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As the backbone of the vehicle’s drivetrain, the transmission system plays a crucial role in optimizing performance. Using advanced engineering and technology, modern heavy-duty equipment transmissions are designed to withstand the rigors of challenging environments while providing seamless gear shifting and smooth operations.
Constant back and forth
Transmissions ensure the transfer of torque and power generated by the engine to the wheels, enabling movement and facilitating vehicle operation. By offering a range of gear ratios, transmissions allow heavy-duty vehicles to adapt to different operating conditions, providing the necessary torque for acceleration, towing, or precise maneuvering. They help regulate the speed, enabling operators to achieve optimal performance while ensuring safety and stability.
Various transmission systems are available in the market, depending on the type of vehicle. Gear drive and hydrostatic transmission are two of the most common systems found in heavy-duty equipment, the latter being the most popular option for compact tractors and often compared to a regular vehicle’s automatic transmission system. Hydrostatic transmission uses hydraulic fluid alongside a variable displacement pump, which converts mechanical energy into hydraulic energy and does not require much shifting and clutching. In fact, you’ll most likely find a single pedal to go back and forth and a simple clutch system to set up your range. It has the advantage of offering wider ranges of speed and being easy to use and operate—especially compared to manual transmissions, which require a higher level of skill and physical demand from operators—and facilitating fast halts. However, it is not as powerful as a manual or gear drive transmission, which offers direct control over gear selection and is known for its durability and reliability. This makes them a more efficient alternative for heavy operations, especially for vehicles with PTOs.
Continuous variable transmission (CVT) is an interesting mix of mechanical and hydrostatic systems, making for a strong and easy-to-maneuver transmission, using a system of belts or chains and pulleys to provide a continuous range of gear ratios. Three main disadvantages: they possess lower torque capacity, they are not widely available for small tractors, and they usually come with a higher price tag. Alternatively, heavy-duty vehicles often use Automated Manual Transmissions (AMT), a mix of automatic and mechanical transmissions that employs computer-controlled actuators to automate the clutch and gear shifts, relieving the driver from the need to operate the clutch pedal manually. AMTs are well regarded for their cost-effectiveness and fuel efficiency capabilities.
Maintenance and care are the most essential parts of any operation, whether in a harvesting field or highway construction. Heavy-duty equipment is especially susceptible to damage, as they are exposed to extreme temperature and terrain conditions, utilizing around 90% of available horsepower. Neglecting transmission maintenance can lead to various functionality and safety issues, among which we can mention the reduction in performance and efficiency due to overheating and excessive friction, as well as breakdowns and accidents due to loss of control. As a result, owners will have to incur additional costs to repair and change damaged parts, as well as account for equipment downtime and its associated operational losses.
As such, important aspects to consider when performing transmission maintenance are:
- Replace filters: timely replacement of filters— whether based on manufacturer recommendations or usage—, can prevent debris and other contaminants from circulating within the transmission, which can lead to filter clogging and subsequently reduce the fluid flow. This can, in turn, result in decreased lubrication which will directly impact the vehicle’s operating temperature and efficiency, as it could cause slipping or delayed gear engagement. Moreover, contaminants can also damage sensitive components, such as valves, seals, solenoids, and clutch packs, increasing the likelihood of premature failure.
- Maintain cooling systems: heavy-duty vehicles often rely on transmission coolers to regulate the temperature of the transmission fluid. This helps maintain appropriate operating temperatures, reducing the risk of component wear. As such, thorough maintenance can ensure your transmission fluid will not break down or overheat.
- Shift properly: forcing shifts helps no one, much less your equipment. Abrupt and aggressive shifting puts additional stress on the transmission components, so smooth and deliberate is the way to do it. When shifting gears with a manual or automated manual transmission, it’s essential to allow sufficient time for the clutch to engage before releasing it completely. Rushing the shifting process by releasing the clutch too quickly can lead to rough gear engagements and excessive clutch wear.“Grinding” gears should also be avoided; drivers should aim to match the engine speed (RPM) with the transmission speed by smoothly releasing the clutch pedal during shifts. Also a no: “riding” the clutch pedal or keeping the foot partially engaged while driving. Fully engage or disengage, depending on the gear selection, to ensure proper operation. Finally, it is always important to match gears with loads, so downshifting or upshifting should consider road and vehicle conditions.
- Check and change fluids: transmission fluid can degrade and become contaminated over time. Change and maintenance intervals are specified by the vehicle’s manufacturer and must be performed as recommended to ensure adequate lubrication. If, upon inspection, the fluid appears dark, cloudy, or has a burnt odor, it may indicate contamination, degradation, or internal issues within the transmission, and a deeper, professional inspection must be performed to address the problem.Due to their nature, heavy-duty vehicles require more frequent transmission fluid changes, primarily given their operating conditions and performance demands. Low-quality fluids can lead to transmission damage, as they cannot withstand the temperature and stress within the system. It is, therefore, crucial to select a fluid that’s not only compatible but will also account for the needs of the equipment, especially at peak demand.
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VISCOSITY Oil’s line of products has been formulated for all surfaces and systems to perform under all stresses at ALL seasons! With star products that go above and beyond to ensure efficiency, productivity, and savings, VISCOSITY’s got you covered with the products your transmission systems need. Our recommendation? ULTRACTION, our premium, zinc-free* THF with outstanding water tolerance and severe duty protection for smooth operations and extraordinary protection. You can check out more of ULTRACTION’s benefits and capability in various media formats in our product section and get yours through our store or with our dealers.
*The components of this product do not contain zinc. Traces of zinc may be found as a result of the manufacturing process.