The great debate: Automatic or manual transmission?
What’s all the buzz about, auto or manual tranny … and who cares anyway? Car buyers are often asked by their “eager to help” car salesperson, “Do you prefer an automatic or manual transmission?” So to help all of us understand the background of the automatic and manual transmissions, and hence help us decide which version of the shifting process we prefer, today’s Auto Tip will address this ageless question: how do we prefer to shift?
Shifting, ah yes, shifting…. Some like it thoughtless and smooth, some like it determined and rough. Fortunately for today’s modern car buyer, both are options, but it wasn’t always that way.
In the beginning, there was only the manual shift option. You either learned how to master the “art” of connecting your left foot (on the clutch pedal) and your right foot (on the accelerator) into a harmonious blend of mixing the two pedals’ actions at just the right time to engage the shift lever into the next gear or you walked a lot.
The first automatic transmissions, which used hydraulic fluid to keep them working, were developed by GM during the 1930s and put into the 1940 Oldsmobile. It was known at the “Hydra-Matic” transmission. Today’s auto tranny comes as a standard feature on almost all vehicles. You have to request a manual tranny (and that’s if it’s available, which it is not in many vehicles).
Basically, the auto tranny is a marvel of modern engineering with the application of the torque converter and planetary gearsets that makes the whole system work. Shifting is accomplished “automatically” as the speed and torque of the engine increases or decreases. The manual transmission needs to be “manually” moved from gear to gear as engine speed and torque increases or decreases.
Who wins the “efficiency” battle? Manual transmissions win in this category hands down. Manual trannys produce better MPG than auto trannys because they use “manual energy to transmit engine torque in the shifting process.” The auto tranny’s big downfall is the torque converter that sucks much internal energy to work, hence lowering your MPG.
So in conclusion, to go auto or manual is really a toss-up. Each system has its pros and cons. You just have to decide which ones you want and don’t want.