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Old 12-01-2009, 09:12 AM
t120r t120r is offline
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Default ZF Durability

Hey guys, just wondering if anyone uses a ZF542 on here? What kind of abuse can this thing take... It's rated to 420ft/lbs.. Seems kinda low. I believe my Harley makes that
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Old 12-01-2009, 05:24 PM
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IDK but the zf5's behind the turbo'd IDI's and PSD's saw that much torque or more, and there's lots of them with half a million miles on them.
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Old 12-01-2009, 06:53 PM
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I figure I'll be around the 500HP mark.. Not sure on the torque, but definently past the 420ft/lb rating of the tranny. I've heard from a few guys that go in the mud and tear them apart and they say they don't have a problem. I'm just hoping to have the same luck. I won't be rock climbing or drag racing it, so it should live.
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Old 12-01-2009, 07:28 PM
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Let me know how it does, im looking at a Zf or a NV4500 but the later is more expensive.
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Old 12-01-2009, 07:56 PM
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Advertised torque ratings are not based on peak capability. They are based on what the transmission is designed to handle over the life cycle of the application....100,000-150,000 miles. There doesn't appear to be any standard for the ratings, so they're almost not worth considering.

Bolting a trans rated at 420 lb/ft behind an engine isn't going to result in instant failure, but it will shorted it's life. Application also plays a big role. Mud drags are not going to be as hard on a trans as drag racing with slicks.
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Old 12-04-2009, 10:56 AM
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I run one in my Supercab, 6000 lbs truck, Desktop Dyno says 400 HP, 550 ft/lbs. I worry about my ZF5. It's noisy at idle, but they all are. I've chirped and spin on the 2-3 shift plenty of times, generally beat on the trans, pull a 4500 lbs trailer, go off roading, had plenty of wheel spin with 39" tires, etc.

I've broken several transfer cases and a few ujoints. ZF5 is still alive, but I'm sure it's not gonna live forever.

Everyone cries that they are weak but no one will tell you what fails on them. After MUCH digging I come up with one case confirmed cracked from a diesel, and rumored of a few others cracked both gas and diesel. Aluminum cases are problematic in general, with a boat load of torque forcing the main shaft and counter shaft apart. Also 3rd gear syncros wear quick due to large gear spread (double clutch, shift slow, to prolong life). Also have heard of problems wit reverse grinding as they are on the way out. Not sure if this is a bearing, fork or slider issue but eventually reverse fails and will stary partially engaged, grinding and making a mess inside.
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Old 12-04-2009, 12:13 PM
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Considering the price of these ZF5's and the fact that they bolt right up to the BBF, it might be fun to try one in a racing application. How many transmissions out there rated at less than 450 lb/ft are living behind high power combos in racing applications?

Do they have a hyd clutch? Do they need any sort of computer? Or is it as simple as cutting a really big hole in the floor and bolting in a a clutch pedal?

Gear ratios are 5.72, 2.94, 1.61, 1.00, .76.......which makes 1st gear about useless for anything but big smokey burnouts, but you could always launch in 2nd, right?
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Old 12-05-2009, 08:36 AM
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Carl, unfortunately the ZF is not well suited to racing. The gear spread is huge, it basically drives like a 3 speed toploader on the tree... Only without the nice shift qualities. They don't like the be shifted too fast, and if you try to powershift a ZF... well it sounds terrible and just plain doesn't work. Not much feel in the shifter, very notchy.

As for starting in second... With the several ZFs I've had in various trucks (from 302 to 460) first gear is only useful when pulling a trailer or off-roading. Occasinally I'll use first on the street in traffic (idle along at about 1 MPH) or on a steep hill to not drag the clutch so much.

They have a hydraulic clutch setup with external slave. No computer, only electronics on the thing is a reverse switch for backup lights. Would be easy enough to swap one into anything, given you can fit it, they're quite tall. I wouldn't sweat beating on one in a high HP light car. I mean, so far mine has held up well enough with 550 ft/lbs on the input side and 10,000+ lbs on the output side.

I think for a car a TKO would be a better setup. BBF ZF5s go for around $500-$700 around here, and that's a fair amount towards a TKO, especially if you can find one used.

I'm debating what to run in my Galaxie... I have a toplaoder I could rebuild and use... Or I could go TKO600 and no worries, or T56 would be nice since I put a fair amount of highway miles...
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Old 12-05-2009, 03:53 PM
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My intention with the ZF is in my ranger project. The gear ratio is 3.55:1 with 31" Tires (for now). So if I go with a bigger tire it still won't lug too bad. Although with the weight of a ranger and the power of a big block, I don't think I will worry about lugging.
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Old 12-05-2009, 07:32 PM
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I wouldn't sweat a ZF5 in a Ranger. I have 3.55:1 in my F-350 Supercab (6000 lbs) with 35" tires. It does fine starting in 2nd gear, first when pulling the boat. It was even fine when I ran 39" tires. I cruise on highway at 2000 RPM in 5th at 70 MPH... ~12.5 MPG. I wouldn't sweat being on a ZF like a redheaded stepchild in a light Ranger on 31" tires, or even larger. Not enough weight to stress it like in a fullsize.
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Old 12-07-2009, 10:21 AM
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i have two zf 5 speeds in trucks. a zf-547in a 97 f350 with a 400 horse powerstroke that get beat very hard and a zf-542 in a 78 f150 with a 525 horse 521" that gets used in a mud drag and rock crawling application. the zf-542 in the f150 will be put to its limits here shortly as i am puting a turbo charged, fuel injected 521" in it. i will be leaning on the tranny to te tune of about 1,100 ft. lbs. of torque. we will see how long it lasts. it is not a question of if, but when! i will keep you all updated on the out come.




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Old 12-07-2009, 11:19 AM
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I'd like to also add that a smooth engaging clutch can make a big difference in trans breakage. Chattery, sharp engagement hammers the gears, not good. I was for a while planning to use a ZF in my '69 mustang. Since the trans tunnel was cut out of it anyway, it woulda fit. However, it is very tall (as has been mentioned) and that causes it to hang too low. I think they shift fast enough when warm, but the downshifts need double clutched to be smooth. In the end, I figured it not worth it as I'd have to raise the engine to get the bottom of the trans high enough for ground clearance while keeping the driveline angle good. For me the cost is the major factor. I'm going with a 3 speed toploader out of a mid '70s truck that had a 302. This is an all iron toploader that shifts ultra slick with a floor shifter. It's got the wide ratio low 1st gear, a 2nd gear between the 2nd and 3rd ratio of a 4 speed toploader, and 1:1 3rd gear. Should be just splendid with the big block torque where I don't need 4 gears. With 2.75 rear gears, it should be all matched nicely. Best of all, these 3 speed toploaders are cheap and decently stout internally (unlike the mustang 3 speed toploaders behind the straight sixes).

I'll also mention that I was going to use the E4OD in my stang but found it has a deep trans pan that hangs low too. This isn't a simple fix of putting on a shallower pan because the valve body of that trans requires the deep trans pan. This along with high cost of torque converter and other E4 parts made it not so feasible. The 4r70w with adapter bellhousing seems to be a better option. I think the E4 can be built to be ultimately stronger, but for the cost and effort to make it work in a car application, I don't think it makes much sense.
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Last edited by ScottJackson; 12-07-2009 at 11:22 AM.
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Old 12-07-2009, 08:09 PM
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