General Motors Company launched the 700-R-4 transmission in 1982 that was renamed 4L60 eight years later (in the year 1990). The ‘4L60’ transmission 4 means four-speed transmission, L denotes longitudinal placement (of the powertrain in rear-drive vehicles), and 60 implies torque capability. The 4L80 transmission, which GMC brought in 1991, evolved similarly from the Turbo 400 design or architecture.
Structurally speaking, 200-4R introduced in 1981 is the predecessor of 4L60E, and TH400 (Turbo 4) is the forerunner of 4L80. The 4L60’s case design and size suit smaller vehicles, primarily passenger cars, while the 4L80 was engineered for heavier torque applications. Regarding 4L60E and 4L80E transmissions, the uppercase ‘E’ signifies electronically or computer-controlled.
On the other hand, 4L60 and 4L80 transmissions come with control modules that call for mechanical operation. You’ll need a compatible controller for using the 4L60E or 4L80 in older vehicles installed with 4L60 or 4L80.
Overview of 4L60, 4L60E, 4l80E, and 4L80
GMC remodelled and upgraded the TH700-R4 transmission, a 4-speed automatic-shift longitudinal positioned transmission with overdrive, reissuing it as 4L60. Other than a name change, both 700R4 and 4L60 transmissions were almost the same mechanically speaking. The 4L60 formed the main transmission component in many of GM’s rear-wheel-drive vehicles for nearly two decades since its launching.
The 4L60, even when it was called 700R4, featured a 30% overdrive in 4th gear that offered better fuel economy. The GM 4L60 transmission was outfitted on RWD vehicles and pickups like Chevrolet Blazer, Impala, Corvette, Camaro, and Suburban. This transmission was highly sought-after because of its lower gear ratio in 1st gear, furnishing excellent acceleration, and enhanced fuel economy.
Vehicles with 4L60 can support a 6,000lb GVWR or Gross Vehicle Weight Rating. A sure and simple way to identify the 4L60 is to count the number of bolts. You have a 4L60 or 700R4 if you count to 16 bolts but then a 4L60E has 16 bolts too. You know you’re only looking at a 4L60 and 4L60 if the term ‘MD8’ is embossed on the casing’s passenger side.
The transmission 4L60 is a heavy-duty transmission thanks to its cast aluminum construction. Other notable and practical features include an exceptional overdrive transmission, low 1st gear ratio, and boosted fuel economy.
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The 4L60E is very similar to the 4L60 in almost every way, including having a 4-gear automatic shift transmission. Also, both 4L60 and 4L60E feature gears positioned or placed longitudinally (in a north-south direction). However, the 4L60E can handle a GVWR of 8,600 lb, which is more than 4L60’s.
Nevertheless, the suffix ‘E’ denotes the most distinguishing feature of 4L60E, which differentiates it from 4L60. The E in 4L60 defines the transmission’s electronic shift control monitored by your vehicle’s onboard computer system. A wide variety of factors influence the shift points, including but not limited to throttle ranges and rpm.
The suffixing of E helped differentiate the electronic shift control of the transmission from the previous purely hydraulic versions. The manufacturing of 4L60E started in 1993 and continued to be made till 2010. There were two versions of the GM 4L60E-the ‘earlier version’ and the ‘latter version.’
The early variant was made from 1982 till 1989, while the latest version first hit the markets in 1996. The 4L60E was chiefly designed for light commodity vehicles or LCVs and cars. The GM 4L60E offered good heft in a compact package made it ideal for nearly every GM RWD like Astro, Safari, Corvette, and Taho.
The 4L80 descended from the Turbo Hydramatic 400 or TH400 and emerged for the first time in 1991. The GMC 4L80, like its precursor, was primarily designed and engineered for heavy-duty pickups and vehicles with higher torque. The 4L80 transmission found its way inside GM pickup trucks such as the Hummer H1, Suburban, Silverado, and the Sierra.
Like 4L60, the 4L80 is also a 4-speed automatic longitudinal transmission with overdrive indicated by the prefix ‘4L’. And the number ‘80’ following 4L designates the transmission’s GVWR, which is 8000 lbs, as an upgrade of the TH400. The 4L80 sports a 0.70 overdrive which translates into a better mileage or superior fuel economy.
The 4L80 transmission continued to appear in nearly every GM medium-duty pick up till 2013, starting from 1991. So if you own an older GM medium pickup truck and looking to replace the transmission, then you’ll easily find a replacement. For instance, if you have a GM vehicle from the 60s, you can install a 4L80 (albeit with some alterations).
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Starting from 1991, GMC remodeled and improved the Turbo Hydramatic TH400 by making it electronically controlled and adding an overdrive. So strictly speaking, the GM 4L80E is a TH400 transmission but with extra overdrive gear. The 4L80E is considerably heavier and more prominent in comparison to TH400, and therefore you’ll need a driveshaft if you’re thinking of a replacement.
Like the 4L60 and 4L80 transmission models, the 4L80E is a 4-speed longitudinally-mounted automatic-shift transmission. The E in 4L80E denotes that the transmission comes with a powertrain control system instead of the mechanically-controlled TH400. The 4L80E can deal with a GVWR of 8000 lbs, indicated by figure 80.
The GM 4L80E features a casing made from die-cast aluminum and has an engine input torque of 440 ft. lbs. The robustness and versatility of 4L80E made the transmission eminently suitable for many GM vehicles and luxury vehicles. Luxury vehicle brands such as Bentley, Rolls Royce, and Jaguar came installed with this heavy-duty automatic transmission.
4L60 vs. 4L60E vs. 4L80 vs. 4L80E: Comparison Chart
4L60 vs. 4L60E
The GM transmissions 4L60 and 4L60E have many features that are common to both. For a start, both 4L60E and 4L60 look nearly the same outside. The huge harness plug attached atop the transmission pan was the only feature you could distinguish one from the other. The 4L60 and the 4L60E come with 4 gears and have identical gear ratios.
The transmissions have the same length, bolt pattern, and bell housing bolt pattern.
The most apparent difference between these two transmissions is how you control them. You contain the 4L60 using a throttle valve (TV) cable, whereas you control the 4L60E via your vehicle’s onboard computer module. Owing to this incompatibility, you won’t be able to swap out one with the other as easily you’d prefer to.
You’d need an aftermarket controller for replacing a 4L60 with a 4L60E. Moreover, you’ll require a bespoke bracket for adequately connecting with the 4l60’s TV cable. To say last but not least, you’ll need adapters for using a 4L60E in place of 4l60 due to their different shapes.
The 4L60E enjoys an edge over the 4L60 as the former is strong enough to cope with a vehicle’s GVWR of up to 8,600-lbs. The GM 4L60 can support up to 6,000lbs of GVWR. Though the 4L60E transmission costs less than the 4L60 replacing the latter with the former requires you to make extra investments. You’ll have to buy a transmission converter, custom bracket, and adapters for replacing a 4L60 with 4L60E.
4L80 vs. 4L80E
To set the record straight about 4L80, General Motors Company never produced any transmission labelled 4L80. GMC upgraded the TH400 transmission by adding an overdrive with electronic control and renamed it 4L80E in 1991. So the comparison between 4L80 and 4L80E is a contrast between TH400 and 4L80E.
The TH400 and 4L80E have the same die-cast aluminum frame and come with similar components.
The 4L80E is heavier than the TH400 by at least 50 pounds. Then again, the 4L80E has an overdrive gear, while the TH400 doesn’t have one. You can control the 4L80E transmission using a computerized shift table while you use a kick-down cable for controlling the TH400.
Then again, the 4L80E tends to be considerably longer than TH400.
So whether 4L80E is better than the TH400 or the other way depends on the type of engine fitted in your vehicle. If you wish to add an overdrive to your older GM vehicle, go for the 4L80E.
4L60 vs. 4L80
The 4L60 and 4L80 are both 4-speed automatic transmissions with longitudinally mounting gears, and these transmissions also look nearly identical.
The 4L60 features a 16-bolts pattern, whereas the 4L80 comes with a 17-bolt pattern. The 4L80 has a lower 1st gear ratio (2.48 against 4L60’s 3.06), enabling the transmission to boost speed quickly. Interestingly enough, the 4L60 is shorter than the 4L80-4L60, is 23.4” long and 4L80 is 24.37” long-yet. It weighs more.
The 4L60 weighs about 20 pounds more compared to the 4L80. The GM 4L80 transmission uses a DEXRON III (H) fluid, whereas the 4L60 uses the advanced DEXRON VI fluid.
The maximum torque handling capacity of 4L60 is lesser than 4L80, and the former’s GVWR is also less than the latter. From the above comparison, it’s clear that the 4L80 is superior to 4L60 and therefore costs more than the last.
Hence the 4L80 is more suited for engines having a higher horsepower rating.
4L60E vs. 4L80E
Regarding the similarities of 4L60E and 4L80E, both the transmissions look nearly the same based on the transmission year. Another significant similarity that matters a lot is that both can be controlled electronically or via the vehicle’s onboard computer system. And if you’re thinking about replacing 4L60E with 4L80E or vice versa, then remember that their bolt pattern transfer case is identical.
Both these transmissions come with the prefix ‘4L’, signifying that they’ve 4 gears and that the gears are positioned longitudinally. Now let us look closely at the differences that differentiate 4L60E from 4l80E.
The most conspicuous between these two automatic-shift transmissions is their respective weight and size. The 4L60E has a dry weight of 150 lbs and measures 23.5” long, whereas 4L80E weighs 236 lbs when dry. The 4L80E is also longer than 4L60E (by almost3 inches), measuring 26.4” in length.
Thanks to the 4L80E’s larger size, the transmission can deal with a torque of about 450nm̴ or greater. On the other hand, 4L60E can cope with a maximum torque of approximately 350nm. This difference in max torque has a telling influence on the performance and durability of your vehicle.
You should remember that difference in size can also affect their durability and performance. The max torque figures can vary significantly from one model to another so that the twisting capacities can differ accordingly. When considering the maximum torque, remember to consider the transmission’s condition.
You must consider the gear ratios of both these transmissions, especially if you’re thinking about swapping these. There is a noticeable difference in the 1st gear ratio of the 4L60E and 4L80E-3.059:1 and 2.48:1, respectively. A higher gear ratio implies quicker acceleration but reduced top speed and vice versa.
Since the 4L80E is more prominent in size than the 4L60E, the former tends to be more potent than the latter. Also, the 4L80E’s higher max torque makes it more suitable for racing and towing vehicles—no wonder the 4L80E transmission costs more than the 4L60E.
It’s evident from the above description that the 4L80E is a more performance-driven transmission compared to 4L60E. So you’ll choose 4L80E if you use your vehicle primarily for towing or racing and 4L60E for regular driving.
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- You’ll experience difficulty in shifting from one gear to another, particularly the reverse gear
- Screeching, grinding, or whining metallic noises when changing gears
- Burning smell or odor
- Sudden switching-on of ‘Check Engine Light)
- You might struggle to accelerate
The above problems could often happen due to the transmission fluid-owing to its low level of leakage. Sometimes the issue could be traced to a mechanical problem within the transmission.
- You’ll need to let off the gas for enabling the 1st to 2nd gear shift to occur at Wide Open Throttle (WOT)
- Transmission fluid leakage in the reverse application circuit
- Broken subshell
- Lo-reverse clutches depleted
- Abnormal or delayed 1-2 shift
- Abrupt grinding noise in 2nd gear without any warning in advance
The GM 4L80 transmission, which descended from the TH400- a workhorse of a transmission-shared most of the latter’s problems. For instance, when you’re revving up the engine, you’ll experience a sudden shift and reduced efficiency. The decrease in efficiency while trying to rev the engine higher occurs because the kick-down switch stops functioning.
Another problem that you may have to put up with is the seepage of the automatic transmission fluid into the radiator hose. Improper fixing of the gasket on the radiator hose could lead to transmission fluid leakage.
- Transmission fluid leak resulting from eroded rubber seal, o-ring or gasket
- Cooling problem (especially if you have a 4L80E predating 1997)
- Clutches slipping owing to poor lubrication
- Problems with shifting gears
Which is the best of 4?
Of all the transmissions reviewed above, the 4L80E transmission was launched by GMC later than 4L60, 4L60E, and 4L80. Hence it featured state-of-the-art features and upgrades, rendering it suitable for use in latter-day heavy-duty trucks and vehicles. Easily the best amongst the GM transmissions evaluated above, the 4L80E features a versatile 4th overdrive gear as durable as TH400.
Who should use each of the transmissions?
The first amongst the automatic transmissions with overdrive designed by GM the 4L60, especially for RWD performance vehicles. GM made the 4L60 available for only three years (from 1990-1992) for its pickup line, like the Chevrolet Camaro, Pontiac Firebird, and some Corvette models. If you drive a lightweight vehicle, you can take advantage of this transmission by replacing the worn-out transmission with a remodeled 4L60.
The electronic version of its extensively famous forerunners 700R4 and 4L60 4L60E evolved hugely since its introduction in 1982. Starting from 1998, 4L60E came to be used widely in GM RWD car models and trucks of 2WD and 4WD configurations. If you drive an older Chevrolet SUV, car or pickup truck, you can replace the old 4L60E with a new one.
You can also adapt the 4L60E in a 4-wheel and two-wheel Chrysler jeep.
As an improved version of the TH400, the 4L80 tends to be a sturdy transmission guaranteeing reliable performance. The 4L80 transmission used in many GM vehicles and vehicles of other manufacturers is adaptable for use in modern-day engines.
The 4L80E found widespread applications across pickup trucks, SUVs, and heavyweight vehicles with robust, versatile, and performance-oriented automatic transmission. The 4L80E’s sturdy design and heavy load handling capacity make it suitable for custom builds.