The TCI Automotive EZ-TCU is just that, an easy transmission control unit that enables any street rodder to install and operate an electronically controlled overdrive transmission such as the 4L60E. No computer skills required and detailed instructions make it a snap to install.
Finding a 4L60E transmission...
Finding a 4L60E transmission is pretty simple since, literally, millions of them have been manufactured. You can find a used one in virtually any GM product or you can order a fresh unit directly from TCI Automotive.
Remember when the “new” 700-R4 came on the scene? Well, the 700-R4 was introduced 30 years ago in 1982 and is still a solid choice for an overdrive transmission for carbureted cars. The GM 4L60E evolved from that transmission in 1997, yes, the 4L60E is 15 years old (don’t ask me how that happened so quickly) and while it is hardly new technology, the 4L60E through 4L80 transmissions are by far the best overdrive automatic transmissions on the planet. And after waiting 20 years, maybe it’s time for one in your hot rod.
The 4L60E nomenclature can be broken down like this, four-speeds, longitudinally positioned, 6,000 pounds gross vehicle weight (GVW), electronically controlled. While the 6 designates 6,000 pounds GVW, it should be noted the transmission is used in trucks weighing over 8,000 pounds, so this is one very tough tranny.
The 4L60E family of transmissions...
The 4L60E family of transmissions is easy to recognize with the removable bellhousing, square oil pan held in place with 16 bolts, and six-bolt tailshaft housing. The large circular plug is the main transmission case connector for the controller.
While the transmission is 20 years old, new technology to simplify and improve the controls of this electronically shifted transmission continues to come on the scene. Much like electronically controlled engines, swapping a 4L60E as well as the 4L70E, 4L80E, and 4L85E and the TCI Automotive 6x Six-Speed Transmission is now easier than ever. TCI Automotive introduced a controller for this family of transmissions. It’s hard to beat the new TCI Automotive EZ-TCU.
No computer experience is required, simply wire the car as per the directions, plug in the included handheld device, and begin reading and answering the simple Setup Wizard questions as they appear on the screen. The EZ-TCU does all the work for you; if you can read this story (or know someone who can) you can install this controller. The initial setup will work for most street rodders, but should you want to dial in a performance mode setting for running the local autocross or dragstrip, which can be done in similar fashion. Simply scroll through the advanced settings and pick shift points by rpm, shift firmness, and shift speed. You can take these settings all the way to the extreme of making your 4L60E a full manual shift transmission, controlled by paddles on a steering wheel or with one of the TCI Automotive bump-up, bump-down shifters. Bear in mind if you go to full-manual shifting there’s no shift point, so not over-revving the engine becomes your responsibility. It’s strongly recommended that some type of rev-limiter be installed on the motor to prevent unwanted damage. Once you have designed your performance mode it can be saved for future use. This enables you to drive to an event in a comfortable, economical mode and then, with the push of a button, convert the transmission to your performance setting. Plus, the hand-held controller doubles as a code reader for the transmission so should there be a problem with the transmission the handheld device can read the codes for you. Pretty cool stuff.
If you are running a vintage...
If you are running a vintage small-block with carburetion the 700-R4 is a solid choice for an overdrive transmission. This tranny is not electronically shifted and so no throttle position sensor is required.
The 4L60E family of transmissions is easy to find in any wrecking yard or you can order a completely rebuilt unit from companies like TCI Automotive. The bellhousing flange will permit this transmission to bolt up to virtually any small-block, big-block, and even the Chevrolet V-6. There is a big difference between a 4L60E from a 2.8-liter and one from the more desired 5.7-liter or an LS1. Be certain you are purchasing a V-8 transmission for your street rod. If you plan on using this transmission with a carbureted engine you must install a throttle position sensor, and frankly the 700-R4 is probably a more cost-effective way of providing an overdrive transmission for the early carbureted motors.
With this new simple controller available there is more reason than ever to convert to a modern transmission. If this simplified controller isn’t enough to have you looking for an overdrive transmission, the $4 per gallon gas should provide additional incentive.
This tailshaft comparison...
This tailshaft comparison shows the 700-R4 on the left with a four-bolt tailshaft, while the 4L60E on the right has a six-bolt tailshaft.
Visually the 4L60E (and 4L65E,...
Visually the 4L60E (and 4L65E, 70E, 80E, and 85E) are recognizable by the three-piece casing, bellhousing, main body, and tailshaft. The ribbed bellhousing is a quick reference point too.
The speed sensor is located...
The speed sensor is located on the passenger side of the tailshaft and feed vital information to the controller. It sounds technical, but all you have to do is follow the directions and plug the speed sensor into the supplied wiring harness.
With the 4L60E bolted to your...
With the 4L60E bolted to your GM motor all that is left is making the wiring connections. Sources like TCI Automotive will help you make the right torque converter selection.
A new urethane transmission...
A new urethane transmission mount from TCI will insulate us from any unwanted vibration, yet hold the transmission firmly in place at the same time.
Following the detailed instructions...
Following the detailed instructions the installation is easy. Feeding the wires inside the cabin and mounting the TCI Automotive EZ-TCU under the dashboard keeps things cool, dry, and away from unwanted “electrical noise” from things like ignitions and alternators.
The 12-Step Program
We mounted the TCI Automotive...
We mounted the TCI Automotive EZ-TCU on the passenger sidekick panel, and then plugged it into the supplied harness. If you mount the module in place where it could possibly be wet it is best to mount with the plug facing down to prevent water from migrating into the unit.
Yes, you can install an overdrive transmission in your street rod, and it is a relatively simple process if you take it one step at a time. After locating a good or rebuilt transmission, here are the 12 basic steps toward your new transmission. Of course some things may vary a bit from one car to the next, but this is a general outline of the installation process as outlined by our friends at TCI Automotive. When you receive your EZ-TCU it will come with much more detailed instructions.
1. Connect the trans and output shaft speed connectors from the wiring harness to the transmission. Route the rest of the harness into the engine compartment.
2. Determine the appropriate method for getting an rpm signal into the TCU. Install the rpm module if needed. Connect the wiring harness to the rpm signal source.
3. Connect the wiring harness to a TPS signal source.
4. If a mechanical speedometer will be used, install the optional TCI Automotive SCU and connect the wiring harness to it.
Before we can test the transmission...
Before we can test the transmission we filled it with TCI Automotive Max Shift full synthetic transmission fluid. Lower running temperatures, better shifts, and no foaming are just some of the benefits from the TCI Automotive fluid. This is a nice upgrade to any existing tranny too.
5. Find a suitable location and mount the TCU. Make sure the wiring harness will reach the mounting location.
6. Connect the Battery POS and Battery NEG wires directly to the battery. These must be run independently to the battery. Do not splice other power or ground wires into these wires. Extend the wires if necessary to reach the battery. Use automotive grade 16-gauge (or larger) wire.
7. Connect the 12V switched wire to a switched ignition source (hot in on/run and crank). Do not connect to the positive side of an ignition coil.
8. If manual shifting will be used, route the manual shifting connector into the cockpit and wire in an enable switch and a pair of buttons for upshift and downshift.
9. To use the Forced TCC Lockup feature, route the TCC apply wire into the cockpit and connect it to a switch or button.
10. To access performance mode, route the economy/performance wire into the cockpit and connect it to a switch.
11. If an electronic speedometer will be used, route the speedometer output wire into the cockpit and connect it to the speedometer.
12. Connect the wiring harness to the TCU.
We’ll tidy up the wiring harness...
We’ll tidy up the wiring harness after everything is up and running, but since the harness has all the plugs installed this is really a matter of supply power and very good grounds, the rest is truly plug-and-play.
4L60E ID Guide
Late 4L60E 1997-2006: The most notable difference between the 4L60E and the 700-R4 and early 4L60 is the six-bolt tail housing pattern on the new transmission and the two-piece bellhousing.
The handheld unit is included...
The handheld unit is included in the kit and after turning the power on you simply answer a series of simple questions and you are ready to drive. You can also program a performance mode and switch from street to performance with the push of a button.
Speaking of plug-and-play,...
Speaking of plug-and-play, we made the connection to the electric speedometer under the dash too. We’re getting close to turning on the power.
TCI Automotive has recently...
TCI Automotive has recently installed another new dyno in their facility for testing their transmissions. TCI Automotive is a complete state-of-the art transmission facility that can supply everything from a transmission fluid to a complete tranny, including their six-speed overdrive.