Today, most people drive vehicles with automatic transmissions, though enthusiasts of manual transmissions are still around and often believe that their old manuals are best. You may wonder what made (or makes) them so great, and more importantly, which type of vehicle is really better when all is said and done.
The Evolution from Manual to Automatic
Even though manual and automatic transmissions are both used in cars today, they have each undergone significant changes over the years to improve their functionality.
The Story of Manual Transmission
Manual transmission was the first and only type of transmission available for the earliest cars. Compared to its automatic counterpart, manual transmission is, in fact, the simpler of the two, consisting of a system of gearwheels that interlock. These gearwheels change position according to the driver’s operation of the lever, or “stick.”
As the stick is shifted and the gearwheels move, the ratios of speed between the input and output shafts — known as “gears” — also change. The clutch disengages the engine from the manual transmission to provide smooth shifts between gears.
The Arrival of Automatic Transmission
The concept of an automatic transmission was first invented in the early 1900s, though there is some disagreement about who created its first working plan. The first automatic vehicle transmission was introduced in 1939, incorporated in the Oldsmobile Hydra-Matic.
Today, microprocessor-controlled sensors enhance the already smooth operation of automatic transmissions, designed to offer the best and most efficient means of transferring power from the engine to the wheels.
The Pros and Cons of Manual Transmissions
Manual transmission vehicles have more of a learning curve than automatic transmissions, and many modern drivers find them difficult to handle primarily because of the need to properly synchronize the operation of the clutch pedal with the shift lever at the right times.
While the main argument in favor of manual transmission used to be that the cars equipped with it were cheaper and more fuel efficient, today, that just isn’t the case, as modern automatics don’t rely on torque converters nearly as much, thus improving their fuel economy.
Be that as it may, considerable numbers of people still prefer stick transmissions today, seeing them as fun, sporty, and vintage. They also argue that once you get the hang of it, a stickshift is as easy as pie to operate.
Pros and Cons of Automatic Transmissions
Automatic transmissions are the most popular of the two kinds today. They’re easier to operate and have a much smaller learning curve than their manual predecessors due to the fact that their gears shift on their own, thanks to fluid coupling instead of a clutch.
They’re also safer to operate than manuals, as well, because the driver has only two pedals to worry about instead of three, and they can keep both hands on the wheel at all times.
However, automatic vehicles generally (though not always) cost more than their manual parallels because they have so many more moving parts. To be exact, there are more than 800 parts in modern automatic transmissions.
Above all else, though, in many people’s opinions, automatics are just not as much fun to drive as manuals!
Manual or Automatic? You Decide
Nowadays, many claim automatic cars to be superior to manuals, which may be an unfair assessment, given that so many modern drivers have never experienced a manual. Regardless, the one you choose will depend on how you value the pros and cons of each.