You’ve probably heard us say this a million times, but here’s a million and one – modern technology in cars today can be extremely beneficial for car enthusiasts. It’s incredible what the folks at the Blue Oval are able to achieve, thanks to the resources that are available today. For example, the upcoming 2018 Mustang GT — powered by none other than a 5.0-liter Coyote V8 — is set to receive some pretty awesome upgrades.

The next Mustang to come ups the ante with its 460 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque rating, and the latest generation Coyote engine gains the advantage of using a dual-fuel system. However, before we receive the chance to dive into the abilities of the all-new Mustang to come, we must look at what’s available now.

JMS is the first and only company to manufacture a true digital transbrake kit for the Ford 6R80 transmission. — Brad Grissom, JMS Chip

Go-fast parts manufacturers like JMS Chip have developed some of the most sophisticated components available for modern vehicle platforms today. These parts, such as the LaunchMAX, take advantage of what’s already available from the factory. To see how this can benefit your Mustang, we got a full download from our friends at JMS, as well as Brenspeed owner, Brent White, on how the JMS LaunchMAX Plug and Play Digital Transbrake for the 6R80 Ford automatic transmission works.

Installing this plug-and-play unit was extremely easy on our bone-stock 2014 Mustang GT, and is the first upgrade we’ve added to the car. Follow along as we detail the benefits of using this digital transbrake on our electronically shifted 6R80 automatic transmission.


6R80 History

The 6R automatic transmission series is a six-speed automatic transmission designed specifically for rear-wheel-drive Ford applications. This transmission is built at the Livonia, Michigan, transmission plant. The first iteration of the 6R transmission, dubbed the 6R60, arrived in the tunnel of the 2006 Ford Explorer and Mercury Mountaineer.


(Photo Credit: Ford Motor Company)

Fast forward to the present, and the second-generation six-speed auto we all know as the 6R80 is available in more than six Ford models, including our 2014 Ford Mustang GT. While each version of the 6R80 differs is tailored to its application, be it an F-150 or a Mustang, all generations of the 6R80 feature electronic pressure and shift controls, and uses a pair of planetary gear sets to achieve six forward speeds plus reverse.

Moreover, the 6R80 carries a torque rating of 590 lb-ft in bone-stock form (though we have seen plenty of Mustangs surpass this) and features a filled-for-life service interval, thanks to the use of low-viscosity synthetic transmission fluid from Ford.


Digital Control


While the 6R80 features electronic controls from the factory, how does JMS take this stout transmission one step further? With its LaunchMAX transbrake (PN LM1115PPM; $399). In a nutshell, the LaunchMAX is a device which harnesses the 6R80 automatic transmission’s factory controls to create a digital transbrake. But, like many things in life, there is more than meets the eye here.

“The LaunchMAX is a digital, three-channel device that incorporates a proprietary hot-melt-molding process to encapsulate the printed circuit board and connections in a small protective housing,” Brad Grissom, of JMS Chip, said. “Our OEM-grade, plug-and-play wiring harnesses are designed to connect to the factory transmission, OEM harness, control box and the momentary switch. The momentary switch is a high-quality aeronautical/aerospace assembly designed for precise, accurate and reliable activation.”

JMS Chip LaunchMAX Features

• Plug-and-play design

• Works on all Ford 2011-2017 6R80 vehicles

• Fastest transbrake release

• No moving parts or relays to fail

• Waterproof, simple, splice-in design.

• Ground or 12-volt activation

• Does not increase transmission line pressure

• Can also be stacked with a JMS Custom Tune file delivered to the ECU via an SCT handheld.

Because JMS products are designed and manufactured based on common OEM standards, the LaunchMAX’s quality is considered to be 3-6 Sigma products, “meaning they have a design failure mode rate of -0.05 to -0.01 percent,” Brad said.

One of the biggest benefits of the LaunchMAX is that the software and firmware are proprietary. This means they are uploaded at the time of assembly, as Brad explained to us.

“The LaunchMAX plugs directly into the transmission and the OEM wiring harness using a proprietary twist-lock connector,” he said. “The LaunchMAX harness plugs into the control box and the momentary switch via a high-grade, industrial and automotive weather-pack set of connectors. There is also a single wire designed to interface with an MSD brand two-step device for combined use.”




Choosing Your Version

While both the plug-and-play and splice-in versions of the LaunchMAX work exactly the same way, there is an obvious benefit to choosing the former version — peace of mind.

“The Plug And Play LaunchMAX is designed to be a complete solution, providing everything you need for installation in a single kit form,” Brad explained. “The plug-and-play harness allows for a simple installation and interface between the transmission without any wire splicing or any connections being exposed to the elements.”

“The Splice-In LaunchMAX is designed for the home-builder or customizer who wants a low-cost controller that can be tailored to their needs for installation and activation,” he added. “This kit requires splicing directly into the OEM transmission harness, assembling your own momentary switch and harness and your own two-step wiring. For those enthusiasts who are looking to save some extra cash when purchasing a LaunchMAX, you should be familiar with electronics and wiring diagrams for this type of installation.”


Plug And Play

Begin the installation by disconnecting one of the battery terminals on the battery.

Begin the installation by disconnecting the negative battery terminal on the battery.

As the name implies, the plug-and-play version of the LaunchMAX is a cinch to install, and only takes about an hour to complete. With that said, there are still some tips and tricks that JMS and Brenspeed recommend to make the process go even smoother.

“JMS’ exclusive digital electronics products utilize advanced micro-processors and other state of the art components to achieve a high-level of capabilities, accuracy and reliability,” Brad said. “There are no analog components such as resistors, relays or low-grade components that can fail.”

This is said to be a huge benefit when installing a two-step such as the one from MSD Ignition.

The round transmission connector is at the back of the transmission on the passenger side of the vehicle. Rotate the lever counter clockwise to unlock and release the connector (left). Then connect the plug and play harness to the factory wire harness (middle). Finally, route the gray nine-pin connector up the passenger side of the transmission, across and to the driver side of the engine compartment, and connect the round female Plug And Play connector to the transmission (right).

“We incorporate a very simple method to connect to the MSD brand two-step device via a single wire that splices into their harness. Both splice-in and Plug And Play kits offer this option with proper instructions for wiring.” Brad told us.

“Because the system is plug and play, it is much easier to install than prior units that you had to hard wire in,” Brenspeed’s Brent White said. “JMS provides detailed instructions to help you along the install.”

As he points out in the video above, you can mount the JMS LaunchMAX unit anywhere in the car. Just like Brent, we decided to mount ours on the shifter itself. Brent demonstrates that to activate the JMS LaunchMAX, you’ll need to have the car in drive. Then, you’ll want to activate the unit by holding down the switch on the unit itself and initiating throttle input. When the button on the JMS LaunchMAX is activated while the car is in drive, it will not move forward. To launch the car, release the button while maintaining throttle input.


Racer Feedback

The LaunchMAX makes running an automatic transmission, such as the 6R80, at the drag strip much more consistent. — Brent White, Brenspeed

We are not professionals when it comes to drag racing, but our friends at Brenspeed have more than enough experience under their belts to know the true capabilities of the LaunchMAX. Brent and his team at Brenspeed have used the LaunchMAX on one of the company’s in-house Coyote-powered project cars.

“The LaunchMAX makes running an automatic transmission, such as the 6R80, at the drag strip much more consistent,” Brent told us. “It’s 100-percent user friendly being a plug-and-play system – being able to launch by just releasing the momentary button really reduces your reaction times.”

“I have driven a lot of cars with a 4R70W or C4 transmission running a transbrake in the past,” he added. “Because of this, I was curious how well the LaunchMAX would work being an electronic device and not a mechanical device. I couldn’t believe how well it worked. It responds as fast as the mechanical transbrake setups I have run over the years.”

Brent couldn’t have said it any better in regards to how easy it is to use a LaunchMAX Digital Transbrake from JMS Chip.

“If you are a racer looking for a way to lower your e.t. without adding more power to the engine, this is a proven way to do it,” he detailed. “Our naturally aspirated 2011 Mustang will run 1.65 short times without the LaunchMAX. However, using the LaunchMAX and a set of sticky tires, the 60-foot times fell to constant 1.50s and dropped the car a total of three tenths in the quarter mile.” Brent concluded.

For more on the LaunchMAX you can visit Brenspeed’s website here and JMS Chip & Performance’s website here.