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Fiat Comfortmatic transmission – 3.0litre Euro-5 motor

Derek Uzzell

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It may be worth noting that French motorhome magazines have recently published a short article relating to motorhomes built on a Ducato Maxi base with an overall weight above 4.5tonnes and fitted with the Euro-5 3.0litre 180 Multijet ‘Power’ motor and Comfortmatic transmissiion.


The article says that a small number of owners of such motorhomes have found that, when manoeuvring in reverse on a steep slope, an audible warning-signal occurs accompanied by an “Excessive clutch temperature” message appearing on the dashboard display-screen.


Fiat France states that this warning-signal/message does not signify a ‘fault’ as such, but is a warning to the driver that continuing with the reversing manoeuvring may result in clutch damage.


If the warning-signal/message occurs very frequently, Fiat France advises that the motorhome should be inspected by a Fiat agent to confirm that the Comfortmatic transmission’s software is functioning correctly.


Fiat Professional says that an ‘adaptation’ of the Comfortmatic transmission is currently being developed to deal with the specific circumstances mentioned above and should be available in about 6 months time.

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As Nick Fisher (euroserv) has said before on this forum since the Comfortmatic transmission was introduced, the system essentially comprises the standard manual 6-speed gearbox and friction-clutch with some clever gubbins that make a clutch-pedal redundant.


The Comfortmatic gearbox gained a reputation for being 'bomb-proof' when the Juddergate saga was in full swing in the UK, but that was when the lower power 3.0litre Euro-4 Multijet 160 motor was fitted to Ducatos. Even then, there were occasional reports of motorhomes with the Multijet 160 powerplant and manual transmission having clutch problems.


Realistically, the reason that 3.0litre Ducato Comfortmatic-equipped motorhomes seemed to be problem-immune clutch-wise was because the driver was to all intents and purposes removed from the equation when difficult manoeuvring in reverse was being carried out. However, even when the driver is not in the frame and clutch-control is being handled by a 'robot', a heavy motorhome being reversed slowly up a steep slope will inevitably stress an ordinary friction-clutch - and the heavier the motorhome, the steeper the slope and the more prolonged the manoeuvring, the greater the potential for the clutch to start to wilt under that stress.


Fiat's advice given in the French articles to motorhome owners, if the warnings occur when reversing, is to minimise the number of times the vehicle is stopped/started (or its speed changed) during the reversing manoeuvring and, if necessary, to stop reversing and switch off the motor for a short period until the warnings go away.


A lot of very substantial (ie. 'heavy') motorhomes are being marketed in France with the 2.3litre motor as standard, normally with the 150bhp version rather than the significantly more expensive Multijet 180 3.0litre engine. If a heavy motorhome with the 180 powerplant and Comfortmatic transmission is evidencing clutch vulnerability, things are bound to be potentially much worse when the same motorhome has the smaller-capacity 150 engine and Comfortmatic.


It's difficult to see what Fiat can do about this to allow any motorhome with an ordinary friction clutch (whatever the vehicle's weight or transmission type) to reverse slowly up a a steep slope without putting the clutch in jeopardy. As Comfortmatic is bound to do a better job of clutch-control than a human during tricky reverse manoeuvring, Comfortmatic should still provide better protection against clutch-related problems than having a manual transmission. Nevertheless, it would be naive to believe that "Caveat driver" need never apply to a Comfortmatic-equipped motorhome.

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I completely agree with Derek.


At least with the comfort-matic you get a warning that things are getting stressful for the clutch. In a manual vehicle, and with the average driver behind the wheel you will persist with the manoeuvre until smoke is seen from the clutch. Much worse, i think.


Whatever gearbox or for that matter, engine is fitted; I renew my appeal for common sense. A front wheel drive chassis is not suitable for vehicles of this size and weight. Downright stupid actually.

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