700R4 Transmission – All You Need to Know

One of the most widely used automatic transmissions, especially among older cars, is the 700R4 transmission made by General Motors. It became very popular because of its ability to boost fuel economy; no wonder it became a good choice for performance vehicles and big trucks that usually will consume more fuel.

Aside from being fuel-efficient, it also performs with so much practicality, giving drivers the push they need. In this article, we relate valuable information about the 700R4. This includes how it has evolved, its flaws, solution to its problems, cars featured with it, etc. But first, let’s see the transmission in detail.

700r4 transmission for sale
Image credit: amazon.com

700R4 Transmission Explained

The 700R4, otherwise called the Turbo-Hydramatic transmission, is a 4-speed hydraulically operated automatic transmission built for sports cars and bigger trucks and vehicles. And came a replacement for the former three-speed TH350 automatic transmission. And also became a better option for older General Motors utilizing the rear-wheel drive.

It uses four forward gears and one reverse gear and works only with recommended transmission fluid known as the DEXRON VI. The 700R4 transmission fluid capacity tops at about 11 quarts. Without transmission fluid, the 700R4 weighs 170 pounds and is about 23.5 inches long.

The 700R4 featured an overdrive 4th gear which is responsible for the 30% increase in fuel efficiency compared to the TH350. Thus, allowing large and performance cars more affordable to use since they now consume less fuel. It is built with cast iron, which makes up for its toughness, yet lightweight with its transfer case housing 16 bolts.

It has another version called the K case 700R4 and was particularly differentiated from the ordinary one by stamping K on the transmission case. The stamped K is even visible on the 700R4 transmission diagram. This K case 700R4 is stronger and utilizes a thicker transfer case. It’s specially built for heavy-duty 4×4 trucks and is regarded one of the best off-road transmissions ever.

The 700R4 transmission was manufactured by general motors in 1982 and had since had many updates to improve it. Earlier versions utilized 27 input shafts known to break due to the inability to withstand much torque. To, however, improve the reliability of the gearbox, the input shaft was increased to 30 after 1987.

There was also a major upgrade to its internal components, such as the pump housing and ring gear. However, General Motors in 1990 changed its name from 700R4 to the 4L60 after some alterations.

The 4L60 is a 4-speed automatic transmission for longitudinal engines with a load rating of 6000 lbs. But it was still hydraulically operated using a TV cable which acted like the throttle position sensor to help shift gears.

Then in 1997, GM released the electronic version of the 4L60—the 4L60e transmission. So it no longer shifts gears hydraulically but is done electronically via your car’s onboard computer. The 700R4 transmission came in several versions, each outputting higher horsepower than the other.

There is the heavy-duty 700R4 which supports up to 500 horsepower, and then a supersport-duty 700R4, rated at 650 horsepower. The is also Xtreme SS 700R4 built to support up to 1000 horsepower. But users can get other versions supporting other horsepower since there are many transmission builders out there.

The 700R4 and 4L60 look alike, so identifying them may be difficult. This is true because both use 16 bolts in their transfer case. The manufacturing date should also help, but also tricky since the production year is written as code.

So the easiest means for 700R4 transmission identification is checking for a cable. While the 700R4 used a TV cable as a speedometer, the 4L60 used normal wires on the transmission rear.

While the 700R4 was specifically built for sports and larger vehicles, it’s also compatible with various Cadillac, Chevrolet, GMC, Pontiac, Buick, and Holden. But here is more detailed information on various vehicles that use the GM 700R4 transmission.

Vehicles Year
Chevy Blazer 1982-1991
Chevy Caprice 1982-1992
Chevy Corvette 1982-1992
Chevy Camaro 1983-1992
Chevy Suburban 1984-1992
Chevy Astro Van 1985-1992
Chevy S10 Blazer 1989-1992
Chevy S10 Pick up 1989-1991
Cadillac Fleetwood 1990-1992
Cadillac Brougham 1990-1992
Cadillac Limousine 1990-1992
GMC Jimmy 1982-1993
GMC Safari Van 1983-1990
GMC Syclone 1991-1992
GMC S10 Sonoma 1983-1991
GMC S15 Sonoma 1983-1991
GMC S15 Pickup 1983-1991
Pontiac Firebird 1983-1992
Buick Lesabre 1984
Holden Commodore 1988-1992

What are the common problems with a 700R4 transmission?

The 700R4 transmission undoubtedly has amazing performance, but that doesn’t mean it is perfect. The transmission is known to give certain issues. So here are the most common 700R4 transmission problems.

Overheating

One very common issue reported by users of the 700R4 transmission is overheating. However, this is caused by the vehicle using the transmission. Most vehicles outfitted with the 700R4 transmission are known not just to output much power but also used excessively, resulting in overheating the ATF. Suppose this situation lingers, it might damage other car components causing further problems.

Slipping between 3rd and 4th gear

The transmission notably slips between the 3rd and 4th gear, according to users. This issue stems from when the metal used in the clutch pack disc metals are weakened due to overheating. As they get weakened, the ends can cut off, invariably preventing the clutch pack gear from engaging those gears.

Gear changing issues

Sometimes, the transmission may refuse to change or shift gears properly. This happens when the valve’s body becomes warped due to overheating. Gears not shifting well could also stem from a TV cable not being adjusted properly. Sometimes, it could be low or worn-out 700R4 transmission fluid.

Broken input shaft

The early versions of the 700R4 transmission were built with only 27 spline input shafts, the same amount that came with the THM200C and 2004R. These input shafts, however, broke easily because they couldn’t withstand the vehicle torque they were fitted to.

This, however, was fixed by General Motors as they upgraded the spline input shaft to 30 so it could handle the torque output, making the gearbox more reliable.

Stuck governor

Another common issue with the 700R4 transmission is the spring in the governor becoming stiff and useable. This issue pops when the transmission fluid in the governor is dirty and unable to lubricate the spring.

With the spring stuck, the vehicle could experience a delay in shifting from one gear.

Transmission slips and fail to lock

Users have also complained of the transmission slipping or failing to lock. This situation mostly arises when there is an issue with the torque converter inside the transmission. It can also be due to dirty or low transmission fluid or faulty TV cable.

Failing torque converter

Users have also complained of their transmission torque converter failing prematurely. When this happens, it causes the transmission to slip.

Low transmission fluid

The 700R4 transmission fluid is supposed to run for some miles before getting low or burning out. However, the 700R4 is known to leak, causing a decrease in fluid level.

Some users are also known to run the transmission for too long before changing the fluid. This invariably causes them to run on dirty fluid, which causes transmission damage over time.

Faulty TV cable

The TV cable, which helps in shifting gears, is also known to fail prematurely. This could result from age or manufacturing defects.  A failing TV cable can cause your transmission to slip.

How to fix 700R4 transmission problems

To fix the 700R4 transmission problems, one must first identify what is causing the problem. While we have outlined possible causes of some issues, making a proper diagnosis is still paramount. That said, you are likely to do the following after the diagnosis.

  • For overheating transmission, install an auxiliary transmission cooler. Preventing overheating will also solve gear-changing issues.
  • GM has since fixed the broken input shaft issues by increasing the spline shaft from 27 to 30 to handle vehicle torque.
  • Regular servicing, like changing dirty transmission fluid in the governor, can help prevent stuck springs.
  • For slipping transmission, try changing the torque converter. You should also check the fluid level and condition. If it’s low, top it; if it appears black, brown, or dark red, you may need to replace it with the recommended 700R4 transmission fluid and even do a flush.
  • For gear-changing issues, check the condition and level of transmission fluid, then replace or top as needed. You may also need to check the TV cable adjustment.

Is a 700R4 transmission good?

The 700R4 transmission is one of the best automatic transmissions ever built by General motors. Its performance is outstanding and it is also known to have the better fuel economy. Thanks to the overdrive used in the 4th gear.

It’s for this reason that sports and larger vehicle drivers can affordably run their vehicles since the transmission helps minimize fuel usage. Particularly, the transmission’s ability to increase fuel economy was its major selling point. Its light yet durable aluminum is another perk of the transmission.

Frequently Asked Questions—FAQs

Q: How much horsepower can a 700R4 transmission handle?

The 700R4 transmission can handle as high as 1000 horsepower, depending on which transmission you’re using. The stock 700R4  notably could handle 350 horsepower. However, a built 700R4 transmission can handle more power.

There is the level one street cruiser-built transmission that supports up to 450 horsepower. The SS extreme can support up to 750 horsepower. Whereas the built version of the GM super street fighter transmission can handle as high as 1000. But usually, built transmissions handle higher horsepower than stock.

Q: What year 700R4 transmission was the best?

Earlier versions notably had issues that forced users to rebuild their transmissions constantly. Therefore, the 700R4 produced between 1987 and upwards were the best. These later versions were replaced, which solved the issues experienced in the older versions.

According to users, these upgraded versions had improved valve bodies and stronger gear trains, better servos, and clutches. These later versions had more firm shifting points, were not harsh, and were also not sloppy. You can distinguish them from the earlier versions using the CZ code written on them.

Q: What vehicles did the 700R4 come in?

The 700R4 transmission came stock in a variety of several car brands. These vehicles include Chevy, Cadillac, GMC, Pontiac, Buick, and Holden. These vehicles had the 700R4 in specific models, so look up the table above for specific vehicles featuring the 700R4.

Q: Is a 700R4 good for drag racing?

The 700R4 is good for drag racing only if you use the built version. A stock 700R4 while in overdrive can cause untimely damage to the overdrive band and reduce your performance in a drag race, making you lose. And in the long run, it can even damage the transmission. If, however, you have a rightly built 700R4 to withstand such, then it will do well in drag racing

Q: Will a 700R4 hold up to 450hp?

A 700R4 can hold up to 450 horsepower, depending on which you use. The stock is rated at 350, with people even having issues at 300 horsepower. However, a built 700R4 can handle 450 and even more depending on its rating. So yes, a 700R4 can support up to 450 though not the stock 700R4.

Q: Is a 700R4 good for towing?

The 700R4 transmission is good for towing but you should ensure you’re using a performance built 700R4. These car guys build transmissions utilizing upgraded parts that make the transmission strong to take abuse. There are performance 700R4 transmissions built specifically for towing, commercial vehicles, and 4×4 vehicles.

If, however, you’re using the stock 700R4 for towing, you may want to go with the K case version since they are built with stronger transfer cases and specifically for 4×4 vehicles. But since production stopped long ago, chances are you may not get access to it which may leave you to the option of going for built 700R4 transmission or a used 700R4 transmission.

When buying, be specific with the one you want since they come in categories. For example, if you drive a 4×4 vehicle, type 700R4 transmission 4×4 for sale to get a specific performance-built transmission that matches such cars. Do the same by typing  700R4 transmission 2WD for sale if you are looking for one to match your 2WD vehicle.

Q: What year did GM stop using 700R4

1992 was the last year the 700R4 was used massively. However, General Motors stopped using the 700R4 in 1993, with its last production used on the Corvette, Camaro, and Typhoon.

Q: What engines are compatible with 700R4

The 700R4 were compatible with a wide range of engines. It will fit the Chevy 2.0 to their 6.2-liter engines but for only specific Chevy models; look up the table above.

The 700R4 is also compatible with the GMC 2.0, 2.5, 2.8, and 4.3 liters engines. The Pontiac Firebird and Cadillac, 5.7-liter engine, is compatible with the 700R4. Also compatible with the 700R4 transmission are the Buick and Holden 5.0 liter engines.

Q: How much does a 700R4 transmission

A 700R4 transmission could be between $1000-$13,000 depending on the condition of the transmission, make, and capacity.  Some outlets put out used 700R4 transmissions for sale, which cost around $1000. Whereas a rebuilt transmission can go for $1200 from shops, with the more powerful versions costing higher.

If, however, you’re rebuilding yourself, you may spend less. So long you know your way around and have the 700R4 transmission rebuild kit, you’re good to go.

If you don’t know how to, you can use the 700R4 transmission manual for guidance. But if you still don’t get it, visit a pro to build one.

Suppose you are opting for a remanufactured 700R4; you may spend as high as $12,000 since these types utilize OEM parts in the manufacturing and sometimes look exactly as the stock 700R4 came.

To get a list of sellers and their prices near you, type 700R4 transmission for sale near me together with the shop’s name if you have any in mind. For example, to get Craigslist 700R4 prices, type 700R4 transmission for sale Craigslist.

Final Words

The 700R4 transmission is one of the greatest transmissions released by General Motors. The 700R4 transmission gears comprise four forward and one reverse gear and perform incredibly well. It came as a more efficient means for drivers of GM’s V8-powered cars and trucks to save gas in an era where gas prices were increasingly on the rise.

However, it was renamed 4L60 in 1990 but still operated hydraulically. 

General Motors, however, made it electrically operated in 1997 and changed its name from 4L60 to 4L60e. The stock 700R4 is rated at 350 HP, but if you want more horsepower, you can buy an already-rebuilt one or rebuild one yourself. Just ensure you have the 700R4 transmission rebuild kit and know your way around.

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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