The job of a transmission in a conventional gas-powered car converts the rotation of the engine’s drive shaft into the useable rotation for the wheels. This takes place through a series of gears working together to amplify force. Anyone who’s driven a multi-speed bicycle knows the effect. Low numbered gears turn easily as the rider’s legs rotate very fast. Higher gears require fewer pedal turns but take more leg power to turn. Once up to speed, though, the high gears work with the bike and rider to easily maintain forward momentum at cruising speeds.
The gears in a car’s transmission do the same. As the names of the two types of automobile transmissions suggest, one method requires the driver’s control and the other handles changes automatically.
Manual Transmission Operation
Switching gear combinations requires a way to disengage one combination and move to another. The disengaging mechanism in a manual transmission is the clutch – a third foot pedal to the left of the brake. With the clutch engaged, the driver selects the new gear combination by way of the shift lever, commonly called a stick shift. Manual transmissions are also commonly called “standard” transmissions.
While some motorists find the additional coordination daunting, many others find that it makes for a more interactive driving experience. In fact, in Europe, manual transmissions are still the predominate type, allowing greater fuel economy in countries where gasoline prices are high. The fuel efficiency gap is no longer the case, though manual transmissions remain cheaper to build.
Automatic Transmission Operation
Removing the clutch and shift level, automatic transmissions take the driver’s guesswork out of the equation when it comes to selecting gear combinations. Instead of a clutch, this design uses a torque converter. This uses transmission fluid to couple components in a way that permits changes to the gear combinations automatically, without the need for manual clutch action.
Electronic control of an automatic transmission improves efficiency to overcome the advantage that manual transmissions used to enjoy. New designs adapt readily to different driving conditions. A driver needs only to shift out of park with an automatic transmission equipped vehicle. Most gear changes get handled by the automatic system, save for reverse and special forward gear selections.
Is a car with an automatic transmission cheaper to insure than a manual transmission?
In the North American market, it may well seem that automatic transmissions have lower insurance costs, but this may be incidental. Most cars come with automatic transmissions as a standard feature. In the European market, manual transmissions are more common.
Vehicles in Canada and the U.S. with manual transmissions tend to cater to the driving experience. Those motorists who prefer the feeling of being fully in control of their car through manual shifting may also prefer the feeling of performance that manual transmissions give, such as the peppy acceleration of first gear. Therefore, stick shifts are common in sporty models.
When it comes to high performance, however, insurance risk factors increase. So while a car with a manual transmission may have a higher insurance price tag, it’s usually because of elements other than the transmission itself.
Manual or automatic, use the car insurance calculator at the top of the page to let Quote Finder uncover your lowest cost insurance.