Cruise-O-Matic Transmission Operation & Fixes
The following was written by Frank La Penna - ThunderDownunder from Australia to be added to the
Technical Resource Library (TRL). Thank you, Frank!
Frank has many years experience at Borg Warner working on transmissions. Here is what he had to say.
I have worked at Borg Warner for many years and know my boxes and how they work. I also worked on differentials to, too many to count. Not to mention rebuilds, too many to count. I have worked on many trannys, C6, C4, FMX, Ford-O-Matic, Hyra-Matic, Powerglyde, Tri-Matic. My matic list will and can go on and on.
I have just been reading about the Merc-O-Matic, Ford-O-Matic and the Cruise-O-Matic. First some comments regarding which position you should select when going into drive. Here is an excerpt from the Operators Manual.
You would think by selecting "D2" it would take off in 1st gear, but no, it doesn't. It takes off in 2nd and that's why it is sluggish at take off. But to a person that doesn't know about the Cruise-O-Matic, it needs to be in "D1". I have found a lot of people just think the first "D" they come to is the right one, and they say how slow the car takes off. A lot of people fall in to the habit of selecting "D" in a normal auto transmission and the rest is done 1,2,3. But in the case of "Cruise-O-Matic", they are a three speed tranny. You have the option of "D2" which will take off in 2nd and at speeds of between 20mph and 30mph goes in to 3rd. For the "D1" selection it will take off in 1st gear between 10mph and 20mph then 2nd and 3rd. But if your linkage is sloppy or has a bit of play, you may select "D1" but in fact it is in "D2". I have come across this with many cars here in Australia, (even the Ford Galaxy has the Cruise-O-Matic) and I have found sloppy linkage. The biggest problem is the linkage. As soon as there is a little sloppiness it will throw you out big time.
My Tbird was the same, and suffered from sloppy linkage syndrome. I have put in a new shift stick collar. The main problem is at the bottom of the steering column and is a part that becomes sloppy through 50+ years of wear. It is the Shift Tube Selector Arm.
It is that piece that sticks out from the bottom of your steering wheel column with the arm on it that the connector rod from the tranny attaches to. The problem arises over time that the notched section of that ring, and perhaps the inner edges of the ring itself, become worn. When that happens sloppiness in shifting can happen. It is not the detent plate that causes the car go in reverse, it's the linkage. Once the Shift Tube Selector Arm is replaced the shift is firm with no play. As for the detent plate, that does not always fix sloppy shifting, but it also can become worn after all these years. I should mention the detent plate is only a gate that when the lever is pulled forward it allows the lever to release from Park to select the gear that is required. The detent plate is there to prevent the shift stick to go straight up and down. Without it you could select Reverse by accident and could cause damage to the transmission. That's why you must have a detent plate. This also holds the lever in the Park position. Without it the lever becomes free range, but if the linkage is sloppy Park will not engage properly although the lever is locked in the park position.
If you pull the steering column apart you will find a tube that is part of the collar, at the end of the tube is a flat piece of metal the same shape as the tube. This is where the play is, and to fix it means to take apart the steering column, and its a big job. I have done it many times for mates, after they to changed the detent plate out and found no difference, but too still have play at the bottom end.
Many people don't know that the Cruise-O-Matic can be clutch started. First you must be on a downward slope, with ignition on, and select lever in "L" and the hand brake off. Then release the foot brake and let the car roll. It should turn the motor over basicly straight away. And there you have it. This is not for all autos, only the ones with dual pumps. Cruise-O-Matic and Ford-O-Matic transmissions have two pumps, one front and one the rear. It's the rear pump that will get the gear running to drive the front pump to turn the engine over. I have done this many a time with my other 60 hardtop as it had a crook solenoid, so I had to make sure when I was out that I could park on a hill and clutch start it, and "BINGO," va, va, vooooom off I went.
I have always been fascinated about the Automatic Transmission, how all those springs, valves, channels, make it all work. Did you know it is way cheaper to fix an automatic than a manual transmission? Autos are easier to repair? Because it may only be a band or a servo seal that needs replaced and off you go. The only thing is the labor can be big bucks for a simple replacement part, and that's where people cringe.
Created 15 August, 2012
Last Edited: 17 August, 2012
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