Parasitic Drag/Oil Shear Effect on Clutch Packs

so something i have been trying to find a happy medium on transmission builds is what is largely known as parasitic drag. this is the amount of power it takes to make the transmission function. on a stock th400 it is around 30-35hp it taxes off the engine, whereas a th350 is about 10hp less than a th400 on the average.

parasitic drag i always thought was due to rotating mass and power requirement of the hydraulic pump. simply put, a hydraulic pump needs power, and the resistance to flow creates a power loss as well. you also have slippage in the torque converter as it is a fluid coupling(essentially a pump). internal components also have some weight to it. basically the more it weigh’s- the more it takes to get it moving. i’ll spare you the law’s of physics.

there is also something i have been trying to deal with lately called oil shear. on your clutch packs, oil circulates from the center out for lubrication and cooling. when the clutch is not applied, the surface area of both the clutches and steels are still covered in circulating lubricant oil. now, if we are spinning a dissengaged clutch pack at any kind of an rpm, the oil will sling to the outside…..literally sucking the flat clutches and flat steels together and causing them to drag. i want to say it is fairly similar to a kind of capillary action caused by centrifugal force. obviously a dragging clutch pack will increase tranny temperatures, and if severe enough, clutch failure.

the solution is basically put a relief area in the clutch pack for the fluid to escape. the easiest way to battle this is to loosen up your clutch pack clearances. this though is a catch 22 as if your clearances are too loose you will have other consequences.

the use of radial grooved clutch discs and waffle clutch discs are the best solution to resolve the problems caused by oil shear on most of your older trannys. gm did it on different clutch packs in both the th400 and the th350.

later model 4L80E’s and 4L60E transmissions used what is termed as turbulator steels. basically they are steels that have an oblong hole in the middle to relieve the oil shear caused by centrifugal force. they are found in the 97 and newer 4L80E’s in the overdrive clutch packs.

on the 96 and newer 4L60E’s , they used turbulator steels in both the reverse input drum and the low 1/reverse drum. ironically it is erie similar to the same areas that fail on a th350 in a demolition derby….anyways the late model turbulator steels can be swapped into earlier 700R4’s as an upgrade.

now as an example of oil shear. on my 1st/reverse th400, i got a guy that gives it time to shift, but floors it from one side of the track to the other all night in forward. after 40 minutes of running the piss out of his suicide lincoln……he loses reverse or it starts to slip. upon teardown there is nothing wrong with the seals- the seal rings-the pistons- the forward clutch is fantastic- gearset is fine. the direct/forward clutch is burnt to a crisp- i mean no linings. on a 1st/rev the direct drum spins just as fast in the opposite direction but dissengaged. even when using stiffer trans brake springs to keep the clutches dissengaged- the discs still suck together!

this is chronic oil shear….and can happen on ANY transmission used for demo derby. even with the use of waffle clutches, chronic oil shear still can happen. we are experimenting even to this day with combinations of different linings-number of discs vs number of steels, different fluids/additives, and clutch pack clearances to prevent this. there is no answer at this time for derby transmissions.

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