Types of Car Transmissions – Different Types of Transmission in Cars

Types of transmissions
By - Sahaj Palla
November 30, 2022

In a car, a transmission, or a gearbox, acts as the medium that transmits power generated by the engine to the wheels via a mechanical system of gears and gear trains. A transmission allows a person to apply power to a vehicle in a controlled manner, without which, the car would not efficiently move. Lower gears in a gearbox provide the required torque to accelerate while higher gears help attain high speed by using the engine’s power more effectively. While the function may be simple, there are different types of transmissions that help transmit the power into motion.

Table of Contents

Different Types of Car Transmissions

Manual Transmission

Manual Transmission

If you want to be more connected to your car then manual transmission is the way to go. In a manual transmission car, the driver uses a clutch pedal and a gear stick situated on the floor between the front seats or on the centre console, to put the vehicle in the right gear. 

Driving a manual transmission is a skill that needs to be learnt and practiced to understand how to get the most efficiency, power and acceleration from the car. Among transmission types, manual transmissions are the most fuel-efficient. This, however, depends on the driving style as aggressive gear usage will give you the lowest mileage.

Automatic Transmission

An automatic transmission is a type of transmission which automatically shifts gear and therefore doesn’t require the driver to shift gears manually. The automatic transmission uses sensors to monitor vehicle’s speed as well as engine’s rpm, and switch the gear ratio with the help of an electronic control unit (ECU). There are different types of automatic transmissions that you will learn as you read on. 

Torque Converter Transmission

Automatic Transmission

The torque converter transmissions are also known as torque converter automatics as the mechanism uses an advanced fluid coupling to amplify the torque produced by the engine to transmit power to the wheels. A torque converter transmission is a marvel of engineering and also the oldest kind of automatic transmission to be found on cars. 

In a car with a torque converter transmission, you will find the clutch pedal missing, this transmission system works via two turbines one is connected to the engine and one to the transmission. Hydraulic fluid between both the turbines transfers power from the turbine located on the engine side to the one located on the transmission and thus induces vehicular movement. Cars with torque converter transmissions are easier to drive and give ample torque to accelerate smoothly. Torque converters are fuel-efficient but due to their engineering complexity are costlier than manual transmissions. 

Continuously Variable Transmission

CVT Transmission

A CVT transmission system works through a pulley system, two cones at each pulley are connected via a chain belt and these cones can move to increase or decrease the belt diameter to change gear ratios. This property of CVT allows it to have infinite gear ratios that the transmission can quickly shift into based on the car’s requirement. 

The main advantage of CVT transmission is that it can maintain constant engine revolutions per minute even though the vehicle moves at different speeds. This boosts fuel economy and gives a smooth driving experience.  A CVT automatic transmission is one of the more affordable automatic gearboxes available. However, this cost is offset by the higher repair costs, should a CVT gearbox fail. 

Semi-Automatic Transmission

Semi automatic transmission

A semi-automatic transmission combines the convenience and car connection elements of a manual and an automatic transmission. Semi-automatic transmissions include Automated Manual Transmissions (AMT) and clutchless manuals like Hyundai’s iMT.  A semi-automatic transmission doesn’t have a clutch pedal but it does have a gear stick. These transmissions use an actuator to engage the clutch at the best engine speed so that you can shift the gear perfectly. 

Due to their manual-like nature, their fuel efficiency is almost at par with manual transmissions and with their automatic element they reduce fatigue in stop and go traffic. While they might be a bit more pocket friendly than torque converters and CVTs, these automatic cars are not as cheap as manual transmissions due to the complexity of the clutch system. 

Dual-Clutch Transmission

Dual Clutch Transmission

A dual-clutch transmission is a type of automatic transmission that uses two clutches to shift gears. A DCT transmission has two gear sets that are placed in odd and even groups, for example, 1-3-5 and 2-4-6. One clutch engages the odd group of gears, while the other engages the even group. This arrangement engages gears quickly and smoothly, as the dual clutches already have a gear engaged and ready to deploy once the previous gear has reached its gear range. A DCT transmission is fuel-efficient for the same reason, however, it is costlier than the other transmissions listed. The main reason for its cost is its highly complex build and functioning, a major reason why it is used on high-end cars.

Tiptronic Transmission

Tiptronic Transmission

The Tiptronic transmission, also known as ‘Sportmatic’ and ‘Steptronic’, is essentially a type of automatic transmission that has a manual gear-shifting mode. This means the driver can opt to manually shift the gears whenever needed. The cars with Tiptronic transmission come with either a gear lever behind the steering wheel, or a second gear panel to the right of the original gear stick plate, or paddle shifters. The Tiptronic transmission differs from semi-automatic transmission as it uses a torque converter instead of a clutch, to shift gears.

The Tiptronic option looks different in different cars, however the standard form is the ‘+’ and ‘-’ symbols at two ends of Tiptronic lever’s column, where ‘+’ stands for ‘upshift’ and ‘-’ stands for ‘downshift’. You need to push the lever forward for an upshift, and pull the lever back for a downshift. The same can be done with paddle shifters (if available). In the Tiptronic mode, gear shifts must be done in order of the gears which means the driver can’t omit any gears from the sequence for example, driver cannot shift from first gear to third gear. Most cars with Tiptronic transmission will still automatically shift gears to protect the engine, even when the driver is driving in manual mode.

Types of Car Transmission Summary

A car transmission is a vital part of a car and helps in the transmission of power from the engine to the wheels, which helps you drive. Manual and automatic are the two types of transmission but there are different kinds of automatic transmissions like Automatic Transmission, Continuously Variable Transmission, Semi-automatic transmission, Tiptronic transmission and Dual Clutch Transmission. Automatic transmissions give convenience to the driver while a manual transmission helps the driver be more connected to the car. A manual transmission is difficult to learn and requires lots of practice due to the many driving components involved. All automatic transmissions are easier to learn due to the absence of a clutch pedal. 

FAQs on Types of Car Transmission

How many types of car transmission are there?

There are many kinds of transmission available in the market, these are:

Manual transmission

Automatic transmission

Continuously Variable transmission

Semi-Automatic transmission

Dual Clutch transmission

Which type of car transmission is best?

The selection of a transmission depends mainly on the budget and choice of the individual wanting to buy a vehicle. A manual transmission offers a deeper connection with the car while automatics offer more driving convenience. If you are unfamiliar with a manual transmission, we would recommend you go for a semi-automatic transmission or an automatic transmission but if you really want to relish driving then CVT and DCT transmissions, although expensive, are the ones to choose from.

Which Indian car has a semi-automatic option?

Hyundai’s iMT and Maruti Suzuki’s Auto Gear Shift (basically an AMT) is a fully semi-automatic transmission systems. There is no clutch but you do get a manual gear shifter stick. These kinds of transmissions are less expensive than their fully automatic counterparts but partly offer the convenience they have.

What is Automated Manual Transmission?

The AMT is a kind of semi-automatic transmission where the engine performs the manual shifting of gears. The Automated Manual Transmission system though a fully automatic gear shifting system also offers a ‘manual mode’ which involves nudging the drive mode gear lever to increase and decrease gears.

Which type of automatic transmission is the most fuel-efficient?

All the automatic transmissions listed above are fuel-efficient, but if fuel efficiency is your main objective then the AMT and the iMT transmissions are your best bet. These two transmissions are cost-friendly automatics and being setup very closely like manual transmissions are the most fuel-efficient transmissions.

Q. What Does Transmission Mean in a Car?

In a car, a transmission, or a gearbox, acts as the medium that transmits power generated by the engine to the wheels via a mechanical system of gears.

Q. What is the torque converter?

The Torque converter transmission system works via two turbines, one is connected to the engine and other to the transmission. Hydraulic fluid between both the turbines transfers power from the turbine located on the engine side to the one located on the transmission and thus induces vehicular movement.

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