Keep The Heat At Bay In Your Durango A500 Transmission

Posted by on Monday, January 20th, 2014

The A500 is a four-speed automatic transmission designed and built by the Chrysler Corporation. It first went into production back in 1989 and continued in use through the 2004 model year. It is based loosely on the original light duty A904 three-speed transmission, and comes from a family that includes the 40RH, 42RH, 40RE, 42RE and the 44RE. It was used in many Chrysler vehicles, including the Dodge Ram pickup truck, the Dodge Ram van, the Dodge Dakota SUV and the Jeep Cherokee. It was also used in the very popular Dodge Durango.

Dodge Durango

Dodge Durango image from

The Dodge Durango is considered a mid-sized SUV. The problem is that it is very heavy.  Add seven passengers and their luggage, or add a trailer, and you’re looking at a lot of weight. Hauling around all this weight can put a lot of stress on a vehicle, especially the automatic transmission.

The number one killer of all automatic transmissions, including the A500 transmission, is excessive heat. The A500 is designed to operate at temperatures around 200 degrees. It is a widely agreed on fact that for every 20 degrees you go beyond that limit you cut the life of the transmission by a factor of two. In other word, if your transmission climbed to 260 degrees, which is done more easily than you think, its life expectancy would be reduced to 1/8th of what is considered average. As you can see, heat can have a quick and devastating effect on your transmission, and ultimately your wallet.

The best way to keep heat at bay is to modify your driving habits. Don’t tow over the factory limit, or carry a payload higher in weight than what your Durango is rated at.  Don’t drag race your truck from stoplight to stoplight. When going up long, steep hills, don’t keep your foot to the floor on the gas pedal. Allow the vehicle to slow down naturally while still keeping up with traffic.

Dodge A500

Dodge A500 transmission from

Beyond changing your driving habits, you might want to consider investing in a good aftermarket transmission cooler. Transmission coolers come in many physical sizes, BTU ratings and designs. Ideally, you will choose the largest sized cooler that will fit your Durango. If you plan to take your truck off-road, consider a cooler of a stacked plate design. This type of cooler is extremely durable when compared to a tube and fin design.

In addition to an aftermarket cooler, consider installing a deep aluminum oil pan. A deep pan will give you an additional two to three quarts for transmission fluid capacity, which will aid in cooling the A500 transmission. A pan made of aluminum will also dissipate heat better than the stock stamped steel pan.

Eventually, due to high mileage or abuse, you will be faced with a decision to replace the A500 transmission in your Dodge Durango.  I highly recommend going with a re-manufactured transmission over one that was simply rebuilt. A re-manufactured transmission comes with a much better warranty; three years compared to an average 90 days for a rebuilt transmission. In the rare event that you need to contact the company that re-manufactures transmissions, they are just a quick phone call or email away!

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