 146 pounds. With fluid inside, the transmission weighs 162 pounds.
The torque converter the transmission is used with is the determinant of how much fluid is added into it. For instance, you will need 8.4 fluid quarts if the vehicle has a 9.64 torque converter and 11. 4 fluid quarts if the converter is 11.81.
The 4l60e is controlled electronically and operates in four varying speeds. Almost all light truck or car can use it. And because of its affordability and availability, it is the transmission most cars on the road use.
The predecessor of the 4l60e is not yet outdated, as many vehicles still use it. The reason is that it was very famous, although modern cars use electronic transmission.
Details of the 4L80E transmission
TH400 transmission is the predecessor of the 4l80e, which was first made in 1991. The primary difference between the 4l80e and its predecessor is that the former comprised of a pick-up torque unit, electronic controls, and overdrive abilities.
Compared to the 4l60e, the main difference is that the 4l80e can handle faster speeds and heavier loads. It is also stronger than the 4l60e. Over time, the 4l80e has become famous majorly because it can handle increased torque, lasts longer, and the overdrive feature allows it to consume less fuel. For that reason, the 4l80e is suitable for high powered engines.
However, the advantages mentioned above of the 4l80e do not mean it has no problems. Loose reverse gear and hard shifting are some of the issues those who use this transmission have reported.
The performance of the 4L80E
You may ask yourself why this transmission unit is referred to as the 4l80e. Well, below is the definition:
- 4- It refers to the four gears of the unit
- L- Refers to the longitudinal orientation of the unit
- 80- Indicates that the unit can handle a GVWR of 8000 pounds
- E-means the unit is electronically controlled.
Almost all transmissions are made from a similar material. Cast aluminum makes the outer shell. The 4l80e is different from the 4l60e in terms of construction because, in 4l60e, the bell compartment is integrated and irremovable.
In terms of weight, the 4l80e is heavier. When the 4l80e is dry, it weighs 246 pounds. For that reason, the 4l80e requires a transmission fluid of approximately 6.8 quarts to function properly. Also, the 4l80e unit features coiling ports.
Differences between the 4L60E and 4L80E performance transmission
These transmissions differ in many ways, although they appear similar in their pictures. In the next section, this article will tackle the major differences between the 4l60e unit and the 4l80e unit (4l60e vs 4l80e). Note, as previously stated, these are the main differences. If you study further, you will realize other small differences.
Weight and size
The 4l60e and the 4l80e vary in terms of weight and size, which is probably the major difference between them. The 4l60e is smaller in size and has much less weight than the 4l80e. When dry, the 4l80e weighs 236 pounds and is 26.4 inches long while the 4l60e weighs 150 pounds when dry and is 23.5 inches long. Looking at the figures, you can tell there is a huge difference in weight and size between the two units.
Pan and its gasket
The two transmission units vary greatly when it comes to the transmission pan. In fact, by identifying the features of the transmission pan, particularly its shape and the number of bolts it has, you can tell whether you have a 4l80e or a 4l60e transmission unit.
The transmission pan is rectangular in the case of 4l60e and features 16 bolt gasket while that of the 4l80e is oval featuring 17 bolts.
The gear ratio
Are you considering changing from a 4l60e transmission to a 4l80e transmission or vice versa? Well, before you do that, you need to understand the ration of gears in both transmissions. For instance, the first gear ratio in the 4l60e is 3.059: 1, and that of the 4l80e is 2.48:1.
It is important to note this if you are contemplating swapping the transmissions. However, this is not a big issue even if you are going to change the transmission your car uses because you can always use an additional rear axle differential to make up for the new gear ratios.
Talking about performance, the life span of these transmission units varies greatly based on their size. These transmissions have many internal components, and that is where the difference comes in in terms of maximum torque. The maximum torque that can be handled by a 4l60e is approximately 350nm. The 4l80e unit, on the other hand, can handle more than 450 nm torque.
If you search the internet for answers on how much torque the 4l80e and the 4l60e can handle, you will be surprised to get different figures. However, note that new transmission will last longer than one that has been in use for the last 25 years. Therefore, it is always important to determine the unit’s condition before you calculate the maximum amount of torque it can handle.
The 4l80e is less popular than the 4l60s. Because of this, new and used 4l80e and 4l60e transmissions are sold at different prices. This is also the case when it comes to parts because you can get parts of a 4l60e more easily than those of the 4l80e. Even acquiring a new 4l60e is not a hassle.
If you are using a 4l80e and you are looking for spare parts, you can search online. For 4l60e spare parts, you can go to a local auto shop. Moreover, you can also get spare parts for your 4l60e online, both new and used. One best place to get them is Amazon.
The model number of the 4l80e and that of the 4l60e is similar. However, these two transmissions have different origins. Their manufacture is also not the same. Turbo 400 electronic overdrive succeeded the 4l80e. Drag racers and hot rod enthusiasts used the former transmission unit.
On the contrary, the 700-R4 transmission succeeded the 4l60e. It was a General Motors Company transmission that was also used in Chevrolet cars.
Differences in Wiring harness, sensors and controllers
Digging deeper into the internal components of these transmissions, you will realize the following differences:
The 4l60e wiring harness cannot be used for the 4l80e, and the opposite is also true. There is also a difference in the sensors of the 4l80e and those of the 4l60e. The 4l60e does not feature two-speed sensors like the 4l80e. In case you want to swap, buy a control unit, and the harness.
Similarities between 4l60e and 4l80e transmission
From a distance, the two units appear similar. But even in how they are controlled, the units have a similarity. They all are controlled electronically. The bolt design of both their transfer cases is the same. Therefore, changing one for the other is not a big problem.
Swapping the 4l80e and 4l60e
From the above discussion of the differences between the 4l80e and the 4l60e, you can note that swapping one for the other is not a walk in the park. You cannot just plug one out and install the other and go for a drive. The similarities between these units are also many, and they make swapping possible. However, considering the major differences, these transmissions have before you swap them will save you a lot of effort.
Models of these transmissions change, and as a result, the swapping may not be the same. But the following are general points to help you do the job.
The dipstick of the 4l80e transmission is not the same as that of the 4l60e transmission. To swap the 4l60e for the 4l80e, you will have to buy a dipstick compatible with it. You can get it from Amazon.
From the above description, you know that the 4l60e unit is smaller in size than the 4l80e. Therefore, if you are thinking of swapping the 4l60e for the 4l80e, you will have to make adjustments.
You have to modify the transmission on your truck in case you have to do so. However, if your truck came with both transmissions, in this case, there is nothing much you can do.
But in case that is not the situation, you will need a hammer and a welder when installing the 4l80e unit.
The 4l60e has a shorter driveshaft than the 4l80e. So you need to keep that in mind too. Acquiring a driveshaft should not be a hectic job. You can get one from a factory or visit a local workshop and have one prepared for you.
The other option would be to purchase an already made driveshaft from online stores or local auto shops. Ensure you order the exact driveshaft you need.
Similarities in Wiring harness
The sensors and wiring of the 4l80e and those of the 4l60e are not the same. Working around the OEM wirings is a hard task for a beginner. The procedure requires a lot of effort and time. However, if you buy a swap kit harness, it can simplify the process. The kit is expensive. But acquiring one will save you effort and time.
Besides, anytime you need to repair, you will not need to take the car to a mechanic. You can do the job by yourself, which saves you money. If you do not know where you can get the kit from, buy it online on Amazon.
The shell of the 4l80e unit is longer than that of the 4l60e, and for that case, and you will need to modify it. If you have a welder, you can create one or buy one from the auto shop.
Make sure you place the transmission horizontally. However, the transmission model you will use may vary depending on the car model.
The engine control unit
For your engine control unit to function with the new 4l80e, you have to flash it and reprogram it. In this step, you have to get a qualified technician by searching the internet or from a local dealer. For this task, you can also use premade control. However, this will be expensive.
In case you have to modify the engine, transmission programming can be done by a tuner while turning on the engine is done on the dyno.
Fixing the torque converter issue can be done in two ways. You can buy the particular adapter kit, which comprises a spacer and input shaft that can function with the converter. Also, you can purchase a 4l80e torque converter.
Summary of the 4l60e and 4l80e differences and similarities
To summarize the guide on the difference between the 4l80e and the 4l60e, we can state that the most significant difference is that the former is stronger and larger than the latter.
In terms of appearance, the two transmissions are very similar except with regards to the shape of their pans as one is oval, and the other is rectangular.
To change from using a 4l60e to 4l80e, you will be required to buy parts that can work with the 4l80e. Remember, these parts are not easily available as earlier mentioned because the 4l80e is less popular than the 4l60e.
But that does not nullify their availability. You can get them. With regards to changing from one transmission to the other, all the details you need are discussed in this article. Therefore, if you have decided to do it, you have all you need.
Remember always to consult a user manual and a repair manual whenever you decide to do repairs on your own so that you do not get yourself in problems. Professionals are also easy to get irrespective of where you are. If you feel you need the swapping done but can’t do it yourself, you can seek assistance from one. It is always important to take great care of your vehicle.
Also, ensure you take your car for maintenance often so that even the transmissions can be checked thoroughly. This will ensure they last long.
Most of the information you needed on both the 4l60e and the 4l80e has been tackled. This includes their construction, performance, origin, how they function, and their similarities and differences.
I’m William Guzenski, ASE certified master automobile technician & automotive expert. I love to attend race events and car shows throughout the country. I also loves to travel 40-foot motorhome, exploring abandoned mines and ghost towns. I’m currently building another car for Bonneville Salt Flats and will be campaigning a drag car at several events.