Types of Transmissions

There are two main types of transmissions; there’s the manual transmission and then there’s the automatic transmission. As their names suggests, the manual transmission is manually operated while the automatic transmission is automatic. Hooray for deductive reasoning, amiright? If you want to know how a transmission works, read it here. But otherwise, what are the major differences between the two? We’ll explain everything you need to know about the different types of transmissions here.

Types of Transmissions

Manual Transmissions

The manual transmission is operated manually by the driver via the foot pedal or a hand lever (which connects to the clutch) and is responsible for regulating torque that the engine creates and sending it to the wheels. Most manual transmission cars are either 5-speed or 6-speed, which basically means how many gear ratios the car has. More doesn’t always mean better though, it typically means that the gear ratios are closer together. There’s a slight learning curve when first starting out with manual transmissions but there are certain advantages to these types of transmissions. This includes easier maintenance, lower repair costs, better control over your vehicle, and the fact that they are way more fun.

types of transmissions - manual transmission

Automatic Transmissions

The majority of people opt for automatic transmissions because they are easier to use but how does it differ from a manual transmission? Whereas the driver manually changes gear ratios as the car speeds up and slows down for a manual transmission, an automatic transmission does this automatically without any interaction from the driver. It’s as simple as putting the transmission into Drive and you’re on your way, and it’s this reason why so many people prefer an automatic. Automatic transmissions usually come in a defined set of gear ranges as well as selectors for park, reverse, and neutral. Automatic transmissions require a little more maintenance than their manual counterparts but many people don’t mind as ease of use is way more important. There are also different types of automatic transmissions, which we’ll explain below.

types of transmissions - automatic transmission

Types of Automatic Transmissions

When it comes to automatics, there’s also different types of transmissions. Automatic transmissions can either be fully automatic, semi-automatic, or continuously variable (CVT).

Fully Automatic Transmissions

Fully automatic transmissions are the most common type of automatic transmission installed in cars today, and more than 90% of new car sales in America have a fully automatic transmission. A fully automatic transmission is also commonly referred to as a standard automatic transmission, and is capable of shifting gear ratios automatically. All the driver has to do is put the selector in D to start running. Fully automatic vehicles usually cost more than manual vehicles and things such as service, maintenance, and repair costs tend to be higher.

Semi-Automatic Transmissions

Semi-automatic transmissions are a hybrid between a manual and an automatic, and are often featured in high end sports cars. Also known as a clutchless manual transmission or an automatic manual transmission, the semi-automatic transmission differs from a fully automatic transmission in that gears do not change automatically but rather it allows you to manually change gears without the need of engaging and disengaging the clutch pedal yourself. A semi-automatic uses electronic sensors, processors, actuators, and pneumatics to shift gears once the driver initializes the change. Some people prefer a semi-automatic transmission because it provides a smoother driving experience.

Continuously Variable Transmissions (CVT)

The continuously variable transmission does not use toothed gears like a fully automatic transmission does to achieve gear ratios but instead relies on a pulley system that allows for an infinite range of gear ratios. This allows for seamless gear ratio shifts that makes for an extremely smooth driving experience (unlike the jerks and hesitations you feel with a standard automatic) with added benefits as well. This includes enabling the engine to run at optimal revolutions per minute (RPMs) as well as improving fuel efficiency.

types of transmissions - cvt transmission


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