Automotive Transmission Basics: Frequently Asked Questions

You drive your car all over town – and even all over the country – and it gets you where you need to go. But do you know much about the inner workings of your vehicle’s transmission? It can be helpful to understand not just that your transmission makes your vehicle operate properly, but how it does that. With that in mind, here are some basic frequently asked questions about automotive transmissions and how to maintain them.

Q: What is an automobile transmission?
A: A vehicle’s transmission is an assembly that includes gears, shafts, torque converters, and other parts. It provides the way for power to go from the vehicle’s engine to the driving axle. The transmission has numerous gears, and the vehicle switches between these as the vehicle’s speed increases or decreases. If a vehicle has a manual transmission, the driver switches the gears manually. If there’s an automatic transmission, the vehicle automatically switches gears.

Q: How many speeds does a transmission have, and how have transmissions changed over time?
A: Transmissions in vehicles from years ago only had two speeds. Over time transmissions have advanced from two to three to four speeds, all the way up to eight speeds in some vehicles. The number of speeds in a transmission works like steps on a staircase. A larger number of steps on a staircase means that each step is shorter in height. This makes it easier to move from one step to the next higher one and all the way from the bottom to the top of the staircase. In other words, a higher number of transmission speeds results in a smoother transition from one speed to the next.

Q: Does a vehicle’s transmission affect its gas mileage, and if so, how?
A: When a transmission has more speeds, the engine has an easier time doing its job. In most cases, this means a smaller engine can be used in the vehicle. This results in the vehicle getting better fuel economy, also known as gas mileage.

Q: Are there any technological advances that have improved transmissions in recent years? If so, what are they?
A: Numerous advances have improved transmissions. For example, modern technology such as microprocessors – computerized equipment – plus lightweight materials have moved transmissions forward. These developments have made it possible to manufacture multiple-speed transmissions at cost levels that are affordable for use in today’s vehicles.

Q: How will I know if my vehicle’s transmission is having problems and needs repair?
A: A transmission in trouble will give you various warning signs. For example, you might notice a burning smell, which could be a sign of overheating, dirty fluid, or a leak. You may see transmission fluid on your driveway or garage floor, which could be caused by a leak. Hearing unexpected sounds while the vehicle is in neutral is another signal that you need to get your transmission serviced or scheduled in for repair. Various other unusual sounds could also be warning you of a transmission problem.

If you have more questions about your vehicle’s transmission or need assistance repairing or servicing your transmission, don’t hesitate to contact us. We’re experts on all the inner workings of transmissions and are here to help.