So you want to install a 4L80E? Learn from my mistakes (and successes!)

V

vandyman

Not-quite-so-new-guy
Jul 16, 2017
29
8
I picked up a 4l80e, harness, and controller out of a 95 diesel van. The controller is marked as 16147609 (chip AXNA).
Now the Ecm/tcm is supposed to be a stand alone unit. I am just a little confused about the ecm/tcm, as to what I need hooked up.
And I am not sure if I can use the torque converter or not. I assume that the torque converter has a to low of a stall speed to be used.
Anyway I am going to put this in my 86 Monte after I figure out the control.

Any help, ideas is appreciated.

Vandyman

Sent from my Pixel 2 using Tapatalk
 
Last edited:
P

Pronto-

Apprentice
Dec 4, 2014
72
18
454GrandPrix

454GrandPrix

Master Mechanic
Jul 27, 2016
391
93
Lehi, Utah
Any word on the Winters Shifter install?
Yes, I finally purchased and installed my shifter back in August. This required a bit of work. On the inside, I had to make some custom steel brackets to attach the shifter and keep it level. Underneath, I had to re-engineer the cable attachment to the transmission in order for it to clear my header collector.



I had already cut a rectangular hole in my carpet for the junkyard shifter I was using, so I just made that hole a little longer until it fit over the shifter's console. Sorry, but I don't have a photo handy at the moment which shows the reassembled result.

After I fine-tuned the cable length adjustment, it works perfectly. You get positive shifts into every gear, and the zig zag pattern ensures you won't go past the gear you want. This is a solid unit and feels very substantial as you move through the gate. I'd recommend it to anyone.
 
MC96

MC96

Master Mechanic
Dec 7, 2015
384
63
I have a 4l80 and a winters shifter going in my car as well.

Plan on picking up one of these next month (I have a MCSS). and flush mounting it on top
1538149395363.png



And using the weld on floor plates to get mostly there or use them as a template for something to match my floor.
1538149660084.png
 
quicksabre

quicksabre

Not-quite-so-new-guy
Sep 30, 2016
5
3
Western OH
I used a CheetahSCS shifter with a custom gate plate for the additional gear. It fits within the stock console but I had to recess the shifter body into the floor slightly. Winters should be similar.
 
S

Shack

n00b
Mar 3, 2019
1
1
Safe to assume that crossmember can be used in an '87 El Camino as that's considered G-body? Great write up!
 
78BB-Pontiac

78BB-Pontiac

Apprentice
May 6, 2019
72
18
Consideration #6: gear shift setup

My car was originally a 3spd column shift automatic. I wanted a floor shifter, and I wanted it cheap. I went junkyarding and found a FWD Grand Prix with a floor-mounted 4spd shifter (meaning it had a detent for 1, 2, 3 & D). I grabbed it and bolted it to my floor. That car's shifter cable was plenty long enough to route forward through the firewall, then down to the transmission.



As you might guess, this shifter cable wasn't designed to operate this transmission. I was determined to make it work. The cable was determined to fight back. In the end, I used a small L-bracket to hold the cable to the bell housing so that the cable can operate the shift arm. Well, it sorta operates the shift arm. It shifts smoothly through P-R-N-D, but then the angle gets funny and it doesn't want to shift down into 3 or 2 or 1. This is all I need to operate the vehicle, so I've just lived with it... but it really bugs me. I'm probably going to have to bite the bullet and spend money on an aftermarket shifter eventually. You might want to do that up front.

But whichever shifter you decide to use, DON'T do what I did and wait to install it until after the transmission is in the car! I was worried about the cable length, so I waited to make sure it would let me mount the shifter where I wanted it. Eventually I drilled four holes in my transmission hump, then went to bolt in the shifter. The two rear bolts were not too difficult to install. The front left bolt was very tricky, and I needed a neighbor kid to help by attaching the nut from inside the car while I was lying underneath the car holding the bolt in place. The front right bolt was just plain impossible; there was so little space between the top of the trans and the tunnel that I could not figure out any way to maneuver the bolt into the hole from under the vehicle. Oh, well; three bolts will have to work. Be smarter than me--install your shifter while the trans is out of the car.

One other failure with my shifter setup is this: currently I am in no way interfacing with the neutral safety switch. This means I have no reverse lights. It means I can shift my car out of Park without having my foot on the brake. It also means I can start the engine while the transmission is in gear. That last fact will likely cause me problems when I visit a drag strip and try to pass their tech inspection, so I will need to address this shortcoming soon. (I am working on finding the NSS wiring diagram so I can craft solutions to this problem.) Just one more thing you should think about when contemplating this swap.

Consideration #7: transmission controller

In case you didn't know, the E in 4L80E stands for Electronic. That means this transmission requires some sort of computer to operate it (unless you convert it to a manual valve body, but I didn't want to go down that rabbit hole). Because my engine is carbureted, I needed some sort of standalone controller. You have a variety of controller options. After reading a comparison test in Car Craft magazine, I decided on the TCI EZ-TCU. I mounted the TCU on my inner fender:



This unit comes with very detailed instructions, and installation is very easy. They even give you a handheld controller for the initial setup (no laptop computer required!) and to make programming changes at any time. You don't need to leave the controller plugged in at all times, but I chose to do so in order to use its screen to monitor the trans fluid temperature. For the curious, there are two live data screens you can monitor; here is a picture of both of them:



I'm still not a compensated endorser, but I really like this controller. Setting it up is a snap; you just enter your trans type, R&P ratio, tire size, do a TPS calibration, then you twist the key and start driving. Out of the box, its stock programming suits my driving personality very well. You can customize to your heart's content, telling it to change how soon it locks up the converter, or to shift firmer (or softer), or how aggressively to hold gears before shifting, etc. For example: out of the box, the default programming does not let the converter lock up before 50 MPH. With my 3.08 axle ratio, I thought that was fine. After I re-geared to 3.55, I decided I wanted the ability to lock up a little sooner, so I changed that down to 45 MPH just by pressing a few buttons. Easy.

The EZ-TCU also offers numerous additional 'hardware' options, such as support for a normal/performance mode switch, support for paddle shifters, and more. It does everything I want it to do, and yet I feel I'm not even using half of its capabilities. I just don't think automatic transmission control gets any better than this.

Consideration #8: speedometer

Before doing my engine & trans swap, I had already installed an AutoMeter GPS speedometer in my car. However, it had some quirks that I didn't care for. After the swap, the speedometer suddenly began getting electrical interference and worked very erratically (when it worked at all). At that point, I swapped it out for a more traditional AutoMeter electric speedometer. The TCI EZ-TCU gives you a loose wire with a speed output signal, so all I had to do was connect that to the input wire on the new unit. Done.


Anyway, that's an overview of everything to consider when deciding to drop a 4L80E into your G-body. Did I miss anything? Do you need additional clarification about how I did something? Just let me know. OTOH, if you installed a 4L80E into your G-body and you want to explain how you did something differently, please post away and show us what you did. I'm sure we'd all love to see it. :)
Just the guy I’ve been looking for! Very good detailed write up I must say. I have a couple questions for you but first I’ll tell you a little bit about my car.
It’s a 78’ Grand Prix SJ I purchased about 2-1/2 months ago for $3600. It originally from Idaho and a very clean rust free car. It has I was told a 79’ 454 truck motor that seems to run well and doesn’t smoke at all. It has stock internals, Holley strip dominator high rise intake. New edelbrock 750 carb, new aluminum radiator and dual fan set up, 170• degree thermostat that seem to keep the motor real cool. It also came with a new billet distributor, new 200 amp chrome alternator, polished aluminum water pump. It has oversized front coils, oversized front sway bar and new rear coil springs. It also has a Summit electric fuel pump. I have since purchased a mandrel bent 2-1/2 dual exhaust kit and will reuse the new flomasters on the car now.

Now to the transmission, it has a 700R4 that I was going to have built to handle the 500hp I hope to achieve with some new aluminum heads and a bigger cam in motor.
A few people have told me not to use a 700R4 and yet others have said they can be built to handle the punishment? I just want a car that will be reliable when I do decide to waste a pair of back tires!
My questions are did you modify your 454 at all, if so what have you done?
Did you rebuild or build your 4L80E before installation, If so what did you have done?
Also, what headers will fit in a GP with a big block, I need a pair.
Lastly, I have read there are no direct fit 12 bolt rear ends from another vehicle that will fit the Pontiac GP suspension geometry.
If you have changed your car to a 12 bolt, how did you go about that?
Any info would be greatly appreciated and thank you!
 
454GrandPrix

454GrandPrix

Master Mechanic
Jul 27, 2016
391
93
Lehi, Utah
My questions are did you modify your 454 at all, if so what have you done?
Did you rebuild or build your 4L80E before installation, If so what did you have done?
Also, what headers will fit in a GP with a big block, I need a pair.
Lastly, I have read there are no direct fit 12 bolt rear ends from another vehicle that will fit the Pontiac GP suspension geometry.
If you have changed your car to a 12 bolt, how did you go about that?
Most of your questions are answered (often in great detail) in my build thread, which I'm sure you will enjoy reading. Short answers to whet your appetite:

#1: overbore, ZZ502 roller cam, RPM AirGap intake, with stock oval port heads (for now).
#2: It had 191,000 miles on it and I didn't touch it other than new fluid & filter--just bolted it in.
#3: explained in my thread.
#4: I'm running a Fox-body 8.8 rear end.

:)
 
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78BB-Pontiac

78BB-Pontiac

Apprentice
May 6, 2019
72
18
Sounds real good
Most of your questions are answered (often in great detail) in my build thread, which I'm sure you will enjoy reading. Short answers to whet your appetite:

#1: overbore, ZZ502 roller cam, RPM AirGap intake, with stock oval port heads (for now).
#2: It had 191,000 miles on it and I didn't touch it other than new fluid & filter--just bolted it in.
#3: explained in my thread.
#4: I'm running a Fox-body 8.8 rear end.

:)
Sounds like you have a good car there, much further along than mine.
One question I forgot. I read you changed yours to a floor console shift? Mine is a SJ model and came with buckets and Console shift.
Do you know of any problems mating a stock console shifter to a 4L80E, or perhaps any clearance issues?
I need to start a build thread for my car here for any suggestions! Trying to limit mistakes that end up costing more. It’s expensive enough building a custom car.
 
454GrandPrix

454GrandPrix

Master Mechanic
Jul 27, 2016
391
93
Lehi, Utah
I read you changed yours to a floor console shift?
Yep. I still have my column shift steering column; I simply removed the shift lever from it.

Do you know of any problems mating a stock console shifter to a 4L80E, or perhaps any clearance issues?
No idea. I'm just guessing here, but I would think you could remove the stock floor shifter and install the Winters in its place. Worst case, you might need to fabricate a custom plate for attaching the aftermarket shifter to the factory console... maybe?

I need to start a build thread for my car here
Yes, you do! Supplement it with plenty of photos. Others here will chime in with their comments and suggestions.
 
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