Cause and Solution for Allison Transmission No Forward or Reverse Gear

Cause and Solution for Allison Transmission No Forward or Reverse Gear

One issue that unfortunately leaves many drivers stuck is when their Allison transmission suddenly loses the ability to engage forward or reverse gears. Whether it’s no forward or no reverse, not being able to drive can wreck plans and schedules. However, with the right troubleshooting and repairs, mobility can be restored. This report provides an overview of common causes for an Allison transmission failing to shift forward or reverse, along with the signs to look for and recommended solutions. With a methodical process of diagnosis and fixing the underlying problem, drivers can get back on the road faster.

Common transmission issues where the vehicle cannot move forward or reverse

While frustrating when it happens, not being able to shift forward or reverse is a challenge shared by many Allison transmission owners at some point. The good news is that the causes tend to fall into familiar categories that mechanics are well-equipped to address. Whether gears are engaging or not, there is usually an identifiable mechanical, electrical, or fluid-based reason. Issues moving forward versus issues moving in reverse also have similar underlying root causes, even if the specific transmission components involved differ. Addressing the transmission trouble systematically allows the problem to be narrowed down and resolved efficiently.

Common Causes of No Forward or Reverse

Before diving into forward versus reverse gear causes, it helps to understand some transmission issues that can restrict either direction of travel. Five frequent culprits are:

  • Incorrect gear position – The transmission must be in the proper “Park”, “Reverse”, “Neutral” or “Drive” setting for the corresponding gears to engage. If the shift selector or linkage is faulty, it can block all forward and reverse motions.
  • Blown transmission – Severe internal damage from lack of maintenance like fluid changes can destroy gearing and hydraulics to the point that no ratios engage. A complete disassembly rebuild is usually required.
  • Incorrect air-fuel ratio – If the fuel mixture sent to the engine is too lean or rich, it can overheat the transmission as well as trigger slipping, hard shifting, or no engagement. Proper tuning is critical.
  • Dirty transmission fluid – Neglected fluid acts as an abrasive sludge that gums up valve bodies, clutch packs, and gears. New fluid can solve shifting issues in many cases.
  • Low transmission fluid – Low fluid levels cause transmission parts to run dry or overheat. Regular fluid checks and timely fluid/filter changes prevent this common problem.

Other frequent suspects are shifter mechanism issues inside or outside the transmission like worn bushings or broken components as well as electrical or software faults originating from the electronic control module (ECM). Addressing these broad problems forms an initial checklist when diagnosing a lack of any gear engagement.

Cause and Solution for Allison Transmission No Forward or Reverse Gear

Causes of No Forward Gears

Zero forward motion requires identifying transmission-specific causes. A few potential culprits:

Cracked Fluid Tube

Cracked or damaged fluid tubes inside Allison transmissions allow precious hydraulic fluid to leak out, interfering with normal line pressure used for clutch application in different gear sets. Over time low fluid causes slipping, increased heat, and eventually loss of forward gear engagement until the tube is replaced.

Transmission Fluid

As noted earlier, dirty or low fluid prevents smooth hydraulic operation between the valve body and clutch. Without proper lubrication and friction modifiers, gears can become unable to engage under increasing load and speeds, especially higher forward ratios. Filling and filtering the fluid restores lubrication.

Speed Sensor

The transmission control system relies on accurate input from the vehicle speed sensor to properly coordinate shifts. A faulty or incorrect reading sensor fools the ECM into an incorrect gear or RPM reading, which can block the engagement of the forward clutch packs and result in no forward motion. Replacement often fixes this electrical issue.

Symtoms of No Forward Gears

If the Allison transmission suddenly loses the ability to engage any forward gear ratios, some warning signs to be aware of include:

  • Grinding or clicking noises coming from the transmission whenever the truck is placed in Drive and the brake is released. This indicates gear teeth are not mating properly.
  • The engine races and RPM jumps higher than normal but the vehicle does not move when accelerating. Clutches are slipping instead of gripping.
  • A burning smell or visible transmission fluid leakage under the vehicle. Overheating from internal slipping or low fluid causes damage.
  • Dashboard warning lights for transmission temperature, pressure, or shift position come on. The ECM senses an abnormal operation issue.

Paying attention to these symptoms and addressing problems early can avoid unnecessary wear and further transmission damage down the road.

Solutions for No Forward Gears

To resolve the complete lack of forward motion, it’s recommended to systematically work through the following steps:

  1. Check for proper fluid level and condition. Low or dirty fluid is a leading cause. Drain, fill, and change the filter if needed.
  2. Inspect for leaks or cracks in fluid lines and repair any issues found.
  3. Test vehicle speed sensor output with a diagnostic scan tool. Replace part if readings are erratic.
  4. Examine transmission fluid for signs of water contamination or the presence of metal shavings from internal wear.
  5. If fluid and sensors check out, a full transmission inspection is warranted. Check hydraulic pressures and internal components for damage.
  6. Rebuild or replacement of the valve body assembly may be needed if controls and clutch apply are faulty.
  7. As a last resort, a full transmission rebuild is required if damage cannot be pinpointed or is extensive from neglect.

Following this process allows for identifying the specific failure causing no forward engagement methodically to ensure proper repairs. Don’t ignore symptoms, as continued operation will only make the problem worse.

Causes of No Reverse Gear

Losing reverse functionality, while still having forward gears, can stem from different causes unique to the reverse clutch and gearing assembly. A few potential culprits:

Faulty Transmission Selector Sensor

This sensor mounted on the range selector tells the ECM which gear the transmission is in. If it malfunctions, the control software may think the vehicle is in Drive when Reverse is selected and will not apply the necessary clutches. Replacing the sensor cures this electrical issue.

Transmission Fluid Level

As with forward gears, low fluid starves the clutches of reverse. However, overheating from lack of fluid or dirty fluid can also cause the thinner reverse clutch materials to burn up faster than other clutch packs. Topping it off often does the trick.

Broken Teeth

Constant wear and repeated shock loads from high-torque demands in towing or hauling applications can potentially crack or shear off teeth on the reverse gear itself over time. Inspection or rebuilding is then needed.

Wrong Shift Mechanisms

If previous transmission work was done, it’s possible that brake bands or clutches were incorrectly installed such that the reverse is mechanically blocked. Diagnosing ECM and solenoid operation is important.

Symptoms of No Reverse Gear

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Warning signs reverse is non-functional include:

  • The transmission makes the sounds of gears spinning but the vehicle does not move in Reverse.
  • Backing up is not possible in Reverse gear but neutral and park work properly still.
  • The backup lights and dash display do not register Reverse is selected.
  • An unusual burning smell or a visible wet spot under the vehicle when trying to engage Reverse.

As with forward issues, acting on these signals helps avoid further damage down the road from continuous operation attempting to force the gear.

Solutions for No Reverse Gear

The multi-step repair approach for no reverse includes:

  1. Check transmission fluid level and color. Add fluid if low and change if dirty.
  2. Test operation of backup lights and range sensor. Replace parts if faulty.
  3. Examine clutches inside transmission for signs of heat damage.
  4. Inspect teeth on the reverse gear for cracks or chips. Rebuild may be needed.
  5. Perform a line pressure test to verify reverse clutch apply circuit is functioning.
  6. Adjust or replace solenoids if the electrical supply is questionable.
  7. As a last option, rebuild the valve body or replace the entire transmission if components are excessively worn.

Methodically addressing each system helps pinpoint exactly where failure is located for proper fixes to restore full transmission capacity.

Rebuilding an Allison 1000 Transmission

If damage from neglected maintenance has progressed, a full Allison 1000 transmission rebuild is often the only way to reliably revive functionality. The process involves completely disassembling the transmission, inspecting all components, replacing worn parts like gears, clutches, and seals, honing fluid passages, and reassembling with new fluids and filters.

It is a time-intensive project typically requiring 8-10 hours of labor at a transmission shop. Costs usually range from $3,000-$5,000 depending on the extent of repairs needed and the availability of remanufactured parts. However, with an overhauled transmission, performance and durability are restored like new for thousands of additional miles. Rebuilding proves more cost-effective than a several thousand-dollar replacement unit in the long run when a transmission can still be salvaged.

Common Troubleshooting FAQs

Some frequently asked diagnostic questions include:

Transmission Not Shifting Gears

If transmission appears to be stuck and not progress through the gears, likely culprits are low fluid level starving components, air in the hydraulic system from a leak that needs repair, or worn bands/clutches in need of replacement.

Signs an Allison Transmission is Failing

Tells include hard shifts between gears, slipping, leaks, burning smell, or dashboard warnings for transmission temperature, pressure, or electrical issues. Catching problems early extends transmission life.

Can a Clogged Filter Cause No Reverse?

Yes, a contaminated filter disrupts the hydraulic flow and line pressures needed for modulating clutches. filter replacements are recommended during scheduled fluid services.

Can Dirty Fluid Cause No Reverse?

Debris in dirty fluid scratches valve bodies and clutches. New OEM fluid restores smooth shifting while cleaning any sludge from old fluid prolongs component life.

Can a Speed Sensor Affect Reverse?

Potentially, the speed sensor feeds input to the transmission control module. An inaccurate sensor reading could confuse the ECM about vehicle motion and fail to properly apply the reverse clutch packs.

By addressing common questions, vehicle owners gain confidence in troubleshooting minor transmission issues themselves to avoid costly repairs or transmission replacements down the road. Preventive maintenance like timely fluid/filter services is also emphasized.

Transmission Not Shifting Gears

There are a few possible root causes when an Allison transmission is not smoothly shifting between gears:

  • Low transmission fluid level – Insufficient fluid starves components and prevents hydraulic actuation of clutches.
  • Air in the fluid lines – A leak introduces air bubbles that interfere with proper line pressure.
  • Worn bands or clutches – Over time, these internal parts lose the ability to engage and release gears.
  • Incorrect air-fuel mixture – An out-of-tune engine impacts transmission conditioning and temperature control.

Proper fluid level, inspection for leaks, and potentially replacing worn components can help resolve hard or delayed shifts.

Signs an Allison Transmission is Failing

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Key indicators that an Allison transmission may be nearing the end of life include:

  • Hard shifts between gears when accelerating or decelerating
  • Transmission slipping, with RPM increasing but little traction gained
  • Fluid leaks around the bell housing or transmission case
  • Warning lights on the dash for transmission temperature, pressure, or circuits
  • Burning smell or noise like grinding detected from the transmission area.

If multiple signs appear simultaneously, an overhaul is typically recommended.

Can a Clogged Filter Cause No Reverse?

Yes, a contaminated transmission filter fails to fully clean the fluid passing through. Dirt and debris in the lines and valve body can restrict proper hydraulic line pressures for engagements like the reverse. Replacing a clogged filter helps restore smooth operation.

Can Dirty Fluid Cause No Reverse?

Absolutely. As fluid breaks down from heat and contamination builds up over time, it leads to slipping, hard shifts, or complete clutch failures. Draining and refilling with new, clean fluid removes abrasives and re-establishes full transmission functionality.

Can a Speed Sensor Affect Reverse?

Speed sensors provide critical real-time data to the transmission control module. An inaccurate sensor reading has the potential to confuse electronics governing gear coordination. This could potentially block the reverse clutch application and result in no reverse operation.

Technical details on common Allison transmission issues:

Issue Symptoms Causes Solutions
No forward gears Grinding, slipping, lights Fluid, sensors, parts Check the fluid, test sensors, inspect components


Issue Affected Components Typical Wear Evidence Repair/Rebuild Procedures
No reverse gear Reverse gear, solenoids Teeth wear, seals cracks Replace parts, adjust clearances, resurface mating pieces


Transmission System Purpose Examples of Components Common Failures
Hydraulic Fluid pressure control Solenoids, valves Leaks, clogs, electrical faults


Maintenance Schedule Service Recommended Interval Benefits
Fluid service Fluid and filter change Every 30k-50k miles Lubrication, cleanliness, pressure


Rebuild Level Components Repaired/Replaced Estimated Labor Time Average Cost
Full All worn internals 2-4 weeks $12,000-15,000

FAQ list in table format addressing typical diagnostic questions:

Question Answer
My transmission isn’t shifting smoothly. Why? Could be low fluid, dirty fluid, or fuel delivery issues like filter clogging.
What are signs a rebuild is needed? Issues like hard shifts, slipping, leaks, burning smells, or overheating indicate wear.
Can clogged filters cause no reverse? Yes, by reducing transmission line pressure needed for reverse engagement.
Can dirty fluid block reverse? Yes, dirty fluid increases operating temps inside transmission enough to inhibit engaging reverse.
Can a faulty speed sensor disable reverse? Yes, inaccurate sensor data risks preventing the engagement of specific gears like the reverse.

Finally, here are some relevant statistics presented in table format:

Transmission Type Average Lifespan Typical Miles Between Rebuilds
Allison 1000 Series 500,000+ miles 400,000-600,000 miles


Maintenance Service Recommended Interval Benefits of Regular Service
Transmission fluid change Every 30,000-50,000 miles Extends lifespan 2x or more; catches small issues before failures


Rebuild Level Estimated Labor Hours Average Total Cost
Moderate internals refresh 30-60 hours $8,000-12,000
Full component replacement 80-120 hours $12,000-18,000


What types of vehicles use Allison transmissions?

Allison transmissions are mostly found in medium and heavy-duty commercial vehicles like buses, trucks, refuse haulers, and various types of off-highway equipment. They are less common in light-duty pickup trucks and personal vehicles.

What industries/applications commonly use Allison transmissions?

Major industries that often specify Allison transmissions include transit bus/motorcoach manufacturing, waste disposal/refuse hauling, fire/EMS apparatus, delivery vans, airport ground support vehicles, mining/construction equipment, and motorhomes/RVs.

Is Allison known more for automatic or manual transmissions?

Allison is known primarily for their fully automatic transmissions. While they do offer some models with manual-shift capability, the vast majority of their transmissions are fully automatic with electronic controls.

What are some of Allison’s most popular transmission models?

Some of Allison’s most popular transmission models include the 3000 Series, 4000 Series, 1000 Series, and 9000 Series. The 3000 and 4000 are workhorse transmissions for buses and heavy-duty trucks, while the 1000 is often used in smaller commercial vehicles.

How many forward gears do typical Allison transmissions have?

Most Allison transmissions have 5 forward speeds, though some newer models are being offered with 6 speeds and more. Prior generations sometimes only had 4 forward gears. Step ratios are optimized for low-speed torque and grade ability.

What type of clutch does Allison use in their transmissions?

Most Allison transmissions use a high thermal capacity fluid coupling or “hydrokinetic” clutch instead of a mechanical clutch. This helps contribute to their durability relative to conventional automatic transmissions.

Does Allison make transmissions for heavy-duty pickup trucks?

While Allison transmissions are less common in light/medium duty pickups than severe-service applications, they do offer models like the 2000 Series designed for use in larger pickups and chassis cab trucks.

What type of transmission fluid does an Allison transmission require?

Allison transmissions use their proprietary TranSynd synthetic transmission fluid. It has a very wide operating temperature range and excellent frictional properties required for high loads in commercial vehicles.

How often should the fluid be changed in an Allison transmission?

Allison typically recommends a fluid and filter change service every 250,000 miles under normal operating conditions. Some applications may call for more frequent changes like every 150,000 miles.

Are Allison transmissions more durable than standard automatic transmissions?

In most applications, yes – Allison transmissions are engineered for long-duty cycles, high torque loads, and tough operating environments. This contributes to their excellent durability and longevity relative to automotive-derived transmissions.

What type of company is Allison Transmission – independent or owned by an automaker?

Allison Transmission is an independent company that has never been owned by an automotive manufacturer. They focus solely on medium and heavy-duty automatic transmissions.

Where is Allison Transmission headquartered?

Allison Transmission is headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana, where it also has its main manufacturing facilities. They have additional production plants in Hungary and India.

How long has Allison Transmission been in business?

Allison Transmission was founded in 1915 and has been producing automatic transmissions commercially since 1940. They have over 100 years of experience in this application space.

What are some advantages of an Allison transmission over a standard automatic?

Key advantages include greater strength/duty capability, optimized gearing for loaded applications, simplified hydraulic controls requiring less maintenance, and improved efficiency from the hydrokinetic design.

What industries tend to specify Allison transmissions in their vehicles/equipment?

Major industries that often specify Allison transmissions are mass transit, waste management/refuse trucks, delivery fleets, airport support vehicles, motorhomes, mining trucks, construction equipment, and military/government vehicles.

Do Allison transmissions hold their value well over time?

Generally speaking, yes – due to their reputation for longevity and durability, an Allison transmission that has been well-maintained tends to retain a higher resale value than a comparable vehicle with a standard automatic.

Is it difficult/expensive to repair an Allison transmission?

Allison transmissions are more complex than standard automatics, so repairs typically require specialized Allison-certified technicians. Parts and labor costs can be higher, but the potential longevity helps offset long-term repair costs.

How fuel-efficient are Allison transmissions compared to manual transmissions?

Allison automatics typically achieve similar or marginally better fuel economy than comparable manual transmissions in commercial vehicles, with the advantage of easier operation. Gains in efficiency are an ongoing area of development.

Do Allison transmissions offer different transmission modes for various applications?

On newer models, yes – Allison offers various transmission modes optimizing gear selection for things like bus driving, refuse/utility operation, highway cruising, etc. Driver-selectable modes tailor shifting for specific duty cycles.

Can Allison transmissions be paired with most diesel engines?

Yes, Allison transmissions are designed to work with virtually any diesel engine used in medium/heavy-duty on-highway and vocational applications. They are also compatible with CNG and other alternative fuels.

Do Allison Transmissions offer hybrid models?

Yes, building on their experience with power sharing, Allison has released several parallel and series hybrid-electric models tailored for commercial vehicle use with greater efficiency and low-speed drivability.

How does the technology in Allison transmissions differ from standard automatics?

Key differences include simpler and more rugged planetary gear sets optimized for torque loading rather than rpm, electronic controls optimized for duty-cycle shifting patterns, and fluid-coupling vs. hydraulic torque converters to handle high input torques.

Are rebuilt/remanufactured Allison transmissions a good option to replace a worn unit?

Yes, Allison has an extensive remanufacturing/overhaul program that rebuilds units to like-new conditions at a more affordable price point vs. new replacements. The process includes replacing all worn parts with stringent Allison specs.

Are there any common problems owners report with Allison transmissions?

Some older transmissions had issues with the main shaft bearing failures, but these were largely addressed in later designs. Like any complex system, Allison units can eventually exhibit hydraulic leaks, valve body/governor issues, or worn clutch packs/bands approaching 350k-500k miles depending on the duty cycle.

Do Allison transmissions tend to last the lifetime of the vehicle?

If maintained to Allison service standards, many Allison transmissions are capable of 500,000 miles or more depending on the application – exceeding the lifespan of the vehicle or equipment in most cases barring accident damage. Proper cooling and approved fluids are critical.

How much power can an Allison transmission handle?

Heavier-duty Series like 3000 and 4000 are capable of handling over 500 horsepower, while lighter 1000/2000 units are good for 250-400 hp depending on the specific model. Newer electronic models can handle even greater outputs with optimized calibrations.

Does the age/mileage of an Allison transmission affect its resale value?

Generally, lower mileage and newer Allison units holding Allison Complete Care maintenance records will retain the highest percentage of their original value if resold. As units surpass 350k miles, value tends to decrease more rapidly even if mechanically sound.

Are manuals or automatics more prevalent in commercial trucking/heavy equipment use?

Automatics are significantly more common for their ease of use, efficiency, and ability to handle heavy loads. Manuals still have a role in specialty applications like vocational trucks, but even their automatics are gaining.

What is Allison’s estimated market share for transmissions in commercial vehicles?

Allison estimates they control over 50% of the North American automatic transmission market for medium and heavy-duty on-highway commercial vehicles. Their market share is even higher for demanding vocational applications.

Does Allison sell transmission parts individually or is service through dealers?

Both – Allison maintains a large portfolio of individual transmission components for rebuild/overhaul kits but recommends having full service performed by their network of factory-authorized locations to ensure proper assembly and calibration.

Are there any aftermarket upgrades available for Allison transmissions?

Some companies offer upgraded transmission cooling systems, calibrated auxiliary controls for more aggressive shifting/towing, and Allison-specific performance upgrades like beefier valve bodies. But warranty coverage becomes an issue with non-Allison modifications.

Do new Allison models offer more gears than older versions?

Yes, they are trending toward more gears – historically 4 or 5 speed models, newer offerings are commonly 6 speeds and there is even development of 7 and 8 speed designs to maximize efficiency.

Can an Allison transmission be swapped into vehicles/equipment it wasn’t originally in?

With extensive modification, it can sometimes be done – but it requires custom-engineering the transmission mount, clutch/flywheel, shifter linkage, wiring/ECMs, cooling, etc. It’s almost always more practical and reliable to use the transmission intended for the application.

How does the shifting in an Allison automatic differ from a typical car automatic?

Allison transmissions utilize more closely stacked gears and shift points tailored to commercial duty cycles involving heavy loads versus passenger car driving. Shifting is also more optimized for grade climbing versus outright acceleration.

When was the last major redesign of Allison’s most common models?

The 3000 and 4000 Series saw extensive upgrades and modernizations in the late 2000s bringing increased efficiency, durability enhancements, and new control features. Their time-proven designs continue to evolve incrementally with each generation.

Do newer Allison transmissions function any differently than older ones?

Newer models integrate more electronic intelligence, connectivity options, real-time diagnostics/telematics, and dynamic shift programming. Hydraulic controls are also simplified. However, the core strengths of durability, low-rpm operation, and tight gear ratios remain the foundation.

Does Allison offer extended warranty options for their transmissions?

Yes, in addition to the standard New Vehicle Limited Warranty of 2 years/unlimited miles, Allison offers a variety of longer-term Complete Care extended coverage plans topping out at 7 years/200,000 miles for maximum protection.

What types of warranties do Allison transmissions come with from the factory?

The baseline warranty for all new Allison transmissions is 2 years with unlimited miles. But they also meet and often exceed extended OEM warranty coverage offered by vehicle manufacturers, sometimes to 5 years/150,000 miles or more.

Is there a way to identify the model of an Allison transmission?

The transmission model is cast into the case and can be identified by decoding the badge code. Other identifiers may include gear count and the vehicle/application it originated from when possible. Service records are also helpful.

Can you drive an Allison-equipped vehicle with the transmission in neutral?

While possible in an emergency, Allison like any transmission manufacturer strongly discourages driving or towing a vehicle for any significant distance with the transmission disengaged from the drive wheels in neutral.

Is Allison testing any new transmission technologies for the future?

Allison continuously evaluates new technologies to improve fuel efficiency, expand operating capabilities, enhance serviceability, and meet evolving emissions standards. Hybridization, electrification, and renewable biofuel integration are all areas of ongoing study.

What safety systems do Allison transmissions employ?

Key safety features include hydraulic pressure safeguards, electronic controls preventing abrupt downshifts during operation, engine overspeed protections, and features like Neutral at Stop preventing vehicle rollaway in the event of unintended gear selector movement.

How programmable are newer Allison transmissions?

The latest generation electronic transmissions can now be customized extensively through software to optimize shifting patterns for specific vehicle applications/duty cycles. Diagnostics and updates can even be performed remotely.

Do most Allison service centers/dealers offer transmission rebuilds?

Yes – Allison maintains a global network of Factory Authorized Service facilities equipped and certified to perform full remanufacturing/overhauls to exacting Allison specifications using only genuine parts for maximum reliability and performance.

How can owners tell if an Allison transmission is nearing the end of its life?

Signs may include excessive slippage between gears, hydraulic leaks, inability to engage certain gears, sudden erratic shifting, prolonged delays going into gear, hard downshifts, or lack of power. But most modern Allisons go 500k+ if maintained per schedule.

What are some signs that an Allison transmission may need repair?

Common issues necessitating service include leaks, shifting concerns, noise complaints, governor malfunctions altering shift points, and electronic issues disrupting transmission operation diagnosed through fault codes.

Do some Allison models hold their value better than others?

Generally, newer transmissions and higher-duty Series like 3000/4000 retain the highest percentages of original value. Less popular models may depreciate faster. Application, condition/records, and regional factors also influence used Allison transmission pricing.

How involved is the process of reprogramming an Allison transmission?

Reprogramming requires Allison-specific diagnostic software and tools at an authorized service center. Changes can range from simple shift tune updates to customizing advanced features. Improper reprogramming risks unreliable operation and voided warranty coverage.

Are there transmission swap/conversion guides for swapping Allison units?

While not common, some specialty forums document Allison’s swaps into non-factory applications. But exact fit and driveline engineering varies greatly. It’s always best to consult Allison if attempting an unorthodox installation.

What is Allison’s estimated annual production of transmissions?

Allison Transmission’s current annual transmission production is estimated between 150,000-200,000 units catering to constant worldwide demand for their commercial-grade automatic technologies.