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Old 01-03-2005, 05:02 PM   #1
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Transmission Fluid heating up

Last week while towing over I-8 (Gila Bend into San Diego) my transmission fluid started heating up on long grades. I didn't consider this unusual because there are some pretty strong grades along that route.

My car is a Nissan Armada with a Trans temp guage. There are three tic marks: hot, cold, and one near the hot mark. I did not let the temp exceed the 'near hot' tic mark. My trailer is a 2005 25' Safari, at 6500# loaded.

But on the way down out of Josua Tree Nat. Park (a 3400' drop) there are some very slight grades, and not very long. To my surprise the temp would rise, and at the 'near hot' tic I would slow down and gear down till the temp dropped. I was only going 35 mph in 3rd gear on a slight grade.....

I have no temp problems on a level run at 60-65 mph.

So my question, shouldn't I be able to tow a slight grade without any rise in temp?

Would a temp at the 'near hot' tic be cause for alarm, or should I let it go to the 'hot' tic before backing off on speed/gear?


Neil Ervin
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Old 01-03-2005, 05:05 PM   #2
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My Nissan Armada does have the trailer tow package factory installed (which includes the transmission temp. guage. It is (hee..Hee..) rated to tow 9100#, but that is probably only in dreamland on a good day. I don't think I would tow any trailer heavier than the 6500# I now have.


Neil Ervin
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Old 01-03-2005, 07:14 PM   #3
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Overheating Transmission

I am not overly failure with the Nissan Armada, is it equipped with a transmission cooler? If not, one could be added, which would help with the over heating and supply some extra fluid.

Does it have an automatic transmission? Are you towing in OD or in high gear? Towing in OD puts extra work on the torque converter, turning off the OD will lock the torque converter and take some strain off the transmission.

Good luck

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Old 01-03-2005, 07:28 PM   #4
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The only way to know if you should be concerned is if the gauge ranges have real world meanings. That means what is the "actual" temperature of the fluid when it gets to the hot tick on the gauge. You may want to mount a real trans temp gauge with actual temperature markings and see if you can define the marks on the OEM gauge.

A cooler is ALWAYS a good idea. But knowing what the gauge is actually telling you is more important as high transmission fluid temperature over time truly can destroy the transmission.
Brett G
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Old 01-03-2005, 09:01 PM   #5
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The Armada has been discussed at length here before. There have been folks that think it's a great tow vehicle that can flawlessly tow up to 9600lbs. There are also those who believe that the Armada isn't up to that number. I am from the later camp. I think it's geared incorrectly and has too small of a rear end to successfully tow at grade. Though I also agree with Brett...idiot light type gauges mean next to nothing, the real world would suggest that if it gets close to the far opposite end of cold, you could be in need a new trans fairly soon....and by the way, I went with Amsoil fully synthetic trans fluid. It does deal with the heat far better than conventional oils....though at 200 to 215 degrees, it doesn't really matter what oil you have as the insides will start to cook out even if the synthetic will withstand 300-400 degrees, the internals won't. Still, I feel that in most cases synthetic is a good choice...not cheap, but good...but beware...not all trannies like synthetic....there have been some slip issues noted from some folks.....anyway.....I too once towed a 25' Safari (6300lbs GVWR) with the equiv of what the Armada is. To help keep the trans temps down I did several things before I finally gave in and bought a 3/4 ton truck.

I got a torque converter cover that had a RAM air scoop on it to help let the canned heat out that the closed cover would hold in.

I then added a secondary trans cooler to the existing cooler that was already in place rated at 15k to increase it to 30k lbs capacity.

I added real 3.73s to the rear to help the torque mulitplier WAY up to be nice to the trans.

Finally, I added a deep pan trans cover. The reason I did this was not that I expected it to drop my temps while on the road doing regular driving for several hours. Why I did this was a simple physics reason. More fluid takes longer to heat than less fluid. By adding 3 to 4 more quarts to the system, flash heat (generated in the type of situations you are talking about) takes longer to push the trans oil temps up. Add the other things mentions and my trans on grade, towing the Safari fully loaded never got warmer than 185 degrees. After back on level ground, it would fall back to 175 degrees very quickly.

If you plan on towing the Safari with the Armada on grade and want the trans temps to be lower, you will have no choice but to mod the truck, get a 3/4 ton, or just accept the heat and pray you won't need a new trans soon. Remember, I'm not posting this to sound like a wise guy. I've been where you are and spent 3k getting there. It did it, but it never was really as happy as the 3/4 ton Suburban has been to do it. Now if you had a Bambi, it'd be a different story......
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Old 01-03-2005, 09:18 PM   #6
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You probably need to gear down out of overdrive to keep the slippage at a minimum. Now at this point another question is the tranny fluid and whether you got into some serious deterioration. Check the color. If its not its usual pink color, or has a burnt smell, its time to change it. If you don't have an external transmission oil cooler, get one. You obviously are going to have to baby this truck to keep the tranny in good shape.

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Old 01-04-2005, 09:51 AM   #7
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Neil--You're going to get lots of advice on this one, mostly from people who neither have one or have never driven one, speaking of the Niss.Arm or Titan which is built on the same platform. Ist , what you're seeing is not over heating or abnormal for that vehicle. I have a Titan and have seen the same thing with mine. The last "tick on the guage is simply the high end of the operating range, at which the aux. fan comes on to help cool. This is a little more noticeable with these vehicles for a couple reasons. The final drive ratio on these is not deep like a 3;73 or 4;10. Nissan has chosen to lower the trans reduction instead of axle ratios and use a 5 speed trans. Also the horsepower-torque is such that this engine does not pull down like one some do thus the trans doesn't down shift as quick. You'll find that light throttling on long grades actually causes the heat to rise quicker than throttling harder as the trans remains in overdrive or higher gears longer than most vehicles. Someone here calls this slipping but correctly defined it's Torque Multiplication. This occures when the Torque converter clutch is disengauged and the converter is in reduction. This can occur on long gradual grades under light throttle. Heat is produced when this occurs even when going down hill if you are using engine braking. You'll find if you manually downshift and run the engine rpm a little higher the temp runs cooler. With the 5 speed auto you have lots of gear selections that alow for this without over rev. the engine. Personally I will not be spending any money doing mods to mine. As for as pulling a 25ft AS, that doesn't begin to stress the vehicle you're driving.---Pieman
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Old 01-04-2005, 02:28 PM   #8
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A little off topic and I don't have any real numbers on how much it helped, but I can say on my Xterra my right foot got pretty dang hot when towing a 4300# trailer before adding the tranny cooler. Once installed, my foot didn't sweat quite as bad. My bigger problem was the ride and handling while towing. I just didn't feel comfy letting the trailer "drive" the tow vehicle.

In your case I would think the Armada/Titan should be more than adequate in the real world up to about 6500# -- it's probably the best import currently available for towing anything of size/weight. Adding an additional tranny cooler and watching the driving habits are probably the easiest and cheapest remedies. I think Mike's post seems to be pretty accurate based on what you're experiencing.

If you feel things are getting too hot you may want to also keep an eye on the color of your tranny fluid, sounds arcaic, but it'll start turning a rusty orange color if it gets hot enough; and that's not good!

My opinion is you just can't beat the US products from the big 3 when it comes to towing anything over 5k. In the real world the imports don't seem to work out quite as well as the numbers would suggest, but the Titan/ Armada seems promising. I think the Titan even recieved tow vehicle of the year from one of the magezines.
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Old 01-04-2005, 03:49 PM   #9
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You are right, there are lots of suggestions, but sometimes the real answer comes from someone else who's in the same shoes and that's you.

For all others, the Armada comes with a large (seperate) trans cooler and its own fan. And, yesm it would be much better to have real temperature marks on the trans cooler gauge.

I wondered about the operation of the trans cooler so I called my dealer. They said the trans cooler was a full time one but I still wondered because once (and only once) I saw the temp gauge drop rapidly while I was still on a shallow grade. This made me wonder if the fan had just kicked on and perhaps that it only kicked on when the gauge hit the 'near hot' tic mark. But I only saw that once. Mike, you are confirming what I saw, so next time out I'll keep my eyes more open.

The reason I was so confused is that on a slight grade, in 3rd gear (not drive), at 35mph the trans fluid heat was building. At other times I've towed up the Mogollon rim (6% grade) for 9 miles with no heat buildup, but of course I kept downshifting to keep the RPMs up.

Thanks for your help.
Neil Ervin
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Old 01-04-2005, 05:00 PM   #10
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is every thing in working order?


just a thought, is everything working properly?

by that, i mean is the programming on the vehicle computer working as designed? perhaps it is waiting to long to down shift.

perhaps a trip to your dealer is in order, so you can confirm everything is in tip top shape.

i don't know anything about nissans at all, being a dyed in the wool chevy guy. i do know from reasearch and personal experiance that there are many different programs for the engine and tranny available for my truck. all depending on what it's indended final use was to be.

perhaps nissan does the same, since the roll out of obd II controls being mandated on all vehs. sold in the US i can't imagine nissan is any different.

as for the comment about "tourque multiplication" thats slipping in my book, and that causes heat. period. that is why gm vehicles equipped with "tow haul" lock the tourque converter in all gears except low when engaged. this is borne out by my tranny temp gauge rarely going over 150 even in the summer.

and yes, it has real numbers on it!

you call them ferrets, i call them weasels.
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Old 01-04-2005, 05:29 PM   #11
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My slipping comment was actual tranny slippage due to the synthetic oils. Some trannies don't like synthetic. My 4L60e has Amsoil in it and it likes it. It flows great even in extreme cold, however the I can sense a bit of tranny slip when it's cold and not yet up to temp.

I was under the impression that torque multiplication happens via the torque converter (not slipping in a bad way as described above) and the gearing in the back (though Nissan appears to play with the gearing in the trans to achieve the same thing as rear gears).

Bottom line, I stand by my comments and will only add that I have driven and towed a 3500lb boat with the Armada up grade. Didn't really care for it. Sorry. The comment said about the big three owning the market is totally correct. The Nissan offering is fairly new and as a first attempt it isn't all that bad. A 3/4 ton with a better rear end, brakes, etc would go a long way for mountain towing which the big 3 have. Eventually the imports will catch up..though a fair number of "imports" are now made here.

As for being in the same shoes, well, that is totally true. Been there and done it. Fact is that my '96 Impala SS as currently configured (same as a 1/2 HD pickup in most respects) could probobly tow the Armada down the street kicking and screaming....still doesn't make it a great tow vehicle for mountain driving.
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Old 01-04-2005, 07:41 PM   #12
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Figures don't lie, but liars can figure...

Let's get keywords out there so anybody can find this easily if they search before buying their particular tow vehicle: Nissan Titan Armada Toyota Tundra GVWR

Nobody has done anything significant to make a 1/2-tonner magically become a 3/4-tonner, but at lower price and with less beef and brawn. There's been a lot of hoopla over all the truck maker's PR Departments' elevating to 9000+ tow capacities, but that is a most superficial view! Start somewhere. And when San Antonio starts producing honest 1/2-ton Tundras and Toyota retools the entire line in 2006, come back here and start all over again.

Your tow vehicle has a GVWR all by itself and will not hold up if you habitually overload it. See these threads for further explanation:
Nissan Titan
Nissan Armada Owners

I have had my Titan for thirteen months. My 4000# Argosy is too tied up in renovation to have loads of experience to report with the Titan. I did experience an overheating tranny that made it difficult to keep towing in tough terrain -- on a sub-freezing night I found that it cooled off quite rapidly if I pulled off to the side of the road, put it in Park, and left the engine running. I won't go back to W.Va.'s US-50 in the winter -- still don't know what I can do in hot weather.

Ultimately the traveler must read and apply the fine print of their tow vehicle's GVWR. Add up passengers, cargo in the tow vehicle, fuel in tow vehicle, tongue weight + hitch gear. Don't tell me you'll promise to travel without water or LP.... If you are like me you'll have to sweep the dirt out of your truck to stay safe. A 2005 25' Safari weighs 7000# loaded which gives a tongue weight around 1000# (10-15% rule) -- Be very honest with yourself about 1/2-tonners towing current heavy 25 footers! (to say nothing of 28' or 31' --- the engine will tow it on flat terrain, but only for a while before .... bloooie!)

I fully agree with Eric and Jack -- tow what you can tow or else step up to a bigger vehicle. I don't care for the Titan's small rear differential. I wish the tranny temp gauge actually measured true degrees. Jack, the Titan manual does state "To maintain engine braking efficiency and electrical charging performance, do not use overdrive."

More reality: Trade up (?) from Suburban to Nissan Titan

The Nissan line is not full of toys -- I love my truck. But they are not the full-sized 3/4- and 1-ton offerings of the Big 3. Until then, let's prove that they hold up to reasonable loads!

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Old 01-04-2005, 08:27 PM   #13
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Amen Bob! Well said.

I only wish folks realized how serious this subject really is...yet time and time again, folks seem to always skimp on the tow vehicle, yet pour every dime into a coach and claim 1/2 is the right choice (heck I was one of them for a few years!).

I said it before and I'll say it again. I've been in the 1/2 camp. I've been on the mountain top preaching the standard 1/2 ton praises (not even the HD version of the 1500s).....until I got a 3/4 ton. Don't misunderstand me, I don't think folks should run out an get a Mack truck or a Peterbilt(sp?) to tow their Bambi.

I've witnessed first hand a horrible wreck due to the wrong tow vehicle towing a rig too big on flat ground, with loss of property and torn up people with blood everywhere... puts it into perspective real quick (not meant to be dramatic). It's just not worth it. If you can afford an Airstream, you can afford a proper vehicle to tow with it (even if it's used). It's just not worth the you or to us as you see us on the road.
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Old 01-07-2005, 08:18 PM   #14
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Amen, AgTwink!

I, like many others, have been an import fan for the majority of the vehicles that I have owned. Their reliability and economy have proven their worth. However, when it comes to towing capacity, and the acquisition of an Airstream, I believe that one must critically evaluate their effectiveness. I sincerely wished I could have purchased an import for my needs. From the information I have received from this forum and other sources, I changed my mind.

Airstreams are not cheap, and that investment must be protected by selecting a suitable tow vehicle. I have yet to purchase my unit (22'-25' Airstream CCD), but I was determined to acquire a suitable tow unit for it and my sailboat, which tips the cat scale at approx. 6,500#.

After reviewing all the literature, I found the Tundra to be inadequate, and the Titan to be marginal. As a prelude to the Airstream, I selected a '03 Ford F-250 Crew Cab 7.3 TD, used, with 34K on it. I purchased it with an extended (70k) warranty, and it cost significantly less than a similarly outfitted Nissan Titan . It tows the boat like a light as a feather, I am hardly aware of its' presence... An added bonus it it has pretty decent fuel mileage (16/22 unburdened).

I guess my point is this, do not overlook domestics due to a prior allegiance to imports. I have owned a pathetic domestic before ('94 Ford Explorer), but my current rig has been an eye opener...the US still makes a damn good truck! Err on the side of excess.
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Old 01-07-2005, 08:33 PM   #15
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Glad to hear that you have found something that meets or exceeds your needs. Since you have a TD, I'd seriously consider taking a gander over at

Lot's of great info there for your particular truck and diesels in general.

Happy travels.

Computers manufactured by companies such as IBM, Compaq and millions of others are by far the most popular with about 70 million machines in use worldwide. Macintosh fans note that cockroaches are far more numerous than humans and that numbers alone do not denote a higher life form. -NY Times 11/91
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