The 6R80 is a six speed automatic transmission made by Ford. It is designed for rear wheel drive vehicles. It was first put into production in 2007 and is still being made today. It is used in many popular Ford vehicles, including the Expedition, Lincoln Navigator, Explorer, Explorer Sport, Mercury Mountaineer, F150, Ford Territory, Mustang and Ranger. The 6R80 transmission will bolt directly to all Modular and Coyote Ford engines and can be adapted to virtually any vehicle combination relatively easily. With a variety of parts available to simplify the transmission swap, it is an excellent choice for a performance upgrade or when swapping from a manual to automatic transmission.
The 6R80 was first introduced in 2009 and is manufactured under ZF license at the Ford Transmission Plant in Livonia, Michigan. It can be found behind a multitude of Ford engines ranging from the 3.7 V6, all the way up to the robust 6.2L V8. While the transmission is offered in several engine applications, each transmission variation is integrated differently depending on engine and vehicle application. Enhancements were added by Ford to further improve the transmission, including the addition of a ratchet-style low one-way clutch, and removal of the internal TCU for the 2011 model year, easily enabling stand-alone control.
This six-speed transmission features an elegant, robust, band-free design that is simpler than most four speed automatic transmissions. It uses five clutch packs and a single one-way clutch to achieve six forward ratios, whereas most four speed units utilize six or more clutches and/or bands, with at least one one-way clutch to achieve four gears. This allows better reliability, better shift quality, and reduced rotating mass.
Although the 6R80 has 6 forward gears, the transmission is only slightly larger than earlier four-speed automatics. The transmission is without question stronger than earlier Ford 4 speed transmissions. The 6R80 can likely handle up to 1000HP with proper ECU tuning and potentially even more with the implementation of aftermarket components. Stock applications already employ a multi-plate torque converter clutch, enabling greater power handling in lockup. Despite having 6 forward gears, the transmission is only slightly larger and heavier than light-duty four-speed automatics, such as the 4L60E and 4R70W.
One primary advantage of using a six-speed clutch-to-clutch transmission, like the 6R80, is the tighter gear ratios when compared to traditional four speed automatics. From first to sixth gear, there is a 604:1 ratio spread. This efficiency will not only improve the acceleration and performance of high-horsepower applications, but also make a dramatic improvement when applied to near-stock or mildly-modified vehicles. With six gears, it can better utilize each ratio to get the most efficiency and performance out of your vehicle’s combination.
The gear ratios offer a generous ratio spread of 6.04:1 from first to sixth gear, and the ratios are very close together, rivaling most four-speed transmissions. From second to sixth gear, the ratios are extremely close, providing world-class performance. The 6R80 also uses synthetic transmission fluid (Mercon LV). The transmission used in the Ford F-150, has a fluid capacity of 12.10 quarts and weighs roughly 215 lbs. The 6R80 measures 23.75” and utilizes a large 31 spline 4wd output shaft. In 2011 Ford removed the internal TCU enabling the usability of stand-alone computers.
Sooner or later you will be faced with a decision to replace the 6R80 transmission in their vehicle, be it from excessive mileage or from overheating the transmission. We highly recommend that you consider buying a remanufactured transmission over one that was simply rebuilt. Ideally, you should keep the transmission below a maximum temperature of 200 degrees. For every 20 degrees you go over 200 degrees, you cut the potential lifespan of the transmission by a factor of two.
This transmission has been largely avoided or ignored in the past due to a stand alone control system not being available. There is already a growing ecosystem of swap parts available for the 6R80, including bell housing adapters for various non-modular Ford V8s, with others likely to follow. The best way to combat excessive heat is to install an aftermarket transmission cooler on your customer’s vehicle before it ever overheats, so for a little added protection, consider installing a transmission cooler with a built in fan.