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Über855R

Level Ten Transmission, A Review And Retrospective.

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Okay, here goes. I will attempt to do a realistic review of my level ten transmission.

Let's start with the good:

The level ten trans pulls in a way the regular auto never could. When I had it in the car I would get wheelspin on both wheels equally and a drastic reduction in torque steer. Going in a straight line I could lay down two tracks much like a limited slip or posi-traction setup would yield. In turns it was even better. For example, when I had my regular automatic in the car there is one particular left hand turn on a favorite back road I travel regularly. I would floor it coming out of the stop sign and get a major puff of smoke from one side as I barreled out of the turn with massive torque steer. The wheels would hop and skip and my front end would bounce all over as I tried to manage the torque steer. Now this was sort of fun but not nearly as much as when it handles the turn. Comparing that same turn with the level ten trans, (when it was working) the car would pull straight with no noticeable torque steer and a drastic reduction in smoke as I would just pull out hard and fast with an amazing feeling of control and poise. Leaving two strips of rubber in my wake and having this feeling of "yeah man that was sweet!" I have no doubt that the trans would give better 1/4 mile times than a stock auto, probably by a surprising amount, and I can vouch for the fact that is in a whole different league from the stock transmission.

Now for the bad:

For starters, there is the cost. For the stage three level ten build good for up to 500HP the build is about 5K not including removing from the car and shipping to and from NJ from CA in my case. This gets you new internals, a better torque converter and valve body which seems to be the heart of the basic upgrades on the lower stage builds. After purchasing the stage III trans, I ran an after market oil cooler which I had hoped would be some cheap insurance on this expensive unit. After a couple of months the trans stopped working and I had to remove it from the car again and send it back to level ten. It turns out the valve body was melted out due to heat issues and they replaced it for me only charging for parts and covering the labor no questions asked. That didn't change the fact that I was out of a car for over a month and the had to pay freight twice and removal and installation charges getting the trans in and out. I put it back in the car, fearing my external cooler was not doing the job I switched back to the stock cooler setup routing the lines through the stock radiator. A few months later the trans stopped working with seemingly the same symptoms as before. I thought it was the valve body again and I sent it back anticipating another $500 dollar fix not counting freight. It turns out the internals were completely melted out and the whole thing needed to be rebuilt. Now, Pat was super cool about it, charging me only for materials and striving to make sure this would be the last fix needed. He built this thing himself using all the tools he had available including modifying the casing to accept a fluid pump that would move 3X the fluid of the previous one, and using the internals from a much newer Volvo transmission fitted into my 850 casing. This is the trans I am about to install in my car with a built motor and hoping that it will work long term this time. Pat says the stock cooling ought to be fine this time and I have a transmission temp sensor installed which I hope will let me know if heat is becoming an issue. (I had this before and it didn't help, but I suspect that is because it was always running hot so my baseline temp was never a good judging point.) This second rebuild Pat claims should hold upwards of 700HP and be truly able to handle whatever I can throw at it. We will see...

My impressions on Pat, the owner and founder of level ten is that he is a great guy with some real love for making power get to the road. He has been easy to work with and reasonable about fixing his work. The second rebuild still cost me around 3K putting the total for the trans not including shipping and install costs around $8,500. That is no joke, for that price you could install a 5 or six speed with a limited slip diff and handle all the power you want. Although I would be curious to see which has less torque steer since that problem has been non existent in my level ten trans and I could be wrong but I believe is still a problem on manual 850's.

You might ask yourself why I would do all of this instead of a manual swap. For me manual is not an option since I use hand controls in my car which do not lend themselves to using a clutch. For most of you a manual swap would probably be a better/cheaper option.

I am putting this info out there to hopefully give others the chance to make a well informed decision about their transmission choices. I do firmly believe that the level ten trans has been the best upgrade I have made to the car, and I have made plenty. But at the same time I wish I could use a manual and I know I could have driven my car much more with less trouble if I did.

I will be installing the newly rebuilt level ten transmission and keeping an eye on the temp and checking the fluids almost daily. Also getting a flush very often hoping to make this one last for a long time. Although I am confident that Pat has done it right this time since he really went above and beyond to make sure that is the case.

I will be sure to keep you guys posted and if anyone has any questions feel free to ask.

Ben

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Nice review, I only know of one other person who was/is running a Level 10. Not sure what level however. I always liked the idea of having a powerful auto, especially for daily driving. I like my auto as well (stock) and as some can attest to I have put it through hell, and she likes me still haha.

Out of curiosity, since I coach wheel chair sports, are you involved in anything? (I have done manual and power sports, mainly however Power Soccer)

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^ Good stuff! :tup:

What stall speed did you get on the torque converter? What did they do to the clutch packs? I've also heard you should still run the radiator trans cooler then run it thru a external cooler. Running both together takes more heat out of the trans fluid than just one of them alone

I'm actually going with IPT in NJ when I get my spare rebuilt one day. They have a very good rep with the Nissan guys that run there version of the AW-55 with turbo V6 motors.

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You should reach out to lucky and have him adjust your line pressure. When I had my transmiasion rebuilt, one of the first questions he asked me was would we be able to adjust line pressure. At the time lucky was still with IPD and that wasnt an option so my guy adjusted

the valve body accordingly. But even afterwards he commented that he would really have like to fine tune the tcm for added durability.

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Out of curiosity, since I coach wheel chair sports, are you involved in anything? (I have done manual and power sports, mainly however Power Soccer)

I did one track day and a few weeks later had a grapefruit sized hole in my transmission casing. So be careful how you treat that stock auto.

As far as WC sports I stick to motorsports. My arms hands and shoulders are too valuable to me to risk injury on sports that I don't really love.

^ Good stuff! :tup:

What stall speed did you get on the torque converter? What did they do to the clutch packs? I've also heard you should still run the radiator trans cooler then run it thru a external cooler. Running both together takes more heat out of the trans fluid than just one of them alone

I'm actually going with IPT in NJ when I get my spare rebuilt one day. They have a very good rep with the Nissan guys that run there version of the AW-55 with turbo V6 motors.

I like that idea of running both coolers, might go for that setup. Thanks for the tip. Keep me posted on the IPT rebuild I am curious what they do and the cost. And I will get back to you on the exact specs of my torque converter, the other details are probably more accurate from level tens website. I used to get really into doing this stuff but these days I let the pros figure that out and just drive the end resut. I know it's not very Volvo message board traditional but I will stick to mathematics, my profession.

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You should reach out to lucky and have him adjust your line pressure. When I had my transmiasion rebuilt, one of the first questions he asked me was would we be able to adjust line pressure. At the time lucky was still with IPD and that wasnt an option so my guy adjusted

the valve body accordingly. But even afterwards he commented that he would really have like to fine tune the tcm for added durability.

I would like to talk to lucky, or better yet get him talking to CJ who is doing all the work to my car. If he is on the board is that his name? Contact info? PM me. I also think my TCM should have some adjustments made to get the most from the transmission. Who can do that? More info is welcomed...?

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Damn and I thought my $2500 invested into my manual swap was crazy. But once you get the swap, buy all new clutch, slave, lines, LSD, suede boot, wood knob it adds up fast. But you just made me feel much better about it haha

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When I spoke with IPT back in '09 they'd do a torque converter, better solenoids, stonger clutch packs and more of them vs. the original and other things that I can't remember now... Price was similar to an AW-55 rebuild.

Lucky posted how to mod for adjusting the line pressure on the TCM, unfortunately it won't work for me with ME7 and he's not doing any TCM upgrades

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Damn and I thought my $2500 invested into my manual swap was crazy. But once you get the swap, buy all new clutch, slave, lines, LSD, suede boot, wood knob it adds up fast. But you just made me feel much better about it haha

I'm glad my financial pain can help to ease yours.

When I spoke with IPT back in '09 they'd do a torque converter, better solenoids, stonger clutch packs and more of them vs. the original and other things that I can't remember now... Price was similar to an AW-55 rebuild.

Lucky posted how to mod for adjusting the line pressure on the TCM, unfortunately it won't work for me with ME7 and he's not doing any TCM upgrades

If you could give me some search terms to find it or a link to the thread I would be grateful. I'm not sure if the search still sucks on VS or just sucks using the iPad. Either way, thanks in advance.

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Sorry I can't find the thread either??? :unsure: But his screen name is ARD-Lucky.

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Here's the thread:

Page 2 of member announcements.

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Patrickw had a never ending nightmare with level ten. Never got it right after numerous attempts and wasn't running strong numbers either

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