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Joeywhat 05-11-2014 12:40 PM

Ford Powershift/DCT Transmission Info & Use Guide (New Owners Look Here!)
I am writing this as a general knowledge and use guide regarding the Ford Powershift transmission, available in all North American (and other areas, of course) Focuses. For this guide I will only be focusing on what is available in North America as it is what I am familiar with. The purpose of this is to inform drivers of what they are buying, and to help with any driveability issues (jerkiness, etc.) related to the operation of this transmission. For this guide, I will not be considering the ST model at all, so any reference to the Focus is in reference to the other models (S - Titanium).

Jump straight to post #2 for my recommendations on driving with this transmission and reducing low speed jerkiness.

First I will explain why the Powershift is different then most other gearboxes. Here is a Wiki article on the powershift, for anyone looking for a bit more information on it:

To start, the North American Focus is available with two gearboxes, a 5 speed manual and 6 speed "automatic" (the Powershift). The 5 speed manual is a typical manual gearbox. The 6 speed automatic, however, is not a typical automatic transmission. If you bought a Focus in North America, and it was equipped with an automatic transmission, it has the Powershift dual clutch transmission. The powershift is what is called a "dual clutch transmission". It's called this use two clutches between it and the engine. For those unfamiliar with how transmission work, here is a very brief explanation of the differences between a manual and (normal) automatic, and how the Powershift is different then either:

- A manual transmission and automatic transmission are designed differently, and transmit power to the drive wheels in different ways. How each gearbox works is mostly irrelevant, but what is relevant is how each gearbox is connected to the engine. With a manual transmission, something called a clutch is used, which operates similar to a disc brake system. What this means is that when the clutch is pressed against the engine, the entire drivetrain (engine to drive wheels) is "locked up". Generally speaking no slipping of any parts happens during this, so any power generated by the engine is transmitted directly to the rest of the drivetrain.

- A "traditional" automatic uses something called a torque converter between the engine and transmission. This is a device filled with fluids, and simply put, several fans (turbines, really). The torque converter allows the engine to revolve without allowing that motion to be transferred to the transmission, and also allows for the engine speed and transmission input speed to be different, even while the vehicle is moving. What this means is that when you are are driving your vehicle, the transmission is not physically connected to the engine (the torque converter does "lock up" at higher speeds though, but that's irrelevant here). What this means is that any changes in engine speed are not directly applied to the transmission (and thus drive wheels), which allows for nice, smooth operation. Think of it like stirring a big pot of water with a spoon. When you first start stirring, the water doesn't really move much, but as you keep going it will start to spin with the spoon and speed up. That is what is happening here, so there is a buffer stopping any jolts from the engine being transmitted to the wheels.

That is important to know as it relates to how the vehicle operates at low speeds. Normal automatic transmissions are notoriously smooth at low speeds because of the torque converter. Manual transmissions often aren't because the clutch does not allow for such forgiveness, and smoothness is directly related to how good the driver is (and how they are able to slip the clutch to keep things smooth). How does this related to the Powershift transmission?:

The Ford Powershift transmission is, in design and general operation, a manual gearbox. It uses a clutch between the motor and transmission (two of them, actually...hence calling it a "dual clutch transmission"), and the transmission itself is designed internally much like a manual transmission. The differences are in that it has several computer controlled electronic servos (electric motors, basically) that do all the shifting and engaging/disengaging of the clutch. Why does this matter? It matters because it uses a clutch to connect it to the motor, which generally speaking means a bit more of a jerky ride, especially at low speeds (regardless of how good the computer is at operating it).

Why would Ford use such a transmission? Mostly because it offers improved gas mileage over traditional automatic transmissions. Because those transmissions use a torque converter, some of the energy produced by the engine is lost in the torque converter. Meanwhile, a transmission using a clutch transmits all of its power through the clutch so less power is lost overall. This means more power to the wheels, and better fuel economy.

Joeywhat 05-11-2014 12:40 PM

Part 2: how to drive your Powershift equipped Focus to reduce low speed jerkiness, and general poor driving. I am listing here a number of guidelines to help folks in getting a better experience out of their Powershift transmission. I owned a Powershift equipped Focus for three years, and was quite good at making it behave. Do realize that due to the nature of it's design, it will never be as smooth as an automatic. Also be aware that some transmissions do have issues, and these guidelines will not fix that.

- At low speeds, be very deliberate with the throttle and avoid being on and off it too much. Smooth, deliberate throttle motions will equate to smooth driving at any speed. What happens with erratic throttle input is that the gearbox is trying to do too many things at once. It may have just upshifted into a higher gear, but now you are giving it more throttle so it wants to downshift again, then if you lift off the throttle while it's doing that it's now in the middle of a shift and has to put you back into a gear and release the clutch at the appropriate RPM so it doesn't buck and jerk. What ultimately happens is that the computer cannot keep up with erratic throttle inputs. Plan ahead only give it throttle when you know you won't have to come off it right away.

- Realize that at low speeds, the clutch will always be engaged (that is, connecting the engine and transmission) until very low RPMs, generally around 1000 or so it will disengage. This means that when you release the throttle after just having accelerated, you are still in gear and are engine braking. The vehicle will generally try and upshift as much as possible to smooth this out, so it's not felt as much by the driver. Try to avoid changing speed too much at very low speeds (under 5-10 mph) as the transmission will generally not be able to keep up quickly enough, and it may get caught between shifts.

- In heavy traffic, don't let the car "creep" forward by just letting your foot off the brake too much. It's OK in small doses, but can overheat the clutch if you do it too much. The clutch overheating can cause a warning to appear, and can cause the gearbox to not operate correctly until it has cooled. Additionally, in heavy traffic like this try and keep a bit more distance between you and the vehicle in front, so you can accelerate steadily, which can help with clutch temperatures and will also be a bit smoother for you.

- If equipped, try using SelectShift to shift at lower speeds. This will keep the transmission locked in the gear of your choosing. I used this very often at low speeds as it keeps the gearbox from shifting too much. Do note that, as stated above, this uses a clutch so when engine braking you will feel the engine slowing you down much more then you would with an automatic. If you keep it in too low of a gear it can still be quite jerky (again, very smooth throttle inputs will help). It's easy to notice this if you keep the gearbox in first, and accelerate to 5-10 mph. Let your foot off the throttle and notice how much the car slows, then give it more throttle again and it'll be pretty jerky. It's best to try and upshift into second pretty quick.

- At any speed, commit to your throttle inputs. Complaints of the transmission "banging into gear" are usually just the clutch being engaged when the RPMs aren't matched well. This will cause a sudden surge as the engine is suddenly changing RPM. This often happens because the accelerator is pressed enough to cause the transmission to downshift, then the throttle is lifted for whatever reason, then it is pressed in again, all before the transmission can shift into a gear. Try to avoid this.

**The biggest thing for any Powershift equipped Focus driver to realize is that this is NOT an automatic transmission, and cannot be driven like one. Once that is realized many folks have a easier time driving it. It may take some time to adapt to how it operates, but once you do you will generally have a better experience with it.

Joeywhat 05-11-2014 01:02 PM

Just writing this for folks who are unaware of why their Powershift transmission is giving them a poor driving experience, and to help those who may not realize the differences between it and a typical automatic transmission. While such experiences seem to be reducing recently, it still seems some folks are coming here complaining of issues that can be fixed by driving the vehicle differently.

Heartofgold 05-11-2014 01:07 PM

Great info. Thank you.

zehkaiser 05-11-2014 05:27 PM

I have noticed that when I am driving at slow speeds in stop and go traffic, if I just BARELY put my foot on the gas until the car starts to apply power, accelerating from rolling at about 5mph will be much smoother. If I'm coasting at 5mph and put my foot on the gas quickly, the car will get jerky.

I've just made it a rule to gently press on the gas until the car starts accelerating, then giving it all I want.

dutd33 05-15-2014 07:55 PM

Thanks for this informative write-up! It finally make sense now.

Do you guys ever notice a clatter from the transmission when it changes gears? Will a firmware update fix this?

zehkaiser 05-15-2014 08:03 PM


Originally Posted by dutd33 (Post 6096962)
Thanks for this informative write-up! It finally make sense now.

Do you guys ever notice a clatter from the transmission when it changes gears? Will a firmware update fix this?

That's normal. The shift forks make noise when moving. There isn't any way to quiet it down, and you shouldn't worry at all.

Posted via FF Mobile

Jburks 05-16-2014 07:53 PM

Nice write up!

dyn085 05-16-2014 08:46 PM

Great thread. Added to stickies.

mechanizeddeath 05-16-2014 10:00 PM

Great info. I was thinking about writing something like this up myself, but hadn't gotten around to it. Once you get used to it, or if you already understand how it works, it isn't nearly the beast people make it out to be. (And yes, some people do have legitimate problems, as with all automobiles.)

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