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Types of automatic gearbox explained

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December 22nd 2022 info


Almost all cars have a gearbox. Gearboxes (also called transmissions) are mechanical components that help transfer power from the engine to the wheels. As time has passed, different mechanics have had their own attempts at creating gearboxes, leading to a variety of different kinds available.

First, we had manual gearboxes that required gears to be selected by the driver, but then came the automatic gearbox that handled everything itself. With automatic cars now being commonplace on UK roads, it helps to understand what kinds of automatic gearboxes there are.

Here, we’ll run through the most common types of automatic gearboxes, explaining how they work and what features they possess.

How many types of automatic gearbox are there?

There are five types of automatic transmissions available on the market these days. Each one developed to suit a specific type of car or use, and holding its own advantages and disadvantages. Let’s look at them all in closer detail:

iMT (Intelligent Manual Transmission)

The first type of automatic gearbox we’ll be covering is an intelligent manual transmission. These types of gearboxes sit somewhere between a regular manual transmission and fully automatic one. Through the use of sensors and software trickery, iMTs can activate the clutch while the driver changes gear themselves. This reduces the need to manually engage the clutch pedal and allows for slightly more control of how much power the car receives.

One of the main advantages of an iMT is that the driver gets to decide which gear the car is in. This can allow for some slight fuel savings, especially on journeys with frequent stops and awkward inclines.

AMT (Automated Manual Transmission)

The next step up from an iMT gearbox is an automated manual transmission. While still being based on a traditional manual gearbox, AMTs control both clutch engagement and gear selection. It does this via a set of instructions that are programmed to the car’s ECU, which states the amount of revs and speed needed for each gear.

However, the driver still has the option of selecting gears, if they wish, which is usually controlled through paddle shifters next to the car’s indicators.

Due to their simplicity, AMTs are significantly cheaper than fully automatic gearboxes, requiring little mechanical work to develop and maintain.

CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission)

The first of three more advanced types of automatic gearbox is referred to as a continuously variable transmission. Instead of using cogs and gears to decide what gear to place the car in, CVTs rely on belts. There are two belts involved, one of which is attached to the engine and the other is attached to the wheels. These two belts are then connected via a set tension which the system looks to maintain no matter the speed of the car.

As a car’s speed raises and falls, the first belt (attached to the engine) moves up and down a mechanical cone. This changes the set tension, prompting the car to approximate which gear it needs to keep things consistent. Therefore, CVTs provide smoother and more accurate gear shifting based on how the car actually feels.

DCT (Dual Clutch Transmission)

Dual clutch transmissions are the most advanced type of gearbox you can find in an automatic car. Often reserved for sports cars, dual clutch transmissions contain all the usual elements of a manual gearbox, but they are driven by two clutches instead of just one.

One clutch is responsible for the odd numbered gears, while the other handles the even numbers. This allows them to work independently of each other while being monitored by a series of sensors, algorithms and hydraulics.

When a gear is selected, the appropriate clutch is pressed, while the other waits on standby. There are a plethora of other elements that help ensure shifting is smooth and quick, but in essence, this is the basic operation of a DCT.

Electric car gearbox

Interestingly, electric cars have an extremely simple gear setup. Thanks to a lack of engine, there is just one gear that controls forward and backward movement, with speed controlled via a motor that provides instant torque.

Unlike traditional combustion engines, electric cars don’t need to build up revolutions to generate power. All the possible power output that an electric car has is available the second the accelerator is pressed. This is what makes their 0-60 speed so much faster than regular cars.

Discover used automatic cars here

Whether you like it or not, you can’t deny how simple it can be to drive an automatic car. Not having to worry about gear changes is simply liberating, especially during stop-start traffic. Automatic cars are also a great choice for those who are mobility impaired, with optional accessible seating such as lifts being able to be added.

If you’re looking to make the switch to automatic, make sure you do so in a quality automatic with a reliable gearbox. At findandfundmycar.com, we have thousands of automatic cars available, all from dealers with the highest of standards across the UK.

Take the plunge and browse all our used cars, today.

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