What Transmission Do I Have? Here’s How To Find Out

What Transmission Do I Have? Here's How To Find Out

When you turn the key in the ignition and prepare to drive your car, you might not really think about its transmission. And yet, this is an essential and crucial component of how your car works. 

What does the transmission do? Your car’s transmission contains many components that work in sync to move your vehicle.

Before you can find out what transmission your vehicle has, it helps to know how transmission works.

Here’s your ultimate guide to what transmission is, how it works, and what types of transmission exist. 

What, Exactly, Is Transmission?

What, Exactly, Is Transmission?

A vehicle’s transmission is mounted onto its engine and it transforms the engine’s power of combustion into momentum, which is what makes the wheels move.

Okay, if that sounds complicated, just bear this in mind: a vehicle’s transmission is basically a powertrain that converts the engine’s power into a controlled source of energy for the car to use.

The transmission’s main goal is to make the car’s engine work as efficiently as possible by decreasing how much fuel is consumed while getting the most power for the car to move.

How Transmission Works

Earlier, we touched on the fact that a vehicle’s transmission contains many components that work together to ensure that your car can move.

To do this, the transmission contains fluid that enables it to be both lubricated and cooled. This ensures that force is enabled and prevents any buildup in the transmission which can damage your car.

It’s important to change the fluid regularly because otherwise, it can become dirty which can lead to problems when driving, such as gear shifting sticking, loss of speed, and even failure of the transmission.

Whether you have an automatic, manual, or another type of transmission, they pretty much work in the same way.

The differences come into play when it comes to how the driver operates the clutch, and if he even needs to do it manually. But, essentially, all car transmissions will work in the following ways:

  • First, a gear lever will move the car’s gears so that they will connect with each other. 
  • The driver will use the gear lever, such as via a clutch control if the transmission is manual. Or, it will happen automatically. 
  • The gear lever/clutch will move the clutch plates into place. This enables them to connect with larger gears. 
  • When the gear lever moves, different gears will be able to get connected at different times during the driving process so that different sets of gears can turn to give enough power to the wheels. 

Four Types Of Car Transmissions 

You might think there are only one or two types of transmission, but there are actually four different ones. Here’s what to know about them and how they work.

Manual Transmission


If you drive a stick shift, you have a manual transmission. This is the most basic, and oldest, transmission type on the market.

How the system works is that the gearbox uses a friction clutch that’s operated by the driver’s foot to connect the engine’s energy to the transmission’s input shaft. Once that happens, gears are engaged. 

Although manual transmission isn’t as popular as it used to be, it has some important advantages over other types of transmissions.

It’s simply designed which means it’s less likely that you’ll need to spend a lot of money to repair it.

If you encounter problems with it that you need a mechanic to fix, the good news is that it will be easier to repair without burning a hole in your pocket.

However, there are some drawbacks. These include how it’s more difficult to learn how to use a manual transmission than cars with other transmissions, and it also requires fast reactions.

Automatic Transmission 

This system makes use of a torque converter to transmit the car’s rotational energy. Gear shifts are controlled via the car’s onboard computer and achieved with the use of a planetary gear set as well as brakes and clutches.

This all happens without the driver having to do much to drive the car because he just has to choose from choices on the gear selector, such as “P” for park. 

While it’s easier to learn how to drive automatic transmission since the system is complex it can experience failures and be more expensive to repair.

That’s definitely one of the main drawbacks of this transmission type. Another one is that older types of automatic transmission that have fewer gears on board are not as fuel-efficient as driving a manual transmission.

Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT)


Although this type of transmission is quite different from the two previous ones we’ve mentioned, driving a car with it is similar to how it feels to drive an automatic.

However, it varies from an automatic transmission because it doesn’t make use of gears. Its system is based on belts and pulleys.

The car’s onboard computer chooses how to adjust the pulleys so that the best ratio is produced for the driving situation at hand.

This has the benefit of being more fuel-efficient for the driver. Although the system might sound complicated, continuously variable transmissions are actually easier to maintain.

This is because they don’t require expensive repairs and they are less prone to fail.

One of the main drawbacks of CVTs is that they’re not as easy to find as automatic ones. People who have experience with driving CVT cars have reported that there’s a bit of lag with them, such as when accelerating or taking off.

This is because the system has to adjust to the engine before it sends energy to the wheels. 

Semi-Automatic Transmission

This is a blend between a manual transmission and a fully automatic one. It makes use of a similar system to conventional transmission, but it uses actuators and pneumatics to enable the driver to change gears.

The shifting is smooth, so semi-automatic transmission is good for drivers to try before they move onto the manual transmission.

One big drawback of semi-automatic transmission is that it’s expensive because it requires sophisticated electronic components.

Since these are expensive to manufacture, this also makes them more expensive for consumers to purchase. 

Dual-Clutch Transmission


This type of transmission offers separate clutches for gears, with the benefit of this being that it can enable faster shifts.

The gearboxes in this system are used in fully automatic mode or can be manually shifted with the use of paddles on the steering wheel.

A drawback of this transmission is that there’s a bit of lag and you will probably also experience jerkiness in traffic

Both semi-automatic and dual-clutch transmissions offer excellent performance.

You’re likely to find both systems on racing cars as they’re quite expensive. They’re also more complex, so they’re not easy to maintain or repair.

Which Transmission Do I Have?

Which Transmission Do I Have?

If you’re not sure what kind of transmission your car has, there are many ways in which you can easily find out. 

  • Start by checking the inside of the driver’s side door: Here you’ll see a small card that displays details about the year when the car was made, its engine specifications, and the type of transmission it has.
  • Check under the hood: Another place in which you can look for the transmission type is underneath the hood of your car. There might be tags attached to the shock towers, the back of the engine compartment, or the radiator cover’s top. It’s always useful to use a flashlight as it can be difficult to see or read the information.
  • Check the owner’s manual: If all else fails, you should check the owner’s manual. This booklet will have all the information you need to know about your specific car, so you’re sure to find out what transmission it has by consulting it. 

Related Questions

Does a manual transmission need fluid?


Manual transmissions need fluid just like other types of transmissions, but the type of fluid your car needs will vary from one type of car to another.

For example, some cars will need engine oil while others will need automatic transmission fluid.

How do you know when your car’s transmission fluid should be replaced?

Usually, your car will have to be put on a lift so that it can be examined. Some cars have a transmission reservoir or dipstick in the engine bay, so check under the hood.


There’s lots of important and interesting information to know about car transmissions.

In this article, we’ve looked at how you can tell the different types of car transmissions apart, as well as how they compare to each other.

We’ve also informed you of how to tell what type of transmission your car has via various methods. 


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