This is a topic you will certainly hear a lot about with not only F1 Maserati Cars, but also Ferrari, and what Lamborghini calls the E Gear system.
I imagine this is a subject matter that could go on for quite sometime. So I am going to try and curtail it as it’s important to what we need to know for you as an owner of these type of Maseratis.
First, let’s discuss a bit about the F1 pump. The pump is designed to produce the hydraulic pressure necessary to shift the gears in any F1/E Gear car. Because the gear shifts are hydraulically operated if it doesn’t maintain the hydraulic pressure (580-725 psi), the vehicle cannot shift into any gear, or out of any gear. The vehicle without hydraulic pressure is stuck in that gear. As a matter of protection, if the car senses there isn’t any hydraulic pressure, it also will not allow the car to start.
Let’s check out a few photos of pumps.
The first photo above is just an old F1 pump sitting beside a new one I replaced in a Client’s car. These are OEM style F1 pumps. (I will discuss aftermarket pumps here in a second). Photo two, just below it, is a gearbox and the power unit as you would see it in a Maserati Gran Sport, 4200 series, or Quattroporte car (the top of the pump can be see to the left of the gear box beside the black hydraulic fluid reservoir). The Maserati Gran Turismo S F1 also has a power unit similar to this. The Ferrari F360/F430 configuration is slightly different but operates the same way. It’s more a kin to the 3/4th photos of the Lamborghini Gallardo.
I want to touch briefly on aftermarket pumps for these cars. There are on the market now upgraded F1 pumps. I have nothing wrong with it per se. However, please understand IF your F1/E Gear car is operating correctly, meaning your solenoid leakage rates are with-in spec., and your hydraulic accumulator is functioning properly, you don’t need an after market F1 pump. They will last thousands of miles. I have 30,000 miles on my GS F1 pump now. They don’t normally fail in order to need an aftermarket replacement. Much rather I see more often than not people trying to compensate for failing F1 systems by using a pump that is not normally necessary.
For example, a client with a Quattroporte, was looking at again replacing, his OEM pump (after replacing it twice already) with an aftermarket upgraded pump. The problem though, was his car’s F1 pump was cycling every 8 seconds. This is why it was burning up pumps. He wanted to replace his pump instead of actually fixing the F1 system. This is a very bad idea. If you are replacing your F1 pump to circumvent the proper working of the car, I will tell you now, get ready to take your check-book out. You’re not going to save money doing this. If you fix the vehicle right you won’t have to worry about this issue. The car will be problem free as it pertains to the pump.
When the Maserati first came back into the U.S. in late 2001/2002 with the Spyder/Coupe. The earlier model cars had problems with the F1 pump relays. The relays were 30 amp relays, I don’t want to get side track with the purpose of a relay as there’s tons of information on-line if you want to look up it’s purpose. They are used constantly all over an automobile for various functions. We will focus on it’s rating, how it’s rated, and why it’s an issue. The newer 4200 cars like the Facelifts, and Gran Sports had 50 amp relays a kin to the Ferrari F360/430. They aren’t universal 50 amp relays, as universal relays usually have 4 prongs all the same width. These however have two prongs off-set from each other like a universal relay, but they are wider/slightly longer than the other two. You normally don’t have issues with the 50 amp style relays in these cars. Here is a photo to show you what’s being discussed.
The top photo above has a Ferrari relay on the right, red in color., as you’ll notice the wider prongs. The two relays on the left are universal relays. The clear one is a universal 80 amp, the black is a 40 amp universal relay from a normal auto parts store like AutoZone. Keep those universal relays in mind though, I am going to show you how it will be helpful if you have an older 4200 series vehicle. The other three photos under the top photo is the four wide prong relay out of a GS, as you can see other than color it’s identical to the Ferrari relay.
Focusing on the older style 4200 cars, and their 30 amp relays. Their prong configuration is a little weird. They had 5 prongs, and two were needle thin. The only other place I’ve seen the same relay was an ABS relay in older BMWs. I surprisingly don’t have a photo readily available as I always change them for universal relays like above, which I will explain later on.
The 30 amp relays were problematic mainly because it pushed the boundaries of the 30 amp relays’ constant load capacity. Here’s why, a new F1 pump motor operates at approximately 27.55 amps. Though the relay is rated at 30 amps, it’s rating is unlike an automotive fuse, where it will continue for long periods of time without issue close to that amperage rating . A fuse will only blow when it zenith reaches above that. Relays are rated at one minute intervals, in this example 30 amps, after that interval the rating deteriorates to close to 2/3rds of that, or just above 20 amps. As you can see, at least it’s my opinion they should have never of put the 30 amp relay in, in the first place. This is also why I believe the engineers changed it in the later model cars for the 50 amp. When you do the math you’ll see even taxed. or worked hard the 50 amp relay would technically always be enough even under constant work load intervals.
What was happening in those early model 4200 cars is the contacts of the relay were becoming hot under constant switching on/off to operate the pump, and eventually welding together the relay contacts. This in turn would keep the F1 pump continuously running until the pump itself became so hot it failed, or blew the 30 amp F1 pump fuse. Unfortunately, the relay itself though not that expensive was causing expensive F1 pump motor repairs. Even on the market today, those pumps cost around $400-450 a piece without labor to put it in.
So something very common with these cars was to change the relay out regularly to prevent this issue with the same type of relay. It actually bled over to the newer cars as well. I don’t replace my relays with 50 amp relays, I actually replace the Maserati/Ferrari relays with 80 amp relays. Maybe I should add this isn’t like changing a fuse for a higher amperage fuse, a very bad idea. If you change a fuse out for a higher amperage fuse you could do serious damage like fry the wiring in the car. The fuse protects the circuit from having more power come through that wiring or to the component than it can handle. A relay on the other hand is just a switch within that protected circuit. It does not allow any more power to come through that circuit than the fuse will allow. Now IF by chance it had a higher amperage come through, it could handle it. So technically, If you wanted to put a 100 amp relay in, that’s your prerogative. The purpose for increasing it is more to give it the longest shelf life possible. Is it necessary,…probably not. But if I can purchase an 80 amp for what I can get a 50 amp then I go with the higher amperage for that reason alone, to help increase it’s duty life.
Let’s get back to the problematic 4200 relays and what you can do to put it on the same level of protection as the new Face-lifts or GranSports, and not worry about burning up the F1 pump.
Though they have the 5 prong ABS style relays, the actual base it’s mounted in allows for a universal four prong relay to be installed. I will show you some photos in a minute. But as many times as this subject has been addressed, someone will say the 5th prong is supposed to protect from voltage/amperage spikes. I respectfully disagree. A relay in this situation wasn’t designed to prevent voltage/amperage spikes, that’s what the fuse is designed for as we just covered.
I’ve also heard that it allowed the NCR of the car to determine when the F1 pump relay itself was in the off position. This could be true but, there would be no important function for the relay itself to being off or unpowered. When you have the car plugged into a scan tool, and a universal relay installed. The NCR shows when the pump is still on and off, through the relay PID.
How do I know that a universal relay will work and not cause damage to the older 4200 cars? I ran one in my 4200 Spyder for years, and when it was sold, to-date the owner hasn’t replaced the 80 amp universal relay. I think I performed plenty of R&D to safely say it can be replaced without affecting any function of how the F1 system or car operates.
Okay so the first photo is the base of which the 5 prong relay plugs into for a older 4200 series vehicle. As you can see it has the extra slots for a universal relay to also be installed.
Picture two shows the clear relay plugged into the base and this is the relay I used in the Spyder. I relocated and swung the relay base down so I could actually see the contacts open and close. For R&D it was important to be able to see if there was ever a problem with the relay, and operation. Instead of opening the relay, to examine it, I purchased an inexpensive clear one.
To further reiterate, the photos I posted above with the Ferrari style and universal relays I’ve included these photos of the back and side views. That way you could clearly see what relay was plugged into the 4200 relay base.
If you have any questions please feel free to contact me. Should you need an F1 pump like above here is an eBay listing so that you may purchase it. http://www.ebay.com/itm/Ferrari-Maserati-F1-pump-213264-E-Gear-Lamborghini-086901137-/261800911492?ssPageName=STRK:MESE:IT