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January 3rd 2023 info

Usually mounted to the chassis of your vehicle, the transmission itself will be different depending on whether your vehicle operates automatically or manually.

There are several different types of automatic or manual transmissions in different vehicles, but first, what does a transmission do?

What does a transmission do?

Also known as the gearbox, the transmission is one of the most crucial parts of automotive engineering. It’s what transmits power from the engine of your car to its wheels.    

When the car stops, its transmission disconnects altogether, putting the wheels out of action while the car is stationary. However, it isn’t always as simple as that, and different cars will have different types of transmission. Below, we delve into some of the most common types of transmission, and where you might find them.

How does an automatic transmission work?

Vehicles with automatic transmissions typically won’t have a clutch pedal. Semi-automatic cars have been around in some form since the early 1900s, with the first truly automatic transmission being produced in 1940.

In an automatic gearbox, a torque converter will change gears for you, instead of the physical process of shifting gears that drivers have to do in a manual car. However, there are typically two different kinds of automatic transmission. These are direct-shift gearboxes, and Tiptronic gearboxes.

You can learn more about automatic gearboxes in our article: Types of automatic gearbox, explained.

What is a direct-shift gearbox?

A direct-shift gearbox (DSG), is essentially two gearboxes in one, connected by two shafts. There are also two clutches, which are operated hydraulically by the fluid and pressure within the system.

As one clutch engages the current gear, the second clutch will prepare the next gear, which makes it a faster form of transmission than any other.

What is a tiptronic gearbox?

With a Tiptronic gearbox, the driver can manually select gears if they wish, overriding the computer that usually controls the gear shifts.

Tiptronic gearboxes are typically considered the best of both worlds, because drivers can experience both the ease of automatic driving as well as the physical sensation of shifting gears as and when they want to.

How does a manual transmission work?

Manual transmissions on the other hand are, well, manual. The driver needs to use the gearstick to physically shift gear, rather than relying on the car to do so itself     .

With a manual gearbox, the driver needs to engage the clutch with their left foot and manually select the right gear. Pressing the clutch pedal in releases the pressure plate, which disengages the clutch from the engine – that’s what allows you to change      gear.

As with an automatic transmission, there are several different types of manual transmission:

What is a standard transmission?

Standard transmission is what comes to mind for most people when they think of a manual gearbox. Also known as stick shift, this type of transmission is where the driver needs to use a foot pedal and gear stick to change the gears of a car.

Standard manual transmissions are the most common type in the UK, whereas in the US, automatic vehicles have become more popular. Generally, people who enjoy the physical elements of driving will drift towards a standard manual car, as it’s the most involved way of controlling a vehicle.

What is a dual-clutch transmission?

Like a direct-shift gearbox, a dual-clutch transmission also uses two clutches. In this type of gearbox, however, one clutch will operate gears 2,4, and 6, and the other clutch will operate gears 1,3, 5 and reverse. Dual clutch systems are most commonly found now in race cars, but were also common in older cars.

This kind of transmission is considered part-manual, part-automatic, because in modern cars, a computer controls the clutch in a dual-clutch gearbox.

What is synchronised/constant mesh transmission?

With a synchronised or constant mesh transmission, the mainshift and drive gears are able to constantly be moving. Pads are also used to slow the gears, which gets rid of the need for the double clutch that other transmission types need.

What is a preselector transmission?

A preselector transmission was a popular form of manual transmission in the 1930s-1950s. They used a vacuum or hydraulic shift control, and in these vehicles, you would have the car in the gear you wanted it to move to next. Whatever forward gear was selected would be the one that the car shifted into next time the clutch was engaged.

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