What Are the Main Types of Automatic Transmission? Explained

When practicality and comfort are a driver’s priorities, the best option is to have a car with automatic transmissions since this technology allows shifting gears with little or no user intervention.

However, there are different automatic gearboxes, so it is worth knowing them in depth.

Automatic gearboxes have a long history that began in the late 19th century. However, in 1940, sometime after the Great American Depression, the notable brands General Motors, Oldsmobile, and Cadillac were able to develop the Hydramatic transmission system.

From that moment on, the so-called automatic cars began to gain more and more popularity, especially in the United States.

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Differences Between Automatic and Manual Gearbox

Many people have opinions about the convenience of choosing one or the other transmission system, but few know how an automatic gearbox works.

This is because most explanations are often too technical. For this reason, it is worth making a fundamental distinction. Unlike the single gears and clutch pack that the manual system has, the automatic transmission has a set of planetary gears and an axial torque converter.

All this, so you don’t have to press a clutch every time you need to shift gears.

Automatic Transmission and Its Main Types

Although cars with automatic clutch have a similar operation, each model may have a slightly different system that is worth knowing to ensure proper use and maintenance.

1. Continuously Variable Automatic Transmission or CVT

Among the most popular automatic gear systems is the Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT), also known as Multitronic.

Many drives believe it is the best automatic transmission since it is in charge of continuously varying the gear ratio, which is why it is widespread in motorcycles and mopeds. It provides maximum power without generating jumps when shifting from one gear to another.

In the past, this system was widely used in low-displacement cars. Today, advances in automotive engineering have made the CVT possible in passenger cars and other vehicles of a certain displacement.

The Multitronic was developed by the Luk brand and modified over time to be one of the most efficient and sophisticated systems.

Some Audi cars have this type of automatic transmission, mainly because it weighs less and has proven to be fuel-efficient.

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2. Torque Converter System

This is one of the most traditional types of automatic transmission. It is based on a torque converter mechanism, which replaces the clutch disc common to manual gearboxes.

For this reason, shifting from one gear to another is smooth.

This system has been on the market for a long time and has remained essentially unchanged. However, a torque converter gearbox of today can be compared to a dual-clutch gearbox if we consider its high efficiency.

Many high-capacity vehicles are equipped with this type of automatic transmission. For example, BMW regularly uses its famous Steptronic automatic transmissions.

For its part, the VAG group offers in many of its vehicles the Tiptronic, known by some as the best automatic transmission on the market.

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3. Robotized Dual-clutch Gearbox

This technology is very similar to that of the manual gearbox. It has a clutch, only that the management is done electronically, so it is called a robotic system.

In this case, the mechanism works thanks to electronic and hydraulic actuators controlled by a control unit.

Some experts have explained that robotic transmissions are more efficient than torque converter systems. However, it should be mentioned that this type of electronic shifting can produce certain jerks in the car when shifting gears, which can be uncomfortable for some people.

If you wonder what DSG means in a car, you should know that it stands for Direct Shift Gearbox technology, which means robotic dual-clutch automatic transmission.

It is an advanced gear system in a transverse assembly.

Many consider this to be the most reliable automatic gearbox, as it does not use the conventional torque converter, so it is possible to change gear continuously, without the unwanted jerks, but above all, without interrupting the power flow.

The operation is straightforward. Both clutches are driven via two shafts and are oil-immersed, but each is responsible for different speeds.

The first clutch has the task of engaging the odd-numbered gears, 1st, 3rd, and 5th. The second clutch is responsible for the remaining three, in this case, the even-numbered 2nd, 4th and 6th gears.

Thanks to this, the next gear is automatically pre-selected when you shift up, thus anticipating the next gear.

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How Realible Are DSG Transmissions?

The fundamental characteristic of dual-clutch automatic gearboxes is that they are very smooth. This means that neither the driver nor the car’s other occupants can perceive the gear changes.

But this is not the only advantage of the system; it is also one of the most efficient in existence. According to the results of some studies, we can assure that a DSG gearbox can save up to 10 % of fuel compared to a 6-speed manual system.

Although the DSG gearbox is essentially automatic, there is also an option to operate it manually, giving the user greater control.

To conclude, we can say that automatic gearboxes make driving more manageable. Still, it is essential to check the manual when purchasing a new car, as not all gearboxes have the exact specifications.

Bottom Line

Regardless of what type of transmission your car comes with, it is important to have it serviced at the right intervals.

The owner’s manual will indicate when is the time to have it serviced. If you don’t have access to the owner’s manual, you can always pop in a dealership and check with a car technician.