How to drive an Eaton Ultrashift
Eaton Ultrashift driver’s instruction manual available for download at end of article.
Eaton’s Ultrashift Plus 18-speed transmission is arguably the simplest of the heavy-duty line haul ATM gearboxes in the market to operate. There are only a few selections required to get your rig moving. For instance, to go backwards select “R”. To go forwards select “D” and to park select “N”, then apply the park brake. It’s literally that simple. However, the Ultrashift Plus can do so much more, and it’s well worthwhile exploring the many features that come standard in this high-tech transmission.
The Ultrashift Plus 18-speed has essentially the same clutch, main and rear sections found in the manual RTLO 18-speed transmissions. What sets the Ultrashift Plus apart from its manual stable mate, is the X-Y shifter fitted on top of the box where gearstick would typically mount on the manual version. The electronic clutch actuator (ECA) and there is an ECU mounted on the side of the transmission that monitors, checks and sends signals to activate the clutch and X-Y shifter.
In terms of reliability, the main components have a tried and trusted reputation that stems some of the toughest applications known to man.
What the UltraShift Plus performance series transmission can do through the use of the electronic clutch actuator is provide faster shifting and smoother engagement. Even at idle, it fully engages the clutch giving the driver ultimate control in challenging situations. The software is intelligent and fine tunes shift selection with changes in grade, weight and throttle to calculate the most efficient and effective shift points.
In applications where there is predominately a lot of one way empty running, operators can also specify, “Dual Mode” which means the transmission will utilise a more economic shift sequence when empty and automatically switch to a performance shift sequence when loaded. The Dual Model options does require some additional hardware fitted to the vehicle, but more on that later.
With smart engines like the Cummins X15, the Ultrashift Plus has the ability to slip into “Smart Coast” when the terrain and conditions allow providing even greater economic gains.
Even though your truck does not have a clutch pedal, it still has a mechanical clutch. As you slowly increase and decrease engine RPM from a stop, the clutch is engaging and disengaging, just like slipping the clutch with a Manual Transmission.
If the vehicle is operated for long periods between engine idle and 1000 RPM during take-off, then slipping of the clutch occurs, which in turn, gets the clutch hot. If the clutch starts to get too hot, a warning tone will sound and a ‘C’ and then an ‘A’ will flash on the gear display indicating ‘Clutch Abuse’. This is an indication the driver is abusing the clutch and it is getting too hot to operate, potentially resulting in a failure.
If a ‘CA’ shows on the gear display during vehicle operation, stop the vehicle for at least two minutes and let the clutch cool down. Continuing operation with the ‘CA’ flashing on the gear display will cause the clutch to become even hotter and the transmission may attempt to downshift into a lower start gear and/or limit the engine to idle speed until the clutch cools for approximately three minutes.
One of the most common places you may experience a ‘Clutch Abuse’ alert is when stuck in extremely slow-moving traffic such as the Monash Freeway in Melbourne or Gateway in Brisbane. In this situation, the vehicle is moving extremely slow with engine revs often under 1000 RPM causing the clutch to constantly engage and disengage. Simply by giving yourself a little more head room to the vehicle in front, to allow your truck to roll along at a steady pace in one gear without the constant stop start will help prevent a clutch abuse alert.
Repeated incidents of clutch abuse may cause the clutch to fail and render the truck immobile, resulting in extended down time.
Depending on the make and model of your truck, will determine what gear selector your vehicle has. These can range from the Cobra-Shift lever, Smartshift paddle to a push button control box.
Regardless of the gear selector style in your truck, they’re sometimes referred to as the ‘shift console’, and all will perform basically the same functions.
Eaton’s Ultrashift Plus falls in the Automated Manual Transmission (AMT) category and unlike a fully automatic transmission does not have a “Park” feature. The gear selection positions include;
R – Reverse and in the 18-speed model provide four reverse ratios.
N – Neutral
D – Drive mode
L – Low mode
‘R’ REVERSE Mode
Selecting REVERSE from NEUTRAL in an 18-speed will engage LOW REVERSE and an ‘R1’ will appear on the gear display. This transmission has multiple reverse ratios which can be selected by pressing the up or down buttons to your desired gear selection. It is important to remember to select the appropriate reverse gear for your load and grade conditions. One thing to pay particular attention with the Ultrashift Plus transmission is that all reverse gears can only be engaged at less than 2 mph.
The position is used for parking. The Ultrashift Plus has an added safety feature that places the transmission into Neutral once the park brake is applied, this is indicated by ‘AN’ displayed in the gear indicator screen. AN indicates the system has placed the vehicle in “Auto Neutral”.
‘D’ DRIVE Mode
Depending on the transmission model and Shift Control configuration, there may be alternate forward starting gears available. While the vehicle is stopped in Drive, the up or down buttons are used to change the starting gear. This selection is used until it is changed again, or the UltraShift Plus is powered down.
In Drive mode, all upshifts and downshifts are performed automatically, based on vehicle and transmission conditions.
You can advance a shift (by about 75 rpm) by pressing the up or down button (up for upshifts, down for downshifts) when the transmission is within 75 rpm of the load-based shift point. The Gear Display on the dash shows the status of the shift with the current gear displayed as a solid numeral.
At the start of the shift, the current gear is displayed solid until the transmission commences its auto shift sequence and slides gears through the neutral position inside the main box. While the transmission is in neutral and synchronising for the target gear, the target gear numeral is flashed in the display. When the shift is complete, the new current gear is displayed solid.
Ultrashift Plus transmissions can be specified with a dual shift mode, this allows for more economical shift sequence when the vehicle is running empty. Conversely when the vehicle is loaded the system automatically switches to the power mode for maximum performance.
Provides for full manual shift operation and can be selected while moving or from a stop.
To shift through the gears the up and down buttons must be used to initiate a shift.
The shifter will ‘beep’ if a shift cannot be completed due to incorrect engine RPM and road speed.
Manual mode can be used to hold a gear, when on a downhill decent or when slowly rolling through roadowrks, for instance.
This is a multifunction mode and can be selected while moving or from a stop. It’s is one of the most overlooked and miss used features of the Ultrashift Plus transmission.
One of its functions is to select and maintain first gear, this is done when selecting Low Mode from a stopped position.
However, it’s other main function is to prompt downshifts. When selected while moving downshifts will be performed at higher RPM to maximise engine braking.
One of the most common instances where Low Mode works exceptionally well is on approach to a corner or roundabout for instance. You can select Low Mode a suitable distance away and the vehicle will start downshifting. Once the vehicle has downshifted to a suitable gear, you can move the shifter back into Drive Mode or Manual Mode if you wish to hold that gear. By getting into suitable gear at the entrance to the corner or roundabout sets you up nicely for the next manoeuvre. If you need to give way to another vehicle in the corner or roundabout, you can easily stop from that gear or conversely if it’s clear you can accelerate smoothly away. If you chose manual then you’ll need to shift up into Drive Mode for the automated up change functions as you get back up to speed.
ULTRASHIFT DRIVING TIPS
Proper Starting Gear: Choose a starting gear appropriate for the load and grade conditions while at a stop in DRIVE or MANUAL modes by using the up or down buttons.
Skip Shifting Performed in MANUAL by pressing the shift button more than once.
Optimal Engine Braking The LOW mode can be selected while moving. This initiates downshifts as soon as possible.
Skid Conditions If a skid condition occurs, the UltraShift senses the vehicle speed dropping rapidly. In this case, the UltraShift delays downshifting.
Cruise Control The UltraShift is totally compatible with cruise control. If a shift is required while cruise control is active, cruise is temporarily interrupted while the shift is performed and then automatically resumed after the shift.
Load-Based Shifting In Drive, the UltraShift will adapt to the changing conditions of the vehicle. Right after power-up or after changing loads, UltraShift needs to learn the new conditions. While learning, it may hold a gear instead of upshifting. Simply push the Up button to start the upshift. It may take three or four shifts for the UltraShift to learn the new conditions. After that it will handle upshifts and downshift automatically. Depending on conditions, UltraShift can activate the engine brake in order to bring the engine down faster for an upshift. This can happen even if the engine brake dash switch is OFF.
Coast Mode When coasting to a stop in lower gears, UltraShift may not finish downshifting until the driver gets back on the throttle. This is normal for the UltraShift.
Air Pressure Maintain at least 621 kpa (90 PSI) air-pressure for proper transmission operation.
- Turn the ignition key to ‘ON’ and allow the Fuller® UltraShift® PLUS to power-up, you notice that engine cranking is delayed until the transmission power-up is complete and the gear display shows a solid ‘N’.
- Start the engine.
- Apply service brake, if the service brake is not applied while selecting a starting gear, the initial start gear will not be found and the driver will have to re-select Neutral and press the brake while re-selecting the desired mode.
- Select the desired mode and starting gear on the shift console.
- Release the vehicle parking brakes.
- Release service brake and apply accelerator.
- Select Neutral on the shift control, If the gear display does not show a solid ‘N’, then neutral has not yet been obtained. Neutral should always be reached before the UltraShift Plus power down is performed except in cases of emergency.
- Set the vehicle parking brakes.
- Turn off the ignition key and allow the engine to shut down.
When the Ultrashift Plus transmission is coupled to Cummins X15 engine it has the added advantage of being able to engage smart-coast which further improves fuel economy.
Finally, remember the Ultrashift Plus transmission requires gentle input signals to react. A gentle tap on the accelerator to maintain engine rpm will tell the transmission you want to hold a gear. Gently pressing the accelerator to increase engine revs will prompt an up change as the vehicle momentum increases.
However, if you aggressively jump on the accelerator, which effectively opens the throttle instantly to 100 per cent then, then chances are you’ll confuse the system and Ultrashift Plus will try and select a gear it thinks may suit, but more often than not it will give up after a few moments and neutralise because you’re confused the system. To get the best out of the Ultrashift Plus transmission, look and plan well ahead which will allow you more time to prompt smoother shifts from the transmission and deliver better economic driving.
To download Eaton’s Ultrashift driver instruction manual CLICK HERE.