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BD Performance Plus 48RE Install and Review

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   Well as usual I will start my post off with my own personal warning label.  This is not a 100% how to guide and I am not an ASE certified mechanic, paid Cummins mechanic or career Dodge Ram dealership mechanic. I am not an employee or a trained installer for BD Diesel Performance.  I'm just a typical DIY gear head. That being said on with the show...

 

  Okay, anyone that has owned a Dodge vehicle with a factory automatic has had plenty of people kick dirt on them about the dependability of the transmission. It has become a industry joke of sorts. Unfortunately a lot of that is based off of hearsay and transmissions that didn't stand a chance with the power levels the vehicle was putting out.  Personally I have plenty of friends with Allison based transmissions visit the transmission shop more times than I have ever been, same for my 5R110 friends at camp Ford. Face it, all automatics will fail if the conditions are right. I don't hate any of them. I know the 48RE had a few internal pressure issues that lead to premature parts wear. That hardly makes the transmission a bad one. Plus I give credit to Chrysler for building their own transmission and not having it done by someone else.

 

   I personally went through the standard 48RE run down of issues so I can attest to what it cost to fix them and keep them rolling. Not really that big of a deal and really most of it is a real DIY type of thing (if you are doing preventive maintenance and not failure repairs that is).

 

   Well my 2006 Ram 3500 5.9 Cummins powered was equipped with the 48RE. At around 60-70K it started having the indecisive shift problem. So first attempt at a fix was a BD pressure controller.

 

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   Price, 335$. Results? Made the problem worse lol. Took a shot that it was line pressure, well it was line pressure but not lack of it. I had lack of controlling it.

 

   Second attempt. BD Transmission Governor Solenoid (105$) 

 

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and BD Transmission Transducer (127$).

 

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   Results? Shifted like new again.

 

   While this was a fix, my transmission had already seen enough abuse with performance mods and truck modifications. This fix would last me a year or so and another 10-15k miles. Well shifting issues would return but a bit different. Not wanting to come out of first unless you throttled way down. Third attempt at a fix was the following:

 

GM Governor Solenoid Pressure Block Conversion Kit. Price 171$

 

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BD Pressure Transducer Upgrade. Cost 200$ with the harness adapter.

 

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   Results?? No dice. I was hoping it was one of these and denying the reality that something had gone wrong internally. Turns out my bands where pretty well toasted casing the drum to not stop and allow the shift to happen.. It happens but the moral of the story is still, no broken parts just early wear out if you will. My truck had already been equipped with some hot EFI Live tunes so something was bound to give. Good enough though because I was planning major power upgrades and they alone would break a new transmission so a rebuild was in order with upgrades as well.

 

   So what to do.. Drop it off at a local shop for a rebuild, or buy a built transmission and install it, or rebuild it myself?? The idea of rebuilding it myself seemed great. However I can't lie, I don't have the tools and equipment to do it nor do I have the knowledge to identify issues that need attention. So for now this way was out even though I really want to do it someday. Well the first couple of local shops I visited must have thought I was born last night. The prices were all over the board and yet they didn't have the equipment in the shop to test the work they said they were going to do. So how can you charge me what the high end shops are going to do if you can't complete the job on the same level?? They didn't have an answer either.. Well a couple of the local shops had the right setup and the right price, they just didn't have the parts I wanted in my transmission. They would install them if I brought them but no guarantees. Understood I guess.

 

  Well after pricing the parts out individually to have them delivered and installed at a local shop was a little cheaper but maybe not the best thing for my build. So I leaned towards a commercially built unit with the right parts. With the money saved in removing the transmission and installing it myself I could pay for a few more upgrades along the way.

 

 So in the end I settled on buying the new BD Performance Plus 48RE transmission. It is a fully rebuilt and tested transmission with a list of upgraded parts. For starters and most notable is the new billet steel front input shaft. This is a common weak point for the 48RE when input power is increased greatly. Second was a redesigned BD valve body. Without going into detail, it controls the fluid in the transmission allowing it to shift, apply pressure to the clutches etc. It's pretty much the only reason an auto works at all. Stock works for stock, but if you are wanting more clutch apply pressure and different shift abilities this part must be addressed. Especially if you are increasing power. More power means more clutch pressure is needed to hold it all. Bigger clutches are also added with more material. Also all the factory thrust washers are replace with roller Torrington bearings Why?? because they are better lol. BD deep sump transmission pan and remote mount filter are also included in the purchase price. So really in the end its 50/50 on price compared to local.

 

BD Performance Plus Transmission. Price, 4,273$ (plus 500$ round trip shipping and a 2000$ core charge, trust me I sent the old one back lol)

 

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   Well the question most people have now is can you rebuild your stocker for the same price?? Maybe, maybe not. The input shaft alone is 1000$, the redesigned valve body is another 700, the clutches are another 700$, the new deep sump pan is another 300$, the remote mount filter is 260$. That's already 3000$ and that doesn't cover internal upgrades like the bearings and the new pressure solenoids/governors. Remember your local shop will reuse a lot of your old parts during a rebuild. Most wont even open your valve body up or test it. At best they will check your case for cracks and extra wear on other items. The new BD transmission covers labor, a newly painted case and a 3 year 150,000 mile warranty. For the difference of buying the parts and having a shop do it, my money was on BD.

 

  Now to be fair there are a lot of local shops that will do you an awesome job and it will be right, but you better confirm that before they start. Research them and check out reviews. Ask to speak to people who had a similar build done. I support the guys who do this and take nothing from them. It's truly a skilled craft. Face it, BD is a local shop for someone, same for Suncoast, Firepunk etc.

 

Now to spend the money I saved on labor by removing my own transmission...

 

 First up BD Triple Disk Billet torque converter with enhanced stall. Price 1450$ (with a 500$ core charge, shipped back for free with the old transmission.. win..) This is all but a requirement when going with the transmission I did and the power levels I'm after

 

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Second, BD Billet Flex plate. Price 425$. This also is all but a requirement.

 

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Third was a BD Double Stacked Extruded Transmission cooler. Price 606$ with accessories. 1/2 lines to match the transmission. Not required but a wise investment for any transmission. Heat kills more transmissions than horsepower does. It's a fact..

 

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   So that's 2600$ in extras to match up the correct parts for my build and ensure my transmission withstands the abuse and use I have planned for it. That's 7250$ in all with shipping (minus the core charge, you get that back, actually they waive it if you can get the transmission back in 30 days). Now do you need this level in your truck?? Maybe, maybe not. I would like to add that I purchased all of these items during the end of year sale and saved from 10-20% on each part, never hurts to be thrifty and it saved around 1000$ across the board plus they make better deals for buying other somethings at the same time. So my end bill was around 6200$.

 

 Well to my surprise the shipping was really quick from BD. It took about 6 business days to get the new transmission and parts to my shop. I figured it would take a few weeks but maybe they have a few of these ready to roll. Either way I was happy.

 

Removal.. It's a transmission, just like the rest of them except this thing is like 350#.. bring a friend or 2 haha. I won't bore you with details. Chock the wheels, disconnect the batteries, drop the drive shaft (both front and rear if 4x4), remove linkages and wiring harnesses, drain fluids in transmission and transfer case, remove transfer case, support transmission on jack or whatever lift you are using. The hardest bolts to deal with are the ones in the torque converter. You will need the Cummins engine barring tool to manually turn the engine over so you can access each torque converter bolt through the access panel. Passenger side of the engine rear adapter is an access port to remove them from. 6 in total to remove. After that remove transmission bolts and cooling lines and dipstick. . Then transmission mounts and remove transmission "Carefully"..

 

 Now you will need a few parts off of your old transmission. First is the transmission cooler line fittings on the case. 2 of them. Remove them from your transmission and put them on the new one. Be careful you can crack the case installing these. BD transmission is equipped with a case saver adapter so you don't do this, but another brand might not. Second you will need the TTVA off of your transmission and the linkage brackets The TTVA is the electronic kick down unit. Plus the mount itself that attaches the transmission to the cross member.

 

At this point (if you got the required new converter) fill the converter with the recommended type and amount of fluid. Install it plus the TTVA and other brackets onto the transmission while it is still easy to access. Converter install is also a point of concern, follow the directions and get it properly seated or pay the price of instant failure and no warranty... It's really easy don't freak out, the converter is heavy so be careful.

 

If you got a new flex plate now is the time to remove the old one, check your rear main seal, and install the new flex plate. I recommend new hardware for the flex plate and torque converter. Cheap insurance.. trust me..

 

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 After all the prep is done load the new transmission on your form of a lift and reverse the removal process. Take care and go slow. Be extra careful with that converter hanging off the front, it will try its hardest to pop off and make your whole transmission tip over. This thing will try to hurt you. After everything is in and you double checked all your torque specs for bolts, twice, then you can add some fluids (after all the coolant lines are hooked up that is and the dipstick with new seal is installed). With the new pan, extra filter and cooler this setup held around 20 quarts including the new torque converter prefill.

 

NOTE:  When hooking the TTVA back up to the vehicle for the first time you must let this thing calibrate itself the first time you turn the key on. It's very simple after you have everything ready for the initial start up. Simply turn the key to the full on position (don't start it), wait 30 seconds, Turn it off and then next time you can start and go. Failure to do so will cause it to not shift or not down shift when it's supposed to. Really it's simple but just don't forget to do it. This is also a good time to add all new seals to your transfer case input/outputs. Cheap and easy..

 

 This next portion is my experience and take what you want from it. BD requires a full flush of the existing lines and factory cooler to eliminate any contaminants going into the new transmission. Face it if you are replacing the transmission it's for a reason, don't want any of those nasty's in the new transmission.. This can be achieved with some form of manual pump. I used a fluid extractor but filled it up with new fluid and pumped it through the lines. I know this is not the way a real shop should do it, but it's better than not doing it. They use a heated flush system that's pretty cool. You could just replace the factory lines and filter at this point to be safe. There is a huge warning about using any other type of solution to flush the lines with. Anything other than the recommended transmission fluid can be harmful to the clutches in the transmission should any residue be left in the lines or cooler. Don't use hot soapy water.. buy some cheap AT4+ and use it. Plus with the addition of the external filter, my method should be fine.

 

   This leads me to what I believe was a problem in my factory transmission cooler. Built into the factory cooler is a thermostat with a bypass around the main cooling core of the cooler. This thermostat is in the open position when cool fluid is present allowing it to bypass the cooler. Once the transmission is up to a said temperature this thermostat opens and blocks off the bypass forcing the coolant through the cooler main body. The theory is a cold transmission is just as bad as a hot one. Your transmission should be up to a proper operating temp before any heavy or hard use. I agree completely with this. However, I believe this design is not the best. My old setup would have my transmission reaching 180+ just driving down the highway and then once I came to a stop and go scenario it would get over 220, fast. I now have questions to whether or not this thermostat was functioning properly. This is not a serviceable part and the only thing you can do is buy a new transmission cooler from Dodge and replace the whole unit. With no real way to test it or even confirm a new one would work I decided to eliminate its function.

 

  I do NOT recommend this for whoever is reading this. I recommend you check yours out, but removing it from the system requires special care and attention to the transmission temp. Should you do it I highly recommend a real temp gauge with a sensor placed into the transmission fluid itself. Its imperative that you allow the transmission to get to temp before you abuse it in any way. Proceed at your own risk...

 

   For my fix I simply heated up the bypass tube and then flattened it out to make a pinch. It's aluminum so it doesn't take much heat or force to do it. I have read a hundred different ways on the internet about removing the thermostat and replacing it with bolts and O rings. Many of those people had problems with it leaking. Personally I don't see the need to mess with it at all if the goal is to eliminate it. Just flatten out the bypass tube and this forces all the fluid to pass through the cooler instead of around it. My theory is I would rather deal with letting a transmission get to temp than not have a proper way to cool it down.

 

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  After I had the transmission installed I added my new BD external filter and new BD double stacked cooler. These items are very helpful when adding durability and longevity to your transmission. While I plan to add some big power to my truck I don't plan to abuse it every day or try to hurt it. I plan on getting many more miles out of my truck. The filter is great because it filters all the fluid before it returns to the pan and the factory filter. It is now right on the frame rail and can be changed with ease. The kit included all the necessary hardware to mount it and plumb it into the system.

 

 The dual extruded cooler is pretty sweet itself. It included 2 extruded coolers, double stacked with a fan system. It includes its own thermostat and switch for the fan. The thermostat is mounted to the incoming fluid at the cooler after it has left the factory cooler. This way it will only be used if the factory system should fail to keep up. Warning: This cooler (even though it's very nice) is not recommended as a true stand alone cooler for your truck, especially if you tow. It is recommended to be used in line with the factory setup. It includes everything for a complete install and adapters to tap into the factory cooler lines. pretty neat piece I might add.

 

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 So for the fluid route. Hot fluid leaves the transmission and flows through the factory cooler, then it goes back to my BD cooler and fan setup, it leaves there and travels through the external BD filter and then back to the transmission return port. With this setup I have yet to get over 140 degrees ha-ha. No towing yet and just street and highway cruising. My old setup was pushing 180-240 on the same days and trips. My transmission temp sensor is located in the new BD transmission pan. It comes pre tapped with a hole for this application. Not really for sure where the ideal temp sensor spot is. I figured the hot line going out would be best but I don't really have a way to tap that line yet. Maybe someone that managed to read this far could shed some light on the perfect spot for a sensor?? 

 

 Well onto drivability. This transmission setup is the cat's meow...after I followed the fill procedure and got the right amount of fluid in to start I hit the streets. It's not really possible to get it to operating temp sitting still but with it running and in neutral you can get a safe amount of fluid in it to go do some driving and get the temp up for a final fluid check. This thing is amazing. Every shift is smooth and firm. No missed shifts, no slouching between gears, no hard shifts like using a shift kit. I have never been so happy with a part I bolted onto any vehicle myself. It was such an improvement over my old slush box. I assume the same could be said about any of the big name transmissions or a transmission that was built by a good shop. I just have no experience in which to compare it to lol. I currently only have 1000 miles on it but every one of them has been with a smile ha ha.

 

 As for this being a DIY project?? Um I give it a 4.5 out of 10 on difficulty. Mainly because of its weight. I did this in my shop on a concrete floor with no truck lift. My truck is lifted itself so it makes some things easier and some things harder to deal with. The biggest tool you need is a really stable transmission jack/lift of sorts. The weirdest tool you need is a Cummins Engine Barring tool. (Pretty cheap and can be found on the internet). Trickiest hardware is the torque converter bolts. Most complicated bolts to get out is the top 2 bolts going between the transfer case and transmission. Fluid cost is at least 160$. ARP makes flex plate bolts and I recommend them. Only Cummins makes the torque converter bolts so be prepared to shop there for those if you go new. I had to wait 3 days to get mine. If you add the BD cooler you will need a tubing cutter to splice the factory lines. You need a way to flush your stock cooler and lines or maybe a shop you can take it to and let them do it. I took my time when I did this transmission install but it shouldn't really take much more than a day or so just to swap out a transmission (assuming you have the right tools and no unforeseen problems). There are some YouTube videos of guys doing it in just a few hours but I wouldn't take my truck to them...

 

 As for the end price?? Ya it's around 8000$ for the last transmission you will ever need in your truck and I think it's worth it. If you sled pull and drag race then this probably isn't the level of transmission you want, there are beefier ones but at a higher price of course. I'm happy with mine and that's all that matters to me. I'm sure you would find similar success with other builders.

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