Prepare Your A518 Automatic Transmission For Tow Duty

Posted by on Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

The A518 is a four speed automatic transmission made by Chrysler for use in their Dodge and Jeep divisions. The A518 was first put into production back in 1992 and remained so through 2003. It was used primarily behind the 5.2 and 5.9 litre engines. It was used exclusively in truck-like vehicles, including the Dodge Ram, Ramcharger, Durango and Dakota, and the Jeep Grand Cherokee. Since these are all full-frame vehicles, they are often used for towing.

Towing can be very hard on an automatic transmission, especially if you tow over the factory tow rating limit.  Let’s take a look at a few things you can do to better prepare your A518 automatic transmission for tow duty.

prepare your A518 for towing duties


Add an aftermarket transmission cooler: Excessive heat is by far the number one killer of all automatic transmissions. The A518 transmission is designed to run at a maximum temperature of 200. Towing heavy loads will easily drive the temperature of the transmission way past this point. For every 20 degrees you go above 200 degrees, you risk cutting the expected life span of the transmission by a factor of two. At temperatures above 240 degrees the organic transmission fluid can start to turn to varnish, at which point it loses its ability to properly lubricate the internal transmission components.

The best way to combat excessive heat is to invest in a good quality transmission cooler. The bigger the better! For added cooling, purchase a cooler that has a built in electric fan. Don’t forget to pick up a transmission temperature gauge, too, so you always know the temperature of your transmission. It’s best to mount the temperature gauge sending unit directly into the transmission pan for the most accurate readings.

The A518 can be found in the Dodge Ram trucks


Invest in a shift kit: A shift kit will provide a number of benefits to the transmission. First, it will give you more manual control over the shifting of the transmission. Second, they increase the line pressure of the transmission, which provides more clamping power for the clutches and bands, aiding in preventing them from slipping. Third, a shift kit will reduce the time (in fractions of a second) that it takes for the clutches to apply, which will reduce both excessive wear and heat.

A shifter kit is a good investment for your A518 transmission if you plan to tow with it.


Switch over to a synthetic transmission fluid: The properties of synthetic transmission fluids are such that they are much more stable at higher temperatures than regular organic oil based fluids. As a bonus, you can increase the time interval between transmission services, saving you money in the long run.

Sooner or later, due to high mileage or abuse, you will be faced with a decision to replace your A518 transmission. I highly recommend doing so with a re-manufactured transmission over one that was simply rebuilt. A re-manufactured transmission will include major internal modifications and upgrades designed to make it both stronger and more durable. A rebuilt transmission will not include this feature. A re-manufactured transmission also comes with a much better warranty; three years compared to an average 90 days for a rebuilt transmission. And 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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