Every driver knows that depending on the incline of the road and the speed you’re travelling at, there’s a range of gears to choose from. There are two ways of controlling your car’s transmission. It will have either a manual or an automatic gearbox. Most drivers in the UK will be more familiar with a manual gearbox, which uses a gear stick to change between these gears. For years, most car gearboxes in the UK have been manual. It’s easy to understand why they’re called manual; you’re choosing and selecting the gears yourself. An automatic gearbox, however, the car is doing it for you. With the rise in electric cars and hybrid cars, there has been an increase in automatic transmission cars in the UK. With more UK road users adopting these cars, it is important to understand how they work and more importantly, how to look after an automatic gearbox.
The Differences Between Manual Gearboxes and Automatic Gearboxes
As there are separate driving tests for both automatic and manual transmission cars, you also get distinct driving experiences. Let’s explore some of the differences in how they drive and what you see in the car.
The first thing you will notice is that it has no clutch pedal on an automatic car. The second thing is that there is no gear stick; a simpler, identical mechanism has been replaced with three standard options: neutral, drive, park and reverse.
Drive – automatically picks gears and makes the car move along.
Park – You can only use it when you are stopped or you get out of your vehicle. It ‘ locks ‘ the transmission stopping it from rolling away (but when stopped, you still need to apply the handbrake).
Reverse – This does as it says acts the same as a reverse gear in a manual, and should be selected when you want to drive backwards.
Neutral – is the same as a manual gearbox knocking out of gear. When driving-this is known as coasting-it should not be used but can be used (along with the handbrake) if you’re stuck for a short time.
Torque ConverterThe torque converter’s primary role is to provide connection of your engine’s power to the wheels being driven. Unlike a manual clutch with a connecting flywheel, a torque converter is a fluid coupling that operates by hydraulic pressure. The torque converter has three main components:
- The impeller – bolted to a flywheel
- The turbine – connected to the gearbox input shaft
- The central reactor – connecting these two components
A Simplified VersionWhen your car is sat idle after turning it on, the torque converter isn’t creating enough torque to power the turbine, so your car stays stationary. The torque converter rotates faster when you press the accelerator, which will produce more fluid and torque to the gearset. This causes your car to move. The torque converter is, nevertheless, a more complex beast. It provides additional torque and power by delivering the hydraulic fluid via its different components and back to the pump. Following that process, your car accelerates to the desired point and releases torque once there to prevent going any faster.
How An Automatic Transmission Gearset WorksAn automatic transmission uses three main gearing components, instead of having different sets of cogs to create each different gear ratio for your driving gear:
- The sun gear
- The planet gears and the planet gears’ carrier
- The ring gear