Au­to­matic man­u­als: Bet­ter or worse?

Lesotho Times - - Motoring -

Has it been more than six months since your wind­screen wipers were last re­placed? Is the rub­ber blade, held cor­rectly in po­si­tion, or ly­ing over on it’s side? Is the blade torn or per­ished? Is the wind­screen wiper as­sem­bly bent, or dam­aged? When it’s a dry spell, we tend to for­get about MANY driv­ers en­joy the di­rect con­trol and drive­abil­ity of a man­ual, but ap­pre­ci­ate the con­ve­nience and ease of an au­to­matic.

Your nor­mal au­to­matic gear­box is me­chan­i­cally quite dif­fer­ent from a man­ual trans­mis­sion, and that trans­lates into dif­fer­ent for the driver. Au­tos have some­thing called a torque con­ver­tor, col­lo­qui­ally known as a slush­box. Imag­ine the en­gine drives a shaft which has a fan on the end. This fan is en­closed in a gooey oil. The en­gine spins the fan, and the oil spins too, kind of like a cake mix. Then there’s another shaft with a fan on the end which is also en­closed in the same gooey oil. Be­cause the oil is now spin­ning around it will turn this other shaft, which is con­nected to the driv­ing wheels. The two shafts aren’t di­rectly con­nected, only in the same oil.

That is a sim­ple ex­pla­na­tion of an au­to­matic trans­mis­sion, and yes I know the cor­rect terms weren’t used, and if you know enough to pick that up you didn’t need the ex­pla­na­tion. Any­way, on­wards.

The rea­son you need to know this stuff is be­cause you can now un­der­stand why an au­to­matic trans­mis­sion be­haves the way it does. You know when you ac­cel­er­ate, the revs go up quicker than the car ac­cel­er­ates, in a way that doesn’t hap­pen with man­u­als? That’s be­cause the en­gine driven fan is ro­tat­ing the oil faster than the shaft con­nected to the wheels can han­dle, so it takes a while to equalise. And you know that if you have an auto at idle in Drive, if you take your foot off the brake it’ll creep for­wards? Same deal, the oil is be­ing turned, slowly.

So that’s a nor­mal au­to­matic. Now to the elec­tro­hy­draulic man­ual trans­mis­sion, which is au­to­matic, but dif­fer­ent.

This sys­tem is the same as a man­ual gear­box – it has no torque con­ver­tor, but a con­ven­tional clutch. The only dif­fer­ence is that your left arm/foot work is done for you. Imag­ine a lit­tle per­son in­side the car press­ing the clutch and shift­ing gears on de­mand us­ing a man­ual sys­tem, and you got it. This is as dis­tinct from a nor­mal auto which is me­chan­i­cally very dif­fer­ent to a man­ual, mainly be­cause of the torque con­ver­tor.

So with the dif­fer­ences de­scribed, let’s move on to the im­por­tant part which is how it feels for the driver. This can be sum­marised quite sim­ply:

Bet­ter and worse.

If you en­joy driv­ing, it’ll be bet­ter. The rea­son is that there’s much more of a di­rect re­la­tion­ship from en­gine to speed be­cause there’s no torque con­verter, and so the driver feels our wind­screen wipers, this may in fact be the best time to check their con­di­tion. The UV rays af­fect plas­tic and rub­ber and wind­screen wipers are no dif­fer­ent.

The plas­tic backed wiper may be­come brit- more con­nected and in con­trol. The gear­box will also more read­ily re­spond to ac­cel­er­a­tor in­puts, and al­low a greater range of speeds for a given gear. You can also skip-shift, for ex­am­ple dou­ble-tap­ping the gear se­lec­tor to go from 3rd to 5th gear, or from 4th to sec­ond. The gear­box also changes down rather revvily as you brake, some­thing driv­ing en­thu­si­asts will ap­pre­ci­ate. Hap­pily, the gear­box will stay in the gear you tell it to for as long as it pos­si­bly can. If you leave the gear­box in first gear then there will be no creep for­wards at idle, be­cause the clutch is fully down. Only when you press the ac­cel­er­a­tor will the car move, as the clutch is moved to bit­ing point.

In short, this style of gear­box af­fords far more con­nected con­trol than a nor­mal auto. But it still can’t match the in­volve­ment of a true man­ual gear­box be­cause there’s less skill in­volved.

On the other hand if you want an ul­tra smooth, min­i­mal ef­fort drive then these gear­boxes are not for you, and in­deed these sys­tems are found now only on lower-priced cars be­cause newer trans­mis­sions have taken over tle or even mould to the shape of the lower part of the wind­screen, when the wipers are in the parked po­si­tion, mak­ing it all but im­pos­si­ble for the rub­ber blade to fol­low the con­tour of the wind­screen glass, re­sult­ing in the pricier ve­hi­cles. The auto-man­u­als ‘boxes aren’t the smoothest of shifters in the lower gears un­der medium to quick ac­cel­er­a­tion, so the driver needs to com­pen­sate by re­mem­ber­ing to slightly lift their foot off the ac­cel­er­a­tor, then ease it back on.

As usual, the ba­sic au­to­matic-man­ual design is branded in a num­ber of ways by dif­fer­ent man­u­fac­tur­ers – names in­clude Speedgear, Dua­logic, Duo Select, Plea­sure Shift, Sportshift, EZ Drive and Easytronic and Mecha­tronic, or what­ever else the mar­ket­ing peo­ple spew up over a long lunch. How can you tell? In the mar­ket­ing bumph there’ll be some ref­er­ence to au­to­mated man­ual, there won’t be a P func­tion on the gear­box, and at idle in gear the car won’t move.

So the bot­tom line – if you want a car that af­fords you man­ual-gear­box con­trol and en­joy­ment, but you’re tired of us­ing your left foot in traf­fic all the time then se­ri­ously con­sider an au­to­matic man­ual. If for you a car is mere a-to-b trans­port, avoid au­to­matic man­u­als and stick the nor­mal au­to­mat­ics. — Prac­ti­cal Mo­tor­ing

Make sure your car is al­ways ser­viced reg­u­larly as skimp­ing on this can lead to higher fuel con­sump­tion, as slug­gish en­gines have to work harder.

The big trick is to drive smoothly, which means look­ing well ahead and an­tic­i­pat­ing what’s go­ing to hap­pen. If you see brake lights come on five cars ahead then it’s odds on you will need to brake too, so start right then rather than leav­ing it un­til you have to step hard on the brake pedal and have your pas­sen­gers head-bang the dash­board.

elec­tro­hy­draulic man­ual trans­mis­sion af­fords far more con­nected con­trol than a nor­mal auto.

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