Man shifting a car

Automatic vs manual vs CVT

What are the differences between transmission types?

Most people know what a manual transmission is, though we can understand if many young people grew up without any exposure to manual transmissions at all, and they will only get rarer as time goes on. What about a CVT? That’s a new type of transmission that many people may be unfamiliar with. What are the differences between transmission types? We’ll try to provide some clarity.

manual shift leverHow to tell if a car has a manual transmission

There are more and more cars that allow you to shift through the gears but are not actually manual transmission. A real manual transmission has three pedals, with one of them being the clutch. To operate the vehicle, you have to depress the clutch, engage a gear, and release the clutch. There is more to it than that, especially when it comes to taking off, but that’s a topic for another time.

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Automatic transmission cut awayCan you shift an automatic transmission?

Most automatic transmissions allow you to shift them manually. This can be useful if you’re driving a truck and want to keep your torque high, but it can also be fun in a sporty model. Shifting through the gears can most commonly be done with the stick, but some cars support paddle shifters on the steering wheel or both. Most paddle shift vehicles are actually automatics too.

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Shifting an automatic vehicle manually can be fun for sport or utility, but it’s also good for safety. If you find yourself unable to stop, whether your brakes are out or something of that nature, you can shift down and let your engine slow the car down. Go through the gears sequentially allowing each gear to slow the car before shifting into the next one.

Are there other types of automatic transmissions?

There are actually a few varieties of automatic transmission. One fairly common one, especially among high-end vehicles, is a double clutch transmission. It’s still an automatic despite having clutch in the name. Essentially, it’s two gearboxes attached to each other to provide faster gear changes and better efficiency. Then there are CVTs.


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CVT underside viewWhat is a CVT?

A CVT is a continuously variable transmission. It doesn’t have gears, though some may simulate having gears. Instead, it uses variable pulleys to change the gear ratio on the fly. Though these can also be considered automatic transmissions, as no driver input is required, they operate very differently from a traditional automatic transmission and typically occupy their own category.