The Evolution of Transmissions

The Different Ways We Put Power to the Pavement

Most drivers know a little about transmissions, at least enough to understand how important one is. Few people realize how the component has developed over the years, or that there are three different types available in vehicles today. Before you make an appointment for transmission repair, we at Rizzoli’s Automotive in San Luis Obispo want you to understand the differences between them.


On a one-speed bike, the pedals have to turn fast to gain and keep speed while never giving your legs a rest. The same goes for car engines. If there were only a single gear that moved the wheels, an engine would have to work harder the faster you travel. Transmissions alleviate that problem by transferring torque to progressively larger gears to prevent overtaxing the engine. Manual transmissions (also known as stick shift and standard) give the driver complete control over when shifting occurs. By depressing the third pedal, the clutch is engaged, and you can switch to different gears using the shift lever. This simple design is the easiest to maintain since there are far fewer things to wear out or break down.


Like with most technologies, advancements have given control over shifting to a computer. Since some drivers feel standard transmissions are distracting, an automatic version allows them to focus more on the road and less on the inner workings of their car. With these, the computer determines the most efficient time to change gears and does so by itself. However, some vehicles have semi-automatic shifting as a compromise, allowing drivers to change gears without a clutch pedal.


The Continuously Variable Transmission is the newest kid on the block. These components eschew gears altogether and instead accelerate and maintain speeds through pulley systems that adjust to the gear ratio needed. This eliminates actual shifting since there are no gears to change to, and thus no “shift shock” or jolt that comes from the car changing gears. Understanding how your vehicle works is just as important as bringing your car to a trusted mechanic. Make sure you know which kind your vehicle uses so when you bring it in for transmission repair you can choose the right garage for the job!

Written by Kyle Rizzoli

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