About the Automatic Transmission

by | Feb 18, 2015 | Automotive

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The automatic transmission was one of the great convenience inventions of the automotive industry. It made driving less of a challenging task and more accessible to drivers who weren’t necessarily experts. Over the years the automatic has developed and replaced the manual transmission in popularity, becoming the standard on most vehicles. That being said, it is still prone to occasionally breaking down, and when that happens, there are a few different options to get it working again.

What is an Automatic Transmission?

A transmission is a device that translates engine power to the wheels of a vehicle, making the wheel (and the vehicle) move. Through gearing, it allows you to change speeds without drastically modifying the RPM of the engine. The automatic version of the transmission adjusts those gears automatically so that you don’t need to operate a clutch or manually shift gears when driving.

History of the Automatic Transmission

The forerunner to automatic transmissions was part of a “horseless carriage” and it existed in 1904. It was a simple two speed gearbox that adjusted automatically with the speed of the engine. Its tendency to fall out of the vehicle made it a less than ideal solution, and it was soon replaced by the manual transmission, which required a driver to use a clutch and shift gears on the fly.

The first transmission that could truly be called automatic created in mass production was the Hydra-Matic, and it was put into production by GM in 1939. The torque converter was added in 1948, bringing the transmission even closer to what we use now. Over the intervening decades between then and now, subtle improvements were made like the addition of more gears, a lock-up torque converter to improve fuel economy and computer control to sync up the transmission with the engine.

When Automatic Transmissions Fail

When an automatic transmission fails, you basically have three options – repair it, rebuild it or replace it. Repairing it is rarely the best option, but it can sometimes work if it’s an obvious problem on a newer transmission. A rebuild is much more thorough, involving taking the transmission apart, inspecting every piece and repairing or replacing the defective ones. One would think that replacement would involve installing a new transmission, but in most cases, “new” actually means remanufactured. A remanufactured transmission is basically a transmission rebuilt in a factory, with every defective or marginal part replaced and/or upgraded to new factory specs.

Trans Works Transmissions specializes in the installation of custom rebuilt transmissions. To learn about their transmission repair services, visit www.trannyman.net.

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