What Transmission Do I Have? Differences, Types & FAQs
Most drivers know what kind of an engine they’ve got. However, the same can’t be said about the transmission. It’s still very important to know what type of gearbox you have, though. That will help diagnose it, get the right fluid, and save money on repairs. A modern-day car can either be equipped with a manual or an automatic unit, which can be further broken down into CVTs, AMTs and, say, dual-clutch systems.
Every single transmission type has its pros and cons, and we’ll cover all that in this guide. Next, we’ll learn how to easily and accurately determine the transmission type in your car. Finally, we’ll go over the cost of a brand-new unit, how much auto shops charge, the benefits of a fluid change, and more.
What Does a Transmission Do?
The short answer is—the transmission makes the engine spin at the exact right rate. On top of that, it controls how much power/energy generated by the motor the wheels get (with the engine still running fast). Without a properly working transmission, you won’t be able to shift gears. That, in turn, will put extra pressure on the engine, worsen the fuel efficiency, and maybe even lead to a disaster.
Remember: the gearbox makes sure the motor doesn’t overheat. When the transmission is malfunctioning, that leads to a lack of response, shaking, and inability to start the vehicle. But knowing the exact type of transmission installed in your car will make it easier to fix it.
Figuring Out Your Transmission Type: A Detailed Guide
If you’re wondering—how can I tell what transmission I have—we’re happy to say that it doesn’t take much effort to figure this out. There are a few tried-and-true techniques that will help:
Manual vs. Automatic Transmissions: What’s the Difference?
At the heart of an automatic transmission lies a torque converter. When you’re gaining speed, it jumps up a gear; and when you slow down the car, it drops to a lower gear. As the name suggests, this gearbox does everything autonomously: all you need to do is keep your hands on the wheel. But what about manual transmission, though?
They’ve been around for a lot longer and are still slightly more popular than their automatic counterparts. A manual gearbox is built around a clutch. You select which gear you want to shift to and disengage the clutch to make that happen. This does take some getting used to.
Learning About the Different Types of Transmissions
With the basics out of the way, let’s talk about the various transmission types. Here are the options available with a manual transmission:
Next, we’ve got automatic gearboxes. Here’s a full list of the available configurations:
Do Automatic Transmissions Last Longer?
No, it’s actually the other way around. Although automatic transmissions are much easier to operate, they have a shorter lifespan compared to manual transmissions. Depending on the vehicle, the engine, your driving style, and other factors, the difference in the lifespan can be as big as 2–3 years. Manual gearboxes are also safer, more reliable, cheaper, and tend to be a bit more fuel-efficient.
How Much for a New Gearbox?
The price range is quite large here, but on average, you can expect to pay between $1.2K and $5K. A fluid change will only set you back $100–250. Leaks, in turn, can be fixed for even less: $150–200. Now, if you’re on a somewhat limited budget but still need to have the faulty factory gearbox replaced, consider going for a used or rebuilt unit. That will cost you a lot less, approximately $2.5K.
While it won’t last as long as a brand-new transmission, it’s still an excellent alternative. Or you can ask the mechanic to fix the faulty unit. If it’s not beyond repairs, that will cost $250–1.4K. But before you pay for anything, get estimates from 3–5 auto shops. This way, you’ll be able to get the best deal.
How Much Do They Charge for Labor?
This depends on the complexity of the job, the area that you live in, and your car, among other things. With that said, the average auto shop will charge $750–1K to have the transmission replaced. Usually, it takes a licensed mechanic 2–3 hours to get this done.
How Often Should the Fluid be Changed?
If you’re the proud owner of a big, bulky SUV or truck and it’s equipped with a manual transmission, you’ll have to change the fluid every 25–30K miles. In contrast, automatic transmissions installed in a small or medium-sized car will only require a “refill” once you go over the 60–100K mark. To be 100% sure that it is, indeed, time to buy new gearbox oil, here’s what you can do.
The main job of any fluid is to lubricate the mechanical parts and prevent overheating. However, over time, it gets overwhelmed by sludge and metal shavings. When that happens, the color goes from bright red to something else. So, how do you check this? It’s really simple: open the hood, find the dipstick, and pull it out. If the fluid is brown or black, that means it’s time to flush it.
You don’t want to be caught off-guard when it’s time to change the fluid, fix the transmission, or buy a new gearbox, right? Then you need to know what transmission you have installed in the car. This doesn’t require any expensive tools or hard work. Just follow our guide, have some patience, and you’ll find the answer! Transmissions come in all shapes and sizes.
So, first, see if it’s a manual or an automatic gearbox. That should give a basic understanding. Then, using all the knowledge that we learned today, you can figure out whether it’s an iMT, DCT, synchronized, or any other type of transmission. Drive safely, don’t forget about regular maintenance checks, and we’ll see you next time!
Featured Image Credit: Oteera, Shutterstock