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Project Long-Range Clunker - 1994 Dodge Ram

Posted in Project Vehicles on June 1, 2011
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With every new project, we get it running and on the road, and once we do that, we start improving it. As soon as we make an improvement that isn’t related to the driving of the pile, Murphy’s Law of downtrodden vehicles kicks in and something dies. In this case, seemingly in the middle of the paint job, the transmission decided to start slipping really bad. The seller had told us it was slipping, but we hadn’t had a single problem with ituntil it was all painted and pretty-looking.


The 46RH that is in the truck behind our 5.9L V-8 is basically an update of the old A518 that was found in the second-generation trucks, and it wasn’t until the ’96 model year and the advent of OBD-II that a lot of upgrades became available. We ’94 and ’95 owners are kind of the black sheep of the third-gen Dodge Ram crowd, so we were lamenting finding a reputable rebuilder for our slipping slushbox.

In all our searching, we knew we wanted to upgrade the lockup clutch in the torque converter, we knew we wanted a heavier-duty spring for the overdrive clutch in the transmission, and we knew that there were gains to be had by changing the line pressures as the fluid flows through the transmission. We had heard that we could swap diesel transmission parts in for the Overdrive thing. We knew there were many different heavy-duty torque converters on the market, but we didn’t know where they came from and had heard made-in-China horror stories. Finally, we had no idea what pressure to change where and to what end.

You can clearly see the difference between the ATS clutch Packs on the left and the factory parts on the right. There are more friction and steel surfaces in each clutch pack, and the new friction material holds better than stock. The corresponding clutch drums are also upgraded, and the overall clutch disc counts have gone up.

So, we started shopping around and asking questions. First we went to local shops and asked about those things we had heard, and if they didn’t have good answers, we moved on. Let’s face it, having a transmission rebuilt isn’t cheap, and we wanted complete confidence in the shop that finally did it.

After chasing our tails, beating feet, and letting our fingers do the walking for three to four weeks, we called ATS Diesel Performance and found a guy who not only answered our questions, but one-upped us. After we told him this was going to be a tow rig and we were worried about the longevity of that transmission, he felt confident that ATS could build a transmission that would live.

The response to the torque converter question was, Yep, we build our converters here with better and larger clutch discs, and custom brazing in a heavier case. The diesel spring Overdrive question came back with, Well, that spring will increase the holding of Overdrive, but it can sometimes cause other issues and there are other parts in there that need to get upgraded. The line pressure question was answered very calmly with a bunch of valvebodies this and flow-freer thats, ending in oiling ability in Park.

So with our questions answered (and then some), our concerns taken care of, and a whole bunch of other stuff brought to our attention that we didn’t even know we should worry about, we lashed our tranny to a pallet and sent it off to Colorado for the treatmentand got quite an education in 46RH upgrades in the process.

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