Though manual transmissions and automatic transmissions ultimately perform the same function in a vehicle, they work very differently. They require similar maintenance, but repairs can often be more complicated on automatic transmissions because there are more parts in motion. In this article, we’d like to provide a brief overview of how automatic transmissions work.

What Exactly Does the Transmission Do?

First, it helps to understand exactly what a transmission is meant to do in your car, truck or SUV. In a nutshell, it is the central part of the vehicle’s drivetrain system. The transmission transfers rotational power from the engine and out into the wheels. It is essentially a control system that keeps both the engine and the wheels running at the right speeds based on which gear you are in as you accelerate or decelerate the vehicle.

What Makes an Automatic Transmission Different?

A manual transmission requires you to shift between gears through the clutch assembly while an automatic transmission does the work for you. That is why automatic transmissions are most common in today’s vehicles. Though there are a number of internal differences between an automatic transmission and a manual transmission, there really are two key components that provide the automatic controls.

1. Torque Converter – The torque converter performs the role of a clutch without you having to press on the clutch pedal. It temporarily disconnects the power flow from the engine to the transmission as the vehicle shifts between gears. It also controls the engine’s torque output as power is transferred to the transmission input shaft.

2. Planetary Gears – Automatic transmissions also have an ingenious planetary gear system that uses gear ratios to help control the torque and power being delivered from the engine out to the wheels. The higher the gear ratio (at higher speeds), the less torque is needed and thus the planetary gear system delivers less torque. The planetary gears allow gear ratios to increase and decrease automatically based on the speed you are driving.

What About CVT Transmissions?

You may also hear the term CVT or continuously variable transmissions when talking about many different modern vehicles on the market. A CVT transmission is a type of automatic transmission. The primary difference is that it has an infinite range of gear ratios to help the vehicle run at maximum efficiency at all times. A standard automatic transmission will traditionally only have a fixed number of gear ratios.

Central Valley Transmission Maintenance and Repairs

All types of transmission need periodic maintenance in the form of a standard transmission service. This involves replacing the transmission fluid (transmission oil), transmission filter and transmission pan gasket. It is important to know that CVT transmissions require a different type of fluid than traditional automatic transmissions. We see this commonly at Ralph’s Transmission. Someone mistakenly puts in the wrong type of transmission fluid and it leads to significant internal damage.

Whether you have an automatic, CVT or manual transmission in your vehicle, Ralph’s Transmission is here to help with all the maintenance and repair needs you require. We are the Central Valley’s leading transmission experts with the experience and knowhow to maintain, repair or rebuild your transmission.

Call Ralph’s Transmission today at 209.526.1909 or schedule your service appointment online.

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