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Old 06-09-2020, 07:09 AM   #1
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6 Speed Allison Transmission Question

Hello all -- First of all, let me say that I am in no way a mechanic and cannot do much repairs by myself. I am a CPA by profession, so I am a "desk jockey", but we do love our motor coach and want to continue traveling in it. We understand that a diesel coach is more expensive to maintain, and we just recently experienced that. We have a 2015 Thor Palazzo 36.1 model DP with less than 20k miles on it. Over the Memorial Day weekend, we were all set for our first 4 day weekend in over 3 months (due to COVID, of course) and when we were all set to go, I pushed the transmission button to "Drive" once I released the brake, and nothing happened. We have one of those push button transmission "Shift by Wire" systems (manufactured by Arens) designed to automate the gear selection of the Allison transmission. The "Service" light on the keypad was flashing, so obviously something was wrong and we did not get to even leave the driveway. After a mobile tech trouble shot the system, he determined the Shift by Wire system in the back of the coach had gotten water in it and apparently shortened something out. Anyway, $2,400 later, we were in business. We test drove it and all appeared good, except I did not notice that the system was not downshifting when I took my foot off the accelerator and the little green "gear looking" icon on the dash board would not illuminate. We just recently went to Missouri (we live in Louisiana) this past weekend for our granddaughter's high school graduation and that is when I noticed it. I'm not certain how this push button system works, especially the "mode" button. Does anyone know whether or not the system wasn't programmed correctly when installed? Arens points to Freightliner. Freightliner points to Thor, and Thor points to Arens, so no one is taking responsibility for this. I even talked to an engineer at Arens and he admitted to me twice on two different calls that they knew the SBW system took on water and they apparently have "fixed" the newer models. Anyway, just looking for an easy fix before I send it back to the shop for them to troubleshoot this additional shifting issue. Thanks you all.

Gene & Nette
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Old 06-09-2020, 07:31 AM   #2
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I'm wondering if the gear icon you mentioned is for the exhaust brake... Do you have a switch for that? Perhaps it was turned off in the repair, and you need to toggle it back on to experience the downshift and braking function when you let off the pedal? Information about that should be in your manual.
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Old 06-09-2020, 09:08 AM   #3
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I'm wondering if the gear icon you mentioned is for the exhaust brake... Do you have a switch for that? Perhaps it was turned off in the repair, and you need to toggle it back on to experience the downshift and braking function when you let off the pedal? Information about that should be in your manual.
Thank you -- I'll double check that. I really didn't know what the "exhaust brake" button was for. Again, like I said, I am no mechanic and not an experienced diesel driver (getting there, slowly though Thanks again.
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Old 06-09-2020, 10:01 AM   #4
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I have a Jake brake with pedal, but there should be a toggle for exhaust brake with
high - low when engaged it will do exactly what you describe. When not turned on it will just coast down like most automobiles with auto trans. Google some vids on using and not using the exhaust brake in an RV. Some choose to only use in certain driving conditions or even adding a Jake type pedal to actuate their exhaust brake.
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Old 06-09-2020, 10:47 AM   #5
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Thank you -- I'll double check that. I really didn't know what the "exhaust brake" button was for. Again, like I said, I am no mechanic and not an experienced diesel driver (getting there, slowly though Thanks again.
Gene, this is really an important part of proper operation of your vehicle. Especially if you are towing. The exhaust brake saves wear on your primary brakes, prevents overheating them on grades, and gives you automatic downshifting. But the admonitions about using it include not using it in wet, slippery, or icy conditions.

You really need to read up on this and also operating your transmission, and definitely air brakes. Is this your chassis? https://cdn.fccchq.com/specsheets/20...220-242-WB.pdf

When you move from operating a conventional auto to what is really a piece of heavy equipment, you need to become an expert and learn to operate it the way professionals do. If you don’t, you could end up causing mechanical damage or worse.
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Old 06-09-2020, 02:58 PM   #6
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I have a Jake brake with pedal, but there should be a toggle for exhaust brake with
high - low when engaged it will do exactly what you describe. When not turned on it will just coast down like most automobiles with auto trans. Google some vids on using and not using the exhaust brake in an RV. Some choose to only use in certain driving conditions or even adding a Jake type pedal to actuate their exhaust brake.
Exhaust brakes have an "Enable" switch (on/off) and that is it. No high low.
When you use the term Jake you confuse the explanation because Jake makes an exhaust brake and a compression brake.
I advise the OP to try and find an owners manual and read it cover to cover. Usually the manuals provided with the coach are from the 3rd party vendors of the part/system and will tune you up.
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Old 06-09-2020, 03:09 PM   #7
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As a fellow CPA, my advice is read and read more. We have only been at this for a few years but I keep all my manuals close by and I read this Forum every day. We boated for twenty years and I did the same with that.
This forum is a wealth of great information!
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Old 06-09-2020, 05:06 PM   #8
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As a fellow CPA, my advice is read and read more. We have only been at this for a few years but I keep all my manuals close by and I read this Forum every day. We boated for twenty years and I did the same with that.
This forum is a wealth of great information!
That’s a really good point. I bought a new 50’ sailboat in 2002 never having sailed, so I enrolled in a series of courses at a sailing academy in SF. I learned and learned, well and sailed extensively including some passages several thousand miles long.

Fast forward to now, and I just bought a complex coach that requires the skills, knowledge and abilities of a professional driver. With forty years in the fire service behind me, I’ve driven much heavier and more complex apparatus with bigger diesels and air brakes and complicated hydraulics, etc. I had a commercial license with air brake, tank, haz-mat endorsements.

So I didn’t need any training to transition to a 30,000lb diesel machine with air brakes. But without this background I would have. Since being in this forum, I’ve seen postingS from people who clearly don’t know enough about their vehicles, brakes, engines and transmission to be safely and proficiently on the open road.

I can’t really blame the consumer, although it does kind of surprise me, but I have a little trouble imagining dealerships taking on the liability of putting unqualified drivers behind the wheel of these vehicles. Just an observation really, not casting aspersions or anything. But it is a bit surprising to me.
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Old 06-09-2020, 05:38 PM   #9
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First and foremost , not all Allison transmissions are created equal , even the 6 speed units come in many different series .

From your description of the shift by wire unit , I believe you have a 2100 series as does the Thor owner in this link .

http://www.irv2.com/forums/f281/tran...ml#post5276161

His SBW system was blowing fuses every time he tried to shift into gear.
Although his mobile repair didn't mention water intrusion.

With seeing a couple of these issues in short order here in the forums , there may just be a trend developing .

Gene , if you can get far enough under the passenger side rear of your coach to identify the shift mechanism ; as per the picture ; I'll add your thread as a link in a thread I started in the Allison transmission forums.
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Old 06-09-2020, 05:56 PM   #10
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First and foremost , not all Allison transmissions are created equal , even the 6 speed units come in many different series .

From your description of the shift by wire unit , I believe you have a 2100 series as does the Thor owner in this link .

http://www.irv2.com/forums/f281/tran...ml#post5276161

His SBW system was blowing fuses every time he tried to shift into gear.
Although his mobile repair didn't mention water intrusion.

With seeing a couple of these issues in short order here in the forums , there may just be a trend developing .

Gene , if you can get far enough under the passenger side rear of your coach to identify the shift mechanism ; as per the picture ; I'll add your thread as a link in a thread I started in the Allison transmission forums.
the Freightliner site indicates 2500MH for this coach
https://cdn.fccchq.com/specsheets/20...220-242-WB.pdf
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Old 06-09-2020, 07:53 PM   #11
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I vote for simply turning the exhaust brake back on.

As for Jacobs and Pac, they both make an exhaust and engine brake, although it seems that Pac has the market on the exhaust and Jake with having the market on engine brakes.
Also, I don't know of any two stage exhaust brake and only for an engine brake that has this feature. Usually the engine brake is found on the higher end coaches and is obviously more expensive.
Either has a switch somewhere on the dash for turning the system off or on.
I run with ours on all the time and yes it's been tried and tested by doing a panic stop in a rain storm, with no ill effects. In fact, I might have had a bumper, within the last few seconds without it.
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Old 06-09-2020, 09:22 PM   #12
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the Freightliner site indicates 2500MH for this coach
https://cdn.fccchq.com/specsheets/20...220-242-WB.pdf

Allison spec sheet gives 2100 MH and 2500 MH the same specs as far as input HP / Torque . 2100 listed as close ratio the 2500 wide ratio. The 2500 has a higher GVWR/GCWR , both are externally shifted as opposed to the 3000/4000 series fully internal electronic shifting.

I believe that the Arens shift mechanism will be common to both, the 2014 and 2015 Thor products that these two members have; and if water intrusion causes these failures there are probably a bunch of members who need to know about the potential issue.
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Old 06-09-2020, 10:02 PM   #13
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Allison spec sheet gives 2100 MH and 2500 MH the same specs as far as input HP / Torque . 2100 listed as close ratio the 2500 wide ratio. The 2500 has a higher GVWR/GCWR , both are externally shifted as opposed to the 3000/4000 series fully internal electronic shifting.

I believe that the Arens shift mechanism will be common to both, the 2014 and 2015 Thor products that these two members have; and if water intrusion causes these failures there are probably a bunch of members who need to know about the potential issue.
I agree and I was going to put it in my list of things to address until I realized it was a 2100 or 2500 issue and that I don’t have Arens shifting. If I did I’d be PM’ing all over it.
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Old 06-09-2020, 10:17 PM   #14
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The Allison mode button is: OFF =standard Allison shifting pattern, ON=economy shifting -which holds the transmission in a higher gear longer to improve fuel mileage. It should not be ON when driving in mountains, otherwise mine is ON all the time.
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