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Car Basics: What Is a Transmission?

Hand on Gearshift

If you aren’t well versed in what’s going on under your car’s hood, there are probably some car-related terms that may go over your head. You may know these terms from having heard them, maybe from a mechanic or a friend or on one of those car shows on TV, but you don’t know what they are or what purpose they serve in your car.

Sure, you’ve heard the word “transmission” and you know that it is a part of your car, but what exactly does it do and why is it important?

Basically, your transmission is what causes your car to shift between gears. If you drive an automatic car, your transmission will automatically change gears based on your speed. As you go faster, your car will shift to higher gears and as you slow down, your car will switch to lower gears. For a better illustration on gear shifting, watch this helpful video: (AutoNet TV Video)

If you’ve ever ridden a bike with gears, you know that trying to start your bike while in a high gear can be incredibly difficult. You can pedal and pedal as hard as you want, but you get almost nowhere. However, when you’re in a lower gear, it’s much easier to get started. The same logic applies when your car is shifting.

If you drive a manual car, you must manually shift the gears in your transmission using a gear shifter and a clutch. Instead of your car shifting gears by itself like it would in an automatic transmission car, you must decide when to shift gears in a manual car. While this may sound difficult to a beginner, it’s second nature for experienced manual drivers.

In manual cars, you can typically tell when it’s time to shift by the sound of the engine. As your engine gets louder and you’re going faster, that’s typically a sign that it’s time to shift up to the next gear. To do so, you hold in the clutch and navigate your gear shifter to the next higher gear. Once you’ve reached the next gear, you can release the clutch.

No matter whether you drive a manual or automatic, your car’s shifting is all handled by your transmission. Without a properly functioning transmission, your car may not shift correctly which can be absolutely detrimental to your vehicle.

As you know now, your transmission is an incredibly important piece of your vehicle that you want to keep running well. So, you’ll want to be on the lookout for signs of transmission problems – check out our other post to find out some signs. And if you ever do run into transmission problems, turn to the pros at Rad Air to get your car back in working condition.

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