4L60E transmission—All you need to know

If you own a car with an electronically operated automatic transmission, chances are you have the 4L60e transmission. This is true because it’s one of the most common automatic transmissions in the US car market today. It’s one of the most versatile transmissions ever manufactured by General Motors and has since evolved.

They deliver performance swiftly and are loved by many car owners though it has flaws. So in this article, we will be talking about the evolution of the transmission, its price, and the cars using it. We will also discuss some common problems with the 4L60e transmission and how to fix them. But first, let’s see the 4L60e transmission in detail.

4l60e transmission for sale
Image Credit: amazon.com

4L60e transmission explained

The 4L60e transmission is an electronically operated 4-speed transmission designed for vehicles with longitudinal engines. It utilizes four forward gears and one reverse gear and has a vehicle weight rating of 6000 lbs. Before adding the recommended 4L60e transmission fluid, this transmission weighs 146 lbs. However, with the transmission fluid, it goes all up to 162 lbs.

Depending on the size of the Torque converter used, the transmission can house a total fluid capacity of either 8.4, 11.4, or even up to 14 quarts. The 4L60e, as stated, is electronically operated. So instead of using hydraulic pressure, it utilizes electronic solenoids and actuators to control the valves, clutch, and bands, allowing for proper timing of gear shifting. Thus, improving fuel economy and performance.

Particularly, the GM 4L60e transmission utilizes two-shift solenoids used by the ECU to shift gears. On earlier versions, they were named Shift solenoids A and B, with the PCM achieving four gear ratios by putting them on and off in a preplanned order. However, to conform to the OBD II regulations, they were converted to 1-2 shift solenoids and 2-3 shift solenoids.

The 4L60e transmission is produced by General Motors(GM) and is a successor to the TH700RA, which was first produced in 1982. However, the 4L60e wasn’t available until 1997. What does this mean? GM initially replaced the TH700RA in 1990 with the 4L60 operated hydraulically. The name—4L60 emerged after General motors altered some components of its predecessor—the THR700RA.

The 4L60 came into the market commercially between 1993-1994 and was outfitted to vehicles such as Cadillac Fleetwood, Chevrolet Suburban, and GMC Sonoma. And has had many updates afterward. However, in 1997 General Motors launched the electronic version of the 4L60, which is the 4L60e. So literally, it was until 1997 that the 4L60e was phased into the market.

The 4L60 produced between 1993-1997 utilizes a one-piece case where the bell housing was wrapped inside the case. It utilizes a small iron or plastic cover to cover the bell housing on vehicles with two-wheel drive. Whereas applications with four-wheel drives were fitted with a more durable aluminum covering.

The 4L60 manufactured between 1996-1999 was built with a newer belt housing bolt and a more powerful 6-bolt tail housing. Subsequent models featured a stronger torque converter and input shaft measuring 300mm. Invariably allowing it to handle the torque of the high GM Gen small block V8.

GM 4L60e transmission is built in Toledo transmission, Toledo, Ohio, and at Romulus transmission located at Romulus, Michigan, and Ramos Arispe, Mexico. It provides additional torque and horsepower for various applications ranging from heavy-duty, supersport, and extreme applications. And you will find the 4L60e transmission on the rear wheels of most General Motors.

The transmission is outfitted to vehicles such as Chevrolet, Cadillac, Buick, GMC, Holden, and Pontiac. It is also used by the Hummer 3, Oldsmobile Bravada, Saab 9-7X, and Isuzu Ascender. These cars, however, used this transmission for cars built in certain periods, with General Motors stopping production of the transmission finally in 2013.

Here is more detailed information on vehicles outfitted with the 4L60e transmission and models.  With Chevy recording, the highest outfitted with this transmission.

Vehicles and models Years used
Buick Rainer 2004-2007
Buick Roadmaster 1994-1996
Cadillac Escalade

“Used on models with the LM7 5.3L V8 and the 6.0 LQ9 “

1999-2000

2002-2005

Cadillac Fleetwood 1994-1996
Chevrolet Astro 1993-2005
Chevrolet Avalanche 2002-2008
Chevrolet S-10 Blazer 1994-2005
Chevrolet Camaro 1994-2002
Chevrolet Caprice 1994-1996
Chevrolet C/K 1993-2000
Chevrolet Colorado 2004-2012
Chevrolet Corvette 1994-2004
Chevrolet Express 2003-2014
Chevrolet Impala SS 1994-996
Chevrolet S-10 1994-2005
Chevrolet SSR 2003-2006
Chevrolet Suburban

1500

1993-2009
Chevrolet Tahoe 2005-2010
Chevrolet Trailblazer 2002-2009
GMC Canyon 2004-2012
GMC Envoy 2003-2009
GMC Jimmy 1993-2005
GMC Safari 1993-2005
GMC Savana 2003-2014
GMC Sonoma 1994-2005
GMC Vandura 1993-1996
“Holden Commodore

(VE, VR, VS, VT, VX, VY, VZ)”

1993-2012
Holden Monaro 2001-2006
“Holden Caprice

(VR, VS, WH, WK, WL  WM)”

1994-2008
Pontiac Firebird 1994-2002
Pontiac GTO 2004
Saab 9-7X 2005-2009
Isuzu Ascender 2003-2008

What are the common problems with a 4L60e transmission?

 Despite the versatility and performance of the 4L60e transmission, it has been plagued with several flaws. So here are the main 4L60e transmission problems mostly reported.

No Reverse

One common problem that has plagued the 4L60e is the inability of the transmission to enter into reverse when needed. This could be caused by several factors which become apparent with an increase in mileage. But the most common is a low reverse clutch resulting from extremely worn discs failing to engage the reverse gears. A way to know this is the cause of the problem is the appearance of metal particles in the transmission fluid.

Failure to engage gears in reverse could also stem from the valve warping out, excessively heated, or failed reverse circuit. It could also be that the piston bores are scraping out or have developed score marks. Usually, this could cause reliability issues later on, so you should smooth the piston bore with sandpaper or its alternatives and clean out dust and debris using a reliable brake cleaner.

Difficult or delayed 1-2 gear shift

Another common 4L60e transmission problem is difficulty or delays shifting from gear 1-2, which often stems from bad or broken 2-4 transmission bands. These bands are built with frictional materials that help them trigger the clutch drum to activate gear changes. As this frictional material gets worn over time, its efficiency lessens, causing the band to slip and delaying shifts.

In other cases, the band slips between the two gears. You will notice this mostly among vehicles with high mileage. Another notable cause of delayed or difficulty shifting from gear 1-2 is a faulty throttle position sensor with the ignition stuck in the open position. In this case, one will have to let go of the TPS to comfortably shift from gear 1 to 2.

A good way to know the TPS is the issue is to test with a voltmeter. A working TPS will increase or decrease its voltage smoothly in a straight line while moving the TPS. Generally, every car has its required voltage reading for a working TPS, so you can refer to your owner’s manual to find yours.

Shuddering when shifting from gear 1-2

The 4L60e transmission has also been reported to push into second gear or not shift into second gear. In either case, the engine will just keep reading, but no response from the gears. The major culprit may be the device inside the 1-2 accumulator. 

The accumulator houses a tiny device that works like a shock absorber and helps dampen additional fluid pressure accumulated after every gear change.  If this device breaks, nothing will be able to absorb excess fluid pressure, causing the car to jerk into gears. Suppose this situation is left unattended to, it may, over time, cause severe damage to the clutch and drum assembly.

Transmission only shifts manually.

Users have also reportedly attested that the 4L60e transmission sometimes fails to shift automatically and would only shift when engaged manually. In such cases, the common culprit is the PCM or those sensors such as the vehicle speed sensors and throttle position sensors relating information to the PCM.

Sometimes, transmission not shifting automatically could also stem from a wiring issue such as a short or deteriorated circuit. Thankfully, there are diagnostic tools that could quickly fish out the main culprit.

The transmission won’t come out of gears while driving

Generally, this transmission should enter and leave gears depending on driving conditions. However, it has been reported that the 4L60e sometimes gets stuck in a particular gear (usually the lowest). This often happens when the vehicle goes into limp mode.

Usually, the PCM enters into limp mode when it deduces that there is an electrical fault to avoid further damage from occurring. With the car in limp mode, the transmission will fail to shift gears as it should. You would also notice a relatively tiring acceleration and feel like the car is heavy. Virtually all systems, like the air conditions, will be shut down.

Plus, the engine will vibrate more than it usually does. What the ECM does here is that it reduces the power supplied to the car components making them run slowly. So whenever your car enters limp mode, know there are issues that need to be addressed in the system.

Transmission stuck in 1st gear with no reading in the speedometer

Another known problem is the inability of the 4L60e to come out from first gear with no speedometer reading. Many factors could cause this, but the most obvious is issues with the vehicle speed sensor.

Faulty or dirty speed sensors won’t be able to relate your car’s computer, the speed at which the vehicle is going. With no increase in speed, the transmission will see no need to leave the first gear, hence remain stuck.

Transmission won’t engage in any gear.

The 4L60e transmission may also fail to shift into any gear. The major culprit is a bad pump or a complete fluid shortage. The fluid shortage may stem from leaks, so you should see a transmission fluid puddle under your car when parked for some time.

To determine which amongst both is causing the problem, do this.

Fill your transmission to the fill line and start the car. Allow it to run for a few minutes; the transmission should enter gear. But if it doesn’t, check the fluid level again. If the fluid level reduces, there is probably a leak in the system that needs fixing. If, however, the fluid level remains the same, then the problem is likely from the pump.

How to fix 4L60e transmission problems

Fixing the 4L60e transmission problems entails finding the cause of the issue. To find out the cause, you may need to use a diagnostic tool that makes the whole case easy. After which you do some replacement or repairs. That said, if you’ve made a proper diagnosis, you may need to do these depending on the issue

  • The 4L60e transmission not entering into reverse often stem from a low reverse clutch. Check for its cause and fix it. A failing valve body is also a culprit; fix whatever is responsible for the failure and change the valve body. For scraping the piston bore, try smoothing it out.
  • Delay or hard shifting from gear 1-2 results from worn frictional material on the 2-4 transmission bands. You may need to change the bands. A TPS stuck in the open position may also cause delayed shifting; you may need to repair or replace it.
  • If your car jerks when entering gear, the shock absorber-like device inside the 1-2 accumulator may be broken. In this case, try to replace it.
  • Transmission only shifting manually often stems from issues with the PCM or sensors sending information to it. Repair the PCM and clean or replace sensors such as the vehicle speed sensor or throttle position sensor. Also, replace short or damaged wires if they are the culprit.
  • Transmission stuck in the lowest gear points toward car entering limp mode. It could be in limp mode due to electrical issues or other issues, so try diagnosing what’s causing the car to enter limp mode and fix it.
  • Transmission stuck in first gear often results from dirty or bad wheel sensors, so you may need to clean them or have them replaced if needed.
  • A completely damaged pump or no transmission fluid won’t let you engage in any gear. So fill the transmission fluid to the fill line. If there are leakages, ensure you first sort out whatever is causing transmission fluid leaks. If the pump is broken, you may need to rebuild the transmission.

Let’s get this straight; a transmission repair is not a DIYer job. The above explanation is what the service technician will do to track and fix the leading cause.

Is the 4L60e transmission good?

Not like it’s flawless, but the 4L60e transmission is good. It’s one of the most universal and reliable 4-speed transmissions ever made by General motors. It has a long life span and notably increases performance. People who want a noticeable increase in horsepower can even tweak it.

However, production of the 4L60e transmission has since stopped in 2013. So chances of seeing a brand new 4L60e may be slim but possible. Except, of course, you want one rebuilt for you. Lastly, understand that the 4L60 is not the same as the 4L60e. While a throttle valve cable controls the 4L60, the 4L60e transmission controller is operated electronically by your car’s onboard computer.

Frequently Asked Questions —FAQs

Q: What year did Chevy stop using 4L60e?

Chevy stopped using the 4L60e in 2014. Amongst the different cars that utilized the 4L60e, Chevy notably has the highest number of models. Over 16 Chevy models were fitted with this transmission over a period of time. However, Chevy last used it in 2014 on the Chevrolet Express.

Q: What vehicles has the 4L60e transmission?

The 4L60e transmission is used across different vehicle brands and certain models. The vehicles that have the GM 4L60e transmission include Chevrolet, Buick, Cadillac, GMC, Holden, Hummer, Oldsmobile, Pontiac, Saab, and Isuzu.

However, these vehicles had specific models to which the transmission was outfitted for a certain period. Chevy records the highest as it is found in 16 Chevy brands. Please look up the table above to know the specific models of these cars with the 4L60e transmission.

Q: How much horsepower can the 4L60e handle?

How much horsepower it can handle typically depends on the transmission you have since companies now build theirs for sale. For example, the 4L60e weighing 133 lbs without fluid can handle 360 Hp. Whereas a built level one street cruiser can support up to 450 horsepower.

Similarly, a built stage 2 4L60e can handle up to 700 hp. Other built 4L60e transmissions can even support up to 1000 horsepower. So it typically depends on which transmission you are using. But generally, a built 4L60e can be tweaked to support higher horsepower. 

Q: Can you run a 4L60e without a computer?

Yes, a 4L60e can run without a computer but only when converted to a full manual valve body. To do this, you may need a standalone box that uses a speedo cable adapter to produce rpm signal. A slide switch mounted in a dashboard will also be needed to set this in place to work at specific speeds.

You may also need to wire the brake light switch to unlock the converter when you break. But why go through all these when you could get the hydraulically operated transmission? Technically, both the 4L60 and 4L60e function the same way.

The only difference is that the 4L60 is hydraulically operated, whereas the 4L60e is electrically operated. So instead of buying the computer-controlled version, get the hydraulically powered version—4L60. You won’t even need a computer running the 4L60.

Q: How much does a new 4L60e transmission cost?

A new 4L60e transmission could be between $2000-$2300, depending on where you’re buying from. There are various outlets out there that have placed the 4L60e transmission for sale. Try opting for the most inexpensive option from a trusted seller.

If, however, you want more affordable one, you may need to purchase a fairly used 4L60e transmission or rebuild or manufacture your existing one. But this will only be cheaper if the old one is still intact. If, however, the old one is totally damaged, you may spend more as you may likely buy every part from scratch.

Q: What engines bolts up to 4L60e?

Buying the 4L60e isn’t just all there is; it should be able to match your car’s design. So the 4L60e transmission, what does it fit? The LS family of the 3rd and 4th generation small block general motors are the most common engines the 4L60e bolts up to. However, it’s now compatible with any GM engine using the standard GM bolt pattern.

The style of the 4L60e is still a huge determiner of which engine it’s bolted to. You may need to look at the 4L60e transmission diagram to understand how it can fit in. For example, the front side of the 4L60e is compatible with the Chevy 90° block patterned engines, small or big. This includes both V6, V8, and V12 engines.

Q: What transmission can replace a 4L60e?

The 4L80e transmission can replace the 4L60e. However, since an 80 is replacing where a 60 was used, some tweaks will be made. You may even need some new parts depending on your vehicle’s chassis. If you know your way around, you could do this yourself. All you need is to go through the 4L60e transmission swap guide for specific tools and information needed.

Otherwise, take it to a professional to carry out the swap; they know exactly what parts need to be purchased and how it should be done. This can also come in handy in place of rebuilding. Most times, the quest for more horsepower makes drivers rebuild their 4L60e. So instead of rebuilding, one could go for a higher-powered transmission like the 4L80e.

Q: How can I make my 4L60e transmission stronger?

Making a stronger 4L60e transmission entails making some tweaks. Here, building one is the ideal way to make it stronger. You could do it yourself if you know how to rebuild a 4L60e transmission. Otherwise, buy one already built. These car guys who build transmissions have learned the trick of what makes a transmission wedge higher horsepower and have implemented it.

Most of them don’t only know how to rebuild a 4L60e transmission but also have the necessary tools to test it during the building process so it doesn’t flop. Why should you even make your 4L60e stronger? Most times, vehicle owners tune their engines to churn out higher horsepower. But fail to understand that as your engine horsepower increases, the transmission should also match up.

If you have your stock 460Le transmission behind your stock engine, you may not need this. But if you’re tweaking your engines to churn out more horsepower, you may also want to tweak the transmission to match up much; else, the transmission may fail untimely.

Q: Is it cheaper to rebuild or replace a transmission

Replacing is more expensive than rebuilding. When replacing a transmission, you would need to discard the old one and replace it with a completely new one which could cost up to $2300. However, in rebuilding some parts of the old transmission, in most cases is still used. Here, the transmission is dismantled and then inspected.

And while all good parts are cleaned and remounted, faulty parts are replaced with refurbished or new ones. A professional can help you build one. All the technician need is the 4L60e transmission rebuild kit and a few parts.

This rebuilding type differs from the one done when trying to increase horsepower. This does not require the transmission to be faulty; it is done because of the quest for more power. In many cases, it might be more expensive than a new one since almost all parts are tweaked to higher versions.

Final Words

The 4L60e transmission is among the series of automatic transmissions built by General motors. It was first known as the Turbo Hydramatic 700RA, and after a few tweaks, it was later named the 4L60. The electronic version of the 4L60 (now 4L60e) was, however, introduced in 1997 and was later outfaced in 2013. It utilizes four forward gears and one reverse gear, electronically controlling the gear shift timing.

It has had many updates since its inception and is one of the best made by GM.

The transmission would work well with your stock engine. But if you’re doing an engine tune-up for more horsepower, you may also need to rebuild the transmission to match up. However, instead of rebuilding, you can swap with a higher one, like the 4L80e. But be sure you understand the 4L60 transmission interchange chart to swap without fuss. Otherwise, refer to a professional.

Osuagwu Solomon

Osuagwu Solomon is a seasoned automotive technician for the past 9 years, and a technical writer. He loves writing about auto professional repair guides, DIY repair guides, and buyer’s guide. After spending six years in the automotive workshop, he decided to impact his knowledge to people aside his domain, and he has achieved this by centering his Automotive writing skills on REPAIRS.

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