- Author: Frank Kuperman
In today’s global economy, manufacturers of all types of goods are looking into joint ventures with other global partners. In the past the transmission industry has had dealings in this global marketplace. Ford and GM have been using and continue to use ZF Industries to provide medium-duty manual transmissions for its pickup trucks. ZF automatic transmissions are now finding their way into a growing number of non-German vehicles.
Another transmission manufacturer, JATCO, has now stepped full bore into this global marketplace. JATCO stands for Japanese Automatic Transmission Co. This company has been around for decades but was predominantly a supplier for Japanese manufacturers, as its name would suggest.
JATCO’s newest transmission, code named the JF506E, is used in a diverse range of vehicles. This compact five-speed automatic with lockup converter is available in FWD and AWD versions. The VW Jetta and Golf are using it, and Jaguar has been using an AWD version in its X-Type Sedan. Land Rover has introduced it in its Freelander SUV. Mazda is installing the JF506E in the new Mazda 6 and MPV.
If you have not seen a vehicle equipped with a JF506E, you should be seeing them rolling into your shops sometime in the near future. Although all these vehicles are using the JF506E, the different versions do not look alike, and many of the parts do not interchange from one JF506E to another.
Our experience with these transmissions has shown that there is a high rate of failure of the direct clutches and sometimes the high-clutch drum. The piston that applies these clutches has proved to be the weak link. Time and time again we are seeing these units with the high clutches completely burnt. The only other common failures that we are seeing lie in the internal wiring harness. We have had a few units come in with speed-sensor issues. The only cure that we have for these failures is to find a good used replacement harness, as they are not available from the respective dealers. The internal portion of the harness is the same on all these models.
The accompanying chart shows the vehicles that use the JF506E. The photos of the bell housings clearly show the differences between each manufacturer’s version of the JF506E.
Frank Kuperman is president of Phoenix Remanufactured Transmissions.