Company Owner and President Scott Bowers, broke down the latest component from Ron Francis Wiring, the CY-80 6R80 Gear Shift Indicator. The 6R80 transmission is a six-speed automatic transmission that debuted in the Ford Explorer SUVs in 2006. The unit has become a favorite in Mustangs and trucks for enthusiasts who want to use Ford drivetrains in older vehicles. But, some of the safety features were bypassed when these conversion were completed due to a lack of support.

The team at Ron Francis Wiring recognized this and came up with a unit that would allow these safety functions to be compatible with the modern transmission. “In the past, every transmission had a sensor mounted on the side of the transmission, at the selector shaft, that would detect when the selector was in park or neutral,” said Bowers. “That was the neutral-safety switch that would prevent the car from starting in gear. The sensor would also have two sets of terminals that would connect when the selector shaft was in reverse to actuate the backup lights.”

According to Bowers, none of the analog-type sensor technology exists on these transmissions today. “Newer transmissions like the 6R80 have sensors on the side of the transmission. It is all internal and the computer speaks to the transmission with CAN bus. It is all data stream. In order to get those pieces of information, we have to connect to the CAN bus.”

CAN bus stands for a Controller Area Network that is a robust vehicle bus standard designed to allow microcontrollers and devices to communicate with each other in applications without a host computer. Bowers explained how that works in modern cars: “In today’s Mustangs and trucks, the body control module communicated with that CAN bus, and that is what translated to the backup lights. The BCM would tell the backup lights to light up, or the BCM would say ‘ok, you can let the starter turn over now,’ depending on what position the selector shaft was in.”

He explained the purpose behind the Ron Francis Wiring CY-80 unit. “So we have to get in there with computer speak, instead of analog, to allow these safety features to work on cars where newer drivetrains have been swapped into an older car,” he said. “We can do that without having to adapt different analog components, like a neutral-safety switch on the column. That means that you would be stuck with a column mounted selector. There’s no way to get one on the transmission.”

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