VS2-8 Transmission O/D Repair – Day 1

Today’s summary of findings. Carnage.

 

I decided to spend this Easter Sunday removing the limited operation damaged VS2-8 from The Ghost to investigate the issue behind loosing overdrive (see earlier posts). The bus still ran and drove, but didn’t shift into that awesome gear when fuel MPG surpasses 10 and the engine purrs rather than screams. Below is what I found.

Here is a simple shot of the transmission removed, studs still doing their job just as I installed them some 8-9 months ago.

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Here is the first thing I found after removing the transmission. That is mostly steel, some brass.

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After spending some time removing the planetary (pictures below) and other associated clutch components, I was finally down to the input shaft (which carries lubrication). It is scored, but not terribly. Not sure if a series of loose bushings is to blame for bad lubrication…but something failed. Big time. The three holes are where the lubrication oil comes out to keep things happy. The hollow cylinder in the center of the gear is the piston itself that engages O/D or direct drive.

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Now for the juicy photos. This is the planetary that I removed from the transmission that we drove (post failure) from Kalamath Falls, OR; to Gerlach, NV; and back home to Portland, OR. The planetary gears (three) are unrecognizable and one has been torn open and flattened out. One other was significantly damaged in a similar fashion, and the third was so hogged out internally that it flopped on it shaft pin. Also a bushing was smoked off.

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Here is an example of what the gear should look like, next to the most impressively damaged one. Excuse the styrofoam peanuts in the example gear.

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Here is a photo of the associated sun gear (center of the planetary setup for overdrive). As you can see, it received some significant TORQUE at one point in it’s operation. Significant failure here, those teeth are supposed to be straight, not sloped.

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FORTUNATELY, these parts appear unharmed (seals coming in the mail to further inspect any issues inside here. This is mainly a large cast piece (fixed) and internally the piston setup for the O/D clutch pack. I never doubted this was working (and judging by the internal hogging of those planetary gears, I’d say that sun gear was doing just fine tearing up a clear path for it to spin or stop as it desired.

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The basic summary here is that SOMETHING caused the planetary/sun gear setup to take itself out. We suspect inadequate lube oil or poor lube quality. This could be caused by a myriad of issues, but highest on my list so far is an overfull condition causing frothing of the oil, which caused shear issues within this housing.

It appears no metal passed through the pump (as the rest of the transmission kept working) and the exceptional number and size of filters on this transmission kept us going down the road without taking the rest of it out. I definitely need to drop the pan and inspect for any and all metal gear chunks that made their way down there. Also on the list is to figure out if actual lack of lubrication was the culprit and if so, how to modify that shaft/pinhole setup to aid in proper lubrication so this won’t happen again.

A very awesome fellow (Bill from Canada) graciously sent me some (if not all) of the hard iron parts that I need to fix this situation. That saves me having to purchase a $500-1000 transmission just to steal the O/D setup off of. These parts, with some new wear components (seals/bushings) should have me off and running again in no time. I intend to remove the end housing off the engine (which involves removing the air compressor, starter, generator, oil pan, and some other tidbits) so that I can check to see where the timing is set. Other than the front cover area (which is much less complicated), I have had this entire engine basically apart after this adventure.. At least the oil leaks are starting to disappear.

Feel free to comment on the carnage photos. I also have a time-lapse of some of the removal process from my Go-Pro that I need to format into video form. Mostly just downloading brain knowledge here while it is fresh.

Later!

Transmission Diagnostic Videos

Took some vroom-vroom videos of The Ghost with gauges attached at various ports around the transmission. I am attempting to repair the overdrive with as little as effort as possible (the worst being having to take the transmission back out of the coach).

For background, The Ghost has a ‘3-speed’ automatic transmission. This transmission, an Allison VS2-8, was originally fitted to a 8V71 (the ‘8’ in the model name). I chose this transmission because unlike it’s predecessor (the Allison VH), it has an additional gear: overdrive.

The transmission starts off in ‘hydraulic’ mode (sitting at the light idling, reversing, etc.). This mode takes engine output and passes it through a VERY large torque converter (fluid coupling that multiplies torque to help get things going). Once the coach reaches a certain speed (determined by the pressure output by the governor) the transmission shifts into ‘direct drive’ by closing a clutch around the torque converter (thus taking it out of the picture). The next step, if speed and power allow, is to drop into ‘3rd gear’, where a planetary gearset drives the input of the 1:1 direct drive system over engine speed, overdrive. This allows the engine to run at a good RPM for fuel economy and torque as well as allowing the coach to travel at speeds it had never seen previously (65MPH+)

Some might ask, why all the hassle of a automatic transmission when most all automotive gurus prefer manual? The answer is simple…torque. As an example, imagine the first time you start off on a hill with a manual transmission powered car. Sometimes some clutch slipping, fair bit of engine RPM (especially if under-powered or overweight). Now multiply those issues by x10 as The Ghost is not only under-powered, it is quite heavy. There are a very limited number of manual gearboxes available for coaches of this type (V-drive, reverse rotation) and that means custom gearing can be a hassle. The torque converter action allows the bus to ‘get rolling’ by making a VERY large amount of torque without risk of stalling the engine. The downside is this generates a lot of heat, can be bad in the hills, and doesn’t give the driver a LOT of control over the shift points for climbing or descending hills. Trade offs that were considered.

The Ghost originally came with a VH transmission (hydraulic and direct drive only) which was fine for 55MPH cruising, but didn’t offer much in regards to fuel economy, comfort, or longevity. The VS2-8 was fitted in the summer of 2011 before NWMF and Burning-Man and worked like a champion. After some hassles, and finally a loud bang, overdrive disappeared and hasn’t been seen since. Since all these bits are internal to the transmission, a possible removal for diagnosis is looming.

What we see below is me testing pressures to determine if the valves, pressures, and external operation of the transmission is performing as expected. It would be pretty un-enjoyable to tear into the transmission (no small feat) only to find that the issue was something that could have been externally dealt with.

For notes, The Ghost is sitting on cribbing under both sides of the rear axle as well as resting on the chassis stands that were fitted by a previous owner. This made the coach very stable and safe to operate at 55MPH+ with the wheels a mere 1-2″ off the ground.

Enjoy.

Main Pressure Test – Youtube (pressure from which all others are derived)

Converter Pressure Test – Youtube (pressure on torque converter system)

Governor Pressure Test – Youtube (pressure that varies w/ vehicle speed to shift transmission)

Fuel Pressure Test – Youtube (fuel pressure into the fuel rail)

 

The summary is that Main Pressure is indicating two attempted shifts (Hydraulic to Direct, and Direct to O/D), which is good. The Converter Pressure test was mainly to give myself peace of mind that the converter pressure circuit is operating properly. The governor pressure test shows that pressure increases from 0PSI to main pressure (about 80-82psi at high speed) across it’s speed range (0-60MPH+). The Fuel Pressure test shows fuel pressure remaining stable even at high speed (although load low, so injectors not calling for a lot of fuel). I’ve had some fuel restriction issues in the past so just worth checking in. Nothing bad to write home about (both good and bad). I need to confirm one last test (a gauge connected to a service port on the O/D Valve) and if that passes, then off comes the transmission after collecting some gaskets, fluid, and spare parts.

The current thought is that either the planetary gearset for O/D just committed suicide and is locked into some strange mode of direct drive only. Another thought I have recently had is that something has happened to the spring/piston setup that activates the clutches.

We shall see.
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Ghost Fuel System Upgrades

Update on The Ghost fuel system!

 

I’ve been fighting an issue on the fuel system (which is freshly tuned up before the big trips last year). The symptoms were hard starting and loping cold idle after sitting for >1 week. If removing the return line from the head, you could hear fuel siphoning back to the tank via the supply like. Since there is a check valve installed in this line, I knew it was suspect. Below is what I found:

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A pine needle had placed itself right across the flapper of the check valve, thus holding it open and causing fuel to flow backwards to the tank, draining the head and some fuel out of the filters.

I have since replaced this check valve with the newer check valve (spring/tapered potion) off of a 90 series Detroit I scored off ebay for $25 w/ some other spare parts. I also included (temporarily) a full flow chatter pump w/ internal check valve & bypass. This will help w/ priming the fuel system if the filters are changed or if sitting for an extended period of time. It is powered from 12V and would be on a timer or switch as it would normally not be needed (the engine has a gear driven fuel pump that uses engine rotation).

The goal here is to aide in cold starts and also diagnose any fuel starvation issues if they present themselves. I am also working on including senders on the primary filter housing to display vacuum across the filter. The main filter is pressure so a restriction there usually shows as a low main fuel pressure at high RPM.

More later!

Delco Remy Horn Update

So earlier I mentioned that I pulled the stock Delco Remy 12V horn off the coach and prepared it for repair. Turns out that the only issue (other than looking rough) was that the internal point-gap was dirty.

Cleaned this with a piece of paper and all is well and working again. No adjustment needed.

The goal is to sand-blast it (plugging the outlet) and either clear coating or painting to protect. Should help improve the sound too.

 

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Until next time,