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Breaking down today’s complex transmissions in design and repair

Sunday, July 30, 2017 - 06:00
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CHICAGO — I must admit, I’m not a transmission guy. Oh, I understand the basics of how they function and everything but to tear down a modern transmission using 8, 9, even 10 speeds and have it work right? No thank you!

What about the CVT (Constant Variable Transmission)? There are plenty of them in use today, and the essentials don’t seem that hard to grasp. With time on my hands and the experts right here in the building, I had to sit in on the session being presented by Wayne Colonna and Peter Luban, president and technical supervisor respectively, of ATSG (Automatic Transmission Service Group). At the very least, listening to two of the top transmission guys in the country share their extensive knowledge of both designs could only help me in my own troubleshooting when faced with an issue that could be trans or engine related.

Entering the room, I could see that other attendees felt as I did. It’s not often that a training event catering to the general mechanical repair community would attract a specific class like those being presented by Colonna and Luban. I arrived just in time to catch Colonna’s presentation.

Colonna’s topic, “The 0AW Multitronic DSG Transmission,” was an intensive look into this specific design, used by Audi. Colonna covered, in depth, the mechanical subsystems and included a variety of examination and rebuilding tips along the way. In addition to the mechanical, Colonna also covered in equal detail, the electrical and hydraulic systems used in the design.

As Colonna moved through his presentation, responding to attendee comments and questions along the way, I couldn’t help but remember the variable clutch pulleys we had on our old Briggs and Stratton minibikes we rode as children so long ago. To see this same idea incorporated into an automotive application was interesting to say the least! And I have to admit that following the hydraulic circuits he outlined was almost as challenging for me as learning how to read a wiring schematic. It seems, on the surface, such a simple concept but the actual complexities involved made it clear that it didn’t take much to muck up the works!

After the class, I had to let Wayne know that I never fully understood how complex today’s transmissions had become. Colonna shared, “There is very little information about these

transmissions,” pointing out that filling in the technical blanks for technicians around the world was his main focus with ATSG. Colonna fills auditoriums as far away as Australia, and authors technical articles, technical service bulletins, even complete repair and diagnostic manuals for a variety of designs. Information, Colonna told me, is not otherwise available even from the OEM. Presenting at forums like NACE Automechanika, he also shared, is not the “norm” for him or his team, but appreciated the interaction his attendees provided.

Many of the technicians in the room will likely never open the cases on an Audi CVT, or any other CVT for that matter, but nearly everyone walked out with a better understanding of how the design works and what flaws may occur that could mimic a fault in a different system. And as Colonna promised in an earlier interview, “The handout alone was worth attending for.” I know I’ll be keeping mine for future reference!

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