NHTSA grenades Mustang transmission investigation

Earlier this year, after Jalopnik pointed to a tide of transmission complaints from owners of 2011 Ford Mustangs, Ford identified several issues with the car's Chinese-built Getrag MT82 six-speed, and issued a pair of service bulletins. Now, the Feds are done poking around. The verdict? No recall. The transmission's safe as milk. The problem was "abusive" Mustang owners.

It was back in April that we first started hearing about the issues, though Ford initially wasn't ready to talk about it, the automaker did say it would investigate.

Then, in August, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opened an investigation based on 364 complaints to the agency regarding the MT82, which is built by a Ford-Getrag joint venture in Nanchang, China. While most complaints, which had started hitting the forums back in 2010, were related to trouble shifting while cold, grinding gears and clutch pedal stayout (pedal remains on the floor) at high engine RPMs, some of those made to the NHTSA alleged the shifting issues had nearly caused collisions with other vehicles.

Last month, Ford announced the results of its own investigation. Company officials said the faults had occurred with 3% of all transmissions, and that none of the issues found would cause a safety hazard. The first issue the company identified involved clutch plate bolts that loosened over time, making shifting difficult and causing grinding. Ford says it revised the fasteners and issued a "service message number" to techs. The NHTSA says only five complaints were related to this issue.

Of the issues reported, 44% were related to greater shift effort upon starting in cold temperatures. A service bulletin (TSB 11-3-18) suggested switching from the full-synthetic stuff to a lower-viscocity fluid used in the company's dual-clutch automanual. Third, 24% reported the clutch stayout issue, for which Ford issued a revised spring design and other clutch pedal parts with another service bulletin (TSB 10-19-4). Ford also identified an issue regarding fifth-gear syncros, saying it had "identified component quality issues regarding synchronizers and corrective action has been taken."

Ford also blamed the "abusive" Mustang owners themselves, saying "some vehicle evaluations by dealer service managers or field service engineers found that the driver's shift quality concerns were caused by their own shifting behavior." But it wasn't just poor "driver shift quality" — it was also modifications they were making to the vehicle. Ford found "inspections of some complaint vehicles have found modifications that may negatively affect shift quality and clutch and transmission durability."

Now, the NHTSA has issued their final word on the subject. "There is no indication of loss of motive power or unreasonable safety risk associated with the alleged defect in the subject vehicles," the agency wrote in its final report for Action Number: PE11024. "This preliminary evaluation is closed."

So says the Feds. But will the forums agree?