Manual vs. Automatic Transmissions: 2 Facts to Know Before You Become an Auto Mechanic
June 8, 2016
When you step out of auto mechanic school and into an auto mechanic shop, chances are you’ll come across your fair share of challenging and interesting transmission work. The nature of the transmission work done in shops changes depending on whether the car is manual or automatic, but as North American car buyers increasingly lose touch with the clutch and buy less manual transmission cars, automatic transmission is becoming the norm.
The following insights into the recent shift in the manual vs. automatic car world will help future auto mechanics understand the differences between the two.
Students at Auto Mechanic School Know the Difference Between Manual and Automatic Transmission
As you prepare for an auto mechanic career you’ll begin to understand that any transmission, whether manual or automatic, is in charge of disengaging the spinning engine from the gears while they change. There are usually five gears, each with their own ratio that has a distinct input and output power. Think of gears like a lever used to pry open the top of a can; lower gears are like a long lever in that they provide more mechanical advantage in opening the can at first, or in the case of the car, getting the car up to speed by better using its torque. To continue with this metaphor, once the can is opened with a long lever, you would shift levers to something smaller that can continue the job at a more efficient rate. The difference between a manual transmission and an automatic one is that—you guessed it—automatic transmissions make this shift based on electronic calculations outside of the driver’s control.
1. Automatic Transmissions are Becoming More and More Popular
The first automatic transmission came out in 1939 and since then has been steadily increasing in popularity. Today, the percentage of manual cars in Canada is marginal at best, with just 9% of consumer automobiles coming with a stick, down from 35% in 1980.
Even fewer people are learning how to drive manual. Angelo DiCicco, general manager of Young Drivers of Canada, used to see about 10% of her students learning to use a stick shift. Now she notes that number decreasing to less than 2%. With fewer drivers entering the consumer car market with the skills to drive a stick shift, the number of manual cars on the market is expected to continue to decrease.
Even cars that are ‘purist,’ in the sense that they are built for car lovers and offer a manual transmission for additional control, are often being automated. The Audi TT, Jaguar F-Type, and Porsche 911 Carerra, saw 53.9% of their buyers choosing manual in 2010, but only 34.8% of their purchases were manual in 2015. With the trend towards automatic transmission even making its way into the ‘purist’ sports car segment, it is becoming increasingly clear that automatic transmissions are the most popular choice for consumers.
2. Students at Auto Mechanic School Know That Manual Transmissions Offer Several Advantages
Even though automatic transmissions are becoming more and more popular, there are still many advantages that come with a manual transmission.
Once you become an auto mechanic you’ll likely learn that one advantage of a manual transmission is that the driver has more control over the acceleration and timing of shifting, which often feels better on the road. Automatic transmission units also actually weigh more in a car, which cuts fuel efficiency rates and acceleration times. Plus, automatic transmissions cannot exactly predict the intent of the driver. For instance, in a manual car the driver can up shift sooner if going up a hill, whereas an automatic transmission has no way of knowing exactly what is happening on the outside of the car.
Even though automatic transmissions are becoming increasingly efficient, manuals still retain the advantage of a being a more enjoyable experience. It’s one of the reasons why manual cars have become increasingly valuable. One of the last pure manual Ferraris, a Ferrari California, just sold for close to $450,000 CAN in auction—more than double its normal asking price!
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