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Old 11-12-2018, 08:53 AM   #1
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All things DCT: what it is, why it's still broken in 2018 models, and ways to "fix" it.

I posted a similar thread in the Focus sub of reddit, and I think FF could benefit from it, too. The DCT info and use guide is more than 4 years old and originally revolved around how best to drive with a DCT. Since that thread was first made, the challenges associated with owning and driving a Ford DCT have been made clearer. There is a ton of information buried in that thread and a dozen others and so it's my goal to try to consolidate some of this information in a "one-stop shop".

First and foremost: not everyone has trouble with the DCT. The majority of DCT owners are on their original clutches, do not experience "shudder", and are very happy with their cars. It's just that there is a statistically high number of DCT owners who do have trouble - and continue to have trouble, even after having the DCT "fixed" multiple times - that it seems that buying a Ford with the DCT is a real gamble. Whatever the underlying issue really is, it does not seem that a defective DCT is ever truly fixed with the solutions Ford has come up with to date and so it appears that DCT with problems will always be a DCT with problems. In contrast, it is generally accepted that if a DCT owner does not experience problems in the first 25-30k miles, they most likely got a "good" one and will not experience problems aside from the usual wear-and-tear. These are generalizations, but generalizations backed up by owner feedback.

Second: I do not claim to be an expert because I am not. I do have a basic understanding of the DCT, though, and I've followed the theories and explanations and fixes since I got my car new in 2014. I try to give credit where credit is due by linking to original content. Please feel free to correct me if I got something wrong, offer additional information, or engage in discussion (in support of what I've posted, or in disagreement!). As someone with a "bad" DCT (and one not nearly as bad as many others), I admit to having some bias, but I'm trying to keep it in check.


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Old 11-12-2018, 08:57 AM   #2
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WHAT IS A DCT?

The 6DCT250 (DPS6) is a dual-clutch transmission (DCT) that debuted in the 2011 Fiesta (and then the 2012 Focus), and is marketed as "PowerShift". It is a dry implementation of the wet DCT developed by Volvo (also called PowerShift) to compete with VW's DSG (a wet DCT, as well).

Dry clutches are more efficient and result in overall better performance, but they're less forgiving and run hot, which makes them less reliable and with a shorter lifespan. They are also easily ruined if the seals are compromised. They're cheaper and easier to work on. Wet clutches offer reduced power due to the fluid drag of the oil and could theoretically allow clutch debris in your engine (though unlikely, assuming your oil filter is working as it should). Wet clutches are more reliable and design improvements (like those found in the Volvo PowerShift) have closed the gap in performance between them and their dry counterparts.

DPS6 BACKGROUND

With the exception of gearbox seals and clutch material (possibly clutch design, as well), a 2011 DCT with the latest B revision clutch pack assembly is the same transmission as a brand new 2018 DCT. It is important to understand that there have been no significant design changes to the DCT since it was first made available.

The latest rev came standard in late-model year 2016 and 2017 model year Fiestas and Focuses. While not the sole reason, widespread problems with the DCT have caused a continuous drop in Fiesta/Focus sales each year. With fewer MK3.5 cars on the road and assuming 12k miles / 20k kilometers per year of driving, the number of cars with the latest rev are only just now starting to build a significant dataset and we're seeing an increase in consumer complaints that matches the rise in complaints with the early model years. There are complaints about the DCT for 2017 and even for a 2018 already.

So far, there are two customer satisfaction programs in place to reconcile technical service bulletins (TSBs) as they pertain to the DCT (well, sort of). 14M01 / TSB 16-0109 extends the transmission warranty (input shaft seals, clutches, software) to 7 years / 100k miles for 2011-2014 Fiestas and 2012-2014 Focuses with a DCT and build date through June 5, 2013. 14M02 / TSB 15-0121 extends the warranty of the TCM to 10y/150k miles on 2011-2015 Fiestas and 2012-2015 Focuses with a build date through June 30, 2015. The TCM is not technically part of the DCT, though it is known to cause problems.

As of this posting, there is no additional coverage past the standard 5y/60k powertrain warranty for any Focus or Fiesta after the 2015 model year. There have been no recalls (which are government-mandated and different than a TSB) on the DCT. Ford is ceasing production of all cars but the Mustang in the United States in order to concentrate on SUVs and trucks and as such, the DCT will no longer be used after the 2018 model year. Citing the recent tariffs, the Focus Active that was slated to come to the US has been canceled, but it was not going to have the DCT, anyway. To be clear: there will be no design changes to the DCT because the DCT is going away.

There have been successful lawsuits in Thailand and the United States, and the government has fined Ford in Australia over the misrepresentation of the DCT to consumers. So far, these have been limited in scope, but there are other class action suits and government inquiries currently in progress.

JULY 2019 UPDATE

July 11: The Detroit Free Press released a blistering exposť indicating that Ford knew the DPS6 was defective before it was even launched in 2011 with the Fiesta (and certainly before the 2012 Focus). For years afterward, Ford continued to (internally) acknowledge that the DPS6 had not yet been fixed, but they continued to use them.

July 12: Ford sent out an internal memo to its dealerships, indicating that regardless of warranty status (age or mileage), they should fix any DPS6 that came into the service center (per the usual metrics by which the transmission was tested for being out of spec) through July 19, with additional guidance supposedly to follow. This was posted first on reddit on July 17, then picked up by The Detroit Free Press on July 18.

July 16: US Senators Markey and Blumenthal call on the NHTSA to investigate complaints regarding the DPS6, as well as Ford's handling of the issue.

July 24: The NHTSA says it's reviewing DPS6 complaints.
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Old 11-12-2018, 08:58 AM   #3
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HOW THE DCT IS BROKEN

In a lengthy interview with CarAdvice, Ford Australia went over the history of problems with the DCT. It comes down to three separate issues:
  1. Defective or poorly-designed seals on the gearbox allowed oil to contaminate the clutches, presenting as a "shudder". This is fixed with an updated seal and because the clutches are contaminated, they're replaced at the same time.
  2. Clutches made of a material that was either defective or inadequate for the job as it relates to heat transfer, resulting in "dry shudder". This is what you'd see in hot weather and/or during "urban" driving comprised of stop-and-go traffic, and why they replace the clutches even without oil contamination.
  3. Though technically unrelated to the DCT itself, cracks in the actual TCM or its solder causing communication delays (100ms+) that resulted in slow or jerky shifting. A revised TCM resolves this issue.

In addition to the above, it is a commonly-held opinion that DCT is simply a poor design. Unlike a drive-by-wire system that would relay the signal that you want to accelerate to the Body Control Module (BCM) - which would in turn determine the throttle response and gear combination for the transmission to use - the DCT (via TCM) simply receives a signal from the pedal and is allowed to make its own (relatively uninformed) decision. The argument is that this leads to slow release of the clutch (delayed response / hesitation) or a quick release (rough shift / jerking). Flaws in this implementation are made worse by the hardware failures above.

So if there are drivetrain designs out there that are proven to work, why did Ford try something new? DCTs (wet or dry) are inherently less smooth than a traditional, hydraulic automatic (slushbox). Ford seems to have thought they could smooth out the DCT to make it seem more like a traditional automatic and then sell it to consumers as identical, but with improved fuel economy.

There is also a theory (from a Ford tech, no less) that poor grounding contributes to signal issues with the TCM, which could cause delays in communication with the TCM, similar to those experienced with a TCM is defective. If this is the case, replacing the TCM does not in fact fix the overarching issue, just one part that contributes to it.

HOW TO FIX THE DCT

Despite the (obviously incorrect) belief that the DCT is "fixed" in recent model years, it isn't. Ford has offered solutions to those problems that it is identified, but it's a pretty well-held belief that nothing short of a redesign of the drivetrain will truly fix the DCT. And since Ford is ditching it altogether, that will never happen. So what can you do?
  1. Upgrade to the latest clutch pack assembly (revision B) and replace your TCM if you fall under the extended warranty and are having problems. These are the only official fixes provided by Ford and anything else may void your warranty (if you're still under warranty, that is). This is free. Even if your transmission issue comes back - which is almost certainly will - you will at least have improved hardware and software (as far as Ford is concerned, anyway).
  2. Don't "baby" it. Despite Ford's attempt to make the DCT act like a traditional automatic, it isn't. It's a manual gearbox and as such, trying to coax the smoothness you get out of a slushbox only damages it. That doesn't mean you need to abuse it, just be "intentional" in the way you drive. Avoid "creeping" in slow traffic; instead, allow for space between you and the car in front of you and be consistent as you move forward. Commit to your throttle; the DCT is easily confused and so a hard press on the accelerator might cause it to downshift when you're just going to slow up again.
  3. Shift gears yourself if you have the SelectShift option. To clarify, "SelectShift" is really just the result of enabling a setting in the software that converts the low gear option ("L") with Sport mode ("S"), paired with the ability to change gears on the shifter or paddles on the steering wheel. If you don't have SelectShift already, you can enable Sport mode with an ODBII adapter and FORscan software; this will not give you the ability to shift gears (you'd need to swap out your steering wheel for one with paddles, or buy a new shift knob that has the SelectShift buttons on it), but Sport mode may minimize shifting by increasing the rev limit, acting more like a traditional manual by reducing feathering (slip), especially in urban traffic. This will, however, void your warranty and make your transmission less smooth (whether this is bad or not comes down to personal preference).
  4. Improve grounding by removing paint from negative battery frame post to increase contact. If you don't bother to use dielectric grease against corrosion (arguably unnecessary, anyway), then this is 10 minutes of your time and the only cost is sandpaper if you don't already have some. Now, will this do anything? Who knows. Poor grounding was a known issue on early Fiestas, after which point Ford used different bolts to increase contact. The argument for doing so makes a certain kind of sense, though it seems way too obvious to have been the "real" fix missed by Ford engineers. Some users have reported that it worked for them, though (see here and here). It will almost certainly work immediately, not because of the grounding, but because disconnecting the battery will reset the transmission's adaptive learning. Keeping that in mind it will take some time and miles to know if it did anything. In any case, it can't hurt and shouldn't void your warranty.
  5. Spend $462 to have Tom from Focus Power give you a custom tune. Full disclosure: this will absolutely void your warranty and since programming changes are captured in the logs, a Ford dealership can check your warranty history to see if the timestamps on the logs match warranty work. This means they can easily tell if you made modifications and if you did, they could refuse to do any additional warranty work. Even if they don't notice or don't care, these logs are sent to Ford with every warranty claim, so there is a real possibility that using a tune within the warranty period will prevent you from receiving the benefits of a future class action lawsuit (this happened in the Thai lawsuit mentioned above). It could also damage your car, though Tom has been around a long time and knows his stuff. His tune has mostly good reviews and by some logic, it makes sense that a tune could "fix" the DCT if the underlying issue (outside of defective hardware) software that causes the clutch to glaze (overheating) due to excessive feathering (slipping) or not releasing it fast enough. Personally, my biggest reason to be skeptical about it being an issue of tune is that it seems too obvious. If Ford could fix all problematic DCTs just by changing the PCM strategy, why wouldn't they? Of course, the tune will almost certainly make the DCT shift more like a traditional manual, which would be the opposite of what Ford was most likely trying to accomplish with a dry DCT in the first place. If that's the case, maybe Ford figures consumers would think the rough(er) shifting is the same as shudder, or maybe they think it would open them up to lawsuits for marketing the DCT as a more fuel-efficient, traditional automatic when it no longer feels like an automatic (ironically, this the basis of the lawsuits, anyway).
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Old 07-25-2019, 12:46 PM   #4
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I'm on my 4th or 5th clutchpack on my 2013 Focus. I get about one year and 2-ish months before the shudder/judder comes back. I've resigned myself to having to get a replacement in this time frame while I own the car.

My question is this: has anyone ever made a connection between stop-and-go driving and clutchpack durability? This seems to be the ONLY difference between me and others that I know. One of my friends has one, has replaced his clutchpack only once but he drives the majority of his miles on the highway.
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Old 07-25-2019, 01:17 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by larrystew View Post
I'm on my 4th or 5th clutchpack on my 2013 Focus. I get about one year and 2-ish months before the shudder/judder comes back. I've resigned myself to having to get a replacement in this time frame while I own the car.

My question is this: has anyone ever made a connection between stop-and-go driving and clutchpack durability? This seems to be the ONLY difference between me and others that I know. One of my friends has one, has replaced his clutchpack only once but he drives the majority of his miles on the highway.
Oh, absolutely. I probably need to update this thread; I keep forgetting it's here

Dry DCTs (like the DPS6) are more susceptible to heat than other transmissions; per its name, a wet DCT (which most other DCTs are) sit in a bath of fluid, which reduces friction and disperses heat (but which also introduces drag, thereby decreasing performance and efficiency).

Stop-and-go traffic like you would find in city driving is literally the worst possible situation for the DPS6 because inconsistent, low-speed driving causes the most heat on the clutch plate due to friction. Overheating can cause a number of issues, one of which is uneven wear. This is made worse by software that simply can't react or calculate fast enough to mitigate uneven wear in the presence of heat, hence the shudder.

This is probably only one of the reasons, though. I think the actual problem with the DPS6 is that the design is just plain flawed; there are several factors contributing to its defective operation, so a single "fix" never really fixes it.

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Old 07-25-2019, 03:33 PM   #6
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I think that the big problem with Ford's approach to this issue is that they do not seem to be using an effective feedback loop from the technicians doing the work on these transmissions to the engineers trying to come up with a lasting fix. There were some iterations to the 14M01 repair procedure that resulted in some changes to the TCM programming and presumably better seals but all three of the ones I've had done were using the exact same repair parts and maybe even the same shifting strategy. So this makes me wonder if the technicians are providing information back to the engineers as to whether the clutch was contaminated with oil indicative of a continuing failure of the seals or the clutch being burnt/glazed meaning that there is something wrong with the shifting software.

I've personally experienced another possible fix that may help others that is not addressed in the above and it would be interesting to see Ford to evaluate this and see if it could lead to a change in their software to solve one of the failure modes of these DCTs. I don't claim that it is a panacea as I agree with rczrider that there are multiple modes of failure and as I allude to above, I think Ford's problem is that they have too narrow of a focus in finding a real fix to the problem.

So, the extended warranty ran out on my DCT and I had the shudder come back (even while running Tom's tune). So, I thought I would try a transmission adaptive relearn using Forscan to see if I could possibly "go it alone" in doing a clutch replacement (which I thought was not possible before I knew Forscan had this capability). To be clear, this was just kind of a trial run as I did not replace any parts, I just performed the relearn. It takes all of about 15 minutes to do if you have everything you need and you've done your homework on the procedure. So, here's the kicker - after going back to the stock tune and doing the relearn but nothing else, the shudder went away and it is still pretty much gone to this day. This leads me to believe that for some of us, the cause for the shudder is that the clutch touch points get out of whack (to use a technical term) over time and this can result in the shudder. I'm waiting to see if I start to experience a significant shudder once again to see of another relearn to fix the problem once again. If so, it seems reasonable that the adaptive learning that these TCMs do to adjust to our driving style is flawed but the good news is that if that is the case, the system could "reset" itself kind of like a computer reboot to basically fix the problem for those experiencing this problem. Because the vehicle could be programmed to do this itself in some manner, this would be virtually a no-cost solution for Ford.

What would be great is for others in this forum who are having shudder issues give this a try and report back on their success or failure. I'm just one data point so this is still pretty anecdotal. However, I am encouraged by the fact that since I did not replace any parts and I experienced a remedy that worked for me, this suggests that a programming based fix (i.e., a tune) is a possibility. We know from Tom that his tune has worked for many and this may just be another approach for those that it hasn't worked for 100%. I think Ford would be wise to look at both aspects and not focus so much on replacing hard parts. They are the only ones with the mechanisms for coming up with a comprehensive solution to the problem.
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Old 07-26-2019, 07:55 AM   #7
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Interesting. I've never had my TCM reflashed or rebooted like many Focus owners have. Every time I've taken mine in, they've always done the spec test and they end up replacing the unit. But the unit's sealed so they can't tell me if anything happened mechanically. They just pull the clutchpack, send it back to Ford and then put a new one in. I'd love to know what's happening to the "bad" clutchpacks and if they've discovered anything that they're not revealing. The whole issue is frustrating.

I have to believe that heat is a major culprit in the breakdown of my clutchpacks. I spend 97% of my time in stop-and-go city driving, usually not making it past 50 mph.

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Old 07-26-2019, 08:55 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rczrider View Post
I posted a similar thread in the Focus sub of reddit, and I think FF could benefit from it, too. The [URL="https://www.focusfanatics.com/forum/mk3-focus/415994-ford-powershift-dct-transmission-info-use-guide-new-owners-look-here.html"]
First and foremost: not everyone has trouble with the DCT. ...
I might catch some heat for saying this... but *most* owners don't have a clue about how their cars work. My wife, most of my friends... don't know and don't care. So even if they did feel a shudder here and there they would most likely ignore it. The car starts up and gets them to work... end of story.

Now take a subset of the Ford DCT owners, say the subset on this forum. That is a VERY small % of total owners. A subset that typically do understand how their cars work, and become very concerned when they feel a shudder in the transmission. Now, how many DCT owners on this forum have never had issues? A handfull at most?

My point: True, not EVERYONE has issues. But I bet the vast majority of DCT Ford Focus's out there do in fact shudder. It's just that their owners aren't paying attention.
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Old 07-26-2019, 10:36 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by Livens View Post
I might catch some heat for saying this... but *most* owners don't have a clue about how their cars work. My wife, most of my friends... don't know and don't care. So even if they did feel a shudder here and there they would most likely ignore it. The car starts up and gets them to work... end of story.

Now take a subset of the Ford DCT owners, say the subset on this forum. That is a VERY small % of total owners. A subset that typically do understand how their cars work, and become very concerned when they feel a shudder in the transmission. Now, how many DCT owners on this forum have never had issues? A handfull at most?

My point: True, not EVERYONE has issues. But I bet the vast majority of DCT Ford Focus's out there do in fact shudder. It's just that their owners aren't paying attention.
I had the exact same suspicions and I think the expose article touched on that saying that many new drivers didn't have the experience to know that this was a problem. On top of that you had Ford dealerships trained to tell people that "this is normal for DCTs". Most young people without a lot of experience with other vehicles will take Ford's word on this.

Think about it - they are told that they will feel more like a manual transmission where you feel the shifts but most of them have never driven a MT and many of them may not have even been a passenger in one and even if they were, a significant percentage of those probably weren't paying attention. This isn't a dig on them, just an observation of normal human behavior.
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Old 07-26-2019, 01:20 PM   #10
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X3 on the latest. While just the numbers say that some few people are bound to have gotten cars that performed better, there will be a certain (large) amount in there that will tell you theirs runs OK and without a clue as to what OK really is. When you work on enough customer cars you figure out pretty quick that there is a whopping big chunk of owners that do not even pay attention to what 'bad' is until it is staggering so badly they are about to walk home. 5 minutes earlier they would have sworn to you it was running perfect. Similar to the typical person that says he has 'had no trouble at all' on a car that once you get looking at closely you find broken things all over it. That type also has a mindset commonly that they are not wrong and anybody seeing otherwise is the problem. You know them as the 40%.
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Focus Fanatics Ford Focus Forum offers many fun ways for you to engage with other Ford Focus Owners from across the world. Whether it be about the aftermarket performance modifications, technical how-to's, European tuned suspension or awesome fuel economy similar to the Mazda CX-3, Audi S3, Mazda MX-5 Miata and Acura TLX. You can find all Ford Focus, Focus ST and Focus RS related information here. Join our Ford Focus discussion forums and chat with local Focus enthusiasts in your area. If you own other makes have a look at Challenger Hellcat Forum, Charger Hellcat Forum, Cadillac ATS-V Forum, Cadillac CTS-V Forum, Lexus RC-F Forum, Lexus GS-F Forum, Mercedes GLA Forum, Mercedes GLE Forum and Volvo XC90 Forum.




 

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