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Automatic vs Manual gear system car

Automatic vs Manual Gearboxes Explained

There are two ways that your car’s transmission will be controlled; it will either have a manual or an automatic gearbox. Manual gearboxes involve choosing and putting the car into the right gear yourself while driving. On the other hand, an automatic gearbox means that the car will do it for you. If you have an automatic car, you might be wondering how your car knows when to change the gear, and what are the main differences between an automatic and a manual gearbox?

Keep reading to learn more about how automatic gearboxes work and how they differ from a manual gearbox.

What Gearbox is In My Car?

You should easily be able to tell if your car has a manual or an automatic gearbox. With an automatic gearbox, the gear stick usually only has drive, reverse, and park options. When in the drive option, your car will automatically shift the gears upwards as you drive faster or drive up and down hills that require a gear change. On the other hand, the gear stick on a manual car has five or six gears. You will quickly know if you are not in the right gear as the car will begin to strain if it is in a low gear or shudder if it is gear is too high.

With a manual car, you need to engage the clutch and choose the correct gear when driving. An automatic car will not need a clutch as you are not going to be changing the gears from behind the wheel; the car will do this automatically as you drive.

Automatic Gearbox Explained

In an automatic car, the clutch that you would find in a manual car is replaced by a torque converter. The main role of this part is to connect the engine’s power to the wheels. Unlike a manual clutch that has a flywheel to connect it to the engine’s power, a torque converter operates by hydraulic pressure and is a fluid coupling. It has three main components.

The turbine is connected to the gearbox input shaft, an impeller, which is bolted to a flywheel, and a central reactor that connects both these components. As the engine goes faster as you speed up the car, torque is transmitted to the turbine by hydraulic fluid and centrifugal force. Simply put, when you turn your car engine on and it is idling, there is not enough torque being created by the torque converter to power the turbine, which is why your car remains stationary. But when you press the accelerator, the torque convertor will begin to spin faster, which pushes more torque and fluid to the gearset, getting your car moving.

How Does an Automatic Gearbox Work

Instead of having different cogs that create each different gear ratio for the drivetrain of the car as is the case with a manual transmission, the automatic transmission uses three main gearing components which are the sun gear, ring gear, and the planet gears and their carrier. The planet gears make up the centre of the system, connecting the central sun gear to the outer ring gear. To achieve the various gear ratios, several gearsets may be working together. Locking or connecting these gears to the larger outer ring gear using sets of brakes and clutches creates different ratios that will either expand, reverse or reduce the power of the drivetrain. Since the gears are all connected all the time, locking the various planet gears to either an on or off position creates a similar action to the manual movement of changing the gears and engaging the various cogs in a manual gearbox.

What is Automatic Transmission

An automatic transmission has a range of different brake bands and clutches. Brake bands can tighten to hold either the sun gear or the ring gear keeping them stationary or allowing them to spin. This is controlled by a hydraulic system. The clutches will connect or release the planetary gears, which activates the gears that are required. This is controlled by a range of different hydraulic, mechanical, and electrical functions. It is a complicated system and may not always be the easiest or simplest thing about your car to understand or describe.

Repairing an Automatic Gearbox

The main downside of an automatic car is that these gearboxes can get quite costly to repair or replace, with prices in the thousands of dollars range. The larger your car, or if you have a sports car, the more it is likely to cost for you to have your automatic gearbox repaired, changed, or rebuilt.

How to Tell If Automatic Transmission Gears Need Repair

The main sign that your gearbox is broken if you have an automatic car is that your car will likely not move. However, there are instances where you may still be able to drive your car, but there will be some key signs to look out for that your automatic gearbox needs a repair. Since the automatic gearbox is powered by various hydraulic components, problems with the gearbox might lead to leaking fluids that leave a pool of liquid underneath your car when parked. Along with this, the car might feel clunky to drive and you may notice lots of noises coming from the car when it is changing gears. It may go from smooth transitions as you are driving to humming, buzzing, clunking, or whining sounds.

How to Take Care of Automatic Gear System Car

The good news for automatic car drivers is that there are several things that you can do to look after your automatic gearbox and keep it performing at its best for longer. Regular servicing and periodically checking your transmission fluid are both important steps to keeping your automatic gearbox in good condition.

Checking the Gearbox Oil

Your car will include a dipstick that you can use to check the level of transmission fluid in the same way that you would check your engine oil. In general, this can be found at the rear of the in-line engine in a rear-wheel drive car, or if your car is a front-wheel drive, you will usually find it at the transaxle close to the front of the car.

Check the fluid level when your engine is idling. To get the most accurate results, it is a good idea to move your car’s gear selector through its positions around three or four times before putting it back in park and allowing the engine to idle for a couple of minutes before checking.

To change the oil in your gearbox yourself, you will first need to remove the sump pan and the dipstick tube, although there may be a drain plug in some cars. This job can be quite challenging and messy, so it might be worth having a mechanic take care of it for you. Most modern automatic cars will not need draining so there will be no drain plug. You can simply top up low levels of transmission fluid through the dipstick tube using a funnel. Add small amounts at a time until you reach the ideal level.

Choosing the Right Transmission Fluid

Just like other important fluids for your car such as coolant and engine oil, you should always check the owner’s manual to make sure that you know what the right type of transmission fluid is to use in your car. If you are still not sure after checking the owner’s manual, then a mechanic can help you determine which kind of fluid is best.

Service the Cooling System

Your engine’s cooling system is in place to prevent the engine from overheating as you drive. However, it also makes sure that the transmission fluid that is pumped through the airbox is kept at the right temperature. If your cooling system is not regularly serviced, this can lead to overheating of the transmission fluid, which can cause damage to the automatic gear system. Making sure that your cooling system is kept in good condition can help to prevent repairs.

Flush the Transmission Regularly

You should regularly visit a mechanic to have the transmission fluid in your car changed and flushed. Some modern cars might not require this to be done, so check your owner’s manual to find out what is recommended by the manufacturer. In general, you should have the transmission flushed around once per year, or more often if needed based on how much driving you do and the operating temperature of your car.

Avoid Changing Gears While Moving

You should not need to touch the gear controls while you are driving an automatic car. Before you change from drive to reverse or park, you should make sure that your car has been brought to a complete stop. Not stopping before you do this will put a strain on the transmission over time, which can lead to serious problems.

Automatic cars are becoming more popular today. If you have an automatic car and are thinking of getting one, then it’s a good idea to understand the basics of how your gearbox works and how to best take care of it.

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